Monday, November 08, 2004

Dean as DNC chair, Part 2

Here's the first major news story on Dean's possible try for DNC chair. The news that Dean was considering this shouldn't be news to anyone who paid attention to his conference call to the DfA meetups last Wednesday. He talked openly about the idea then and asked Deanizens to send in their thoughts on whether he should try for it or not.

Again I'm conflicted on this, as I said previously. But there is an interesting twist to this story:

[Steve] Grossman [a former DNC chair and backer of Dean during the primaries] said it is not too soon for Democrats to focus on their future leadership.

"I strongly urged (Dean) to seek the position," he said. "Howard is a voice of political empowerment and that to me is important, for the Democrats to get their sea legs back as quickly as possible, to get beyond the disappointment of the last week and to believe there is a bright future ahead for the Democratic Party."

Dean has been outspoken since the beginning of his presidential bid in saying that the Democratic Party must establish a separate and unique identity from Republicans.

Grossman said that if Dean were to run for DNC chair, he would need to pledge that he would serve the full four-year term, thus ruling out a presidential bid in 2008.

Is that really a requirement of the job? Or is it a hint by Grossman that, if Dean were to make such a pledge, the position was his for the taking? Could the DNC be making an offer to Dean of power now if he were to promise not to run in 2008? I'm sure that there are many in the Democratic leadership that would chafe at Dean's chairmanship. But, they might be even more freaked out at the possibility of Dean making a strong bid for the nomination in four years (I think Dean would be the 2nd leading contender, after Hillary). Could this be their attempt to get him out of the picture?

Again, I'm conflicted. I could see lots of positives in this for both Dean and the party (Dean's brand of activism would be immediately ensconced at the highest levels of power), but it could also be an attempt by "certain parties" to promote Dean to irrelevancy. It wouldn't be the first time the nominal head of an organization actually had no real power to get anything done.

I repeat what I said earlier: if Dean takes this position then I think he should do so only if he has a real chance of influencing the direction of the party. The position cannot be that of a figurehead. Dean must not allow himself to be used as a PR tool. But, if Dean can be given guarantees of real power and influence, then I think he should seriously consider taking the job. It might mean giving up the dream of running in 2008. But Dean is, if anything, a pragmatist. He isn't in this just for increasing his own personal power. He's in it to change the system, and where better to do so than as the nominal head of the party?

It would certainly guarantee him a spot at the front of the TV talk show bookers rolodex.


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