As expected, Howard Dean has become the chairman of the Democratic National Committee. Dr. Dean is promising to reach out to red states, but in his very first speech he demonstrates why that isn’t going to happen:
Former Vermont governor Howard Dean claimed the chairmanship of the Democratic National Committee (DNC) by acclamation today and used his opening speech to attack President Bush and the Republicans for “fiscal recklessness,” saying the administration’s new budget brings “Enron-style accounting to our nation’s capital.”
Now, I’m not one to defend the fiscal profligacy of the Bush Administration, but the DNC criticizing the Republicans for spending too much is the very definition of the pot calling the kettle black. The Democrats are the party of big government and always have been — Dean tried attacking Bush on this basis along with the other Democrats and it was a massive flop.
If Dean were smart, he’d make “Bush” a four-letter word figuratively as well as literally. The Democrats cling to Bush-bashing as a kneejerk reaction — they can hardly help themselves from making every single statement some sort of implicit or explicit criticism of George W. Bush.
The problem with this monomania is that it makes the Democrats look petty and reactionary. Negativity doesn’t win elections in this country. John Kerry lost precisely because beyond vague allusions to having a “plan” for everything he was completely and utterly unable to provide voters with anything even resembling an alternative. When your whole ideology is “we’ll do whatever the opposite of Bush happens to be” you’re on such shaky ground that you might as well sit the next four years out.
Howard Dean may try to reach out to red state voters, but he doesn’t even speak their language. Howard Dean may be a moderate by Vermont standards, but he’s already synonymous with being a liberal nutjob in every state that isn’t bluer than Teresa Heinz-Kerry’s blood. He has net negative ratings, and while he may be a good fundraiser, he got his money by appealing to a portion of the electorate that couldn’t even put him over the top in the Democratic primaries.
The Democrats have put themselves in the position of embracing a losing set of political propositions, proving once again that they haven’t the faintest clue how to run a 50-state race. We all remember how Dean said he’d reach out to moderates a year ago, and we all remember how well that turned out for him.
Part of me wants to rejoice that the Democrats are practically handing the Republicans big victories in the coming years. However, our political system needs an equilibrium. A smart, responsible, Democratic Party would ensure that the GOP can’t get complacent. While the Democrats’ political suicide may appeal to the partisan in me, it is hardly a positive development for democracy in America.