The nation’s top Democratic Party official says his party will win back the White House and control of Congress by copying the political strategy of a man it once vilified, particularly the use of corruption as an issue.
“If we want to win elections, we have got to stop being ‘Republican-lite.’ We’ve got to stand up for what we believe in,” Howard Dean, Democratic National Committee chairman, said yesterday.
“And if you don’t think it works, don’t believe me, believe Newt Gingrich,” he said, referring to the former House speaker, the Georgia Republican who is credited with authoring the “Contract with America,” which gave his party control of Congress in 1994.
“Newt Gingrich took 50 seats in the Congress. You were in the White House at the time,” Mr. Dean told ABC’s “This Week,” whose host, George Stephanopoulos, served as President Clinton’s communications director.
“How did [Mr. Gingrich] do it? He set a separate agenda for the Democrats, he used corruption at the top of the list, and he was able to pick up 50 seats.”
The first tenet of the Republican contract required that all laws equally apply to Congress and the second called for an independent auditing firm to ferret out waste, fraud and abuse of power and spending in a House that Democrats had held for 40 years.
“Conservatives and Republicans don’t like corruption. Voters don’t like corruption either,” Mr. Dean said, adding that Republican control of the White House and Congress fed a “culture of corruption.”
He cited investigations into former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay of Texas, who is accused of money laundering, a probe into the stock sales of Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist of Tennessee, and the grand jury probe of possible White House leaks exposing a CIA agent.
“We are going to be the party of change, and we’re serious about this. We want fundamental reform in the United States. We have a corrupt government, we need to change that and we’re not going to put up with it,” Mr. Dean said.
He said Democrats will campaign on “honesty in government,” balancing the budget, “restoring jobs,” universal health care “and a strong public education system to give opportunity to all Americans again.”
The strategy, he said, will be to fix a “fundamental mistake” by touting the “moral values” that Democrats hold.
“You can’t run away from moral values. The truth is the Democrats are the party of moral values. We’re altruists: We actually believe that we’re all in this together. We have a community that we have to sustain,” Mr. Dean said.
Americans believe it is a “moral value that everybody has health insurance” and that it’s “immoral for the federal government to tell families what to do in their personal decisions that have to do with their personal lives,” he said.
Democrats are not pro-abortion or pro-same-sex marriage, he said.
“I don’t know anybody who is pro-abortion, but we do happen to be a party that believes in individual freedom for Americans to make up their own mind on personal matters,” Mr. Dean said.