Monday, May 23, 2005

DEAN, DEAN...You Go Guy!

Populism gets a boost from the Chairman
In one of the little-noticed exchanges on Meet the Press this past Sunday, DNC Chairman Howard Dean showed that the Democratic Party is starting to finally realize that it needs to repackage its economic message. Granted, the exchange was only a semantic changing of terms - but it bodes well for those of us who know that the party needs to start standing up for the middle-class again if it ever hopes to regain power.

Host Tim Russert asked Dean about his support for Vermont's Independent Congressman Bernie Sanders' race for the Senate in 2006. Russert - a classic regurgitator of conventional wisdom - immediately challenged Dean about supporting "a self- described avowed socialist" (I've gone over what this actually means in a previous post, though we shouldn't expect someone like Russert to ever want to probe much deeper than conventional wisdom).

What happened next was what's really important. Instead of running away from the question, Dean said Sanders "is really a populist" and went on to defend Sanders record standing up for campaign finance reform and for an agenda that puts the middle class first.

I've never seen a high profile Democrat like this defend Sanders in this way and formally use the term "populist" - and it is especially encouraging coming from someone who, during the interview, admitted that he and Sanders "have had our difficulties over the years" and "had our strong disagreements." It means something more than just a boost to Sanders (though it does mean that) - it means there are high-profile people in the Democratic Party like Dean who now understand the value of a strong economic message - one that actually challenges the corrupt, corporate hold on Congress that now exists on Washington. It shows there are leaders in the party who understand that Democrats need to rebrand themselves in the populist mold - and its chairman is clearly comfortable with putting populism out front.

That is a terrific development, a victory for those

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