A perceptive column by the NYT's Paul Krugman on what the ascension of Howard Dean to the chairmanship of the U.S. Democratic National Committee means.
he Republicans know the America they want, and they are not afraid to use any means to get there,” Howard Dean said in accepting the chairmanship of the Democratic National Committee. “But there is something that this administration and the Republican Party are very afraid of. It is that we may actually begin fighting for what we believe.”
Those words tell us what the selection of Mr. Dean means. It doesn't represent a turn to the left: Mr. Dean is squarely in the center of his party on issues like health care and national defense. Instead, Mr. Dean's political rejuvenation reflects the new ascendancy within the party of fighting moderates, the Democrats who believe that they must defend their principles aggressively against the right-wing radicals who have taken over Congress and the White House.
It was always absurd to call Mr. Dean a left-winger. Just ask the real left-wingers. During his presidential campaign, an article in the muckraking newsletter CounterPunch denounced him as a “Clintonesque Republicrat,” someone who, as governor, tried “to balance the budget, even though Vermont is a state in which a balanced budget is not required.”
Even on Iraq, many moderates, including moderate Republicans, quietly shared Mr. Dean's misgivings – which have been fully vindicated – about the march to war.
But Mr. Dean, of course, wasn't quiet. He frankly questioned the Bush administration's motives and honesty at a time when most Democrats believed that the prudent thing was to play along with the war party.
We'll never know whether Democrats would have done better over the past four years if they had taken a stronger stand against the right. But it's clear that the time for that sort of caution is past.