Monday, January 31, 2005

Methinks he doth protest too much ...

Robert Novak -- Republican punditry's "Prince of Darkness" -- warns in a column today that electing Howard Dean to the chairmanship of the Democratic National Committee would drive the big donors away.

Is he right? Maybe, maybe not. But, in all honesty, this looks like another iteration of the psychological warfare "boogie-man" campaign that Republicans used last year to stampede Democratic primary voters away from Dean and toward the less competitive John Kerry.

Yeah, you read that right. Dean didn't lose the nomination because of any inherent weakness in his approach or style. He lost it because Democrats let themselves be convinced by Republican rhetoric that he was "too liberal" -- even though he's to the right of George W. Bush on gun issues, foreign policy issues, fiscal responsibility and even, arguably, health care (Bush created the biggest entitlement expansion since LBJ and just tacked its cost onto the deficit, while Dean put together a publicly financed healthcare system for Vermont's children that didn't unbalance the state's budget) -- to be "electable."

When are Democrats going to stop taking the solicitous advice offerings of Republicans and start thinking for themselves again? If the party intends to be competitive in the 2006 congressional elections, the time to stop jumping when Bob Novak goes bump in the night is right friggin' now.

Even in defeat, Howard Dean proved to be a powerful force for Democratic victory last year. Wherever Democrats did well -- including in four states where new Democratic state legislative majorities emerged -- his organization played a vital role. His candidacy for DNC chair is an opportunity for the party to re-invent itself, decentralize, invigorate its grass roots, cast off some of the cautious establishmentarianism that's held it back in recent years, and move forward to regain its rightful status as America's majority party. We'd be insane not to jump at that chance -- in case you haven't noticed, the GOP has held a congressional majority for ten years now and is into its second four-year stint at the White House. There's nowhere to go but up, and there's no candidate for DNC chair but Dean to take us there.

Want Republican advice? Start listening to the advice they give themselves instead of the advice they give their enemies. Here's a place to start. Some people are desperately, and rightly, afraid of what Howard Dean might do at the head of the Democratic Party. Those people are called "Republicans."

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