It's time for some harsh reality folks. Dean's chances of winning the nomination right now are slim and none. I've been doing a lot of thinking about this over the last 24 hours and came in this morning prepared to write a long, thought out post about this state of reality, but someone beat me to it. Nico Pitney over at Not Geniuses has posted an email from a Dean supporter named Damian Carroll that pretty much lays it all out for us. I highly recommend reading it.
Okay. Now, I agree with Damian that as of this point Dean's only hope for getting the nomination is if Kerry stumbles. But even I have to question whether that would really be the best for Democrats at this point. Having yet another front-runner fall by the wayside will hurt the general reputation of Democrats. Thus, even Dean supporters have to hope that Kerry doesn't implode for the sake of our chances in the general election.
So where does that leave us? I once thought that Clark was a viable safety-net candidate in case Dean imploded. I now think that Dean could be a viable safety-net candidate if Kerry were to collapse. But, even more so, as Damian so aptly points out, Dean staying in the race for the long term can continue the job of keeping Democrats honest.
I've heard a lot of comments in the last couple of weeks about how Dean gave the party a spine transplant. I've made the same comment myself. But the question remains whether the spine that the party is finally starting to show is real and long-term or just a defensive reaction against the Dean insurgency. If Dean were to leave the race in the next couple of weeks, would the party once again fall back on its appeasing ways? I would hope not, but past history tells me not to trust in that hope.
However, if Dean were to stay in the race he could quite possibly win 25-30% of the delegates to the convention. Perhaps even more. While not enough to block Kerry's nomination, this could give the faction of the party that Dean represents, the faction that is sick and tired of Democrats rolling over all the time, the kind of leverage they would be need to keep the party from rejecting that spinal transplant.
It's funny how things come full circle. When I first started throwing my support to Dean it was not because I actually thought he had a chance of getting the nomination. I never dreamed we'd get this close. I felt that what Dean was saying was to important to let it die in obscurity. I wanted to give him a bigger soapbox on which to stand and shout his message. 25-30% of the delegates to the convention is a pretty good sized soapbox. With a force that size the party simply can't refuse to let Dean in the door, influence the platform and speak from the podium during prime time. They would ignore us at their peril.
My three goals going into this, in order of importance, were #1 elect Howard Dean as president, #2 elect someone like Howard Dean as president or #3 remove George W. Bush from the White House. For a while there it looked like #1 was a real possibility. No more. Which means I am now falling back on #2. John Kerry is not a very good substitute for Howard Dean. But we can make him be like Dean to the extent that it is possible for him to be so only if we keep the pressure on him. Dean dropping out early would not do that.
Now of course there are going to be some that cry that Dean, by sticking it out, is acting like a Naderite spoiler. They will argue that he needs to drop out to show Democratic unity going into the general election. This completely misses the point. The Dean message is that unity can only come from a strong opposition to the policies of the Bush administration, not from a call for lock-step following wherever the leadership says to go. If Dean were to drop out now then, by the time the general election gets rolling, the energy that Dean has brought to this race could very likely dissipate into the ether.
Also, as Hesiod has pointed out multiple times, an extended primary season will suck up a lot of the media oxygen that Bush needs to counteract the bad news that is hitting his administration daily. If the race for the nomination were to end within the next couple of weeks then Karl Rove would have several months of relative quietude in which to repair the damage and prepare for the final push later this year. An extended primary season can be like a multi-front war against the Bush machine. Kerry can be the Western front and Dean can be the Eastern front.
We can still win this battle even if we don't win the nomination.