Why Howard Dean IS Important...
I'm about to make two counter arguments to the nonsense being circulated by the talking heads vis-a-vis Howard Dean.
If you're a Republican, you sit there in near-orgasmic ecstasy trying to tell yourself, and anyone who will listen, that Dean "represents" the far-left wing of the democratic party. You also believe that this alone will somehow translate into Republican votes in 2006 and 2008. Here are the problems with your theory:
1. Dean does not "represent" much of anything, except a vocal minority of true pinheads, mostly college kids and aging hippies, with a smattering of "metrosexuals". These are people with extraordinary amounts of free time on their hands, and apparently, a lot of money. The tie-dyed T-shirt business must be booming somewhere. Dean, in my opinion, ran a campaign based on a mish-mash of popular-sounding themes, which did not translate into actual votes -- he was a fad, the flavor of the month. His flash-in-the-pan appeal was so deadly to the established democratic party machinery that the dems wound up with John Kerry (to reassure the Kennedy wing of the party) who tried to play the part of Dean, and couldn't even do that. Any clear-headed person who still sees Dean as any kind of potential political threat to republicans is still dreaming. He only has this job because Hilary needs an open field. If you believe that Dean will formulate policy, have some sort of say on who runs where and on what, well, we'll follow the money and see where it leads.
2. Dean is a threat when it comes to money. His campaign proved that you can raise a buttload of money on the internet (any porn merchant coulda told ya that!), and that it's quite easy to fleece the 'socially-conscious-but-too-lazy-to-do-anything-substantial" portion of the democratic party. A democratic party with an enhanced warchest is something to think about.
If you're a democrat, you pooh-pooh the idea that Howard Dean is a) a liberal and b) all that important to begin with. I can't tell you how many times I've heard "people don't let the choice of party chairman dictate their politics" routine. You're wrong about Dean because:
1. You can't truly be honest about why he has become chairman (see money and Hilary above)
2. You cannot admit that this is, somehow, the best you can do.
3. While he may not represent the far-left in it's entirety, he does represent the noisiest and most financially capable part of it. In the end, he just might affect policy because he will control the pursestrings. And this does keep you awake at night, but you console yourself with the belief that the Hildebeest will actually be sworn in on January 20, 2009. Dean at the DNC is a small price to pay in order to get the Clinton-Care Eyedrops and Band-Aids plan.
The issue basically comes down to this: Republicans should have learned already, during two Bush campaigns, that it never pays to underestimate your opponent. The dems consistently underestimate Bush, and so they get smacked in the chops everytime he does what he says he will. Republicans underestimate Dean at their own peril. Dems, on the other hand, have to wipe that sly smirk off of their faces every time the issue of Dean comes up. It's obvious what is happening here when it comes to Dean and thinning the herd of potential candidates in 2008. They just want Dean (but not his money-machine )off the field when Her Heinous makes her run for the throne.
At the end of the day, Dean as DNC Chairman is nothing like the election of a new Pope, but it is somewhat akin to the election of a new Cardinal Richelieu; the distasteful, but neccessary, power behind the throne. After all, despite all the talk about "taking the money out of politics", it seems candidates need more of it than ever to get elected.