The Price of Betting on the Wrong Horse

The glum faces on the folks listening to Howard Dean’s exit speech yesterday didn’t belong solely to his idealistic young backers and grassroots supporters who hoped to ride his wave of change straight to the White House. Turns out, as Hanna Rosin writes in today’s Washington Post, when the Dean bubble exploded, a lot of Washington insiders saw their own dreams vanish, too.

Although Dean campaigned as an “outsider,” there were a lot of “insiders” hoping he’d provide them the ultimate victory that every Washington power broker covets: A four-year (at least) sinecure at the Center of the Universe.

Staking their futures on an unknown commodity, a small army of lobbyists, media gurus, advisors — and even more than 30 adventuresome members of Congress — threw their support behind Dean. They were joined by heavyweights Al Gore and Sen. Tom Harkin. Now, with the end of the campaign, writes Rosin, these “denizens of Georgetown salons” are left to “face the consequences” — especially so if another Democrat takes the White House.

“They are,” Rosin writes, “in the same position as the lawyer who signed on to the dot-com boom only to have the start-up go bust and was forced to come slinking back to the firm, the accountant who joined the rock band that fizzled, anyone on the morning after a one-night stand.”

At even greater risk, says Rosin, are the lobbyists who “depend on the party apparatus to steer business their way.”

It’s a perspective no one else has explored. And it makes us feel even better about having no tears for the losers.

Susan Q. Stranahan

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Susan Q. Stranahan wrote for CJR.