Howard Dean: toughness, boldness, leadership

Howard Dean appeared on the Rachel Maddow show last night.  He acknowledged that now Sen.-elect Scott Brown has run a great campaign.  Asked about the intra-party bickering, Dean told Democrats to get our eyes on the ball, and stop fighting.  "People who blame others are losers," said the former Chairman of the Democratic party under whose leadership Democrats went from a minority to a large majority in both Houses of Congress, and elected a Democratic president.  Here is the segment on Maddow I'm referring to:



I agree with Howard Dean.  I am not happy with the Coakley campaign, and there's enough blame to go around.  Taking votes for granted was a mistake.  Not working for every single vote was a mistake.  Letting Brown get away with his extremist positions was a mistake.  And frankly, the national Democrats did not perform any better.  The DSCC did not catch this earlier.  The DNC has had a chairman who until recently had a full time job as the governor of Virginia - one of the decisions of President Obama I did not understand nor liked.  People can claim that we should have rammed health care down the Republicans' throat earlier.  Some will say Democrats gave up too much on health care reform.  Others will point out that Republican obstructionism may have left us no choice.

But let's face it.  We are not going to get anywhere simply by pointing the finger at the other guy.  We no longer have 60 votes in the Senate.  That is the truth.  And we lost the seat because of a combination of a bad campaign, letting Republicans get away with a constant barrage of attacks, and by letting them tapping into popular anger.  Republicans are not serious about solving our problems - they are interested in dividing us over it.  But we are not done.  Democrats came to power and gave this thing a good-faith shot.  The Republicans did not play ball.  Well, it seems that not playing ball has worked out for them.  So we now need to fight.  We need to get tough and show the American people who stands in the way of reform.  I do not believe we lost because voters see Republicans as the party of reform all of a sudden.  The problem is that Republicans have been throwing roadblocks, and frankly, with 60 nominal votes in the Senate, it was not a simple case to make to the public that the Republicans were, in fact, obstructing.  "So what, you have the 60 votes you need!" came the retort.  As of last night, that retort is gone.


Now, with regard to health care, there is a possibility that the House will pass the Senate bill as is and send it to the President to be signed.  I hope that happens, because we cannot let the health care regulations go down.  We just can't.

But once that happens, it's time for war.  Here is what I mean:
  • No more letting people get away with attacking the President's or the Democrats' patriotism.  Hammer them.  Every Democrat needs to become Eric Massa in that respect.
  • use reconciliation to put through health care measures such a public option and a Medicare expansion, once the regulatory reforms pass.
  • The president is due to submit his budget to Congress on February 1.  The budget cannot be filibustered.  Find a way to put every damn legislative priority into the budget in some way so that it can be rammed through reconciliation.
  • An aggressive jobs program.  Spend the money needed.  Massive public infrastructure investment, direct investments into community banks, whatever it takes.  Yes, be blatant about it.  Make the Republicans try to stop a jobs program.
  • Show that we are the party of reform.  Do NOT back off from real financial reform.  Do NOT back off from energy legislation.  Go after campaign finance reform win or lose.
  • Use the process.  Make Republicans read the goddamn phone book.  Go out to the people and explain what they are trying to stop.  Fight, damnit.
  • Use the nuclear option.  The Vice President has already spoken out against the abuse of the filibuster, saying the Republicans' use of it is making the Constitution stand on its head.  So, Mr. Vice President, President of the Senate, declare the filibuster unconstitutional.  Then have your ruling help up by 51 Democratic votes.
To be fair, the White House has already signaled its willingness to have the president roll up his sleeves and go to war against the Republicans.  The President might finally have had enough. The President still has a megaphone, and he needs to use it.  He needs to become - and I am going to use a word not everyone is going to like - partisan.  If the Republicans will work with his agenda, great.  If not, they can go explain to the American people why they stood in the way of reform.  The people of this country still like Barack Obama.  The problem is that they have been hearing his opposition getting loud and agitate, and him not saying much (even though what he has done is quite a big list of accomplishments - but you don't win elections by doing things alone; you have to beat your opposition over the head and get your message out to voters).  Well, the president has a remedy to that problem.  Become that campaigner in chief we saw in 2008.  Cut through the right wing bullshit.  Show the voters why they elected you, Mr. President.  Show them why Republicans cannot be trusted.  For that, Mr. President, one thing needs to change your part.  I have a hard time saying this, because I am an admirer of your sense of basis decency and honesty.  But sir, you need to stop assuming that Republicans come to anything as an honest bargainer.  Their goal, Mr. President, is your Waterloo.  You cannot let that happen, Mr. President.  Not for your sake, but for ours.

As a party, we need to listen to Howard Dean.  I don't agree with him as a policy matter that the Senate health care bill contains very little in the way of insurance reform, but the man is a genius when it comes to electoral strategy, and he understands the establishment-insurgent dynamic better than probably anyone alive on our side of the isle.  He knows what works for voters.  He knows how to stand up and deliver the Democratic message in bold, concise terms and how to take on the Republicans.  We need him back.  Frankly, Tim Kaine should resign as the Chair of the DNC, and President Obama should beg for Dean to return, if necessary.  Perhaps we can use MA's results as a reminder about what Republicans are capable of doing and hit back hard.  Let's do it in January of 2010 rather than in November.

This is no time to back down.  This is no time to scale back.  This is the time for a smackdown and to scale up.