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Howard Dean’s Time At DNC Makes Tough Time For Democrats

March 22, 2008

Howard Dean, Chairman of the Democratic National Committee has not always had both hands on the reins over the past couple of years.  The fact that Michigan and Florida are now both in the headlines over how to proceed with seating delegates at the summer convention is in large part the blame of Dean.  As a strong backer of his for the 2004 Democratic nomination, (our home gave every month for his campaign) I have been very unimpressed with his stewardship of the DNC.

The missteps and blunders with the primaries in Florida and Michigan are most serious, and needless to say a national embarrassment for the party.  And he must accept the blame for the mess.  In addition he is as the center of the storm over the DNC Gay & Lesbian Leadership Council which has resulted in a lawsuit that the Party could have avoided.  Dean could have handled things much differently.  (More on that in another post.)

I have been perplexed how the Democratic Party allowed the entire situation with the delegates to get so out of hand.  Even more so I am angry that Dean did not exert some power and muscle to wield the results that would have prevented this from happening.  It is quite apparent that Dean has no real power to use, and little room to operate.  That is a shame because he came into the job as Chairman with so many supporting him, and creating such high hopes for the Party.

Time Magazine sums it up nicely.

According to a poll conducted this week for various Florida media, almost a quarter of Florida Democrats say they’ll be “less likely to support” the party’s nominee if their state’s delegates aren’t seated at the Democratic National Convention in Denver in August — and by seated they mean counted in the final tally to choose the presidential nominee. Florida has more than 4 million registered Democrats, but even just taking into account the 1.7 million Florida Democrats who voted in the January primary, that’s still a potential alienation of some 400,000 votes, on a peninsula (and the nation’s fourth largest state) that ended up deciding the 2000 presidential race by a mere 537 ballots. In addition, some state party leaders tell TIME they privately estimate the Dem dysfunction will cost them at least 1% of Florida’s sizeable chunk of independent voters, who number more than 2 million, or almost a fifth of the state’s electorate.

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Dean has consistently argued that the integrity of party rules is at stake. But that seemingly principled stand rests on shaky ground. In a New York Times op-ed article this week, Michigan Senator Carl Levin and Debbie Dingell, a Michigan member of the DNC, pointed out that one of the perennially pampered primary states, New Hampshire, also broke newly established party rules last year by defensively moving its own primary to an earlier date — and the DNC allowed it. Even discounting that apparent hypocrisy, Florida Democrats insist that the moves by their state and Michigan should have indicated to the DNC that the rules were antiquated and flawed, and therefore required some flexibility. “I detest this ruling,” says U.S. Representative Robert Wexler, Barack Obama’s Florida campaign director. “This should have been a wake-up call to the party that the primary system needs to be more representative and democratic.”

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Perhaps because Dean and the DNC painted themselves into a corner. They can’t easily lift the Florida-Michigan sanctions after all the authoritarian chest-thumping they did last year. Yet if the party heads into Denver without a clear nominee — and needing the votes of Florida and Michigan to decide the issue — their peremptory action will seem even more ridiculous, making the leadership of the so-called people’s party look like a clique of arrogant patricians thwarting the popular will.

What’s worse, Dean and the DNC now look all but AWOL when it comes to resolving a mess they did so much to create, leaving it to the states to figure it out. Nor have Crist and the Florida legislature been much help after they were the ones who led the state into the primary rebellion in the first place. (In this week’s poll, Florida Democrats lay equal blame on Dean and the Florida G.O.P.)

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