Sunday, January 3, 2010

2012: Could We See Obama-Dean?

30 years ago, the Democrat party was in chaos. On the heels of rising inflation, rising fuel prices, and a presidential approval rating pegged at 28 percent by Gallup, Ted Kennedy threw his hat in the ring to challenge incumbent Jimmy Carter for the 1980 presidential nomination. Kennedy followers had long suspected he would run at some point in his career, although when he did their enthusiasm was quickly tempered by the fact that he never could explain exactly why he was running. To many observers, his battle with Carter was an unmitigated disaster, and the dissension within the party is credited by some as a major reason why Ronald Reagan won the general election in November of that year.

Fast forward to 2010, and there's a renewed sense of dissension within the Democrat ranks. Leading that dissension? None other than former Vermont governor and DNC chairman Howard Dean. In recent months, Dean had been making health care reform the major focus of his activities - but not in the way some would expect. Instead of spending 100 percent of his time leading the charge for reform, some of his effort has been expended in attacking President Obama and Democrat leadership in the House of Representatives and Senate for what he perceives as caving on key provisions that he has been advocating for health care legislation (chiefly the so-called "public option").

In a story published today in Politico, "The Resurrection of Howard Dean," writer Kenneth Vogel says that some of those closest to Dean think that his attacks on fellow Democrats about their approach to health care reform are just the beginning. According to Vogel, "Dean’s health care stand has infuriated party leaders, who have alternately tried to marginalize him and to bring him on board. Yet at the same time, his provocative approach has re-energized the political group he founded and thrilled legions of progressive activists, many of whom were drawn to politics by Dean's insurgent 2004 presidential campaign, then deflated when he didn’t land an Obama Cabinet post."

So let's think ahead three years, to the 2012 election cycle. If this dissatisfaction continues, and we see a regeneration of the tremendous enthusiasm among a wide section of the Democrat base that Dean brought about in 2004, could we see a repeat of 1980 and watch as Dean challenges Obama in the primary? Ever since his famous "taking back the White House/heeyaaah!" meltdown that marked the end of his campaign, a lot of folks -political pundits, voters, comedians, and many others - have thought Dean is just as crazy as he is unpredictable. And taken as a whole, a package of unpredictability, craziness, and grassroots enthusiasm, could motivate him to a position of mounting a serious challenge to Obama.

So sit back and enjoy the ride - the Howard Express could provide some exciting times in the next few years.

1 comment:

  1. Maybe the ticket in 2012 with be Dean instead of Biden in the VP slot.. of course you can't count Hillary out :)