As one era begins, another ends:
After four years at the helm of the Democratic National Committee, Howard Dean is preparing to relinquish his chairmanship.
Dean, who has been serving in the post since 2005, has said in the past that he would serve only one term, though his successful work with the Obama campaign had led some Democrats to wonder whether he would stay on into the next administration. This won’t be the case, officials at the DNC confirm. He will serve as chair until his term ends in January. The party will settle on a new head when it hosts a meeting during the week of Obama’s inauguration.
Regardless of who takes over, the next chair will inherit an organization far different from the one that existed four years ago. Under Dean’s tenure, the DNC implemented the hotly-debated 50-state-strategy, a program designed to rebuild the party into a continental force, one in which Democrats drained the resources of Republicans while simultaneously building up younger talent. Obama’s incoming chief of staff Rahm Emanuel and others were critical, believing that the policy wasted valuable resources on impossible races and needlessly forfeited otherwise winnable seats during the 2006 congressional elections. Successes in 2008, however, have largely quieted those critiques.
Indeed, four years later, it seems, Dean’s vision is poised to become party orthodoxy. Dean told a Democratic operative that he is hoping to extract promises from all potential replacement candidates to preserve the 50-state-strategy. Other insiders, meanwhile, say that the next DNC chair, regardless of who it is, will build upon the model because of its tangible successes.
I spent a year working at the DNC under Dean’s leadership, and it was one of the most exciting times of my life.
You can’t deny that Dean revolutionized Democratic politics–he fought a strong othodoxy held by a well-funded group of long-standing party insiders. In retrospect, Dean’s online fundraising, embrace-the-base approach and 50-state strategy seem like common sense, but it took a lot of hard work to bring those policies to life. He was the first one to crash the gates, so to speak, and we never would have won as much as we did in 2006 and 2008 without his hard work.
Howard Dean will be sorely missed. Whoever takes the reins of the DNC after him will have a lot to live up to; hopefully he/she will faithfully carry on Dean’s admirable legacy.