Eminentoes

Democratizer Dean

Howard Dean, on special covert assignment for his party.

By 4.12.11

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"The Idaho Democratic Party cordially invites you to meet Governor Howard Dean and engage in a special training with Democracy for America."

So reads a mailing I received from the Idaho state Democratic Party (I'm on too many mailing lists). The former governor of Vermont, ex-DNC chairman, verbally enthusiastic presidential candidate and recent proponent of a government shutdown is slated for a stop at the Coeur D'Alene Casino Resort (CDA) in Worley, Idaho in mid-April. There's a good deal for hotel rooms: $78.06 for three days. Lunch on training day seems rather exorbitant at $50 (Dean will deliver a speech), considering the training fee itself is only $25. Some local Dem-friends of mine are attending, one woman telling me that she wants to "have Howard Dean's baby," though at her age this is improbable and merely a metaphor for the excitement that local Democrats are experiencing as they contemplate the arrival of a Party rock star. Howard Dean could have more fun than he knows.

"Democracy for America" is a PAC that arose from the ashes of Dean's initially impressive (from a strategist's point of view) 2004 presidential bid. Its "Campaign Academy" travels the country putting on seminars designed to put a more high tech sheen on the old Dean modus operandi of the "meetup" to promote Democratic Party ideals and candidates ("Join us in delivering results for a progressive America!"). How to use the media (if that was ever a problem) to get the message out is a main component. The rest consists of annoying friends and neighbors with community organizing-type pro-Dem pitches.

This is a quixotic quest in Idaho, as the Democratic Party here hardly exists. Its numbers on the state and county levels were marginal pre-2010 midterm election, but that contest really hammered them. The state legislature is a good example, where the GOP enjoys majorities of 28-7 in the Senate, and 57-13 in the House. Dean's primary task will be to encourage Democrats (again, they are few) to actually run against the GOP in future elections. In 2010, local ballots were full of Republicans running unopposed.

Politics aside, this would be a marvelous opportunity for Dr. Dean to have a look at his Red State surroundings. Rolling forested hills, chattering creeks, placid lakes; North Idaho would remind him of his homestate of Vermont. It also has certain cultural aspects that he'd be interested in. It would be a learning experience.

The CDA Casino is owned by the Coeur d' Alene tribe, "gaming" being the main entrepreneurial activity in "Indian Country" today. The Idaho Democratic Party held its every-two-years convention there in 2010. There's something ironic about Democrats holding their convention at a gambling resort, considering the trillions-of-dollars of deficit spending noted on the national political scene in the last two years. Maybe Dean will find the time to win or lose some money while playing the slots, either scenario eliciting one of his famous howls.

Nearby Hayden Lake is particularly scenic, and we hope that Dean will visit and overlook its history of what H.L. Mencken called "Ku Kluxery." The defunct twenty-acre "Aryan Nations" compound is now owned by North Idaho College, where the school is currently developing a "peace park." The ex-presidential candidate might find that the site has potential for a future meetup, but he'll have to wrestle with the fact that any local participants might be heavily armed .

Speaking of such, another stop could be Ruby Ridge, scene of the 1992 standoff between federal authorities and the notorious Randy Weaver, militia guy and gun dealer. Then it could be on to "Almost Heaven," Bo Gritz's defunct experiment in apocalyptic survivalist real estate development near Kamiah, Idaho. Though Gritz won't be in almost heavenly residence. Nowadays he has a radio show in Nevada.

Then there's the perennial-Idaho-candidate-for-everything, Rex Rammell, late of a 2010 gubernatorial bid. Dean could drop in on Rex at home near Idaho Falls and get the lowdown on his recent poaching adventures. According to media reports, last fall Rammell "killed a cow elk with an expired elk license and in the wrong hunting zone." He also threatened an Idaho Department of Fish and Game officer and refused to accept a citation. Rex has since pleaded not guilty and the case is pending. This incident will certainly be the basis for Rex's next political adventure -- if he can stay out of jail, of course.

After all that, Dean's progressive sensibilities may be strained. One hopes there'll be time for a relaxing evening cocktail cruise on Lake Pend Oreille with Ben Stein.       

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About the Author

Bill Croke, formerly of Cody, Wyoming, is a writer in Salmon, Idaho.