Northwestern students and faculty are questioning whether former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean’s new role as chairman of the Democratic National Committee will bolster or hurt the ailing party.
“Standing up for our beliefs, organizing and transforming our party into a grassroots organization that can win in all 50 states: That’s how we will rebuild the Democratic Party,” Dean said, outlining his plan during his acceptance speech Saturday. Dean won a voice vote after six challengers dropped out.
College Democrats President Andrew Proksel said he thinks Dean’s new role is a good move for the Democrats, despite some party members’ concerns about Dean’s blunt character.
“We are supposed to be loud and outspoken,” said Proksel, a Weinberg junior. “We are supposed to speak out against injustice.”
Proksel added that Dean’s personality could be exactly what the Democrats need to confront the problems of the 2004 election.
“(Hopefully) the message will become very concise, and it will be very hard to call the Democrats flip-floppers,” Proksel said.
Dean spoke to students on campus November at a College Democrats event. Proksel said Dean’s energizing presence made him a top choice for speaker.
Student support for Dean, however, is not a new phenomenon. Carlton Willey, Weinberg ’04, and Jodi Genshaft, Medill ’04, started the group Northwestern Students for Dean in August 2003, during the early stages of Dean’s presidential primary campaign.
Willey said the group had 35 to 50 active members and, at its peak, an e-mail list reaching 400 to 500 students .
Northwestern students were “issue warriors,” mobilizing behind Dean’s stance on health care, foreign policy and civil rights issues, Willey said.
He said the group lost momentum after Dean’s infamous scream in Iowa and ceased to exist after his loss in New Hampshire.
“I think he’ll have a two-pronged approach — to market the Democrats’ ideas better and two, to weaken the marketing machine of the Republican Party,” Willey predicted.
Others are skeptical of Dean’s ability to improve Democrats’ relationship with voters.
Medill sophomore Guy Benson, co-host of WNUR show “Feedback” and member of College Republicans, said Dean’s new position “is outstanding news for the Republican party.”
“His abrasive nature and out-of-the-mainstream views will present an image problem for a party that is in desperate need of moderation,” Benson said.
Others said Dean’s personality will effectively communicate the party’s message to voters.
Ben Snyder, vice president and president-elect of College Republicans, said he wonders what side of Dean will emerge as he starts his
“It will be interesting to see if he’s a screaming politician who’s melting down in the primary,” said Snyder, a Weinberg junior.
“Or if he’s the one who came out of nowhere to mount such an effective campaign at the beginning.”
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