Saheli*: Musings and Observations
Friday, February 11, 2005
 
Democratic Leadership

As you probably know, Howard Dean will almost definitely be elected the new chairman of the Democratic National Committee on Saturday, a position that has traditionally been reserved for fundraisers, not former and potential candidates. The outgoing chairman, Terry McAuliffe, raised a record amount of money for the Democrats--and lost a rather large number of campaigns. Dean has a pretty good record as a fund raiser, but the real question is--what else will he do with the job?

Josh Marshall links to an Ed Kilgore blogpost on the matter. Kilgore is the unofficial blogger for the Democratic Leadership Council--an organization famous for championing "centrist" Democratic ideas, and for vociferously opposing Dean during last year's primaries. Much of the analysis I've read has been pitting Dean against a wholely perceived dichotomy between his idealistic appeal and the practical duties of the DNC chairman. Kilgore writes:
Above all, the changing of the guard at the DNC should be an occasion for Democrats to remind themselves they can walk and chew gum at the same time. Yes, we need an energized activist base, but we also need to expand that base into hostile or indifferent territory until we get a majority. Yes, we need more (and more broad-based) money and better mechanics, but we also need a winning message. And yes, we need to reform the party, but that won't matter if we don't stand as a party for reform ideas which address the weaknesses (above all on
national security, values and culture, and the role of government) that unnecessarily keep voters from supporting our candidates--ideas which enable us
to expose the inner rot of the Republican ascendancy.[
Emphasis mine.]

It's a little convoluted, but basically Kilgore is saying--"screw the dichotomy." I can sign onto that.

Kilgore also discusses the fact that the DNC, as a mainly fundraising organization, doesn't really seem connected to Dean's porgressive, policy-oriented goals of revitalizing Democratic activism, and calls the DNC a "pretty much an empty fortress." The blogpost is essentially serving as Kilgore shrugging his shoulders and saying he's not too worried about Dean changing the Democratic party too fast, because all he can do sitting in the DNC Chair is raise money anyway. "The Doctor's campaign for the party chairmanship focused on the need to broaden the party's financial base, tap the activist energy so evident in 2004, and rebuild threadbare state party infrastructures nationwide."[Emphasis mine] Therein lies the key to Dean's strategy. As we painfully learned last fall, Get-Out-The-Vote cannot be built up months before the next election. It has to be an ongoing, constant operation, and that can only work with vital, states-level party organization. The DNC can coordinate that.

I am impressed that I am still getting email from John Kerry. He waited a while, which was good, but the fact that they're keeping their electronic infrastructure, built up for the campaign, alive and kicking seems like a healthy sign of fighting spirit to me.
 


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Saheli Datta started this when she was a journalism student at Columbia in New York. Now she lives in the Bay Area. *Old people call me R. New people, call me Saheli. Thanks! My homepage. Specifically, my links. Email me: Saheli [AT] Gmail [dot] Com

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