(Host) Former Democratic presidential candidate Howard Dean wants his new organization – “Democracy for America” – to play an important role in this year’s elections. Dean also has some long term goals for the group.
VPR’s Bob Kinzel reports.
(Kinzel) In the ten weeks since he formally dropped out of the Democratic presidential race, Dean’s been crisscrossing the country urging his supporters to establish local chapters of his new organization, Democracy for America.
In the short term, he’s backing Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry. Dean will also endorse local, state and federal candidates in the coming months and he wants to use his Internet base to raise money for these candidates. Recently he was able to raise roughly $140,000 for Vermont senator Pat Leahy in a three-day period.
Dean says he wants his new group to influence the Democratic Party using the same techniques that the Christian Coalition employed in the Republican Party in the 1980s:
(Dean) “And we will work hard to do, frankly, what the right wing did 20 years ago: make sure that no office goes uncontested. You can’t win if you’re not willing to talk about what you believe in just because you’re afraid you’re going to lose.”
(Kinzel) In the long term, Dean wants DFA to help shape the national Democratic Party in the areas of health care, the environment and what he calls “progressive foreign policies”:
(Dean) “There is a real upsurge of desire to change the Democratic Party so it’s more responsive to ordinary people and also to change generations. Now it’s time for a new generation of leadership. I think the people at the grassroots recognize that and I expect that will continue after the election. Democracy for America is not just about what happens between now and November. It’s a building process for the next few years.”
(Kinzel) How realistic are Dean’s goals ? Middlebury College political science professor Eric Davis thinks Democracy for America could play an important role supporting congressional candidates this Fall:
(Davis) “So an organization like Democracy for America could help in terms of raising some money over the Internet, in terms of directing volunteers from neighboring states to go in and canvass for a Senate candidate in a close race. All those sorts of things could make the difference in a closely contested Senate campaign.”
(Kinzel) Davis believes the long term viability of DFA hinges on the outcome of November’s presidential election. If Democrat John Kerry wins, Davis thinks the Dean group will become less relevant:
(Davis) “If on the other hand President Bush is re-elected in the fall, then the Democrats are going to go through a very, very long period of soul searching and trying to figure out what’s the best approach for them in 2008 would be. And Democracy for America could be more of a player in the Democratic Party if it’s the out party.”
(Kinzel) Democracy for America is expected to announce its first group of endorsements later in the week.
For Vermont Public Radio, I’m Bob Kinzel in Montpelier.
All of VPR’s past coverage of Dean’s presidential campaign is online: complete archive.