Des Moines Register photo
Howard Dean, photographed at a speaking engagement in Iowa today, today reportedly refused to rule out a run for the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination.
Disclaimer: I did not support Howard Dean’s 2004 bid for the Democratic presidential nomination. And in 2003 and 2004 I found the “Deaniacs” to be, well, more creepily cult-like than to be inspiring.
When Dean imploded in the snows of Iowa in January 2004 — when he came in at No. 3, behind John Kerry and John Edwards, after the Deaniacs already had painted Dean as all but coronated as the 2004 Democratic presidential candidate — I was pleased, I must admit.
Dean had had his hordes of zombie-like followers converging upon and canvassing all over Iowa in their tacky orange knit hats (their no-doubt-annoying-to-Iowans ubiquity probably harmed Dean a lot more than it helped him, I surmised then and still surmise today), and Dean’s followers struck me as pretty fucking smug, and so it was great to see Team Dean knocked down some pegs.
The “Dean scream” thing, I can say at least in retrospect, was overblown and probably unfair, but at the time I didn’t care, truth be told; I just wanted Dean knocked out of the race, and if that was what it took, so be it.
But don’t get me wrong. I didn’t necessarily feel in 2004 that Howard Dean never should be the Democratic presidential candidate. I just didn’t believe — and still don’t believe — that he was the best Democratic presidential candidate for 2004, when the goal was to boot the unelected George W. Bush from the White House, and when the post-9/11 “war on terror” and militarism still were big (or big-enough, anyway) issues.
I couldn’t see the peacenik Dean (that was the perception of him, anyway) beating the chickenhawk Bush, who quite effectively had used the specter of “terrorism” for political gain, who had milked the fall of the World Trade Center like Adolf Hitler had milked the Reichstag fire.
I, along with millions of others, desperately wanted to deny Bush a second term, and in my eyes it was Vietnam vet John Kerry (contrasted to the Vietnam War-evading cowards Bush and Cheney) whose resume was best matched to accomplishing that.
I supported Kerry from early on, but I figured that his campaign was dead, or at least on life support, no later than in the late fall of 2003, when it sure looked like he was a goner. Then, like Lazarus, Kerry came back from the dead and kicked Dean’s ass in Iowa, the first contest of the presidential primary season. Kerry’s momentum from Iowa quickly made him the front-runner; Dean dropped out of the primary race after he again placed third, this time in Wisconsin, in February 2004.
That Kerry ultimately lost to Bush does not make me believe, in retrospect, that Dean would have been the better candidate. Bush had the incumbent’s advantage, and while I won’t claim that the Kerry campaign made no missteps, I posit that Kerry did significantly better against Bush than Dean would have.
With Dean, I saw an embarrassing, Walter Mondale- or Michael Dukakis-level loss, frankly. At least with Kerry it was close (251 electoral votes to 286 electoral votes, and 48.3 percent of the popular vote to 50.7 percent).
But the political environment of 2016 is shaping up to be quite different from that of 2004. 9/11 occurred almost 12 years ago, for starters.
Let’s face it: Barack Obama in 2008 fairly simply coasted to the White House on the wave that Howard Dean had created.* Obama, whose only “accomplishment” had been a nice, touchy-feely speech that he gave at the 2004 Democratic National Convention (before he had even been elected to the U.S. Senate), is an opportunist who saw his opportunity and took it.
Although I didn’t support Dean in 2004 primarily for strategic reasons, he’s the right candidate for 2016.
Billary Clinton does not deserve to be coronated (any more than Dean did in 2004), and if Obama gave her a run for her money in 2008 — and he did, obviously (while Dean flamed out after only a month in the presidential primary fight, recall that Obama and Billary duked it out for five looong months) — then I don’t see why Dean couldn’t do so in 2016, especially when Obama in 2008 pretty much had only pretended to be the second coming of Howard Dean.
I would support Dean over Billary for 2016, hands down. I’m more than ready for our first female president, but she would need to be one who is actually progressive, not one who rubber-stamped the unelected Bush regime’s Vietraq War, helped her husband pimp the Democratic Party out to corporate weasels and drag the Democratic Party to right, and who has coasted and capitalized on her husband’s name rather than having actually achieved anything on her own.
Thankfully, there is talk that Howard Dean might be considering a 2016 run. He was in Iowa today (visit Iowa while being a politician, and tongues will wag), and The Des Moines Register reports:
Another presidential campaign is not an immediate goal for Democrat Howard Dean, who came to Iowa today to rake Republicans as either radicals or cowards who are too afraid to stand up to the extreme right.
“At this point, I’m supporting Hillary Clinton,” Dean, a former Vermont governor and 2004 presidential candidate, told The Des Moines Register in a brief interview in Iowa today.
Asked if he’s definitively ruling out a White House bid, Dean climbed into a waiting car and said with a grin, “Ahhgh, we’re done here. Thank you.”
Dean, the founder of a political action committee called Democracy for America, was the keynote speaker at the 57th annual Iowa Federation of Labor Convention at a conference center at Prairie Meadows in Altoona this morning.
Earlier this year, Dean had said he wasn’t ruling out running for president in 2016. He came in third place in the Democratic Iowa caucuses a decade ago, after John Kerry and John Edwards. …
I could support Al Gore for 2016, too, but I haven’t heard that Gore has had any interesting in running for the White House again, and, truth be told, I surmise that Gore is widely viewed as already having lost a presidential election (even though, of course, he actually won it), whereas Dean does not, it seems to me, carry that level of baggage.
And, as I noted, Barack Obama would not be where he is had he not coasted along the path to the White House that Dean already had paved for him. Obama in 2008 undeservedly fairly automatically picked up the energy, the money and the support of the Deaniacs, which propelled him into the Oval Office.
It’s time, it seems to me, for Howard Dean to finally be sitting in the chair in the Oval Office, the chair that Obama fairly effortlessly slipped into but that Dean actually deserves.
*Wikipedia notes of Howard Dean, “Although his  presidential campaign was unsuccessful, Dean is regarded as a pioneer in raising the profile of Internet-based fundraising and grassroots organizing” and:
Dean formed the [progressive political action committee] Democracy for America [in 2004] and later was elected chairman of the Democratic National Committee in February 2005. As chairman of the [Democratic Party], Dean created and employed the “50-state strategy” that attempted to make Democrats competitive in normally conservative states often dismissed in the past as “solid red.”
The success of the strategy became apparent after the 2006 midterm elections, where Democrats took back the House and picked up seats in the Senate from normally Republican states such as Missouri and Montana. In the 2008 presidential election, Barack Obama used the “50-state strategy” as the backbone of his candidacy.
Wikipedia further notes that although Dean has not held elected office since he wrapped up his chairmanship of the Democratic Party in 2009, “In June 2013, Dean expressed interest in possibly running for the presidency in 2016.”