Super Lawyers
William C. Altreuter

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Howard Dean's leadership of the Democratic party seems to have accomplished several subtle goals-- and if the Beltway insiders are whining, maybe what that tells us is that they still don't understand what Dean has set out to do. First, for the first time that I can recall, every primary has been contested, and every primary has mattered. Dean believes that the future of the Democratic Party must be a 50 state future-- that we can't go on conceding states. Both Obama and Clinton have campaigned everywhere, and this can only benefit grassroots Democrats, particularly in a year like this, with Democrats poised to take some congressional seats that have been in Republican hands for a generation. Pundits are talking about how the fractious primary has damaged the top of the ticket; Dr. Dean knows that the top of the ticket can take care of itself, and that it is on the local level where the Democrats need to build. By staying in the race to the end HRC has, I would say, actually helped the long-term prospects of the Dems.

Second, he has managed, so far, to impose party discipline on the DNC, without looking heavy-handed. The "compromise" that emerged over the weekend was brilliant, and keeps both Michigan and Florida in the fold, where they need to be.

Dean has managed this without self-aggrandizement, because he knows it is not about him. It never was, really. When he ran four years ago he did so out of a commitment to the programs and beliefs that had been traditionally Democratic, that appeared to have been abandoned by the party. I'm sure he was as surprised as anyone that he had that sudden surge in popularity-- it always seemed to me that what he was trying to do was bring the mainstream back towards the sorts of social, economic and foreign policy programs that made people like him-- and like me-- Democrats in the first place.

He's a smart guy, Dr. Dean, and a committed guy. After all the shit he took, he could have decided to go home to the Green Mountain State, and washed his hands of the whole mess. Instead he decided that the Party could still be saved, and that saving it was still the best hope for the country. He took on the thankless job at DNC. He could have turned that into a cult of personality-- others have-- but he didn't. Instead, in the face of constant snipping, he found a way to take back a majority in Congress, and it looks like he is going to be able to shift the tint of the country as a whole. I hope someone remembers to thank him.

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