Howard Dean appears to be the early front-runner for the DNC Chairmanship and already the DLC crowd, who have squandered every biannual election since 1998, are wringing their hands about him being too liberal.
It is odd how Dr. Dean got stuck with the liberal moniker. His only overt, Wellstonian leftism, is his early opposition to the second Iraq war and his interest in Universal Healthcare, which he shares with the defeated Kerry and the victorious Clinton. As an elected official, Dr. Dean has been a moderate leader of a left of center state.
Also, for a liberal, he is mighty popular with conservatives. The State Chairmen of the Democratic Party from Vermont and Washington State have endorsed him, no surprise there; but so have the chairmen from Mississippi, Oklahoma, Utah and the entire Florida Delegation. While I can’t claim to know a lot about the politics of the Democratic Party in those states, it is fair to assume that they are more “conservative” (with the possible exception of Florida).
So what gives? Well, I think that these conservatives realize the Dr. Dean’s liberalism is a liberalism of style. Back when Democrats actually competed and won in Mississippi, Oklahoma and Utah they were not afraid to stand up for core principles because it was the right thing to do and they were willing to take political risk to make change. Witness FDR rallying the public to support his court-packing scheme:
“Here is one-third of a nation ill-nourished, ill-clad, ill-housed – now! Here are thousands upon thousands of farmers wondering whether next year’s prices will meet their mortgage interests – now! Here are thousands upon thousands of men and women laboring for long hours in factories for inadequate pay – now! If we would keep faith with these who had faith in us, if we would make Democracy succeed, I say we must act – now!”
FDR lost that battle, but he won the war in 1940.
These conservatives know that Dr. Dean isn’t there to dictate his polices to each state, he is there to elect Democrats. His declaration that the Democratic Party will compete at every level nationally has probably also contributed to his support in conservative states. That he has been able to out-maneuver his moderate competitors in winning this conservative backing is proof positive of his tactical skills. After all, for all of the DLC talk about putting a moderate face on the party, the Democrats have been losing ground in Red states since Clinton was elected. What these Red state (former Blue Dog) Democrats realize is that the party needs to be led not by a pusillanimous jellyfish who will find a “reasonable” compromise on privatizing social security, but a pugnacious champion who will take the fight to the Republicans in every state at every level – now!