In 1964, Barry Goldwater ran for president in a red blaze of failure. One of the nation’s staunchest conservatives in the time when Kennedy and Johnson reigned, he garnered a measly 38.5 percent of the vote, winning only six states and 52 electoral votes.
Despite this, Goldwater was named chairman of the Grand Old Party (GOP) just a year later. By the time 1968 rolled around, with Goldwater helming the Republican flagship, he was able to bring Richard Nixon into power, eeking past Hubert Humphrey with 43 percent of the popular vote, but drumming up 301 electoral votes in 32 states.
Where the party had been in disarray, Goldwater turned it into a slick, well-oiled political machine.
Now – switch parties and trade Goldwater for Howard Dean. Could the feisty former governor of Vermont, famous for his fall from grace in the 2004 presidential primary be what the Democrats need to revitalize their wilting outfit?
We think so.
In Fall 2003, Dean was able to get people excited. He made people passionate about politics once again, using a grassroots campaign and conjuring up that old freeling of the opressive “man.”
Dean got peoples’ attention. Even if it did eventually lead to the downfall of his bid for Democratic presidential candidacy, he got noticed. Hopefully, he can capture people once again and convey the Democratic Party’s ideas of fiscal responsibility and socially progressive values that the party has not been able to communicate.
Thankfully, Dean does not intend to communicate this message in a boisterous fashion. Recent news articles tell of a more subdued, more cautious public speaker.
And that speaker has a strategy. He plans to spend much time getting to know “the others.” He will spend much time getting to know the red states, attempting to make these states less skeptical of the Democratic message, particularly by choosing his words wisely. Instead of being “pro-abortion,” Democrats will be “the party in favor of allowing women to make up their own minds about their healthcare.”
Instead of being for “gay marriage,” Democrats will be “the party that has always believed in equal rights under the law for all people.”
If Dean can live up to his word and, like Goldwater did after his own embarrassing defeat in the national spotlight, take responsibility for the revitalization and expansion of his party’s roots – then the Democrats should be sitting pretty when 2008, and their next shot at the White House, rolls around.