Howard Dean is making a big splash in the still-young Democratic primary race. He’s on the cover of both Newsweek and Time this week. He’s developed a base of grassroots support the size of which has astonished pundits. He has raised more money than any of the other candidates, primarily through small donations made through the internet. He is supported by a constallation of websites and weblogs, with little to no central organization, that seem to have arisen spontaneously. He is, in short, a political phenomenon that demands some kind of explanation.
But strangely, the main issue about Dean seems to have become his “electability” (as opposed to, say, his policy positions). Discussion has focused on the (alleged) fact that Dean represents a groundswell of left-liberal rage, the base of the Democratic party rising up and overwhelming the centrist middle. Many commentators, and many in the Democratic party (principally the Democratic Leadership Council (DLC)), have concluded that this is a bad thing. They think that while Dean will appeal to the Dem base, he won’t be able to get the swing voters and centrists that he’ll need to beat Bush. This, at least, is the current conventional wisdom.