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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

The Dean Shadow Box

Today former Gov. Howard Dean gave his big speech in Washington on the future of the Democratic Party, presumably as the first public shot in his campaign to become chairman of the Democratic National Committee.
He said Democrats should compete in all 50 states. That’s right.
He said Democrats should proudly proclaim their values. That’s right, too.
He said grassroots organizing and small-donor fundraising will help Democrats win. Yep, no doubt about it.
He said Democrats should stand for universal access to health care, fiscal responsibility, strong public schools, retirement security, a strong national defense, and above all, an agenda of reform, reform, reform. I couldn’t agree more.
But before he said all those things I agree with, he did an odd bit of shadow-boxing:
“Here in Washington, it seems that after every losing election, there’s a consensus reached among decision-makers that the way to win is to be more like Republicans…. if we accept that philosophy this time around, another Democrat will be standing here in four years giving this same speech. We cannot win by being ‘Republican-lite.’ We’ve tried it; it doesn’t work.”
Maybe I’ve spent too much time travelling around those states Governor Dean says we’re going to take back, but I haven’t heard anybody arguing that we should “be more like Republicans.” Who is Dean talking about? Zell Miller?
And who, exactly, tried “Republican-lite” and lost a presidential election? Is he talking about his friend Al Gore, who endorsed his candidacy in 2004? Is that his take on John Kerry’s campaign? On one occasion during the nomination contest, and more notably in his recent book, Dean pretty much accused Bill Clinton of the “Republican-lite” heresy. But even if you buy that notion, which would offend most rank-and-file Democrats coast-to-coast, Clinton kinda won, didn’t he? Twice.
I understand why the Doctor needed an intra-party dust-up for his primary campaign, but it might be time for him to throw out that stock speech and focus on the future. If there are specific matters of principle, strategy or policy we need to fight about, let’s get specific about it. But if we don’t need to fight, let’s unite.

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