05/03/2008 06:28 pm ET Updated May 25, 2011

Howard Dean as a Model Candidate

In the in midst of this chaotic presidential season, while we wait for the people of Guam to help finally crown a Democratic nominee, I took a few moments today to look back on a quieter, simpler time -- and by that I mean, of course, the 2004 presidential race. And it occurred to me how something somewhat strange happened in that race that went somewhat unnoticed outside the Beltway: Howard Dean passed fairly seamlessly from being a leading candidate to the head of the Democratic National Committee.

Now, that's kinda like running for homecoming queen and instead being happily appointed head of the student council events committee. It's not a glamorous post. It probably involves more headaches than huzzahs. But proms just don't throw themselves, and if your devotion is to your compatriots more than your own glory, it's not a bad job to fill.

It's a cliche that politicians are consumed by blinding personal ambition, that compels them to surmount every obstacle and tear down every foe on their way to a particular office or legislative accomplishment. I don't know how true that really is. But Dean's transition at least from candidate to party chair is a case study in one politico actually wanting to do the hard work of making the trains run on time, getting money in the bank, and making sure all the moving parts of the party run smoothly (or at least don't bring the party to a grinding halt.)

We're too late into this nomination process and I value my peace and quiet too much to turn this post into a commentary on Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama. But there's something to be said for taking into consideration what a defeated candidate might do after the will of the people leans against them. For better or for worse, politics on the national level is a team sport. And you have to wonder who is going to keep playing the game, hard, and who is going to take their ball and go home. I'd argue that the example of Howard Dean -- a losing candidate who just figured out another way to contribute, and significantly -- isn't a bad model to hold our candidates up against.