Winning Back America

When the governor of Vermont died unexpectedly in 1991, his part-time lieutenant governor suddenly found himself in the position of full-time chief executive. Howard Dean thereupon ended his medical practice and worked aggressively at governing for over a decade. Then he initiated a campaign for the presidency of the United States.

The first part of Winning Back America is an autobiographical sketch up to the time of his entrance to national politics, while the second describes his reasons for pursuing the Democratic nomination in the election scheduled for November of 2004. The book reflects his vigor, the firmness of his convictions, and his skill at enlisting an energetic cadre of political supporters who admired his determination to improve health care and his outspoken opposition to the war against Iraq. Depending primarily on the small donors whom his message excited, he used the Internet creatively to raise an impressive campaign chest and throughout most of 2003 led the large field of Democratic hopefuls.

Although one must look elsewhere for a full explanation of the ultimate failure of his presidential bid, this book provides insights into the precarious nature of his quest. The bold tone of his criticism of President George W. Bush’s foreign policy nevertheless reminds the reader of his own lack of experience in that realm. His campaign coincided with a period in which a substantial majority of Americans continued to express confidence of the president’s leadership. Compared to Dean’s strident criticisms of Bush on the campaign trail and in this book, the more cautious approach of his major Democratic rivals avoided alienating voters who remained willing to give the president the benefit of a doubt.

Like his campaign generally, however, his book is a lively one.