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"America has two great dominant strands of political thought - conservatism, which, at its very best, draws lines that should not be crossed; and progressivism, which, at its very best, breaks down barriers that should never have been erected." -- Bill Clinton, Dedication of the Clinton Presidential Library, November 2004

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Tuesday, February 01, 2005


Brazile Open Letter to Dean

posted by Aziz P. at Tuesday, February 01, 2005 permalink View blog reactions
Byron posts the text of an open letter from Donna Brazile to Howard Dean. It's amazing. A must read. Now that Martin Frost has dropped out, the chairmanship is basically Dean's for the taking.

To those posturing on the Right - I say, beware. The democratic electorate listened to you once, and got burned with Kerry. Dean will be a force quite unlike your imaginings, because you never really knew what Dean was about. Now you will learn.

full text after the jump...

February 1, 2005
By Donna L. Brazile,
Roll Call Contributing Write

Dear Governor:
I have known and admired you for more than 16 years. As you recall, we first met while working on the Dick Gephardt for President Committee back in 1987. Although Gephardt lost in the primary, your unwavering
support of a little-known Congressman from the Midwest was crucial and helped validate his campaign proposals on health care.

Since announcing your candidacy for chairman of the Democratic National Committee, you've been the talk of the town. Everywhere I go, people (not just Republicans, but even some prominent Democrats) are asking me how the Democratic Party could turn to Howard Dean after John Kerry's defeat last year. My simple answer, as a neutral observer in the race for chairman, is "because we can reconstruct our party to stand for something again." Now that you have secured the endorsement of the state party leaders, it's time to heal old wounds.

The truth is, the race for party chairman should never have been about you. But unfortunately the defeated, the dejected and the delirious wings of the Democratic Party have made this, like the 2004 presidential primaries, an "anybody but Dean" race. For whatever reason, your candidacy left a mark and the wound continues to fester. In going forward, win or lose, take some time and care to make sure it heals.

After listening to the candidates for chairman and vice chairmen this past weekend in New York City, I truly believe you have the ability to become a great leader of our party and could shake things up enough to make sure Democrats lay a foundation for future elections. But the chance, like in 2004, may elude you because of what you stand for. As I write this column, some labor leaders are still debating the merits of your candidacy.

At a time when Democrats were demoralized after losing control of the Senate and for failing to win back Congressional and gubernatorial seats, your candidacy gave Democrats a much-needed jolt and got our hearts beating all over again. Your candidacy caught fire, a new generation of activists found a way to be players and used the Internet to create a buzz. And, man, did you make fundraising seem easy for a party dreading the impact of McCain-Feingold.

Suddenly, you were on the cover of major newspapers and magazines. Political pundits followed your every move as you electrified the masses yearning to have a voice at the table. Your name was on every tongue inside and outside the Beltway. This led some people to suggest that Karl Rove was salivating at the prospect of the party nominating an ultra-left, anti-war liberal to take on a wartime president. But just as you appeared to be on the verge of catching fire in the Iowa caucuses, the winter turned harsh. People loved you in their hearts, but they became frightened of what it would mean for the Democratic Party to have you serve as our standard-bearer. Some of those same people are now involved in a last-ditch effort to stop your candidacy.

Your youthful, tech-savvy supporters were new to the game of hardball presidential politics. They were playing in a league where the rules change based on who's in the game. Soon, some party insiders flush with cash went to work to cool your jets. You haven't quite been the same since the moment they made and paid for a video comparing you to Osama bin Laden.

Perhaps this time you will make it to the top. But, as you have experienced, the climb up the ladder from ex-governor, ex-presidential candidate to chairman can be steep. The hurdles now, like the obstacles you confronted in the Democratic primaries, are mainly about ego. For all its talk about inclusiveness, the Democratic Party is extremely turf conscious. Thus, it's incumbent on you to reach out and bring these people, the very ones who went to the mat to stop you, into the fold.

The bigger fish in the Democratic pond (the party is still swimming upstream) are truly bottom feeders eating away their young, casting aside callously their base and ignorant of the sharks circling our old coalitions. They have dismissed an entire generation of potential leaders when they held power by failing to lift up those who were coming behind. With you, some of the people who have been kept down found their voice. No matter what happens next week, keep fighting for them.

Following a bruising loss in 2004, I am truly ashamed of my party for making the most important decision facing it a contest based on who not to support rather than who can help us rebuild. But, luckily, the state chairmen have temporarily put an end to the "anybody but Dean" crusade. No matter what happens to Dr. Howard Dean, M.D., I urge you to continue to heal the wounded. Stay positive and just try to remember why some of us are still loyal Democrats.


"The democratic electorate listened to you one, and got burned with Kerry." ???

IIRC, the National Review begged Democrats to nominate Dean as their candidate. And those on the right who were open to voting for a Democrat pulled strongly for Lieberman (myself included). Can you provide a link or two showing where Republicans requested that you send Kerry up for battle.

I think Dean governed as a centrist and ran as a Bush-hater. He just yesterday said "I hate Republicans." I guess that makes him a good DNC chair, but I'm not expecting him to help create a "purple nation" in any way. It's rather too bad, because if he had run on his record maybe some moderate Republicans would have liked him. Now he keeps adding insults on top of the "you shouldn't vote on guns, God, and gays" and the "confederate flag" comment.


Adam: just so you know, I consider you a kindred spirit with your Coburn advocacy - and you know how accurate the perception of Coburn amongst those on the left is. Keep that in mind.

I said that the democratic electorate listened to the Right - specifically Karl Rove - in believing that Dean was unelectable. Thus they embraced Kerry. If you google Dean Nation archives you will find references to Rove actually going out of hiw way to be seen near Dean supporters and cheering them on. He broadly insinuated that Dean as nominee would be a godsend. This spin was repeated in the media and was even repeated by Democrats on the left, painting Dean's support as pontyailed sandaled hippies from Vermont. Theres a lot of history on this in Dean Nation blog archives which frankly it still pains me to revisit, but a few minutes with google and you will find plenty of evidence.

The reason Kerry was the nominee was the "Beat Bush mentality" which led the electorate to reject genuine change and embrace a true establishment candidate who looked good on paper. Kerry relied on the establishment and it delivered. Dean was sunk well before the Scream - he was getting ten negative media stories A DAY in the monnth leading up to Iowa, and he and Gephardt effectively murder-suicided each other.

Dean did not campaign as a Bush hater. He campaigned as a Bush critic. I dont know what your sources are in making that accusation, but if you look thriough our archives here you will notice transcripts of Dean's speeches and video and audio that will be a more fair assessment. Dean was himself asked many times about his opinion regarding Bush and he was always respectful. It was always about policy, and I think that the goal of formulating a real national dialog in this country is best served when criticism from an opposition party can be received as criticism and not reflexively made into a personal vendetta.

I gave you the premier example of how the Right - specifically, the GOP leadership and the BC04 campaign - deliberately painted Dean as a radical so as to psyche out the electorate into choosing Kerry (who was far more easily defeated than Dean because unlike the Gov, he never took a principled and clear stand on an issue).

Now to justify your claim that Dean was a Bush hater, I ask you to do the same. Find me an example.


"I hate Republicans and everything they stand for." - Howard Dean. It surprised me to hear this after watching this site play him up as a possible uniter of the country. Find me one place where a national level Republican expresses hate for all Democrats.

My point about "listening to the right" was that Republicans were excited about Dean running because he was running as on the stem of Bush hatred and he was the quintessential Angry Rich White Guy. You (pl.) insistently did not listen and instead nominated the bland but solid Mr. Kerry. Now the "right" is again pushing Mr. Dean (the National Review endorsed him again :) ) and this time you are listening (or at least ignoring) the right. That's fine, but don't claim you listened to us the first time. We were scared of Lieberman (or hopeful in my case) and excited about Dean (in the cynical way).

I still think he could be a good DNC chair. But after the above comment, I think you should bury the idea that "purple nation" and "Dean nation" can be the same thing. He could very well be a good organizer, fundraiser, and partisan. But he will most definitely not heal any partisan wounds in the country. That will take a Lieberman or McCain.


"running on teh stem of Bush hatred"

with all due respect, I had a front row seat for his campaign, and thats just a false statement.

Dean hates the Republicans.. according to Newsmax? Come on. You and I both know how partisan press smears candidates by taking their words out of context. Recall that I trusted (and still trust) your assessment of Tom Coburn as a fundamentally decent man despite the enormous avalanche of statements he made - reported by far more reputable sources than NewsMax - of equally offensive sentiment. I am prepared to believe that Coburn was merely poor at expressing his sentiment and was ultimately lazy with his characterizations. Dean has been teh victim of a thousand times worse.

I doubt that even if Dean said precisely those words as (dubiously) reported he meant them in the sense that you take offense to.

"Dean Nation" represents the ideal that Dean stood for - not about "Republicans" (ie, the Party and its echelons of leadership, not the rank and file like yoruself, a distinction he has made many times), but about Americaans, of all stripes of belief and values and ideas. Dean united left, right, and center in his campaign even though the GOP leadership chose to misrepresent him as the leader of a bunch of insane buffoons from the ultraleft. Those buffoons may well have counted themselves among Dean's supporters, but Dean was never about them. He was about ordinary people like me. And you.



Dear Dean Nation
I am writing, without a vote, from the 51st State (the UK). The point of view of the outsider may have some perspective in comparison with the theological level minutiae conflicts of the insiders (whether dean is Anti-Bush or not e.g.).

1) Dean is a Radical Conservative in the Henry Adams lineage. As such he can pitch to Republicans as well as Democrats. His radicalism is not at all a handicap in this. His appeal, in relation to the Confederate Flag, was in this connection a true instinct.
2) He is an organiser, and, when needed, an autocrat. He also has an instinct for the grass roots. On both counts he is qualified.
3) He has four years, not four months, as in 2003. The 'Scream' will soon be forgotten. His populist eccentricities wont count for much over four years.
4) Barry Goldwater, a true conviction politician, began the Republican revival in 1964. He genuinely lost to a genuine ‘Lyndon Landslide’. He was ridiculed also. But look at the Republicans now!
5) Kerry – running against an incumbent and a War President, an almost impossible combination, unless you are Bill Clinton – did a fine job. He played his part in the Democrat revival. Let us be grateful. Now Dean can take the next step. Whether to Hillary or Edwards or someone new in 2008, it does not matter, what matters is a party that can deliver, then. Dean has the full range of qualities needed.


Heward Wilkinson, UK


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About Nation-Building

Nation-Building was founded by Aziz Poonawalla in August 2002 under the name Dean Nation. Dean Nation was the very first weblog devoted to a presidential candidate, Howard Dean, and became the vanguard of the Dean netroot phenomenon, raising over $40,000 for the Dean campaign, pioneering the use of Meetup, and enjoying the attention of the campaign itself, with Joe Trippi a regular reader (and sometime commentor). Howard Dean himself even left a comment once. Dean Nation was a group weblog effort and counts among its alumni many of the progressive blogsphere's leading talent including Jerome Armstrong, Matthew Yglesias, and Ezra Klein. After the election in 2004, the blog refocused onto the theme of "purple politics", formally changing its name to Nation-Building in June 2006. The primary focus of the blog is on articulating purple-state policy at home and pragmatic liberal interventionism abroad.