When Howard Dean ran for President in 2004, he said he represented “the Democratic wing of the Democratic Party.”
What I took him to mean was that he represented the traditional Democratic constituencies, especially labor, in opposition to the Republican wing, which favored big business.
As chair of the Democratic National Committee, he famously said that the Democrats ought to be able to get the votes of men who drove pickup trucks with Confederate flags because they benefit from affordable health insurance and other liberal programs as much as anybody else.
He had a 50-state strategy in which he sought to built the Democratic Party everywhere, not just in the so-called swing states. During his tenure, 2005 through 2009, Democrats recaptured control of Congress and built their strength across nationwide. Democrats lost ground under his more conservative successors, Tim Keane (2009-2011) and Debbie Wasserman Schultz (2011- )
The case for the Republican wing for the Democratic Party is that the interests of working people are compatible with the interests of Wall Street bankers and Fortune 500 executives, and that the goal of party leaders should be to seek consensus, as Bill Clinton and Barack Obama attempted to do. The blame would rest with the Republican Party for refusing to respond to their overtures.
The problem with this is that it provides no answer to the growing concentration of wealth and power the past 25 years, at the expense of all Americans except a small elite.
In the current campaign for the Democratic Presidential nomination, Hillary Clinton represents the Republican wing of the Democratic Party, as I have defined it, and Bernie Sanders represents the Democratic wing.
Neither of them caused the split all by themselves. The split would exist even if either or both of them vanished off the face of the earth tomorrow. I don’t think the split can be patched over.
How the Hell We Got Here: Why the Democratic Party Is Splitting by Walter Bragman for Paste.
How the Hell We Got Here: Why the Democratic Party Will Not Unite in November by Walter Bragman for Paste.
For the record, Howard Dean has endorsed Hillary Clinton. He now works for the lobbying division of McKenna, Bridge & Aldridge, a law firm that represents health care companies. Neither of these facts affects my argument or diminishes Dean’s accomplishment as DNC chair (although it certainly is true that George W. Bush played a role in the Democratic resurgence).
Image: Miami New Times.