Howard Dean. Photography by Justin Kaneps

Howard Dean Explains Everything About Democrats Today

He represented the Democratic wing of the Democratic Party. Then the party changed.

Thomas Golianopoulos
Published in
15 min readOct 31, 2019

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OnOn November 10, 2016, two days after Donald Trump was elected president, Howard Dean declared his candidacy for the chair of the Democratic National Committee. “Fuck off, lobbyist,” came one reply on Twitter.

The six-term former governor of Vermont appeared tailored for a return to the DNC and the post he first filled in 2005. But much had changed since Dean left the DNC in 2009, with Obama in the White House and Dean still a lodestar for the progressive base of the party.

Upon his announcement, he was flogged for everything from his endorsement of Hillary Clinton to his recent work for the international law firm Dentons. “Howard Dean as DNC Chair would dig the hole even deeper for Democrats,” read a headline in the New Republic. The Observer dubbed Dean “a corporate crony.” Social media, naturally, was even less kind. Dean got the message, or so it seemed. Citing the potential for a divisive race, he soon withdrew and retreated to the private sector.

The question is not whether Howard Dean still represents the Democratic wing of the Democratic party; it’s whether there is still a role for someone like him in it.

Dean scoffs at his critics on the left. “That’s just the far left,” he tells me. “They’re loud but they’re small and it hasn’t changed. Plus, I supported Hillary, so the Sanders people don’t like me.” And yet while this may be true in the here and now, it runs counter to the whole image he cultivated while running for president in 2004.

Dean, who back then boasted of representing the “Democratic wing of the Democratic party,” is the latest one-time progressive hero to become a figure of derision as the political center has shifted. With the exception of Nancy Pelosi — perhaps the shrewdest politician of the 21st century with a “D” next to their name — there is no place for establishment party elders in the Democratic Party of 2019. Dean’s 2004 rival John Kerry flirted with running for president again and was ignored. Joe Biden, who is running for…

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Thomas Golianopoulos
GEN
Writer for

Thomas Golianopoulos is a writer and editor whose work has appeared in the New York Times, Grantland, the Ringer, BuzzFeed, Complex, and other publications.