Column: Political malpractice

By Chuck Prochaska

Howard Dean is the gift that keeps on giving for Republicans. In a move last week signaling ongoing party dysfunction, the Democratic National Committee selected Screamin’ Howard Dean as their new party chairman. It’s almost too good to be true.

Dean, the man whose campaign collapsed during the Iowa caucuses a little over a year ago, insists that under his leadership Democrats will be able to regroup and retake the Congress and the White House by 2008.

His strategy?

“I’ll pretty much be living in red states in the south and west for quite a while,” Dean told reporters.

And this man is a licensed physician?

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Not only is his diagnosis of the Democrats’ disease wrong, but also he has prescribed the wrong medicine to cure it.

The reason Republicans dominated the map in 2004 was because they solidified traditionally Republican states and took the fight to swing states early, earning large leads in many like Arkansas, Missouri, Virginia and Florida. This allowed them to push on, playing in traditional Democratic states like Minnesota and New Jersey. This forced Sen. John Kerry’s campaign to spend valuable resources defending states that should have been solid blue from the beginning.

Now, Dean, in his infinite wisdom, insists on leaving the swing states – even forgetting solid blue states – and rebuilding his party starting in solid red states where the Republicans are stronger then ever. Have fun converting the moral majority in Alabama, Texas and Utah, Howard.

What the Democrats need is a widely respected moderate to reign in the party’s left and use his leverage to steer the party back to order. However, Dr. Dean noted his desire to keep his personal views out of the spotlight and let Democrats in Congress set the course for the party from a policy perspective. That’s like a surgeon recommending that the janitors finish up the triple bypass.

This will be his tragic error. Party leaders Rep. Nancy Pelosi and Sen. Harry Reid weren’t even on the same page during their response to the President’s State of the Union address. Without a strong chairman at the helm, liberal Democrats will still be publicly butting heads with moderate Dems on Iraq and Homeland Security while Republicans continue to claim victories on these issues. Even still, his leftist ideology will influence his decision-making, thereby continuing to ostracize moderates. Blue-collar union workers and middle-class America have different values than the Vermont elites and Green Day-singing twenty-something’s.

Granted, Dean was a revolutionary fundraiser who energized young Democrats and generated a record-breaking war chest out of small $100 Internet donations. His down-and-dirty, rolled sleeves approach is exactly what the party needs after fielding a walking corpse for President. However, his views are out of touch with the mainstream sect of the party.

To dodge this issue, Dean added to his party’s record of ambivalent messages and, dare I say, flip-flopped?

He was quoted as saying his party is not “pro-abortion,” but “we are the party in favor of allowing women to make up their own minds about their health care.”

He noted that Democrats are not “pro-gay marriage” but “we are the party that has always believed in equal rights under the law for all people.”

So what do Democrats believe in?

At a time when everybody in the party is calling for a unified message backed by a strong leader, they get a guy who says he’s the man for Confederates, then he says he doesn’t want to tell Democrats what to believe, then he tells them they are pro-life and anti-gay marriage. That’s got to make some of you in liberal-land a tad bit nervous, no?

The election of Dr. Howard Dean as DNC Chairman epitomizes leadership of the blind by the blind. His misguided diagnosis of this ailing party ensures a future of losing elections while they search for some semblance of a message or platform to stand on.

Somebody call John Edwards. I think a lawsuit is in order.