Friday, June 03, 2005

Dean Doesn't Get It

DNC Chairman Howard Dean spoke yesterday at the Take Back America Conference in Washington - and once again, he went off the deep end. Reading a transcript of the speech or watching the video, I was struck by how much Dean said he wanted to talk about a positive Democrat agenda ... and then how much time he spent engaging in rhetorical attacks on the Administration, the leadership in Congress, and Republicans in general. The attacks didn't leave much time at all for a positive agenda.

In discussing election reform (an important issue, one that does not get addressed nearly enough by either party), Dean offered no specific solutions, saying simply "We ought to do everything we can to make it easier for more Americans to vote." He added (and this is the quote you're going to hear all day long) "You think people can work all day and then pick up their kids at child care or wherever and get home and still manage to sandwich in an eight-hour vote? Well Republicans, I guess can do that. Because a lot of them have never made an honest living in their lives."

Election reform is too important an issue to be used in such a glib and snarky manner. With Dean's basic point, I agree: it is a problem that people have to stand in line for eight hours to vote, while balancing work and family responsibilities. Steps should be taken (either make Election Day a national holiday, extend early voting practices, etc.) to combat the problem. I would have liked to hear some good ideas like that from Dean. But instead, he resorted to nastiness.

After the speech, DNC spokeswoman Karen Finney dutifully issued a statement saying that "Dean was referring to 'Republican politicians and Republican leadership, not hardworking American people,'" according to USA Today. But that's not what he said. Blunt talk is one thing - complete disrespect and flat wrong generalizations about members of the other party is just inappropriate.

I cannot imagine being a grassroots Democratic activist or consultant, on the ground in any state in the country, and having to worry about what off-the-wall statement was going to emanate next from the mouth of the party chairman. These folks are working very hard to broaden the party's base and appeal to centrists and moderates of all stripes (as they should be doing), and then Dean gets in front of a camera. USA Today quotes consultant David Axelrod on the Dean speech: "That kind of language doesn't exactly improve our chances of making the case." No, it certainly doesn't.

Here's the second-to-last paragraph in Dean's speech: "This is not about politics. This is about reclaiming America as the great beacon of optimism and hope, and we will do that, not simply by saying what's wrong with Republicans, though the list is so long that I could go on for an hour and a half. What we will do is offer optimism and hope. Real optimism, real hope for real problems. What the American people want is real solutions to real problems, and they want an honest government and be told what the situation is and suggest a remedy" [emphasis added].

He's absolutely right. But where's the beef? Listening to yesterday's speech certainly didn't give me anything close to optimism or hope, and I looked pretty hard for real solutions in there too with little luck. Enough snarkiness, Chairman Dean. Just make the case.


At 10:01 AM, Blogger Mathew said...

Martin Frost, Simon Rosenberg, and Tim Roemer, and they picked Howard Dean (shaking my head)... Almost as dumb as picking Nancy Pelosi over Frost and Harold Ford.

At 7:31 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

DNC Chairmanship to Howard Dean was the carrot to keep him from running in 2008

Moderate Democrats to watch:
1)Indiana Senator Evan Bayh
Issues as Govenor of Indiana: fiscal responsibility, lower taxes, job creation and smaller government
Senate Committees: Banking Housing and Urban Affairs, on which Bayh is the Ranking Member of the Subcommittee on International Trade and Finance; Armed Services; the Select Committee on Intelligence; the Special Committee on Aging; and the Small Business Committee.

2)Illinois Senator Barack Obama:
Issues in Illinois state Senate, creation of the state Earned Income Tax Credit, expansion of early childhood education, the support of law enforcement officials to draft legislation requiring the videotaping of interrogations and confessions in all capital cases.
Senate committees: Environment and Public Works Committee, which oversees legislation and funding for the environment and public works projects throughout the country, including the national transportation bill,the Veterans ’ Affairs Committee,and the Foreign Relations Committee.


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