With the 2004 campaign fresh in their minds, Salon readers ponder the wisdom of electing Howard Dean chairman of the Democratic National Committee.

Published December 8, 2004 9:11PM (EST)

[Read " Whose Party Is It, Anyway," by Tim Grieve.]

Whose party is it? It's our party --the party of the "activist elites," not to mention the nonactivist elites and the nonelite activists and the nonelite nonactivists. We're all here, DNC leadership. Remember us?

I'm a lifelong Democrat and I've been a good soldier lo these many years. I've despaired to watch my party's leadership abandon its principles but also, more tellingly, its good sense. The confused and desperate wooing of Undecideds (and the apocryphal subgroups of Soccer/Security Moms, Nascar Dads and SUV Americans) has proven fantastically misguided.

The current leadership reminds me of Jeff Goldblum, stumbling out of his transformation machine at the end of "The Fly": half man, half fly and no damn good to anybody.

Howard Dean is the anti-Fly. He projects exactly who and what he is, he speaks his mind, and this is why TV pundits go wild over him. Good or bad wild -- who cares? Dean is smart, funny and unapologetic. His focus and directness will give Dems on the Hill the cover and support they need to hold their ground against this runaway administration.

And one loose-cannon scream (which has been debunked, by the way, but never mind) won't make a whit of difference to average folk. Just ask the Donald Rumsfeld of Abu Ghraib fame, Condi Rice of "I believe it was called 'Bin Laden determined to strike U.S.'" or George W. Bush of "I know it was Osama. I know that!"

And some Dems are still fretting over "Yeeha!"?

Enough. Time to get a grip, DNC. Give Dean the reins for a while and see what happens when the Democratic Party finds its center -- us -- again, and starts to make some noise.

-- Vivienne Leheny

Howard Dean is an overbearing bully and so are many of his supporters.

If Bush doesn't send me running to Canada, then having Deaniac maniacs pushing the left around and smacking down any Democrat who disagrees with them surely will do the trick.

-- Patricia Schwarz

I write to you as a registered Green who voted Democrat in the last election out of "ABB" sentimentality. If Harry Reid is the new face of the Democratic Party, then the Democratic Party is dead. Long live the Democratic Party.

The Democrats cannot survive without the activist energy supplied by the progressive side of the party. And given that the next Republican candidate will almost certainly be much less divisive than Bush, the Democrats cannot rely on liberals to continue following the party line out of GOP hatred.

What the party needs is someone who can act as a focal point for the progressive energy of liberal Democrats and redirect it like a laser beam at the weakness and hypocrisy of the Republican Party. For better or worse, Howard Dean is the best person the Democrats have for filling that role.

Does it matter that party insiders don't really like him? That seems like a bonus to me. After all, it is these same insiders who have driven the Democratic Party into the ground. And as for the "Dean Scream," the best way to neutralize that kind of weapon is to morph it from an insult into a battle cry. Let that be the sound that causes the GOPers to wake up sweating in the middle of the night.

-- Charles Snead

The Democratic Party has been following the Democratic (Mis)Leadership Council's imitate-the-Republicans game plan for the past 15 years. And during that time, the Democrats have lost the House, the Senate, their lead in governorships and two presidential races. The DLC's sole "victory" -- Clinton's winning the White House in 1992 -- came about only because Ross Perot siphoned off enough Republicans to allow Clinton to win.

The trouble is, the DLC imitates the GOP's horrific policies, when it should instead be emulating its get-tough strategy and tactics. But instead, the DLC never gets tough on Republicans. Instead, the DLC saves its harshest invective for fellow Democrats, gleefully attacking them in public without any concern for what this does to either party unity or the public image of the Democratic Party. Just compare DLC poster child Joe Lieberman's eager back stabbing of fellow DLC member Bill Clinton (an act that paved the way for Clinton's impeachment), with his oh-so-gentle handling of Dick Cheney in the 2000 vice-presidential debate.

By contrast, look at how the Republicans have closed tight ranks around Tom DeLay. Now, there have already been three indictments in the investigation of the DeLay machine in Texas. That's three times as many indictments as the Republican attack machine managed, after eight years of nonstop work, to stick onto Bill Clinton's administration. Yet instead of throwing DeLay to the wolves, they protect him. It's not just because DeLay's a good fundraiser -- Bill Clinton is, too. It's because Republicans believe in saving their sharpest public attacks for the folks in the other party, not for each other.

Howard Dean understands this well. He's not in the "prevent defense" business. He's in the game to win. And he's shown that the Democrats can raise the money needed to win from small donors: They needn't sell their souls to corporate America, which is too addicted to Bush's free-money tax cuts to care about what they're doing to America as a whole.

If the Democratic National Committee elects Howard Dean, then it means that they will be getting my support and my money. If they continue to go the way of the DLC Democrats in Name Only, they will get neither.

-- Tamara Baker

By Salon Staff

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