Howard Dean

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Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean

Howard Brush Dean III, M.D. (born November 17, 1948) is a prominent American Democratic politician, currently serving as chairman of the Democratic National Committee. He was governor of Vermont from 1991 to 2003.

Dean rose to national fame as an insurgent candidate -- and for a while, the front-runner -- for the 2004 Democratic Party presidential nomination. Generally regarded as a pragmatic centrist during his time as governor, Dean emerged during his presidential campaign as something of a populist, denouncing the policies of the Bush administration (especially the 2003 invasion of Iraq) as well as fellow Democrats, who, in his view, failed to strongly oppose them. This message, together with the campaign's innovative use of the Internet, helped to build a strongly supportive grassroots constituency (sometimes known as "Deaniacs" or "Dean Democrats"), much of which remained intensely loyal to him even after his candidacy collapsed. Dean has said he will not run for President in 2008 since his position as DNC Chairman runs until 2009. However, some say he may be planning for another attempt at the presidency in 2012 or 2016.


Personal background

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Official portrait of Dean in the Vermont State House in Montpelier.

Howard was born in New York, New York to Andree Dean, art appraiser, and Howard Brush Dean, Jr. (deceased), a former corporate executive. As a child of a wealthy and prominent New York family, he spent much of his time growing up in The Hamptons. Upon graduating from St. George's School, an exclusive prep school outside Newport, Rhode Island, Dean enrolled at Yale University, where he was apparently known as something of a party animal and was not particularly political, though some have taken note of his request, as a freshman, to room with an African-American. He graduated in 1971 and received a draft deferment for an unfused vertebra. He spent the next year, according to Time (Aug. 11, 2003), "skiing and bumming around. ... He hit the slopes, tried pot, washed dishes, poured concrete and drank impressive amounts of beer."

He returned home and briefly tried a career as a stock broker before deciding on a career in medicine, which first required to complete pre-med classes, which he did at Columbia University. In 1974, his older brother Charlie, who had been traveling through Southeast Asia at the time, was captured and killed by Laotian guerillas, a tragedy widely reported to have an enormous influence in Dean's life; he wore his brother's belt every day of his presidential campaign. Dean received his medical degree from the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in 1978 and began a medical residency at the University of Vermont. In 1981, he married fellow doctor Judith Steinberg, whom he met in medical school, and together they began a family medical practice in Burlington, Vermont (where she continued to use her maiden name to avoid confusion with her husband).

Dean has kept an unusually strict separation between his political career and his personal life. His wife, who has continued practicing medicine, mostly stayed out of the limelight during his presidential campaign, giving few interviews and not traveling with her husband on the campaign trail until the final days in Iowa and New Hampshire. She maintained that if her husband were elected president, she would continue practicing medicine and forgo many of the traditional activities of the First Lady.

Though he was raised an Episcopalian, Dean joined the United Church of Christ in 1982 after a dispute with the local Episcopal diocese over a bike trail (see below). By his own account, he does not attend church "very often"; at one point, when asked to name his favorite book in the New Testament, he offered the Old Testament Book of Job, then immediately corrected himself. Dean has stated he is more "spriritual" than religious. His wife has raised their two (now grown) children, Anne and Paul, in her Jewish faith.

A personal finance statement filed for his presidential campaign put the couple's net worth between $2.2 and $5 million dollars.

Vermont political career

In 1980, Dean spearheaded a (successful) grassroots campaign to stop a condominium development on Lake Champlain, instead favoring the construction of a bicycle trail. The effort succeeded, and helped launch his political career. That same year, he was also a volunteer for Jimmy Carter's re-election campaign. In 1982, he was elected to the Vermont House of Representatives, where he remained until being elected lieutenant governor in 1986. Both were part-time positions which enabled him to continue practicing medicine.

On August 14, 1991, Dean was examining a patient when he received word that then-Governor Richard A. Snelling had died of a heart attack while cleaning his swimming pool. Dean assumed the office, which he called the "greatest job in Vermont." He was subsequently elected to five two-year terms in his own right, making him the longest-serving governor in Vermont's history. From 1994 to 1995, Dean was the chairman of the National Governors Association.

Dean was faced with an economic recession and a $60 million dollar budget deficit. He bucked many in his own party to immediately push for a balanced budget (Vermont is the only state whose constitution does not require one), an act which marked the beginning of a record of fiscal restraint; during his tenure as governor, the state paid off much of its debt, balanced its budget eleven times, raised its bond rating, and lowered income taxes twice.

Dean also focused on health care issues, most notably through the "Dr. Dynasaur" program, which ensures near-universal health coverage for children and pregnant women in the state; the uninsured rate in Vermont dropped from 12.7% to 9.6% under his watch. Child abuse and teen pregnancy rates were cut roughly in half.

By far the most controversial decision of his career, and the first to draw serious national attention, came in 2000, when the Vermont Supreme Court ruled that the state's marriage laws unconstitutionally excluded same-sex couples and ordered that the state legislature either to allow gays and lesbians to marry or create a parallel status. Facing calls to amend the state constitution to prohibit either option, Dean chose to support the latter one, and signed the nation's first civil unions legislation into law, spurring a short-lived "Take Back Vermont" movement which helped Republicans gain control of the State House.

Dean would receive some flak during his 2004 presidential campaign for another decision related to the civil unions. Shortly before leaving office, he had some of his Vermont papers sealed for at least the next decade, a timeframe far longer than most outgoing governors use. He claimed he was protecting the privacy of many gay supporters who sent him personal letters about the issue. On the campaign trail, he demanded Vice President Dick Cheney release his energy committee papers. Conservative Democratic Senator Joe Lieberman, among other political opponents, accused Dean of hypocrisy.

As governor, Dean was endorsed by the National Rifle Association several times, furthering his moderate image.

Elections as Governor of Vermont
Year Democratic Percent Republican Percent Other (>5%) Percent Other (<5%) Percent
1992 Howard Dean 74.73% John McClaughry 23.04% N/A 0% Scattering 3%
1994 Howard Dean 68.6% David F. Kelley 19% Thomas J. Morse (Independent) 7% Scattering 5.4%
1996 Howard Dean 70.5% John L. Gropper 22.4% N/A 0% Scattering 7.1%
1998 Howard Dean 55.6% Ruth Dwyer 41.1% N/A 0% Scattering 3.3%
2000 Howard Dean 50.4% Ruth Dwyer 37.9% Anthony Pollina (Progressive) 9.5% Scattering 2.2%
Source: Vermont Secretary of State

2004 presidential candidacy

Dean began his bid for President as a "long shot" candidate. ABC News ranked him eight out of 12 in a list of potential presidential contenders in May of 2002. That summer, his campaign was featured as the cover article in The New Republic and in the following months he became a media darling. His campaign slowly gained steam, and by autumn of 2003, Dean had become the apparent frontrunner for the Democratic nomination, performing strongly in most polls and outpacing his rivals in fundraising. This latter feat was attributed mainly to his innovative embrace of the Internet for campaigning, and the majority of his donations came from individual Dean supporters, who came to be known as Deanites, or, more commonly, Deaniacs.

During his presidential campaign, conservative critics labeled Dean's political views as those of an extreme liberal; however, in progressive Vermont, Dean, long known as a staunch advocate of fiscal restraint, was regarded as a moderate. Many left-wing critics who supported fellow Democrat Dennis Kucinich or independent Ralph Nader charged that, at heart, Dean was a "Rockefeller Republican" - socially liberal, while fiscally conservative.

Message and themes

Dean began his campaign by emphasizing health care and fiscal responsibility, and championing grassroots fundraising as a way to fight special interests. However, his opposition to the U.S. plan to invade Iraq (and his forceful criticism of Democrats in Congress who voted to authorize the use of force) quickly eclipsed other issues, resonating with disillusioned Democrats and using momentum from the burgeoning anti-war movement to build an impressive online campaign. Dean's early slogan of representing "the Democratic wing of the Democratic Party" reflected the feeling among frustrated voters that Democrats hadn't done enough to question the policies of the Republicans. The phrase was first used by the late Senator Paul Wellstone.

Use of the Internet

Dean's presidential campaign was remarkable at the time for its extensive use of the Internet to reach out to its supporters. The candidate's staff, and occasionally even the candidate, frequently "blogged" while on the campaign trail and even sought advice on important campaign-related decisions -- in at least two instances even making decisions through online polls of supporters. By soliciting contributions online, the campaign shattered previous fundraising records for the Democratic presidential primary. Dean has been credited with being the first national candidate to play to the strengths of the Internet, in particular by engaging the American public directly in the political process. His Internet success is often attributed to campaign manager Joe Trippi.


In the "invisible primary" of raising campaign dollars, Howard Dean led the Democratic pack in the early stages of the 2004 campaign. Among the candidates, he ranked first in total raised ($25.4 million as of September 30, 2003) and first in cash-on-hand ($12.4 million). However, even this performance paled to next to that of George W. Bush, who by that date had raised $84.6 million for the Republican primary campaign, in which he had no real challenger.

While presidential campaigns have traditionally obtained finance by tapping wealthy, established political donors, Dean's funds came largely in small donations over the Internet; the average overall donation size was just under $80. This method of fundraising offered several important advantages over traditional fundraising, in addition to the inherent media interest in what was then a novelty. First, raising money on the internet was relatively inexpensive, compared to conventional methods such as events, telemarketing, and direct mail campaigns. Secondly, as donors on average contributed far less than the legal limit ($2,000 per individual), the campaign could continue to resolicit them throughout the election season.

In November 2003, after a much-publicized online vote among his followers, Dean became the first Democrat to forgo federal matching funds (and the spending limits that go with them) since the system was established in 1974. (John Kerry later followed his lead.) In addition to state-by-state spending limits for the primaries, the system limits a candidate to spending only $44.6 million until the Democratic National Convention in July, which sum would almost certainly run out soon after the early primary season. (George W. Bush declined federal matching funds in 2000 and did so again for the 2004 campaign.)

In a sign that the Dean campaign was starting to think beyond the primaries, they began in late 2003 to speak of a "$100 revolution" in which 2 million Americans would give $100 in order to compete with Bush.


 shocked many when he endorsed the outsider candidate, Howard Dean, in 2003.
Al Gore shocked many when he endorsed the outsider candidate, Howard Dean, in 2003.

Though Dean lagged in early endorsements, he acquired many critical ones as his campaign snowballed. By the time of the Iowa caucuses, he led among commitments from superdelegates -- elected officials and party officers entitled to convention votes by virtue of their positions. On November 12, 2003, he received the endorsements of the Service Employees International Union and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, two politically powerful (and often rivalrous) labor unions. Dean received the endorsement of former Vice President and presidential candidate Al Gore, on December 9, 2003. In the following weeks Dean was endorsed by former U.S. senators Bill Bradley and Carol Moseley Braun, unsuccessful Democratic presidential candidates from the 2000 and 2004 primaries, respectively. Many pundits would blame such endorsements for the campaign's eventual collapse. Dean was running as an outsider, and accepting the support of such establishment figures was seen by some as hypocritical.

Iowa results and the campaign's collapse

On January 19, 2004, Dean's campaign suffered a blow when a last-minute surge by rival John Kerry led to an embarrassing defeat for Dean in the 2004 Iowa Democratic caucuses, representing the first votes cast in primary season. Dean had been a strong contender for weeks in advance in that state, battling with Richard A. "Dick" Gephardt for first place in the polls. To the surprise of the Dean and Gephardt campaigns, Dean finished third in Iowa behind Kerry and John Edwards (Gephardt finished fourth). Most analysts blamed intense negative campaigning between Dean and Gephardt as the reason for their losses. Many Dean supporters questioned whether allegedly unfair media coverage played a role in the result. The Atlantic Monthly's Joshua Green reported that in early January, the Wesley Clark campaign had leaked information to the press showing Dean to be "unelectable". Green claims the media turned against both Clark and Dean. Other insiders attribute the loss to a staff and supporters inexperienced with the caucus process.

Dean attended a post-caucus rally for his volunteers in Iowa to deliver his concession speech, aimed at cheering up those in attendance. Forced to shout over the cheers of his enthusiastic audience, Dean didn't realize the crowd noise was being filtered out by his unidirectional microphone,[1] ( leaving only his full-throated exhortations audible to the television viewers. To those at home, it sounded as if he was raising his voice out of sheer emotion. Recordings from within the crowd made it clear that Dean was shouting in order to be heard over the cheers of the crowd.[2] (

Regardless, many in the television audience criticized the speech as loud, peculiar, and unpresidential. [3] ( In particular, this quote from the speech was aired repeatedly in the days following the caucus:
"Not only are we going to New Hampshire, Tom Harkin, we're going to South Carolina and Oklahoma and Arizona and North Dakota and New Mexico, and we're going to California and Texas and New York...And we're going to South Dakota and Oregon and Washington and Michigan. And then we're going to Washington, D.C., to take back the White House! Yeeeaah!!!"
This final "yeeeaaaahhh" has become known in American political folklore as either "the Dean Scream" or the "I Have a Scream" speech (after I Have a Dream).

Dean conceded that the speech did not project the best image, jokingly referring to it as a "crazy, red-faced rant" on The Late Show with David Letterman. In an interview later that week with Diane Sawyer, he said he was "a little sheepish, ... but I'm not apologetic". [4] ( Sawyer and many others in the national broadcast news media later expressed some regret about overplaying the story [5] ( In fact, CNN issued an public apology and admitted in a statement that they indeed may have 'overplayed' the incident. The incessant replaying of the "Dean Scream" by the press became a debate on the topic of whether Dean was the victim of media bias. Such reports certainly fit with reports of "unelectablity", as shown by Green's Atlantic Monthly piece. The scream scene was shown an estimated 633 times by cable and broadcast news networks in just four days following the incident, a number that does not include talk shows and local news broadcasts. [6] ( However, those who were in the actual audience that day insist that they were not aware of the infamous scream until they returned to their hotel rooms and saw it on TV. There were many thousands of people in the room that day, all screaming for all they were worth, making it hard to hear Dean, even with a microphone - this is very different from the media image of Dean screaming to an empty room.

The sound recording of the speech was put to music by Right Magazine for its "Dean Goes Nuts Remix", which derived its name from a Drudge Report headline, and this spawned dozens of copycats. [7] ( The scream has been used, discreetely, as a sort of 21st-century Wilhelm scream in at least two films, both in 2004: Trey Parker and Matt Stone's Team America: World Police, and in the Disney remake of The Alamo during a battle scene.

On January 27 Dean again suffered a defeat, finishing second to Kerry in the New Hampshire primary. As late as one week before the first votes were cast in Iowa's caucuses, Dean had enjoyed a 30% lead in New Hampshire opinion polls; accordingly, this loss represented another major setback to his campaign.

Iowa and New Hampshire were only the first in a string of embarrassing losses for the Dean campaign, culminating in a disappointing third place showing in the Wisconsin primary on February 17, 2004. The next day, Dean announced that his candidacy had "come to an end," though he continued to urge people to vote for him, so that Dean delegates would be selected for the convention and could influence the party platform. He later won the Vermont primaries on Super Tuesday, March 2, 2004. This latter victory, a surprise even to Dean himself, was due in part to the lack of a serious anti-Kerry candidate in Vermont (John Edwards had declined to put his name on the state's ballot, expecting Dean to win in a landslide), and in part to a television ad ( produced, funded, and aired in Vermont by grassroots Dean supporters.


While his presidential bid ultimately ended in failure, his supporters felt it was not a lost cause, serving to frame the White House race by tapping in to voters' concerns about the war in Iraq, in the process energizing Democrats and sharpening criticism of incumbent George W. Bush. At present, many political pundits affirm that Dean's contribution was "cathartic" for the party. Dean's lone Pennsylvania delegate, State Rep. Mark B. Cohen of Philadelphia, said Dean's decision, ultimately emulated by Kerry, to forgo primary federal matching funds and exceed the matching fund spending limits "marked the day the Democratic Party became a serious contender for national power in 2004."

Campaign timeline

The detailed and informative timeline of Dean's campaign has been moved to the U.S. Democratic Party presidential nomination, 2004 page to shorten this page. See also U.S. presidential election, 2004 timeline

Post-campaign & Democracy for America

Following Dean's withdrawal after the Wisconsin primary, he pledged to support the eventual Democratic nominee. Though many supporters encouraged him to support the only remaining "non-establishment candidate," John Edwards, he remained neutral until John Kerry became the presumptive nominee. Dean endorsed Kerry on March 25, 2004 in a speech at The George Washington University in Washington, D.C.

On March 18, 2004, Dean founded the group Democracy for America. This group was created to house the large, Internet-based organization Dean created for his presidential campaign. Its goal is to help like-minded candidates get elected to local, state and federal offices. It has endorsed several sets of twelve candidates known as the Dean Dozen. Dean turned over control of the organization to his brother, Jim Dean, when he became Chairman of the Democratic National Committee.

Dean strongly urged his supporters to support Kerry as opposed to Ralph Nader, arguing that a vote for Nader would only help to re-elect Bush.

Successful campaign for DNC Chair

Dean was elected Chairman of the Democratic National Committee on February 12, 2005, after all his opponents dropped out of the race when it became apparent Dean had the votes to become Chair. Those opponents included former Congressman Martin Frost, former Denver Mayor Wellington Webb, former Congressman and 9/11 Commissioner Tim Roemer, and strategists Donnie Fowler, David Leland, and Simon Rosenberg. Other prominent Democrats considered running but ultimately declined.

After Dean became Chairman of the Democratic National Committee he pledged to bring reform to the Party. Dean proposed a 50-state strategy rather than focusing just on the swing states. State party chairs have lauded Dean with praise for him raising money directly for the individual state parties. The goal is for the Democratic Party to be committed to winning elections at every level in every region of the country, with Democrats organized in every single precinct in the country. Through grassroots fundraising Howard Dean has been able to raise milllions more than the previous DNC Chairman at the same point after the 2000 election. Dean has raised the most money by any DNC Chairman in a similar post election periord.

Controversial comments as DNC chair

Some controversy has arisen over comments Dean made about members of the Republican Party. Dean charged that some in the Republican Party did not understand the lives of hard-working Americans because they “never made an honest living in their lives.” The Governor also charged that the GOP was not accepting of diversity. Republican Chairman Ken Mehlman and other Republicans have attacked Dean and have painted him as a liberal extremist. A few Democrats, such as Senator Joe Biden, have distanced themselves from Dean’s comments. After Dean remarked that the Republican Party is "pretty much a white, Christian party", Senator Barack Obama criticized Dean for using "religion to divide." Obama said "as somebody who is a Christian myself, I don't like it when people use religion to divide, whether that is Republican or Democrat,"..."I think in terms of his role as party spokesman, Dean probably needs to be a little more careful and I suspect that is a message he is going to be getting from a number of us." He also said "we are at a time in our country's history that inclusive language is better than exclusive language."

Other senators have stood by Dean, including Democratic leader Harry Reid and Ted Kennedy. Many accused the media of bias during his Presidential run, and once again by some in the media’s coverage of him as DNC Chair. Defenders of Dean point out the media said little when the Republican chairman during the 2004 campaign made charges that John Kerry and the Democrats were being “a mouthpiece for terrorists” and other similar comments.

Believing that Howard Dean's comments will alienate many voters, various Republicans have been indifferent to and even welcomed Dean's remarks. Senator John McCain for example told Cybercast News Service outside a Rock the Vote event, "Howard Dean is the gift that keeps on giving."

Further reading

External links



Unofficial supporters

  • ( - Grassroots organization to draft Howard Dean for DNC Chair
  • Dean Nation blog (

Press coverage


Preceded by:
Terry McAuliffe
Chairman of the Democratic National Committee
Succeeded by:
Preceded by:
Richard A. Snelling
Governor of Vermont
Succeeded by:
Jim Douglas

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1 A copy of the speech, in addition to an audio file available for Windows Media Player, is available here ( Dean es:Howard Dean he:הווארד דין nl:Howard Dean ja:ハワード・ディーン


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