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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Dean and the Long Green

There’s a buzz around Washington that former Gov. Howard Dean has decided to make a run for the chairmanship of the Democratic National Committee. And out in the blogosphere, former Deaniacs are getting excited about this possibility as a way to resume their Long March to control of the party and eventually the country, which was so rudely interrupted by the caucus-goers of Iowa last January.
No, dear readers, I’m not going to break my self-imposed cease-fire by saying anything nasty about Dean or his supporters, though they are hardly reciprocating this spirit of comity. But I would like to suggest that maybe the Doctor is in danger of making a mistake, in terms of his own stated principles and objectives.
Some Deaniacs may imagine that conquering the DNC would represent an “outsider” assault on the ramparts of The Party Establishment and the Washington Cabal of corporate interests and Clintonites who keep dragging Democrats into (sic!) cooperation with Republicans. But let’s remember what the DNC is: a fundraising operation. It has little or no involvement in policy or ideas, and its role in electioneering is strictly at the sufferance and the direction of presidential nominees and congressional campaign committees.
For that very reason, the Deaniacs may be bringing up the battering rams to attack a half-open door. As DailyKos noted today, 100 DNC members formally endorsed Dean for president last year. Aside from the bandwagon effect of early Dean success in the opinion polls, the enthusiasm of these fundraisers for the Doctor was pretty clearly attributable to his remarkable ability to–surprise!–raise money.
And today, I strongly suspect that DNC interest in Dean is not about his ideas, or his reformist credentials, or even his grassroots support. I doubt they look at this born-again liberal from the bluest of blue states and see the face that will launch an assault on the Red State Fortress the Republicans have been building. I betcha money they look at Howard Dean and see Green, as in Long Green.
Now I doubt that’s the legacy, or the mission, that the Governor wants to identify his movement with going forward. And even more generally, I can’t imagine a less suitable vehicle for genuine reform than the DNC, at least as it’s currently constituted.
Since so many Deaniacs self-consciously identify with the efforts of the conservative movement to take over the other party, I’ll remind them of an acute comment made by Theodore White about the bitter disappointment of Goldwater activists when their leader, Cliff White, was passed over for the chairmanship of the RNC in 1964:
“Party chairmanships are the fool’s gold of American politics.”
That’s one thing that hasn’t really changed in the last 40 years.

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