I'm really having a hard time keeping shut up about this one, so I will go ahead and vent.
In an earlier post I discussed the successes of Howard Dean, certainly the most successful DNC chair I've seen in my lifetime.
And Barack Obama, while he built a very good organization himself, had the scaffolding of a national party that Howard Dean had built.
You may recall that back in 2004, Zell Miller (the turncoat from Georgia) had written a book entitled 'A National Party No More' in which he claimed that the Democratic party had become shrunken down to a collection of special interests in certain parts of the country and unable to compete nationally. Of course as Democrats, we took issue with Zell's book, but the truth is that in 2004, he was onto something. Howard Dean cured that problem though, building the Democratic party in every state so that among the numerous pickups that Democrats netted during Dean's four years at the DNC were victories in places where Democrats had simply not won anytime within the memory of most people. In fact by the time he was done, it was the Republican party that for all intents and purposes has been kicked out of the urban northeast, California (where only a Republico-Democrat like Arnold Scharzeneggar can come close to winning) and a lot of places in the upper midwest. Democrats, had they won the relatively close Wyoming open seat, would now have a Democrat in the congressional delegation (house or Senate) in all fifty states. And note-- the Governor of Wyoming is a Democrat (though he was first elected two years before Dean took over at the DNC.)
So what did Howard Dean get for his spectacularly brilliant and successful leadership? Well, first of all, he was snubbed by having his successor, Tim Kaine (who it's been known for some time had been hand-picked by the incoming President, as is his prerogative) announced on a day when Dean was in American Samoa, where he was building the party there (Dean believes that every Democrat needs to be represented within the party, and for this egalitarian philosophy he was painted as a fool, mainly by fools.)
But the biggest slap (unfortunately, but facts being what they are I have to say this) came from Obama himself. His obligatory statement recognizing Dean's service read this way:
He launched a 50-state strategy that made Democrats competitive in places they had not been in years, working with my chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel, to give Democrats a majority in the House for the first time in over a decade.
Half of that is accurate. It is true that Dean launched the 50-state strategy, that it made Democrats competitive in places they had not been in years, and that it helped give Democrats a majority in the House for the first time in over a decade.
And it is also true that Emanuel, as chair of the Democratic congressional committee deserves some of the credit for what happened in the 2006 campaign cycle. But keep in mind that Democrats have since then gained a net of 24 more seats in the house, as well as (between the two cycles) fourteen in the Senate.
But we well know that Dean did not work at all with Emanuel. Emanuel in fact opposed Dean's strategy preferring to concentrate on places where Democrats were traditionally competitive (and I had myself once written a piece detailing back about 2003 that the GOP's congressional 'soft underbelly' was composed of northeastern Republicans who represented left-leaning districts and could be picked off just by tying them to the conservatism of the Republican leadership (using Chris van Hollen's 2002 upset of Maryland moderate Connie Morella as a model.) And that was in fact correct as far as it went, so that Democrats have taken over all 22 New England house seats and all but three in New York. But those wins alone would have only given Democrats a slim majority. They instead have a sizeable majority and it's because the 'fifty state strategy' allowed them to win Republican house seats all over the country. The fact that obnoxious Republicans like J.D. Hayworth, Charles Taylor, Robin Hayes, Virgil Goode, Bill Sali and Marilyn Musgrave, and Senator Rick Santorum, who had never been really pushed before lost, adds a measure of satisfaction.
Let's be blunt here: Emanuel and Dean don't like each other. Dean won the argument and turned out to be right. Emanuel is Obama's chief of staff. You figure out what the 'lauditory message' was supposed to say. There was no reason to give any specific mention of Rahm, all the more so since the scope of successes the party has gone through under Dean went far beyond the 2006 Congressional cycle. Issuing the statement after denying Dean even the chance to be present as his successor was introduced is a gross insult to a man to whom we all owe a heck of a lot.
I fully support the Obama administration and will continue to support them as we move forward during the most challenging economic crisis that America has faced in my 46 years. But a cheap shot is a cheap shot, and after everything Howard Dean has done for the party he deserves better than that. By signing off on that statement, the President-elect did cheapen himself. And I know he's a better man than that.