After his election, Obama quickly got rid of the one person who had demonstrated real skill in bringing the party – as opposed to just Obama – to life: Howard Dean. As head of the Democratic National Committee, he had revived the broader party and helped significantly to put Obama into office.
Furthermore, as a symbol of the party, Dean was a rare real human being. As he explained to Diane Sawyer after the campaign yelling incident that unfairly got him into so much trouble (he was just trying to be heard in large hall), “I was having a great time. I am not a perfect person, believe me, I have all kinds of warts. I wear cheap suits sometimes, I say things that I probably ought not to say, but I lead with my heart, and that’s what I was doing right there, leading with my heart.”
As I wrote at the time:
“Most national politicians don’t act like Dean because they have been taught to act in essentially artificial and non-human ways towards the real things that happen around them. They have been taught to lock up their hearts as if they were dangerous firearms. . . He has reminded us all that we are still alive and not merely virtual parodies of ourselves like our media mannequins and political puppets.”
And the pay off? Dean was dumped as head of the DNC and denied any post in the Obama administration. This clip from Political Wire tells it what happened:
“Greg Sargent points to a section in Ari Berman’s new book, Herding Donkeys, which says Rahm was the force behind the administration’s refusal to give Dean a job: ‘Those with firsthand knowledge of the transition process said that Emanuel, an infamous score settler, made his intentions regarding Dean perfectly clear. ‘There was never any intention to hire Dean, and in fact there was a great deal of satisfaction at dissing him,’ said a senior member of the transition team. ‘The orders were coming down from Rahm that Dean was not to be considered for anything [high-ranking] and he didn’t want anything to do with him.'”
This week’s election was part of the payoff and one reason why those looking for an alternative to Obama in 2012 might want to take another look at Howard Dean.
And I’m not the only one thinking this way. Earlier this year, Kenneth Vogel wrote in Politico:
|||| After four relatively low-profile years pushing the official party line as chairman of the Democratic National Committee, Dean is once again the tribune of frustrated liberals. And after he called out President Barack Obama and his congressional allies over their concessions on health care, those close to him predict he’s just getting warmed up.
Dean’s health care stand has infuriated party leaders, who have alternately tried to marginalize him and to bring him on board. Yet at the same time, his provocative approach has re-energized the political group he founded and thrilled legions of progressive activists, many of whom were drawn to politics by Dean’s insurgent 2004 presidential campaign, then deflated when he didn’t land an Obama Cabinet post.
They have grown increasingly disenchanted with Obama’s presidency and are urging Dean to keep up the drumbeat as the health care debate heads to conference this month; to push Obama to stand more firmly with liberals on other issues; and, if the administration continues to disappoint, to consider challenging Obama in the 2012 Democratic primaries (a far-fetched scenario for which one liberal blogger recently posited Dean was “perfectly positioned”) or – if nothing else – to seek the party’s presidential nomination in 2016, when Obama could be finishing his second term.||||
This isn’t an endorsement, just encouragement to start thinking along these lines. Certainly Dean would be a better alternative than Hillary Clinton who carries more seamy baggage than a 19th century mule train. Add to Dean a popular Democrat like Brian Schweitzer of Montana as vice presidential nominee and you’d have a team that could make the Republicans look like the fake heartland Americans that they are.
In any case, we only have two years, so start thinking