Thursday, January 20, 2005

Fair Warning

I was reading this AP update on the DNC race and Dean's early head start in same when I was struck by a thought.

Dean's six opponents for DNC chair, capable party activists with many friends inside the party, don't have Dean's high profile and the organizational track record that revolutionized party politics in the presidential campaign.

They'll be competing to see which one can be the anti-Dean.

Many party veterans are nervous that the outspoken Dean will lead the party too far to the left and are eager to rally around an alternative candidate.

"The question about Dean is: While he will have a third of the vote easily, can he get to 50 percent?" said Donnie Fowler, one of Dean's opponents. Then Fowler referred to Dean's presidential campaign.

"Dean had the oranges," Fowler said, "but he couldn't make orange juice."

Fowler is right that Dean's core is not enough to get him over the hill by itself. But a 30% core is not something to be taken lightly by the party insiders. I don't have the numbers to back this, but I don't think even Clinton had that level of devotion within the party even as he was starting to lock up the party nomination in 1992. Nor, I suspect, did George W. Bush.

The point I think these insiders need to understand is that a repeat of the Anybody-But-Dean effort of the 2004 primary race could be the worst possible course of action for those insiders. Why? Because a core group that large and that dedicated will not take kindly any effort to sabotage Dean's campaign. If the process is played out fairly and Dean loses then he loses. But if his loss is seen to be the result of yet another gang-bang on Howard then the party can pretty much kiss off much of the energy and money of those Dean inspired activists.

Let me be clear on this. This is not a threat to take our ball and go home. This is not a threat to break with the party and form a third party around Howard Dean and DFA (the Democratic party hasn't fallen so far that that is a practical alternative). It is simply a warning to those insiders who think they can undermine the Dean movement once again that doing so will likely extract a severe price.

The simple fact is that the party needs Dean and his people much more than Dean or his people need the party. If Dean is shut out again that will not stop him or us any more than the 2004 primary losses stopped him or us. We will still work just as hard to take this country back. We will still use Democratic candidates to affect change. We just won't do it with the resources of the party itself.

If Dean and the people he represents are unfairly shut out, then, by 2008, DFA could hold more political power in this country than the DNC. If that happens, and the Democratic party still hasn't learned its lesson, then what happens next may be inevitable.


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