Almost simultaneously this morning I saw the broadcast e-mail from Democracy for America and had the Doctor himself pop-up on my TV.
I have very mixed feelings about this. I fear that, for the first time in my memory, the national committee chairman may be an issue in the campaigns of the actual candidates, but then again, that may not be bad.
Yes, I do fear the whole… “Look, the party of liberals run by liberals” rhetoric rolling out of the Republican machine, but if Dean can help the Democrats get control of the message first and hang on to it, this should be countered. A Republican talking head (one of the less rabid ones) on CNN is already beating the Dean will make the Democrats the party of Bed and Jerry’s and Michael Moore drum.
Besides, as so many others point out, centrist Democrat presidential candidates are running at .500 and are in danger of not making the playoffs.
Maybe we need to define a brand of “New Liberalism” for the future.
As for Dean, on his CNN appearance, his words sounded good. His message was mine. Everything I have talked about on this site (though admittedly, not as often as I would like…)
Primarily, he wants to…
Ramp up the grassroots efforts, such as precinct workers and get out the vote efforts, saying that the Democrats are “twenty years behind the Republicans” in this area.
Define the Party: In words I used here some time ago, when you think of Republicans, two or three words immediately come to mind (politics, not obscenities, people…), but when you think of Democrats, it is difficult to do this. We need to build an identity for this party.
Tighten up the message control. The Republicans and their conservative spin army own our asses when it comes to this. We are their bitches. This can and needs to be fixed.
If Dean can do these things, while building party unity, then he is my man. I will need to take a look at the other candidates before I really get behind Dean, but it is probably time to get off the fence.
Here is the broadcast e-mail I received:
As I have traveled across our country, I have talked to thousands of people who are working for change in their own communities about the power of politics to make a difference in their own lives and in the lives of others. Every group I have spoken to, I encouraged them to stand up for what they believe and to get involved in the electoral process -- because the only sure way to make difference is to step up and run for office yourself.
Today, I'm announcing my candidacy for the Chairmanship of the Democratic National Committee.
The Democratic Party needs a vibrant, forward-thinking, long-term presence in every single state and we must be willing to contest every race at every level. We will only win when we show up and fight for the issues important to all of us.
Another integral part of our strategy must be cultivating the party's grassroots. Our long term success depends on all of us taking an active role in our party and in the political process, by volunteering, going door to door and taking the Democratic message into every community, and by organizing at the local level. After all, new ideas and new leaders don't come from consultants; they come from communities.
As important as organization is, it alone can no longer win us elections. Offering a new choice means making Democrats the party of reform -- reforming America's financial situation, reforming our electoral process, reforming health care, reforming education and putting morality back in our foreign policy. The Democratic Party will not win elections or build a lasting majority solely by changing its rhetoric, nor will we win by adopting the other side's positions. We must say what we mean -- and mean real change when we say it.
But most of all, together, we have to rebuild the American community. We will never succeed by treating our nation as a collection of separate regions or separate groups. There are no red states or blues states, only American states. And we must talk to the people in all of these states as members of one community.
That word -- 'values' -- has lately become a codeword for appeasement of the right-wing fringe. But when political calculations make us soften our opposition to bigotry, or sign on to policies that add to the burden of ordinary Americans, we have abandoned our true values.
We cannot let that happen. And we cannot just mouth the words. Our party must speak plainly and our agenda must clearly reflect the socially progressive, fiscally responsible values that bring our party -- and the vast majority of Americans -- together.
All of this will require both national perspective and local experience. I know what it's like to lead hands-on at the state level and I know what it's like to run for national office.
With your help, this past election season, Democracy for America, already started creating the kind of organization the Democratic Party can be. This past election cycle, we endorsed over 100 candidates at all levels of government -- from school board to U.S. Senate. We contributed almost a million dollars to nearly 750 candidates around the country and raised millions of dollars for many more candidates.
Together, we helped elect a Democratic governor in Montana, a Democratic mayor of Salt Lake County, Utah and an African American woman to the bench in Alabama. Fifteen of the candidates we endorsed had never run for office before -- and won.
I also have experience building and managing a local party organization. My career started as Democratic Party chair in Chittenden County, Vermont. I then ran successful campaigns: for state legislature, lieutenant governor and then governor. In my 11-year tenure as governor, I balanced the state's budget every year.
I served as chair of both the National Governors' Association and the Democratic Governors' Association (DGA). And as chair of the DGA, I helped recruit nearly 20 governors that won -- even in states like Alabama, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina and Mississippi.
All of these experiences have only reaffirmed what I know to be true. There is only one party that speaks to the hopes and dreams of all Americans. It is the party you have already given so much to. It is the Democratic Party.
We can win elections only by standing up for what we believe.
Thank you and I look forward to listening to your concerns in the weeks ahead.
Governor Howard Dean, M.D.
Dean to Seek Democratic Chairmanship
An interesting look at Howard Dean