Howard Dean: A Party-Builder, not a Leader.

Howard Dean: great party builder; lousy moral leader.

Howard Dean made the news twice this week.  By that I mean that he was in the news once and brought it about invisibly a second time.

He was in the news for his inane remarks about the non-mosque that has been approved for a site not-at-Ground Zero (if its backers had any money to build, which they don’t)–not that Dean took the trouble to learn any of this before mouthing off that Cordoba was an “affront” to the families of 9/11 victims.

He was behind the claim trumpeted by Tim Kaine that “Democrats [hold] important structural advantages over Republicans, particularly the strength of their political organization in states across the country.”  I’m less confident than Kaine is that this will salvage the election (it’s his job to be upbeat), but it’s a real strength nevertheless, and Dean can take credit.  Kaine is talking about the fifty-state strategy, which was Dean’s doing, and which made the Democratic Party stronger throughout the country than it had been in decades.

I know that people’s political likes and dislikes tend to go in a lump: our favorable or unfavorable feelings about politicians radically shape our judgments about everything they do.  In Dean’s case, though, a mixed verdict seems appropriate.  This week vindicates both those (e.g. me) who thought Dean the presidential candidate an arrogant, moralizing aristocrat with a barely concealed cynical streak and those who thought his ideas about fundraising and party-building were nothing short of a revelation.  We should be very glad that Dean brought back the party, and very glad that he’s not running the country.

Author: Andrew Sabl

I'm a political theorist and Visiting Professor (through 2017) in the Program on Ethics, Politics and Economics at Yale. My interests include the history of political thought, toleration, democratic theory, political ethics, problems of coordination and convention, the realist movement in political theory, and the thought of David Hume. My first book, Ruling Passions: Political Offices and Democratic Ethics (Princeton, 2002) covered many of these topics, with a special focus on the varieties of democratic politics and the disparate qualities of mind and character appropriate to those who practice each of them. My second book Hume's Politics: Coordination and Crisis in the History of England was published in 2012; I am currently finishing a book on toleration, with the working title The Virtues of Hypocrisy, under contract with Harvard University Press. A Los Angeles native, I got my B.A. and Ph.D. from Harvard. Before coming to Yale I taught at Vanderbilt and at UCLA, where I was an Assistant, Associate, and Full Professor; and held visiting positions at Williams, Harvard, and Princeton. I am married to Miriam Laugesen, who teaches health policy and the politics of health care at the Mailman School of public health at Columbia, and we have a twelve-year-old son.

6 thoughts on “Howard Dean: A Party-Builder, not a Leader.”

  1. When you say non-mosque.. Are you implying/saying that the Cordoba is not a mosque?

    Because from what I've read it is both a mosque AND a community center.

  2. If Park 51 is a mosque, then every YMCA, YWCA and hospital in the country is a church. They all have prayer centers in them: in religiously affiliated hospitals (and the Y's, too) the prayer center is called a chapel.

    For that matter, there are muslims in the DOD working at the Pentagon who pray together in the Pentagon. I've heard (but not confirmed) that there is a room set aside for their use in the Pentagon. So, is the Pentagon a mosque, too?

    Building with a religious affiliation often incorporate prayer/meditation centers in their floor plan. That does not make them a church, any more than my getting on a Segway makes me a truck.

    It's not a mosque. If you have to think of it as something within your ken, think of it as a YM/WCA. That's the closest analogy I can think of.

  3. Many people in politics have trouble recognizing that being good at one thing does not necessarily mean being good an another. Partly this is because they have people surrounding them who say "You can do anything", as do those models who become "actresses" and those actors who cut their own musical albums.

    James Carville was an impressive exception in that he ran Clinton's campaign brilliantly and was offered any DC job he wanted, but turned it down saying that he knew his nature and skills were to be one who campaigns rather than one who governs.

  4. > This week vindicates both those (e.g. me) who thought Dean the

    > presidential candidate an

    > === arrogant, moralizing aristocrat with a

    > === barely concealed cynical streak

    > and those who thought his ideas

    > about fundraising and party-building were nothing short of a revelation.

    > We should be very glad that Dean brought back the party, and very

    > glad that he’s not running the country.

    I am unclear as to why those are considered bad qualities in a President. Let's be honest: no person who is "normal" in any reasonable sense of that word will ever again be President of the United States; anyone who has it within him/herself to be a successful candidate and take the office will be damaged and deeply flawed in some way. While I worked hard to get Obama elected and don't regret that, one of my concerns about him and his Administration is that while he definitely has the arrogance he seems to lack both the (necessary) cynicism and the willingness to push hard to implement his view of morality on the system. Whereas he is facing opponents just as arrogant as himself but who don't have any qualms about being brutal, moralizing aristocrats. Obama and family are just about the nicest people one can ever expect to live in the White House but I am not sure that that is doing Democrats or the nation any favors (I've given up hope for liberals such as myself).

    Cranky

  5. Funny how many people are afraid to say exactly how the center is an "affront" to 9/11 families. I think people need to be called on this, and be asked to explain what the f*** they really mean by that.

  6. Back during the campaign season, it was so thoroughly weird to see Dean being called a liberal. Slightly to the left of Ronald Reagan. He's also apparently always had a mean pandering streak — back when he was governor, he took (some) opiates off the state's medicaid formulary as part of his "tough on drugs" stance.

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