. . . Monday October 4, 2004

Reflections on the Scream

During a recent interview with Tim Russert, Howard Dean took on the issue of flip flopping. He explained that every politician and every person flip flops on occasion and that sometimes it’s the right thing to do. As an example, he described his initial opposition to a needle exchange program. Later, a study was released that indicated such programs decreased the spread of disease but did not increase the overall level of drug use. Dean realized that the new evidence suggested that his initial position was the wrong one. He explained:

“If new information comes in then

you ought to change your position.

Otherwise you’re an idiot.”

There are times when I love this man.

Since dropping out of the race, Howard Dean has watched as some of his positions and some of his campaign strategies (and a lot of the enthusiasm he helped to build within a drifting party) have been adopted by John Kerry. He has also watched as his position on Iraq has proven to look more and more like the right one.

And we’ve been watching him. Howard Dean has become one of the clearest voices speaking out for John Kerry and the Democratic party. He is consistently good in interviews and stump speeches. It’s an interesting and often frustrating truism about politics that many candidates become a lot better at running once they’re out of the race. I’m pretty sure there is a lesson there somewhere.

And I was watching during the week of the Democratic convention in Boston. Kerry and Edwards were of course the stars (and deservedly so). But everyone wanted a handshake with Howard Dean.

Remember all the talk of Howard Dean’s anger? Remember how worried everyone was about it? Well, how desperate was the Democratic Party for that kind of fire in the weeks before last Thursday’s debate?

In introducing his reflections on Dean’s new book, former Dean campaign player Matt Gross wrote: “Long ago, in that dim primordial swamp of the mid-Holocene epoch (March, 2003, to be specific), the Democratic Party had only one real voice of hope — and that voice was Howard Dean.”

I still think that Howard Dean is an important voice in the Democratic party and I have a feeling (contrary to the common storyline of the shooting star candidate who flames out into nothing but a puff of smoke) that he will someday return to the top of the Dem ticket (I’m hoping no sooner than 2012).

But make no mistake, his influence is being felt in this campaign. Kerry opponents will refer to that like it’s a bad thing. Don’t you believe it. Otherwise, you’re an … well you know.

Here is an excerpt from the post I wrote right after Dean left the race:

Howard Dean: Party Animal.

I’m pissed. And I have Howard Dean to thank for that. Well, maybe not for the anger itself, but certainly for giving voice to that anger. I never found myself swept up in the Dean movement, nor did I think he had a very good chance at getting the nomination – even when he was getting Bruce Springsteen-in-’75 coverage from the major weeklies. But whatever enthusiasm is being felt by Dems today, whatever real hope there is for victory in the Fall, is due in large part to Howard Dean. He may not be the guy to carry the torch, but he was certainly one of the few hitting two rocks together to light it in the first place. And of those two rocks, only one was being thrown in the direction of the White House. The other one was being aimed directly at his own party. A party that, in the shadow of the personality-driven tour de force of the Clinton era, had lost its soul; and more importantly, had lost its gonads. Howard Dean gave voice to the rage many Dems felt towards the wishy-washy weakness of their own reps in D.C.


Concentration is important!