Last week, the College Democrats brought Dr. Howard Dean to speak to the Fordham community and I got to interview him before the event for a piece in The Ram.
Before this, all I knew about Dean was basic. It was basically "beyah" - the infamous roar of the doctor/governor who lost the Democratic nomination in 2004.
Researching for the interview, I learned that as both a politician and a medical doctor, Howard Dean has had a significant influence on America, spearheading some truly innovative health care reform in his home state Vermont and largely reinventing traditional campaign strategy, essentially setting the tone for the innovative Obama campaign.
But most of America does not know this. Like me, all they associate Dean with is "beyah," thanks to the media syndication of utterance.
As an aspiring journalist, I am very interested in what some academics have termed "media psychology," the influence of the media on human understanding of policies, events and people.
In this case, I believe the media frenzy and commotion over the "Dean Scream" has both helped and hurt him. Positively, the viral publicity the media created brought Dean attention he would not have otherwise received in 2004 (he was just a governor at that point, not a national political figure). Negatively, voter knowledge of him often stopped there, he was confined to this one association, all his sophisticated policies and goals were sacrificed for one this one trivial moment on his campaign.
Looking at the clip years after it happened is interesting. What was once constantly replicated on every news channel and spoofed by both professional and novice satirists, now seems extremely trivial. In fact, I would argue that both Obama and McCain each had individual instances of much more resounding rhetoric during their respective campaigns than the "Dean Scream" moment.
The positioning of media within politics is complicated. It is a vehicle that, when used well, can result in much positive political change. However, it also works against politics, focusing sometimes on these trivial bouts and criticizing the activities of government to a point that is counter-constructive.
Will Dean’s legacy be “beyah” or bettering America? It remains to be seen.