Saturday, 7 March 2009

Harrogate Conference: Howard Dean

Having been disappointed at the last federal conference in Bournemouth that we hadn't had any external speakers, I was delighted to see that this time round Howard Dean was invited to speak.

The former Vermont Governor and Chairman of the Democratic National Committee between 2005 and 2009 gave an excellent speech. He focused on the '50-state' strategy which led to the Democrats becoming far more competitive in places previously regarded as Republican strongholds and helped the Obama campaign win in November. It also helped ensure victories in congressional races such as the Senate seat in Alaska. There are perhaps lessons here for the Lib Dems in moving beyond a strict targeting strategy towards developing the party more widely across the country.

Dean also spoke of the need to talk with people on their own terms, emphasising the way the Obama campaign had reached out to groups previously considered unreachable and talking to them in their own language. He also noted that people tend to vote with their values.

He also outlined some of the challenges the Obama administration is facing, particularly in the international sphere. He noted the need for the USA to act in a multilateral fashion and the importance of direct diplomacy. In doing so, he made the important point that you don't make peace with your friends but with your foes.

All in all, this was a terrific speech from Dean and got him a deserved standing ovation.

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