WAMC Speakers Corner
2:07 am
Fri March 13, 2009

Howard Dean - Dowmel Lecture 3/11/09

Great Barrington, MA – Howard Dean served as governor of Vermont from 1991 until 2003, and was a Democratic candidate for president in 2004. Dean had previously worked as a physician; he earned an undergraduate degree from Yale in 1971 and a medical degree from the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in 1978. He then moved to Vermont and opened a medical practice with his wife, Dr. Judith Steinberg. They have a daughter, Anne and a son, Paul.

Dean was elected to the Vermont House of Representatives as a Democrat in 1982 and was elected lieutenant governor in 1986. Both were part-time positions that enabled him to continue practicing medicine. In 1991, Dean became Governor of Vermont when Richard Snelling died while in office. Dean was subsequently elected to five two-year terms, serving as governor from 1991 to 2003, making him the second longest serving Governor in Vermont history, after Thomas Chittenden.

Dean served as chairman of the National Governors Association Former Governor of Vermont from 1994 to 1995; during his term, Vermont paid off much of "Health Care in the 21st Century" its public debt and had a balanced budget 11 times, lowering income taxes twice. Dean also oversaw the expansion of the "Dr. Dynasaur" program, which ensures universal health care for children and pregnant women in the state.

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. By challenging the war in Iraq at a time when mainstream Democratic leaders were either neutral or cautiously supportive, Dean positioned himself to appeal to his party's activist base. Dean often quoted the late Minnesota Senator Paul Wellstone as saying that he represented "the Democratic wing of the Democratic Party." His message resonated among frustrated Democratic primary voters who felt that their party hadn't done enough to oppose the policies of the Republicans. Thus, Dean also succeeded in differentiating himself from his primary opponents.

While his presidential bid ultimately ended in failure, Dean's campaign served to frame the White House race by tapping in to voters' concerns about the war in Iraq, energizing Democrats, and sharpening criticism of incumbent George W. Bush. The New York Observer attributes Barack Obama's success in the 2008 U.S. Presidential Election by perfecting the internet organizing model that Dean pioneered.

More about the Dowmel Lecture Series.