Tactics and Substance in the 2004 Elections GoogleNews: Howard Dean

September 14, 2003

by J

Harsh Realities for the Dems?

Richard Blow wonders what will happen to the Dems if they try to block Dean's path to the nomination through party politicking and backroom dealmaking over at TomPaine.com.
If Dean doesn't win the primary, it will be either because he implodes of his own doing or because the party machinery blocks his path. And it's probably true that the folks at the Democratic National Committee would prefer John Kerry or John Edwards -- safer, more predictable candidates -- to the Dean wild card. When it comes to internal party politics, Dean is even more of an outsider than Bill Clinton was.

But Dean's success has created an unintended consequence: the possibility of Dean disappointment. If he loses, what happens to all those thousands of people who have rallied to him over a year before a presidential election? The answer is that they drop out of activism -- and their disappointment hangs like a cloud over the nominee. That person would not only have to reach to the center to win swing voters, but tack back to the left to reinvigorate the Dean partisans. Moreover, there will inevitably be the perception that the less exciting candidate won the nomination.

[...]It's true, a Howard Dean victory may pose a challenge for the Democrats. Dean has to show he can run credibly in the South, and he needs to get black and Latino voters as fired up as he has white Democrats. But as problematic as his candidacy might be, Howard Dean is making it increasingly difficult for the Democrats to nominate anyone else.
I think this is a serious issue for the party. And I think the party establishment is probably pinning its hopes on Wesley Clark. But I don't think that Wesley Clark wants to be anyone's pawn and will run his campaign his way. At least I hope so. Here's the thing, and I don't think I'm an atypical Dean supporter in this sense: if Dean loses the nomination in a clean fight, fine. I think Clark is the only one who has the chance of offering a clean fight, after the behavior of the other candidates this week. If, however, Dean loses due to party shenanigans and backroom nastiness, then I will know for sure that neither of the political parties is in this for the good of the country as a whole and that neither of the parties is worth my support.

Yes, yes, of course I will vote for anybody but Bush, but if the Democrats, through dirty tricks and intraparty maneuvering, cannibalize themselves and disrespect what the Dean campaign has accomplished, I will wash my hands of them entirely. Dean and his approach are slowly persuading me (upper middle class, multiple degrees, competent in all kinds of things that would be helpful at the local party level) to consider getting involved in the party. The party has an opportunity to respect what he's accomplished and run a clean nomination fight, thereby ensuring that I and people like me will reconsider our earlier dismissals of all of the parties. If they refuse to take that opportunity, it will send a very clear message, won't it?
Posted by J at September 14, 2003 11:53 AM

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