Howard Dean and the 2005 Progressive Counter Attack

The future of progressive causes depends on holding together and building upon the non-regressive coalition of 65.9 million voters through 2018. 12 years ago we suffered a similiar electoral defeat that left Regressives in control of the White House and Congress. Now is a time to reflect on the story of the 2006 mid term comeback.

In 2004 The Dean campaign pioneered the grassroots electoral model that Obama and Bernie took to new levels. This model harnessed progressive grassroots small donor internet empowered electoral engagement. Just as important, Howard Dean invited and helped progressives take ownership of the Democratic Party as a vehicle by which we can build a majority power electoral coalition with other non-regressive centers of power and influence. This is necessary, because of the real threat of 65 million neoconfederate voters and $4 billion in donations that won 2016 to a non-regressive coalition that itself barely mobilizes the same numbers. Although the wealth, industrial, and institutional interests in the Democratic Party don't all get what they want, they agree to settle differences internally by democratic process. If instead they adopted the mentality that democratic platform process of the party is irrelevant and that their constituency interests mattered more; then we would lose to Regressives every election.

A month after Howard Dean withdrew from the 2004 primary election, he transformed his Dean for America campaign into an effort to elect progressives via his small-donor internet savy grassroots model (Gillespie). Campaign supporters ran for office, became campaign staff for progressive candidates, and joined Democracy for America. Through DFA alone, from March through Nov this included selecting and supporting 748 progressive candidates in 46 states running at every level of government. Another indicator is the $5 million DFA raised for these candidates. Many progressives inspired by Dean's call to organize within the party joined their local county party organization and won local county party offices. The experience and relationships they developed working within the party space is similiar to the benefits of doing so in other large networks; except that this network specializes in organizing electoral influence. Progressives positioned themselves to contest leadership of the DNC against more established influence circles and won.

His organizing and network of progressives within the party made him DNC chair in 2005. We constituted the campaign 50 State Strategy and won a Democratic majority in 2006.

The anti-war movement was unable to end the Iraq War by demand. It took organizing the majority that wanted it to end into a voting block to not only win 2006, but also lift up a candidate that campaigned on a timetable for withdrawal. When Obama launched his campaign, he did so with staffers and volunteers experienced in winning with this model and used it to not only beat Hillary, but to also beat McCain and hold a Congressional majority. The difficult of that is something we need to recognize since neither Hillary, Bernie could have accomplished much without a congressional majority. This project of grassroots organizing within the Democratic Party is the power behind the 2006, 2008 and 2012 wins. In fact, Bernie' online volunteer tools were developed by the people doing the same work for Dean For America campaign.

Progressive should prioritize our organizing in those spaces that show the greatest concentration of progressive activity. Just as large Labor institutional infrastructure fits that criterion, so does the Democratic Party. Progressive are loyal servants of democratic process; so should show respect and regard the legitimacy conferred on that party by the number of progressives organizing there by comparison to other political parties.

Dean, Obama, and Bernie have proven that the Democratic Party, while repleat with the imperfections you find in all human spaces of wealth and power, remains the only vehicle proven to be able to mobilize 65 million to vote.


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