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From Howard Dean to Paul Hackett

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Following his more-than-embarrassing third place finish in Iowa, Dean, hoping to rally his base, gave his now infamous screaming speech that became the media pinnacle for his downfall.

Eric Salzman, reporting for CBS News on January 26, 2004, wrote:

The media is having a great time with Howard Dean's 'concession ' speech in Iowa ... Like a horrific car accident on the side of the road, the clip of Dean listing the states with early primaries, and ending with a gleeful 'yalp, ' is hard not to watch, even if there is nothing to gain from seeing it ... What you might not know, because it doesn't play 30 times a day on the cable news channels, is what was happening in the rest of the room. You don't see the visual, and you don't hear the audio. The television crews recording the event plug into an audio source picking up Dean's microphone, not the sound of the room. The cameras focus in to a tight shot of the candidate, not the rest of the room. What you are not hearing is a room with thousands of people screaming and cheering. What you are not seeing are hundreds upon hundreds of American flags waving.

What you are not hearing are members of the audience shouting out state names urging Dean to list more. What you are not seeing is the way Dean's supporters were lifted out of their slump by the speech.

But never mind what really happened. The media was having a hay-day with Dean 's tantrum. The unelectability of the governor, cast as a maniacal demon, was played out every half-hour on the cable news networks. And fellow Democrats loved the negative takes on the scream. "You've heard of mad cow disease? This was mad candidate disease,'' the San Francisco Chronicle quoted Garry South, a senior adviser to Senator Joe Lieberman, as saying. "I sat there in total disbelief. It was beyond anything I'd ever seen,'' South said. "If I were Trippi and (Dean pollster Paul) Maslin, I would have been having a heart attack.'' It was truly the first thick nail in Dean ' s campaign coffin.

Although the DLC was astonished at Dean 's ranting yelp, they were nonetheless pleased. Everything Jones and his ilk wanted was coming true. Dean was self-destructing. And he was nudged to that brink by his own party 's elite establishment.

New Hampshire came next. Dean was already on the downward slide after Iowa, but his gang had hoped they could climb back into the saddle and ride off with a victory in the New England state.

Everybody in the Dean campaign knew New Hampshire was critical for Dean. Most didn 't know that Trippi was planning on leaving the campaign regardless of whether Dean won or lost. He had nothing more to offer. If Dean didn 't come in second or a close third, he would be finished for good. But many in the Dean camp still felt confident. The Governor remained steady in the polls, although his numbers declined substantially after the Iowa ordeal. His troops had been in the state for months, attempting to organize and get out the Dean message. Certainly his frightening speech didn 't help. And by now Dean 's wife Judith had been dragged before the TV cameras, on display for the media doctors to dissect. This spectacle was clearly in poor taste, and her uncomfortable demeanor did not bode well for Dean, who was working hard to get past his Iowa outrage and show the country he was just a normal fella, who just happened to hate GW Bush. So he pulled on a wool sweater and stomped to work in snowy New Hampshire. None of these maneuvers mattered, however. Dean lost by double digits, an embarrassing finish indeed.

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Marcus Teesey, a Dean volunteer in New Hampshire wrote of his experiences and his views on Dean 's collapse in the state: "The Dean machine was a brigade-sized organization that rapidly and suddenly -- and in my opinion unexpectedly -- acquired the enthusiastic support of ten divisions' worth of new people through Meetup. Not all, but a definite majority, of these people had no political experience ... People whose campaign experience was limited to stuffing envelopes and holding signs got important staff jobs in New Hampshire. The enthusiasm was there and so was the intelligence, but the core competence wasn't and isn't universal ... If Dean had had a year to build his New Hampshire campaign with the resources available at the time of the primary, things would have been much smoother. Communications errors wouldn't have occurred. Chains of command would have been clearer. Many thousands of man-hours were wasted in New Hampshire due to these things, which went some way towards nullifying the numerical advantage Dean's organization held over Kerry's. The rest of the way was because Kerry's field grunts were, as a group, far more experienced than Dean's. "

There 's an important lesson in Teesey 's tale: Winning the presidency, like any large political victory, takes a great deal of time and planning, a long-term project that Dean compressed into a fatally short-term campaign. A progressive -- or even a liberal like Dean -- who wants to be president should be laying the groundwork for 10 or more years in order to get it right.

Dean went on to lose all of the primaries before dropping out after his defeat in Wisconsin. Trippi resigned after New Hampshire, inspiring Dean to bring on Washington insider and Bill Clinton 's close friend Roy Neel as his replacement. It was sign of what was to come for Dean the Democrat who would fall back into the party line, leaving his followers to traverse the Kerry trail instead. He did pick up delegates by winning his home state of Vermont well after he quit, but by then it was far too late to matter.

Dean hadn 't made it to half of the states he had screamed out while on the mic following Iowa. To put it mildly, many Deaniacs were disenfranchised, as they struggled to understand what had gone awry.

Was it poor organizing? The media? Trippi? Dean 's persona? They needed to point fingers at those they blamed for his demise.

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Some correctly accused Beltway Democrats, who from the inception of Dean 's campaign wanted to derail his hopes. The DC scoundrels were not expecting such massive anti-war support for the lackluster Vermonter. Surely DNC chief McAuliffe was never in touch with the resentment that was brewing on the ground leading up to Bush 's war on the Iraqi people. Trying to funnel that anger back to Washington was no easy task for these anti-warriors, but many saw Dean as the only way to effectively challenge the party that had overwhelmingly gone along with Bush 's preposterous attack and subsequent occupation. These perceptive activists gathered through the virtual world and planned their own assault on Bush. Surely they had the energy, but they were not prepared for the harassment their candidate would receive from party bigwigs.

This is what leads us to the larger story: the difficulties of taking on the corporate entrenched Democrats who believe the best way to win elections is to continue moving rightward. Although Dean was a centrist and conservative in almost every regard, he still operated on the political margins while running for president. He didn 't raise his funds in the normal corporate circles. He challenged the system and was supported by Americans far more progressive than he was.

Many of Dean 's patrons believed him to be progressive, a sort of Ralph Nader of the Democratic Party. But Dean, as you have read, was no Nader, or even Dennis Kucinich for that matter. He was, and continues to be, a New Democrat ideologically. Perhaps Dean was correct when he said he didn 't know what to expect. He had no idea Washington Democrats would not welcome him with open arms. He thought he was one of them. However, they hated Dean, but despised his followers even more.

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Joshua Frank is co-editor of Dissident Voice and author of Left Out! How Liberals Helped Reelect George W. Bush (Common Courage Press, 2005), and along with Jeffrey St. Clair, the editor of the brand new book Red State (more...)

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This is one of the most informative and, in my opi... by ardee D. on Saturday, Feb 18, 2006 at 12:14:07 PM
I'm with Mr Dubin here....... by mhenriday on Sunday, Feb 19, 2006 at 4:39:01 PM
Mr. Dubin, greetings; Your language about the ind... by Robert Chapman on Sunday, Feb 19, 2006 at 6:41:56 PM