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Howard Dean vs. Rahm Emanuel

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It has always been thus. Now comes round two.

In the first round, Rahm Emanuel and Howard Dean butted heads on what strategy was best in regaining House seats in 2006 (also to some degree in 2008). Emanuel was chair of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and Howard Dean was chair of the Democratic National Committee. Dean's path was the famous 50 state strategy. Emanuel thought that was foolish and that the Democratic Party would be much better served spending more money in traditional political ads in more "realistic" districts.

As it turned out, Emanuel was wrong and Dean was right. The Democrats won everywhere, including districts previously thought unimaginable. Dean's efforts to reach out to all the states paid off huge dividends as the Democrats became competitive in districts no one had thought possible.

Now, we're in the second round. This time it's the health care debate. Rahm Emanuel has been pushing for a weaker version of reform from the beginning. In his defense, he believes he is focusing on what is doable (nearly the same thing he said during the previous House elections). Emanuel has argued for a trigger from the beginning of the debate and seems to think that a public option is not realistic in this political environment.

Howard Dean has instead argued for a stronger version of health care reform. He believes the country is persuadable (the same position he had in the House elections) and is largely on the side of bolder reform already. He believes the Democratic politicians need to have the courage of their convictions and they can make a real difference.

Once again, Howard Dean is right and Rahm Emanuel is wrong. The voters didn't vote for a little bit of change. They gave the Democrats the White House and overwhelming majorities in the House and Senate. They voted for real change. The kind of change that Dean always pushes for (and often accomplishes) and the kind of change that Emanuel doesn't ever find "realistic."

Emanuel needs to change his definition of realistic. We didn't elect Obama to fiddle around the edges. We elected him to change the current reality of Washington. We didn't elect him to figure out the best way to appease the lobbyists; we elected him to figure out the best way to beat them. What Rahm Emanuel doesn't seem to get is that real change is realistic. You have all this political power. It's time to use it. If not now, when?

There were rumors when President Obama was picking his cabinet and administration that Emanuel kept Dean out of the West Wing because of their running feud. If there was truth to that, then it seems Obama picked the wrong guy - not just for pushing forward bold reform but also for actually getting it done.

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