Former Democratic National Convention chair Howard Dean called the Wisconsin recall a “win” for Democrats, in an interview at the Netroots Nation convention with the Washington Post in Providence, R.I.
DEAN: First of all, we look at Wisconsin as a win. We, which is not reported in the mainstream media, we picked up a senate seat, which denies Scott Walker a majority in the senate. So we put the breaks on him at least until the next election season. Secondly, you know, I always thought the base would come around because, as they like to say in Obama-land, we’re not running against the Almighty, we’re running against the alternative. Mitt Romney is well-known among the American people, let alone progressives, as someone who mostly caters to very wealthy Americans, and doesn’t have a lot of understanding or sympathy for those who aren’t. I’m pretty sure we’re in good shape and I’m pretty sure there’s going to be a big progressive turnout.
REPORTER: Are you seeing a difference in the mood here compared to previous years? Last year, there were some combative moments and this time around it seems, so far anyway—
DEAN: Again, it’s the fourth quarter. I’ve had my differences with the administration, particularly over health-care policy, but this is the fourth quarter. I always used to say when I was DNC chair we’re going to elect a Democratic president and hold their feet to the fire to make sure they behave like Democrats. In the fourth quarter, everybody’s on the same team again—we’ve got to win this game. I hesitate to think of what’s going to happen to the budget deficit, because of course the Republicans are the biggest creators of budget deficits, should Mitt Romney win and have a Republican House and a Republican Senate. We’ll get a big turnout.
REPORTER: Do you think there’s a change in the relationship between the Democratic base and labor in particular? I’ve talked to a couple activists here who say they’re a little dispirited, that they don’t know whether engaging in electoral politics is the best role for labor unions after Wisconsin.
DEAN: Well, I think the parameters have changed dramatically. The old politics is not going to work anymore. We’re not going to be able to outspend the Republicans under the circumstances of Citizens United, so I think we’re going to have to look for a different kind of politics. I think that the campaign, actually, in Wisconsin—the principal problem there was not being outspent; the principal problem there was people were tired of elections. Had they waited another three months, they might have gotten an indictment in the administration, and that would have been significant grounds to throw out a sitting governor—and I think a lot of people would think so. The most interesting thing about the Wisconsin race was that about 10 percent of the electorate that voted to keep Walker, also said they would vote for Obama in the fall, which gave Obama the state. We’ll see. I’m not one of those who thought last week was a bad week for the Democrats. I actually thought last week was a good week for Democrats.
REPORTER: How about in the fall? Do you think that when it comes to Obama communicating with the base and doing things that will energize the base, is there anything that you’d like to see him do between now and then?
DEAN: I’d like to see him keep hammering away at Romney’s—the one thing, you’ve got to hammer at people’s beliefs. You can’t sort of convince people that, for example as the Republicans have been trying to do, that the problem with the president is that he was born in Kenya—that’s just not going to work. You don’t have to convince people that Romney only cares about rich people, because that’s what they believe already. So you just have to keep hammering that message home, that this is not a guy who understands you. And I think we’re going to win.