It certainly appears that Dr. Howard Dean is about to get himself elected Chairman of the Democratic National Committee. Many on the Right are elated with this news, believing it will ensure election losses and abject humiliation for the Democrats for years to come. I'm not so sure that Conservatives should be complacent about this turn of events, or that they should assume this means great things for the GOP.
No, in no way do I consider Howard Dean an honorable man. His conduct during the Presidential campaign was unacceptable, exemplified by his hinting that President Bush knew in advance about the 9/11 attacks. The man does not pursue honor as we know the word. But it must be acknowledged that Dean is innovative, from using the web to build a fast-rising grass-roots campaign, to very strong fund-raising, to setting the tone all the Democrats found themselves taking in the race. Imagine how the 2004 race might have gone, if a more sober voice had spoken for the Democrats. It's a bitter pill for Democrats to accept that Howard Dean hurt their chances as a party in the Presidential campaign, but it's sobering to consider what his fund-raising and rhetorical skills can do for the Democratic Party.
In 2006, there will be Mid-Term elections again. And for all the clear advantage the GOP owns now, that election is the next clear goalpost for the Democrats; 32 Senate Seats will be up for a vote, along with the House. The Democrats have apparently begun to deal with the fact that America won the War in Iraq, just as they did in Afghanistan, so expect the Dems to complain about the cost, in lives or money depending on the occasion, while suggesting at every turn that President Bush and the Republicans are defending foreign nations at the cost of ignoring crisis in America. I would almost bet money, that "Nightline" will have a series on political issues in 2006 with just that tagline?
Anyway, Dean seems to have gotten the POTUS chase out of his system, certainly well ahead of Kerry and the other Donkey BobbleHeads. This means he will clear the decks by Summer for building networks of support for Senate runs. make no mistake, Senate Control is the key goal for the DNC; it's tough but doable, and if they gain control in the Senate, they can short-circuit Bush's last 2 years, making the GOP look mortal as they gear up for the White House chase in 2008.
Dean coming to power also means the obvious bets for the Dem nominee in 2008 are off the table, fallen to the floor and being kicked around like Pee Wee Herman in a biker bar. Hillary will want to make a run in 2008, as we all know, but with Dean in charge at the DNC, she'll have to do it in opposition to her own party leadership. Hillary can make that happen, but it also means that Dean will get the chance to get his own protege in the mix early, and that blows the race wide open, in terms of platform as well as money. Remember this also happened in 1992, where Bill Clinton came out of absolutely nowhere to claim the Dem's nod. Organization and Party Discipline can work to the GOP's strength, but they will have to be ready for a Democrat like they haven't seen before. That could lead to another George McGovern, or it could lead to a completely new type of Democrat.
Fortunately for the Conservatives, there is also the personality of Howard Dean in play. This is the man, after all, who recently declared "I hate the Republicans and all they stand for", not thining through how that would play out to people who disapprove of categorical hatred and prejudice. Dean's love of radically liberal policies will be interesting to see in action; either Dean will have to find a way to bring mainline Democrats to support a Left-wing agenda, or else he will have to rein in his personal predilections in support of a more moderate platform. I can see either course taking place.
All in all, the horizon has changed, and if nothing else, Wowie Howie promises to add spice to the next four years.