Following the Democratic Party’s spectacular loss on Tuesday, interim chair of the Democratic National Committee Donna Brazile announced that she would not run for the position in January, 2017. A few Democrats have intimated their intention to fill her shoes, including former Vermont Governor Howard Dean.
Readers may recall that Dean already held that position from 2005 to 2009, and was rather competent, implementing the 50-State Strategy and raising the most money ever for a DNC chair during the 2008 election. This year, however, he is the wrong man for the job—Tuesday’s results proved that the Democrats must clean house.
In making this case against Dean, it is important to understand why it is that Donald Trump won the election.
After the disastrous Bush presidency, and decades of the Democratic Party embracing neoliberalism and distancing itself from New Deal Era “big government”—Barack Obama swept into office on the promise of change. His timing was impeccable coinciding with the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression. Obama's assurances to the American people that he would act on their behalf to bring about recovery from the bottom up, provided hope in a dark time.
This financial crisis is a direct result of the greed and irresponsibility that has dominated Washington and Wall Street for years. It's the result of speculators who gamed the system, regulators who looked the other way, and lobbyists who bought their way into our government. It's the result of an economic philosophy that says we should give more and more to those with the most and hope that prosperity trickles down to everyone else; a philosophy that views even the most common-sense regulations as unwise and unnecessary. And this economic catastrophe is the final verdict on this failed philosophy – a philosophy that we cannot afford to continue….
First, I said we needed an independent board to provide oversight and accountability for how and where this money is spent at every step of the way. Second, I said that we cannot help banks on Wall Street without helping the millions of innocent homeowners who are struggling to stay in their homes. They deserve a plan too. Third, I said that I would not allow this plan to become a welfare program for the Wall Street executives whose greed and irresponsibility got us into this mess. And finally, I said that if American taxpayers are financing this solution, then you should be treated like investors – you should get every penny of your tax dollars back once this economy recovers…
These are the changes and reforms that we need. Bottom-up growth that will create opportunity for every American. Investments in the technology and innovation that will restore prosperity and lead to new jobs and a new economy for the 21st century. Common-sense regulations for our financial system that will prevent a crisis like this from ever happening again.
However, in spite of these promises, and largely following through on the plans outlined in his remarks, most of the gains of the “Obama recovery” went to those at the top, leaving struggling Americans in a state of profound economic uncertainty. Student debt reached new heights, and the Affordable Care Act, known as Obamacare, proved a disaster, leaving millions uninsured or underinsured. Policy outcomes determined by the economic elite remained the norm. People felt that their government no longer represented them.
It was against this backdrop that Hillary Clinton and the Democratic establishment made the fatal error of dismissing the concerns of working Americans. Rejecting sweeping change as unrealistic, Democrats argued that the country was fundamentally headed in the right direction, and therefore focused on issues like electing the first woman president, that were not as central in the minds of the struggling working class as financial security.
Making matters worse, they caricatured criticisms leveled at Clinton—from both left and the right—as sexism or naiveté. Meanwhile the issues of political and economic inequality Senator Sanders raised during the primary fell the wayside, leaving a void that was filled by Donald Trump.
Howard Dean played a part in this disastrous strategy that effectively killed the establishment. Dean, a health industry lobbyist, who actively worked against single-payer health care, is also a Vermont superdelegate. During the primary, which is now known to have been structured and designed around nominating Hillary Clinton, he pledged his vote to the former Secretary of State in spite of the fact that she did not win a single pledged delegate in his state.
Criticized for his decision, Dean lashed out at progressives and millennials over Twitter characterizing them as bullies in furtherance of a narrative from Clinton's campaign, and reveling in the fact that superdelegates are unelected and do not represent the people.
The idea that Democrats would follow Debbie Wasserman Schultz and Donna Brazile, both of whom helped to rig the primary for Clinton, with another of her allies is more self-sabotage from a party that has clearly lost its way. As Tim Canova, the progressive politician who ran against Wasserman Schultz in her district’s primary, put it in a recent interview with Paste:
It’s a slap in the face. He [Dean] endorsed Hillary early when it was not even necessary to endorse her. He’s very tied to the establishment…This guy should not be DNC chair. If he becomes DNC chair there’s going to be more defections from the party.
Dean is just the latest idea by the establishment of how to recover—others include running Michelle Obama or Andrew Cuomo for president in 2020.
None of these are good ideas. If Democrats are to survive, they will have to embrace progressivism and completely throw out the old guard. The election of President Donald Trump is proof that anyone who endorsed Hillary Clinton in the primary has no business making decisions for the future of the party.
Right now, the smartest choice appears to be Rep. Keith Ellison, who endorsed Sanders, and has received the Vermont Senator’s endorsement for the chair position. And it appears that even establishment figures are coming around—today, Sen. Chuck Schumer also endorsed Ellison.