Dean was not my first choice, that would have been Rosenberg, but he was my second choice. I believe the two most obvious characteristics of Dean -- 1) he's already a hero and 2) he's already a villain -- basically cancel each other out. In fact, I'm fairly certain his ability to get all this extra attention will be a net positive. Dean has a reputation as a wild-eye, crazy, hard left liberal but in reality that's really a description of his followers more then Dean himself. During the primaries his followers were constantly reminding us that Dean has an A+ rating from the NRA and was considered by all as a centrist governor. The typical reply pointed out Dean was the worst of all worlds, further to the right than anyone but Lieberman while having the reputation of being a hard core leftist.
But we did always point out that while we didn't like Dean for president, we really like the idea of Dean for DNC. Well, here we are. And now his reputation should work to his advantage as people watching him on tv will expect someone far more radical than he really is.
The Democratic party is in serious need of reform and I believe among those competing for DNC only Rosenberg and Dean really understand that. Dean won't be as good as Rosenberg on these issues and has fewer good ideas for reform, but at least he understands. I'm still hoping, in fact, that Dean brings in Rosenberg as a deputy chair or some other capacity.
But mostly I think he'll be good at two of the more important DNC activities: raising money and getting more good Democrats to run for local offices across the country.
The most reasonable assessment of Chairman Dean I found is (surprisingly) over at NewDonkey, a centrist DLC blog. Here is what it has to say:
I did a post back in November wondering why he wanted the job. I also suggested that the DNC was pretty much an empty fortress where there wouldn't be any resistance to Dean-style ideas about netroots-based fundraising and organizing, or for that matter, a fighting partisan tone (out-Republican-bashing Terry McAuliffe would be a pretty tall order). And I continue to believe that those Deanies who think his chairmanship represents some sort of revolution are going to be disappointed by the warm welcome they will get over on South Capitol Street, where the only heads available to put on a pike will be those of the failed political consultants who have (I hope) received their last checks from the DNC.
But none of that really matters. The Doctor's campaign for the party chairmanship focused on the need to broaden the party's financial base, tap the activist energy so evident in 2004, and rebuild threadbare state party infrastructures nationwide. And he has consistently said he won't engage in policy or ideological fights that will get in the way of that task, usurp the policy-making role of elected officials, or disturb party unity.
The DNC's unique role is to deal with activists, money, mechanics, and party reform, and Howard Dean brings a strong resume and considerable enthusiasm to those tasks. Expanding the base, developing a winning message, and articulating a progressive reform agenda--those are tasks in which all Democrats must participate, and where the main impetus must come far from South Capitol Street, out there in the heartland and its electoral battlegrounds.