It is not a surprise that the Democratic Party is in need of serious internal reform after the disastrous 2004 election, and the newly vacated Democratic National Committee chairmanship is the perfect place to start. While Terry McAuliffe raised millions of dollars for the party and had noble plans of energizing the Democratic base, he lacked the most fundamental component the DNC Chair needs: leadership. While Democrats may now be energized and more willing to participate now, they are still fractured and lacking cohesion. The new DNC chair must be able to unite all Democrats in order to have a fighting chance at winning in the next election cycle.
This is where Howard Dean comes in. Or, rather, doesn’t come in.
After the announcement of his expected entrance into the crowded field of Chairmanship candidates, one must hope Dean doesn’t win.
Dean’s ideas are easy to believe in. While war with Afghanistan was understandable, going into Iraq was not.
The way to win elections is to energize the base and create a strong grass-roots organization.
And the most basic Democratic principles that Dean supports are surely agreeable. Despite all this, Howard Dean is terrifying.
Next to Hillary Clinton, Dean is the most divisive member of the Democratic Party. At a time when the Party so close to falling apart and even the most trusted election strategy fails (who ever thought increased voter turnout would help the Republicans? Certainly not the Democrats), electing Howard Dean would guarantee future defeat.
A national organization’s leader reflects on all of its members.
To most people, the most memorable part of Dean’s campaign was his infamous ‘scream’ the night of the Iowa primary.
When Barak Obama gave the keynote address at the Democratic National Convention, it was because he was the image the party wanted to project: an intelligent, complex, charismatic Mid-westerner with the charm to appeal to moderates and die-hards alike. Howard Dean has none of these traits. His image of a brash, wild, crazy liberal does not exactly appeal to many moderates and few liberals and will therefore not garner enough broad support to win major campaigns.
This is not to say that the Democratic Party needs to pander to the moderates and become a ‘Republican-lite’ party. By sticking to our core democratic values and reclaiming ‘liberal,’ I truly believe that the Democrats can win election after election. The key to this success, however, is communication. The party leader must be able to communicate these beliefs effectively and in essence ‘sell them’ to the country. However, in order to be able to effectively communicate with the people, they have to be willing to listen. After the disappointing Iowa primary, it was clear that either Dean was not successfully communicating his positions, or the people were not listening.
Had Dean emerged as a potential leader during the Clinton Administration, the tune would be different. There can be little doubt that he is committed to the Party and will do whatever he can to win elections, but sometimes commitment and energy are not enough. With the current political landscape of the country and Dean’s presidential campaign still haunting him, he can only harm the party’s chances at political victories in upcoming elections.
The most important thing to keep in mind is that Howard Dean lost the primary and lost in spectacular fashion. The people found him to be simply unelectable. He failed in his mission to run a successful grass-roots campaign and has not done anything to show the people he has learned from his mistakes and can be an effective leader.
If the Democratic leadership decides that Dean should be the face of the party, there is no chance of the Democrats emerging victorious in future elections.
Jackie Lantz (email@example.com) is a senior majoring in political science.