The Democratic Party was left out in the cold in the White House, in both chambers of Congress and the majority of governorships when the former governor of Vermont and 2004 presidential candidate, Howard Dean, took over the chairmanship of the Democratic National Committee in 2005.
Fast forward to 2007 and the Democrats have taken control of Congress, won in statehouse races and lead in the polls.
While Dean was in Denver on Thursday to kick-off the celebration of Denver landing the DNC convention, Colorado Confidential had a unique opportunity (and five minutes) to talk to him. Here is that conversation.
CC: There is a lot of concern about the union issue surrounding the convention. What makes you optimistic that these labor issues will be resolved?
Dean: I am very optimistic. I just came from a meeting with Mayor John Hickenlooper and AFL-CIO president John Sweeney and it was very productive.
CC: I don’t suppose you can divulge what you might have discussed?
Dean: No, I can’t.
CC: Did you give the Denver Host Committee any homework assignments today?
Dean: It really doesn’t work like that. They are really good people and they know what they have to do. Mostly I did a tour and we did the kick-off, which was great.
CC: You mentioned that you will be visiting Colorado much more often leading up to the convention. What will be on your “to do” list during these visits?
Dean: Not so much of a “to do” list, I just need to keep checking in every several weeks to see how things are going. We will be moving here full time in July–we’re looking for apartments now. It takes a long time to prepare for this. I don’t have to give people “to do” lists either. Everyone knows what has to be done. We will have people on the ground working with the Denver Host Committee very soon.
CC: How will you build on the successes of your 50-State Strategy?
Dean: We’re keeping to our four year plan and our pledge to fund the field managers for a four-year period. I hope we’ll continue that in the future. I think it works–we picked up seats in Colorado, Iowa, Minnesota, Kansas. Clearly, if you reach out, if you look at wining seats where no one thinks you can win, you really CAN win. You win by knocking on doors. We think it made all the state parties stronger.
What was so great in Colorado, the Democratic Party converted our 50-State Strategy into a full-county strategy and left no one behind — that was very important.
CC: You have surprised many of your former critics on your success as DNC chair. What talents or perspective did you bring to the job?
Dean: Nothing succeeds like success. Obviously we won a lot of seats in ’06 and that certainly helped.
I felt we needed an outside look at the Democratic Party. The old culture of putting everything on TV is dying. What’s replacing that is the Net in national politics. That’s what I have brought to the DNC.
My role model is Ron Brown, who was also an outsider and no one thought he would succeed either. Yet, he was a great chair. Every once in a while, you need to bring in fresh eyes outside the beltway.
CC: You said at the Denver rally and in previous interviews that Democrats were elected not to be in power, but to do something-and if they don’t do something, then they shouldn’t be re-elected. That sounded a lot like the “kick-butt” Howard Dean of the 2004 presidential elections. Are you trying to keep the fires burning under our Democratic leaders, especially those in Congress?
Dean: I think they are doing great and as you know, I don’t have to say anything if I don’t want to. I really believe they are doing a great job. They are delivering and who ever would have thought they could have accomplished all of that in 100 days.
The purpose of being in power is not to keep in power– that’s what doomed the Republicans. They were so interested in keeping power they forgot that they were there to work for the American people. They didn’t do that.
As we gradually take that power, our number one mission should not be to stay in power–we won’t succeed if that’s our goal– it needs to be to do something for the country and leading.
As governor I learned if you did a good job, the elections will take care of themselves. I think that can be true for Democrats in next year’s elections, as well.
CC: Thank you, Chairman Dean.