Democrats need a DNC chair to lead the party in the right direction

Editorials featured in the Forum section are solely the opinions of their individual authors.

As the day of President Bush?s inauguration approaches, other Democrats and I should ask ourselves how we let this day happen. How could a President presiding over a net loss of jobs, record high debt and budget deficits, increased poverty, skyrocketing tuition hikes, and a mismanaged war under false pretenses win a second term?
Many Democrats are uncertain what path they should take to successfully shape national policy in the future. The first step occurs in February, when party delegates will meet to elect a Democratic National Committee Chair who can hopefully communicate a reassuring, credible, and optimistic theme to the electorate.
Democrats must evaluate and critique their strategy, tactics, and image if they want to start winning elections. First, we need to first admit that we lost the last three Congressional elections. No more excuses; no more ?Bush stole the election.?
Although Bush?s victory in 2000 was a scant 530 votes in Florida, he defeated a candidate embracing prosperity, peace, and incumbency. In 2002, Republicans won more seats in a mid-term election ? a rare feat ? and regained the Senate which they had only lost due to one Senator?s switching parties in 2001. Then in 2004 after the four years of Bush?s tumultuous term, Bush not only won a majority of the votes; he widened the gap Republicans held over Democrats in the Senate and the House. Democrats shouldn?t downplay those results.
Furthermore, a significant faction within the Democratic party is beginning to feel ignored and uncomfortable. During the 2004 campaign, John Kerry conceded the South and Midwest by September. His entire strategy was rolling the dice on Florida or Ohio. This plan of action can?t win Democrats elections.
While the GOP allowed social liberals and moderates like Mayor Rudolph Giuliani and Senator John McCain to speak at their convention, Democrats have been noticeably hostile to dissenters in their own party, including pro-lifers and centrists from the South and Midwest. Many Southern gubernatorial and U.S. Senate candidates avoided public appearances with Kerry and other party leaders alike were in fear they?d irreparably tarnish their own campaigns. Bush never had an epidemic of local Republicans, moderates and conservatives? fearing to be associated with him or his campaign.
The leading candidates to replace outgoing DNC Chair Terry McAuliffe include former Presidential candidate Howard Dean; Tim Roemer, a pro-life U.S. Congressman; and Simon Rosenberg, president of the New Democratic Network.
While McAuliffe was great at fundraising, he?s been a terrible face for the party. His interviews are often filled with vitriolic anti-Bush rhetoric that distracts our party from focusing upon a more constructive agenda for the country. We can?t risk having another chair that will appear divisive and out of touch.
While I was a proud supporter of Dean during the primary, I believe electing him to the DNC chairmanship would be a huge mistake.
Unlike most of his supporters, I had admired Dean before he rose to fame on the basis of his gubernatorial record. He balanced the state budget, expanded health care, protected civil unions and gun ownership rights, and worked across the aisle as governor and National Governors Association Chair. I also liked his honest, steadfast opposition to the Iraq war. However, it was disappointing when Dean started running his campaign as a hard leftist who embraced, pacifists, and other uncompromising ideologues. Dean chose to garner publicity through controversial remarks instead of well-thought out statements assuring confidence and good judgment on behalf of his party.
Either Rosenberg or Roemer would make a good DNC chair. Rosenberg has experience using electoral dynamics to shape the Democratic message to each state instead of letting Washington insiders dictate one message to the nation. Tim Roemer?s background as a loyal moderate Democrat could give our party a needed facelift in many areas. Any other candidate I?ve not mentioned would still be a better choice than Dean. His baggage can?t get us new voters and can only hurt the party in the same way Newt Gingrich hurt Bob Dole in the ?90s.
Certainly a stronger Republican candidate than Bush could bring more disarray to our party in the future. In 1984, President Reagan won 60 percent of the popular vote without waging a war. Many of his supporters were Democrats.
We can?t afford to lose any more Democrats due to purists? being anal over details in our platform. We need either Tim Roemer or Simon Rosenberg to take charge and sell the Democratic platform effectively to every part of our nation.