Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Democratic Party Base Applauds Dean

When this blog debuted in February, Howard Dean had just been elected chairman of the Democrat National Committee (DNC) and I started with a column called “Why Howard Dean is Right as DNC Chairman.”

My fundamental belief was that we Democrats have spent too much time shying away from conflict with Republicans and have let them control the national dialog for too long. We have also tried in excess to appease the finicky swing voters that some think win presidential elections, but who too often don't truly share many of our core beliefs.

“Howard Dean understands that the Republicans long ago rewrote the rules of civility and bipartisan discourse,” I said in that piece and ended the column by saying that “If, as Newt Gingrich has suggested, we are in a political war, I'll take Governor Dean in my foxhole any day.”

I still feel that way today -- and apparently, so do many of my fellow DNC members.

At a meeting of the DNC executive committee on Saturday, Democrats threw their support behind Dean and urged him to keep smacking Republicans around.

"I hope Governor Dean will remember that he didn't get elected to be a wimp," said DNC member Gilda Cobb-Hunter, a South Carolina state representative. "We have been waiting a long time for someone to stand up for Democrats."

Amen to that.

Given the rap laid on Dean for his alleged “temperament problems” during the 2004 presidential campaign and his penchant for saying exactly what he's thinking, why are some elected Democrats so surprised and spineless when Dean makes inflammatory comments about the Rogues Gallery across the aisle?

Joe Biden, John Edwards and others have all gone to great pains to distance themselves from the DNC chairman and to repudiate Dean when he dares to speak harsh truths about the Republican party.

These are undoubtedly many of the same people who urged John Kerry to apologize when an open microphone caught him calling Republicans "...the most crooked, lying group I've ever seen." Kerry stuck to his guns and flatly refused to apologize for the comment – and we admired and respected him for standing firm.

Kerry was accurate when he said that and Howard Dean is similarly telling the truth today and refusing to apologize for it. That's as it should be. We are indeed fighting a political war for the soul of our country against a ruthless and craven opponent. If Biden and Edwards don't have the stomach to lead this fight, they should at least keep their mouths shut and get the hell out of the way.

The rest of Governor Dean's job performance is looking pretty good as well. He's refusing to concede even the reddest of the Red States and has initiated a 50-state strategy designed to make our party competitive in the most conservative areas. Hey, it'll be a tough haul, but we have to start somewhere.

On the fund raising front – arguably the number one priority for a party chair – Dean is ahead of the pace set by fund-raising powerhouse Terry McAuliffe during a similar period in his tenure as DNC chairman.

Dean's DNC raised $14.8 million between February and April 2005, compared with McAuliffe's $8.5 million during that period in 2003, the previous non-election year. The DNC also raised more in comparison to the Republican National Committee over the past three months than it did during 2003.

So he's raising money, building the foundation necessary to win elections in every state and irritating the hell out of Republicans by saying out loud what a worthless bunch they truly are.

I like Howard Dean more every day.