Tuesday, February 08, 2005

Dean and the DNC

I keep up with the evolving DNC chair selection process by reading Joe's Dartblog and Poliblog. Both of them link to the AP story on Tim Roemer's dropping out as Howard Dean's last competitor for the position, making the Governor's selection this weekend almost a certainty.

I tend to get harsh comments when I try to give the Democrats free advice, so I'll try to avoid that and just go with some simple reflections on Governor Dean's campaign and what I hope will happen under his chairmanship of the DNC.

1) I thought that Senator Kerry came off like a lawyer during the campaign, and I just cannot listen to legalese for too long. It doesn't hold my interest, and a lot of it turns out to be petty. This is the common thread to two posts I made last year criticizing press releases by the Kerry campaign. And Senator Kerry had no executive experience (in government or elsewhere) to speak of, so I was even less enchanted with him as a candidate for the Democratic nomination.

2) Governor Dean campaigned like a populist. I continue to believe that this is a reasonable strategy for the Democrats to reassemble a governing coalition, though I'm not convinced that I would be in that coalition. They have to do it without appearing to be "soft" on national security. I don't believe that any Democrat elected to be President after 9/11 would in fact be less attentive to national security than a Republican President, but the party does not seem to be able to shake the appearance. I don't think the Kerry campaign helped much. In the article cited above, Roemer is quoted as saying:

"If there's one reason Senator Kerry lost the presidential race, it was because he failed to make the American people feel safer," Roemer said, ...
3) My recollection of Governor Dean's tenure as the chief executive of my neighboring state is that he governed as a pragmatist: balanced budgets, expansions of resources for children's health, a sensible first step toward full equality for gay marriage in the form of civil unions, sensible gun control policy, etc. It's true that, as executive experience goes, Vermont might not be the right stepping stone all the way to the Presidency--there are over 85 counties in the 2000 Census with greater populations. But, as Roemer also says,

"I got into this race five weeks ago to talk about the devastating loss we experienced in November," Roemer said in an interview. "It was not about 60,000 votes in Ohio. It was about losing 97 of the 100 fastest growing counties in the country. If that's a trend in business or politics you're in trouble."
I think Governor Dean's tendencies toward pragmatism would play well in these areas, but I am not an expert. (See the vote swing by county at Patrick Ruffini's indispensible blog for related information.) If he runs the DNC by appealing to pragmatists, then I am optimistic. If he runs it like his campaign, then I'm less confident.

Either way, it is a good move for him professionally and we should all wish him luck as he tries to make the Democratic party more appealing to more voters.

UPDATE: Elsewhere in the blogosphere, I see:

Captain Normal has some similar ideas to those I expressed here, though from a different political viewpoint.

Secure Libery calls it lunacy, arguing that this is just another in a series of recent leadership missteps by the Democrats.

Wizbang and his merry band of commenters and trackbackers are consumed by partisan glee.

Time will tell who's got it right.

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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Andrew, thanks for the link to Secure Liberty. I agree that the Democrats need to play up populist appeal. But Dean did it amongst the wrong constituency. Rather than targeting firefighters, construcion workers and nurses, etc., he went after radical anti-war, wanna-be hippies. That strategy was doomed. There simply aren't enough people in that group to support a party (outside of Vermont perhaps - I do spend time there).

He needs to be much more careful about alienating the independents and swing voters.