The Blog

Leftward, Ho?

The conventional wisdom is that Howard Dean is going to pivot to the center, but his best chance may be a lurch to the left.

11:00 PM, Dec 30, 2003 • By HUGH HEWITT
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HOWARD DEAN has survived a bad month. Saddam Hussein was captured. The Democratic party appears to understand that Dean isn't electable. Senators John Kerry and Joe Lieberman and Congressman Richard Gephardt all have warned that Dean means certain electoral doom. They aren't exaggerating. Even the Washington Post has filed its objections to his candidacy. Dean is clearly out of the mainstream.

The conventional wisdom now predicts that Dean will move to the center following wins in Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina. A ticket that includes John Edwards or Evan Bayh is being suggested. The gray heads are murmuring that Dean surely understands the need to moderate his image.

But what if Dean is smarter than people give him credit for being? What if Dean has figured out that he can't win with a 2000 electorate, and that riding around in tanks didn't do Dukakis much good? What if Dean really believes his own rhetoric, and has decided that in for a dime means in for a dollar?

That would mean an Upton Sinclair campaign--like the writer waged in 1934 for the governorship of California. It would mean a deliberate effort to expand the electorate--to register folks who have never voted before and who, at this moment, aren't even thinking about the possibility of voting in 2004. It would mean the opposite of a rush to the center. It would mean a lurch to the left.

Dean has to know, for example, that electoral math dooms him in the south, even with an Edwards or a Clark as a running mate. The only way Dean carries even a single state in the south is if he mobilizes an African-American turnout that is unprecedented. That would mean a stunning selection as the vice-presidential nominee; someone, say, like Kweisi Mfume, the former congressman and current NAACP president. If Dean is to have a prayer in places like Mississippi and Alabama, he has to go for a selection that gets the activists marching and registering new voters like never before. And Dean knows he would have to announce such a bid early, long before the conventional wisdom dictates.

Dean also has to know that a Dukakis-repeat cannot win the presidency even if it can win the nomination. He cannot relish the prospect of a future of half-filled seminar rooms in Cambridge.

Which means he has to roll the dice.

The bat-wielders at BlogForAmerica don't want pastels. They want primary colors. The chorus this fall will be "Let Dean be Dean." I'm guessing he won't disappoint them.

Look for Dean to go long. And look for Dean to go left.

Hugh Hewitt is the host of The Hugh Hewitt Show, a nationally syndicated radio talkshow, and a contributing writer to The Daily Standard. His new book, In, But Not Of, has just been published by Thomas Nelson.