Transformational Politics -- Why the Dean Campaign was Different

bumped - Matt

Over the Christmas Weekend Matt Stoller started a conversation about John Edwards that got me thinking again about the difference between transactional politics and transformational politics.

I had an epithany one day in the middle of the Dean campaign about what made us so different...

Its incredibly simple and defines what I now believe is the essential ingredient in any campaign or candidacy that hopes to be transformational.

All modern campaigns and transactional campaogns are built around a candidate who proclaims to the nation "Look at me -- aren't I amazing?".  

The Dean campaign (and any transformational campaign successful or not) was built around a candidate who proclaimed "Look at you -- aren't you amazing?"

This strikes me as essential.  More than ideology, or any other factor -- true transformational leadership can only come from a candidate who fundmentally gets that it isn't about him/her -- its about us.  

So in terms of 2008 is Hillary capable or realizing that she is not the center of the universe -- that the political world and even her own campaign does not revolve around her?    Obama?  Edwards? Who? Anyone?

The Dean campaign was different not because of ideology or because of opposition to the war -- but because it revolved around its supporters and empowered them.  It was the only campaign in a long time that realized that the people were more important than the candidate.

<James MacGregor Burns wrote "A transformational leader stands on the shoulders of his followers, expressing coherently those ideas which lie inchoate in the hearts of the followers -- and in the process makes his followers into new leaders.">

Al Gore is doing this right now around the issue of Global Warming.   Dean did it in 2004 for President.  Who in 2008?

Tags: 2008, dean, Presidential campaigns, Transformational politics (all tags)




I'm curious:  which other (besides Gore), if any, American politicians - Democratic or Republican - in, say, the last half-century, do you see as obvious examples of "transformational"?

by Rob in Vermont 2006-12-26 05:46AM | 0 recs
Re: transformers

(I should have said, "besides Gore and Dean")

by Rob in Vermont 2006-12-26 05:48AM | 0 recs
Re: transformers

Robert Kennedy became transformational in his Presidential campaign.  He was clearly transactional on behalf of his brother JFK -- but I think it was JFK's assasination and Bobby's exposure to poverty and injustice during his own campaign that led to his evolution as a transformational leader.

When JFK said "Ask not what your country can do for you -- ask what you can do for your country"  in many ways he was making a "look at you. aren't you amazing" statement.  

Much like when Dean said "The greatest lie told on stages like this by people like me is elect me and I'll solve all your problems -- the truth is the power to change our country rests in your hands not mine"    In many ways Dean and JFK were saying the same thing.  They are both empowering "I trust the American people" statements -- alas made in two different American eras.

My own view is that Television helped kill transformational politics because it took people out of the process and made chasing big money too important.   I really believe -- indeed have always believed since about the mid-1990's that the Internet would help herald a new era of transformational politics because it puts back into the process the most essential ingredient of them all in a democracy -- the people.

by JoeTrippi 2006-12-26 06:08AM | 0 recs
I'd have to agree with this

Considering that I look to Bobby Kennedy's campaign in 1968 to explain to people what "type" of Democrat I am.

Dean did some of the very same things. The more cynical amongst us might suggest that Bobby was tapping into the people for his own political purposes, but still, he was building a ground up party that would have transformed American politics had he not been assassinated...

Sad loss for our country.

The internet has made the difference, I believe. Had the internet been around in 1968, what would the Kennedy and McGovern folks have been able to do?

by Nazgul35 2006-12-26 07:04AM | 0 recs
Ron Brown

Dean's role model is the late transformative politician Ron Brown (DNC chairman 1989-1992, Secretary of Commerce 1993-1996). Dean said in a recent Time article that he admired Ron's inclusivity of minorities, women, gays, etc.

by nonwhiteperson 2006-12-26 11:52AM | 0 recs
Re: I'd have to agree with this
Your point is well taken. 1968 was the first election in which I was old enough to vote, It was also the year I discarded the party of my parents and became a Dem, due mostly to McCarthy (not McGovern) What we could have done with the Internets....
Now who is the McCarthy for 2008?
by rambler american 2006-12-27 12:49AM | 0 recs
Re: transformers

There's no question in my mind that Joe's point about television and the obscene amounts of money that it takes to air it (not to mention the commissions that drive the consultants who recommend it) is a significant barrier to transformational politics.

Once again the coming primaries will sadly illustrate the power of money combined with television to effectively block significan change.  Although the primaries in New Hampshire, Iowa and South Carolina are essentially 'retail' in that the candidates have to deal with 'real' people, the fact is that those with the biggest bank accounts going into the process are likely to prevail.  

Why?  Because they can super-charge their retail politics with lots and lots of television, PLUS the size of their bank accounts coming out of these primaries scares off challengers in subsequent Big State primaries where the ability to spend on media is paramount.

The result?  99.8 percent of the American voters don't have a say until it's too late.  Example: In 2004 less than 250,000 primary state voters chose John Kerry who went on to win the nomination because of his  money advantage early on. That's 250,000 primary voters out of the 120 Million general election voters.  In short only .02 of the American voters made the choice of the Democratic nominee for the rest of us.

And, of course since the parties no longer have anything but rubber stamp conventions those early primaries effectively determine each party's nominee.

Those of us -- hopefully ALL of us -- who truly care about transformational politics and real social change should spend less time worrying about the early horse race and focus instead on  the large amounts of early campaign cash that is being 'bundled' by the lobbyists and special interests in support candidates who will ultimately be compelled to do their bidding.

Let's not kid ourselves.  The change is us.   And unless we demand that the candidates we support set the standards for clean money we'll never break the paralyzing cycle of business-as-usual politics in Washington.

by Roger Craver 2006-12-26 03:34PM | 0 recs
Re: transformers

Amen Roger Amen

by JoeTrippi 2006-12-26 04:30PM | 0 recs
Re: transformers

I think of James Webb as a transformative candidate. He is apparently fearless, articulate, accomplished outside the political world and has taken on the issue of "economic fairness for the working class" as witness his appearance on Lou Dobbs' show on CNN the day after the election and his post-election article in the Wall Street Journal a week later. BY feature.html?id=110009246

Webb is not someone who will be cowed by being attacked for fomenting "class warfare" and I think he will be bringing up issues that make Republicans squirm time and again.

I expect him to be transformative enough that he emerges as a black horse candidate for President in 2008.

by lynnallen 2006-12-26 07:39PM | 0 recs
by pupail 2007-03-28 10:04PM | 0 recs
Re: transformers

Trippi asks us if any candidate in 08 can make the campaign about the American people, not the candidate. I know that many of us view Obama with scepticsm and consider him extremely self-aggrandizing, but his rhetoric -- like JFK's, like Dean's -- is explicitly about the American people.

"We worship an 'awesome God' in the Blue States, and we don't like federal agents poking around in our libraries in the Red States. We coach Little League in the Blue States and yes, we've got some gay friends in the Red States. There are patriots who opposed the war in Iraq and there are patriots who supported the war in Iraq. We are one people, all of us pledging allegiance to the stars and stripes, all of us defending the United States of America."

Leaving aside ideology and policy for a moment (as Trippi has done), I think it's clear that Obama speaks the language of transformation. He talks about a new American political discourse -- one driven by the dreams and hopes and needs of the American people, one driven by the American people ourselves. I think that's new, I think it's inspirational, and I think it's a winning message.

by AdyBarkan 2006-12-26 07:17AM | 0 recs
yes and no

that's certainly transformational language, and it's very good. you seem to have chosen a rather representative quote here, as well. but it's a different kind of transformational. rather than transforming because it is empowering to all individuals, it transforms because it kisses everyone's ass. maybe that's what we need after 8 years of bushco, but maybe it's a new brand of the same snakeoil the punditocracy has been trying to sell us since Bush's 2000 campaign.

Obama has potential for both, he'll get my vote when he convinces me he wants to transform American politics, not hide from it. his rhetoric ensures that he doesn't have to fight people much, but just as Matt recently said about Edwards, Obama needs to take on a few big fights and stand his ground, not just talk around them and kiss everyone's ass.

by msnook 2006-12-26 07:42AM | 0 recs
I Don't Have A Problem With That Quote

I have a problem with his votes.

His best rhetoric and his worst votes simply do not match.  But his worst rhetorica and his worst votes do.

I'm speaking particularly of the rhetoric that reinforces rightwing frames, drawing false analogies between the core intolerance and ideological rigidity on which the organized GOP is now based, and unnamed, anonymous "some" Democrats, secularists, liberals, etc. whose transgressions are generally not specified, so that no reality-based appraisal of what he says is possible.

by Paul Rosenberg 2006-12-26 08:20AM | 0 recs
Re: I Don't Have A Problem With That Quote

yeah. the right-wing-frame-reinforcing you mentioned is the same non-partisan schtick he's trying to pull off with that quote (and many many others).

Lieberman ran as bi-partisan by attacking Democrats, Obama's running as non-partisan by validating attacks on Democrats. There are plenty of problems with this sort of a campaign, but I can't even get past the first -- I want a presidential nominee who sells the Democratic vision for America in specific contrast to the Republican vision for America.

There's a difference between "All Americans have goals in common" and "All politicians have some goals in common" and if he's running on the latter you can count me out.

As I begin to further articulate what I like about Obama and what makes me hesitate, I'm becomming more convinced that the fact that he's never had to take on a Republican in a really competitive race is just a huge problem for me. Or at least my problems all seem to fit the pattern one would expect from a Democrat who's never had to tear down a Republican opponent -- which is such a shame, because 2008 will be a good year to just absolutely obliterate the Republican brand.

by msnook 2006-12-26 12:58PM | 0 recs
Re: transformers

As someone who did a hell of a lot for/with/because of Dean, Obama's rhetoric strikes me far too generalized, feel-good and "can't we all just get along" to be transformational.

You can't energize people around the idea of consensus. You have to build the consensus that doesn't yet exist. That means taking some stands and planting a stake on something more important and risky than apple pie.

I mean, the wind up reads like an 8th grade essay on patriotism. It's a nice sentiment, but he's got a long way to go from cypher to transformational leader. The critical bit about this is the "inspires his followers to become leaders themselves" part. Until Obama opens up and goes further with whatever he's planning -- as I'm sure he will -- his followers will be stuck defending him rather than taking on their own initiative.

by Josh Koenig 2006-12-26 07:01PM | 0 recs
Re: Transformational Politics -- Why the Dean Camp

On the Republican side -- Ronald Reagan would have to be the one Republican in the past half-century that came the closest to being a transformational force.   Reagan clearly believed in the American people.   Most politicians today do not believe in the American people as much as they fear them or believe they can outsmart and manipulate them.

by JoeTrippi 2006-12-26 06:15AM | 0 recs
Re: Transformational Politics -- Why the Dean Camp

That's true. I don't like his policies, but the fact is there a lot that the Democrats can learn from the statement "it's morning in America." It is so clearly about telling the American people that they can do better.

by bruh21 2006-12-26 06:36AM | 0 recs
Re: Transformational Politics -- Why the Dean Camp

But "transformational" can't just mean "believing in the people", can it?

Kennedy said: "Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country!"  Reagan said: "Government isn't the solution, government is the problem!"

Both clearly believed in the power of the people.  But Kennedy's statement suggests a politician who expects people and leads people to take some action for the greater good of their country, not just to focus on their personal prosperity (which seems to be largely what Reaganism was about.)

And of course Kennedy's statement is not dissing government, the way Reagan's is; like Dean, Kennedy is leading people to get involved in public service, or in politics - to become themselves the force for change, not simply to look for others to do it.

by Rob in Vermont 2006-12-26 06:52AM | 0 recs
Re: Transformational Politics -- Why the Dean Camp

No believing in the people is not the only ingredient but it the essential ingredient.

Reagan believed in Americans as "rugged individuals" each of us capable of fending for ourselves.  His transformation of American politics arguably helped create an era of "what's in it for me" politics -- but it would be hard to say he was not a transformational leader.

When Kennedy said "Ask what you can do for your country"  -- he was saying Americans can do anything when we are all in this together and do something for the greater good.

I think this is why transformational leadership on the right is so limited.

I think America hungers for the Progressive brand of transformational leadership.

Do Americans look to the future hoping to face the challenges of energy, global warming, terrorism etc as "rugged individuals"?   Or are they likely to realize that we are all in this together -- that we face challenges today that can only be met  and overcome together -- and hunger for a leader who believes enough in them to challenge the nation to the greater and common good again.

This is where the candidates who say things like the people want someone in the middle to bring people together and solve problems yada yada yada -- are close to getting it but are missing the point completely.  

by JoeTrippi 2006-12-26 07:09AM | 0 recs
Re: Transformational Politics -- Why the Dean Camp

Do you think that the American people are ready for that again because I have my doubts. It seems you have even people on Christian left such as Pastor Dan arguing from the "what's in it for us Christians" mode of thinking versus what i argue is a broader than Christian identity concept like the public good. He argues there is no distintion, but clearly there is.

by bruh21 2006-12-26 11:51AM | 0 recs
Re: Transformational Politics -- Why the Dean Camp

Wasn't Reagan known to  walk away from people at parties once he'd decided they weren't important enough to be useful to him? You don't marry a Nancy Reagan if you're a committed egalitarian- it just doesn't wash. (Joan Didion's old pieces on NR make this point very damningly.)
 I'd agree w. about television as a major negative force, but I tend to think that's because it magnifies superficial traits to absurd. You're essentially reiterating the old "Who would like best to have in your living room?" trope, in more eloquent and rhapsodic terms.
    Of course, charisma has always and will always be  an important part of politics. But, frankly, I think what you're describing sounds a lot like excerpts from the DSM IV definition of "secondary psychopath."

Bill Clinton and George Bush are also very, very good at making every individual down the line FEEL like they matter- and how'd that play out via policy? What'd Reagan DO for the average guy? It's no accident, I would think, that the ( dem.)heroic exemplars you cite never got to hold the office.

 Roosevelt I'd def. buy as a genuine "transformer." But do you think he exuded the kind instantaneously heroic charisma that contemporary media trains us to expect, demand, and need?
   Edwards doesn't have my vote yet, but the "no-fight in him" evaluation is just flat-out absurd. It took an enormous amount of fight to win the cases he won- and (think about it) it took an enormous amount of fight for him to get to where he is in Iowa polls w.o. the aid of press attention or high-profile support.

He may have un-macho, un-flashy,  analytical, and incremental kind of fight; but (IMO) you guys just aren't adding up all the pieces if you can say this "no fight" stuff w. a straight face.

by sb 2006-12-26 07:47AM | 0 recs
Re: Transformational Politics -- Why the Dean Camp

There's a difference between believing in "the people" and how you treat individuals. The former is about whether or not you believe in the capacity of the Public (or the necessity of aristocratic overlords). It doesn't have anything to do, necessarily, with egalitarianism.

by Josh Koenig 2006-12-26 07:07PM | 0 recs
Reagan Wasn't A Transformational Leader

He just played one on tv.

His was the most top-down, dis-empowering administration ever seen, until GW Bush came along.

OTOH, if you want a transformational leader from the dark side, why not George Wallace???  He really did empower a lot of petty racists in his time--and after it as well, alas.

by Paul Rosenberg 2006-12-26 08:26AM | 0 recs
Deval Patrick

On the state level, Gov-elect Deval Patrick in MA structured his entire campaign around the "Look at you -- aren't you amazing?" theme.  From his victory speech:

This has never been my campaign. It has always been yours. The real heroes here are the thousands of you, here and at home, many who have never been involved before in a political campaign, who set aside what you were doing to get involved, who confronted your despair about the direction our Commonwealth has been heading in, and decided to take responsibility for her future.

That's a big part of how he won a race in which he was never supposed to have a chance.

by david blue 2006-12-26 06:29AM | 0 recs
You're right

I think many of the recent winners from 2008 fit this bill. People like Gov.-elect Patrick, Sens-elect Webb and Testor, and a large number of House members...

They are the vanguard of the movement we might be able to build...

by Nazgul35 2006-12-26 07:06AM | 0 recs
Re: Deval Patrick

I'm originally from CA (by way of Central America), but recently moved MA -- just in time to vote for Deval Patrick.  You're right, his campaign certainly aimed at being transformational; which, by the way, it was on many levels and he played to those practical realities: 1. If elected, which he clearly was, he would be the first Democratic governor in 16 years; and, 2.  If elected, which he was, he would become the first African-American governor of MA.  But that alone did not make him transformational, his rhetoric certainly aimed at something more...  I remember his "closing" TV spot, his last commercial before election day... there's a crowd cheering as the music builds up... the camera pans over the crowd... we see their faces: smiling, happy, looking up... an eagerness on their faces.  Then Deval comes into the frame and says, Are you ready for change...?  Let's get started!

The spot, to me, wasn't about Deval, it was about his supporters.

I don't know whether Deval reached "transformational" levels, but he certainly aimed at being such a candidate.

by bedobe 2006-12-26 05:27PM | 0 recs

I agree. That is why I liked Dean.

At this point I can only think that Al Gore is our man, until/unless someone else emerges. We shall see. Until then I can't wait for Gore's latest book to come out in the spring.

by OsoDelMar 2006-12-26 06:38AM | 0 recs
Re: Transformational Politics

"In our nation, the people are sovereign, not the government. It is the people, not the media or the financial system or mega-corporations or the two political parties, who have the power to create change." - Howard Dean

This is why Howard Dean remains an inspirational figure. It's not a slogan, it's a foundational belief. Many of his admirers - and Al Gore's - are idealistic about democracy, and hold this bedrock belief about how the world works and who we are to each other.

by mrobinsong 2006-12-26 07:00AM | 0 recs
Ronald Reagean- the Great Communicator/Deceiver

Ronald Reagan was not transformational. What he did was build a consensus around a dead and dying mythology of the American empire. -The ideas of manifest destiny, that America is God's chosen people, using the image of the "shining city on the hill." In his policies he built the seeds of the destruction of empire: unlimited military expansion without paying for it, tax breaks for the wealthy without paying for it, (despite the rhetoric) the maintainence of a social safety net without paying for it, and the corporate transfer of industrial infrastructure to low wage countries.

George W. Bush has dramatically escalated the process of the death of empire with the tragedy of Iraq, the capitulation to China, the expansion of corporate globalization and trade policies, and the undoing of Bill Clinton's fiscal policies. It began with Reagan though and his lies that most Americans wanted to believe. W's failures and the crash of America's fortunes are unmasking the deceptions that began with Reagan.

by cmpnwtr 2006-12-26 07:06AM | 0 recs
Re: the Great Communicator/Deceiver

"In his policies he built the seeds of the destruction of empire"

That sounds like a transformation to me, just not a good transformation.

by lasthemy 2006-12-26 07:40AM | 0 recs
Actually, Not

The seeds of destruction were already there.  Carter, although ambivalent (peacemaker between Israel and Egypt, but his proposed military buildup was almost identical to Reagan's), recognized there were serious problems already--the Iranian Revolution was blowback from the overthrow of Mosadefh 26 years earlier.

Reagan's "transformation" was no transformation. Shut your eyes tight, and jump deep into denial.

by Paul Rosenberg 2006-12-26 08:32AM | 0 recs
Re: Transformational Politics

With all due resepect, I think your definition is BS,  It doesn't take much more vision to say, "You all are great and smart, especially the ones smart enough to support me."  

Dean was transformational because he was saying things very directly that millions of voters believed but was not being voiced by any other politician of similar standing.

He started to top out when his campaign became too self-referential and self-congratualtory.  The whole orange hatted "Perfect Storm," thing in Iowa was a perfect example, it probably cost Dean more votes with Iowans than it gained.

Standing for something real is a lot more important than campaign style.  And campaign love-ins with one's supporters can quickly turn exclusionary.

by MassEyesandEars 2006-12-26 07:07AM | 0 recs
Re: Transformational Politics

However, it takes some vision and talent to make people believe it.

by lasthemy 2006-12-26 07:38AM | 0 recs

Standing for something real is a lot more important than campaign style. And campaign love-ins with one's supporters can quickly turn exclusionary.
It's called buying your own hype.

It's why Michael Franti's earlier group was named "The Disposable Heroes of Hiphoprisy."

by Paul Rosenberg 2006-12-26 08:39AM | 0 recs
Re: Transformational Politics -- Why the Dean Camp

My rather unscientific benchmark for 2008 goes something like this:

Buchanan --> Lincoln
Hoover --> FDR
George W Bush --> ???

Both Lincoln and FDR had that transformational quality you talk about. Most importantly they each were able to articulate a positive vision for this country at a time change was desperately needed and the courage to stick with his convictions. Neither president had 100% of the people behind him, but had enough of a majority to get elected (in FDRs case over and over again).

Who do you see in that mold today? Certainly neither FDR or Lincoln were considered 'slam-dunk's before they were elected. I see some potential with Edwards, Obama and Gore. Not so much with Hillary (although I suspect much of that difficulty comes with Bush - Clinton - Bush - Clinton...)

by musicsleuth 2006-12-26 07:20AM | 0 recs
George III--Washington et al

Moreover,losing campaigns often ignite change; Dean certainly has modified tactics astonishingly by emphasizing use of the Internet. Lamont's remarkable friends and family campaign will likewise by imitated by a winner.

Jackson lost (actually was robbed a bit), but came on with universal white male suffrage, starting an inevitable progression to include more and more voters that is not finished yet.

Bryan through Debs empowered working people, leaving it to FDR to finish the job; Goldwater enabled Reagan; and McGovern, the modern primary system. (Had Kennedy or McCarthy won, they would have had plenty left to do at the convention not exclusing deal-cutting with the redoubtable LBJ and company.)

Clinton-Obama (or vice-versa) would change forever the dynamics of who gets to run, which today is white males with Anglo-Saxon or Dutch names. This began with Agnew-Ferraro-Dukakis-Lieberman and is a long way from being done.

Personally, I'd rather win than attempt a science experiment. I'm for white guys with war records.

Transactional and Transformational bleed into one another. Do you know the most frequently-used word in advertising? Hint: it's not "free."

The most important word is, "you." So tactics and idealism converge. Of course, it works better if you actually mean it, as successful companies like Nordstrom, FedEx, and Starbucks actually do.

To really change things, you need a candidate who is willing to lose rather than do the wrong thing. I'm met damned free. Jimmy Carter, the most of moral of candidates in a couple of generations, refused to be "out-Negroed" in his 1970 gubnatorial campaign, using some really despicable, but effective, racist campaign materials.

This time, I say let's go for incremental change, and get the three branches of government under Democratic control. For I disagree with those who say JFK transformed much, but his successor for damn sure did with the Great Society.

Every Democrat should slam John McCain, every day. And not talking shit about family members, that would be good. It also would be, for the Democrats, a big, big change.

by stevehigh 2006-12-26 08:04AM | 0 recs
Re: George III--Washington et al

the most important thing you said is that to win you must be willing to lose. I dont think there is anyone running like that even among people I like.

by bruh21 2006-12-26 08:41AM | 0 recs
The problem

To win you have to be seriously unwilling to lose.

I think some campaigns should be purely educational, where we are not only willing to lose but also more or less planning on it.

The American Lung Association continually put anti-smoking things on the ballot, year after year, knowing they'd get outspent on the order of 1000-1. Eventually, big tobacco got softened up enough that the anti-smokers ran a campaign that was at least half-assed serious--and won.

by stevehigh 2006-12-26 12:55PM | 0 recs
Re: Transformational Politics

You've created a distinction without a difference that places style above substance & relegates to the backburner what politics is all about - achieving the common good. Dean would have never had the massive political following had not his campaign been based on extracting us from Iraq. This was his vision thing.

To say its all about you is a voter mobilization technique. Most serious presidential candidates seek to mobilize cohorts of voters. Even W's campaigns sought to actively energize evangelicals & fundamentalists (Its all about you).

by carter1 2006-12-26 07:29AM | 0 recs
Re: Transformational Politics

uhm- I disagree. Style over substance is exactly what we have been getting. The point about transformation is to go beyond style into the substance of what candidates are saying. To ask of Obama for example what do you really mean? To ask that of Edwards. To ask that of them all, and not have it thrown back in one's face- by he's a great guy. The question isn't whether they candidates are great people, it is whether they challenge us to be better.

by bruh21 2006-12-26 08:38AM | 0 recs
I'm More With Carter1 On This

The Sufis have a saying, "If there were no gold, there would be no counterfeit."

Likewise, if there were no such thing as trulyempowering politics (and, of course, it weren't so rare!), there wouldn't be so many politicians mouthing platitudes about it, and using it as a voter mobilization technique.

But real transformation doesn't come individual politicians, IMHO.  Inspiration, yes.  But transformation comes from an impossible situation which the people themselves decide they simply will not tolerate any more.  The "transformational leader" is the point of crystalizaiton, not the cause of crystalization.

INHO, the most impressive--and, yes, transformational--thing about Howard Dean is how he shifted attention to becoming chair of the DNC.  In doing that, and implementing the 50-state strategy, he really showed that he got it, that it really wasn't about him.  He got that there was a transformational process happening, and he looked for the best place to position himself to help it crystalize most effectively.

by Paul Rosenberg 2006-12-26 08:50AM | 0 recs
Re: I'm More With Carter1 On This

I agree about the DNC chair thing. Until he did that, he was only a politican to me. With that he gained a lot of my respect because as you said it became clear- it wasn't about him. If Obama or HRC would once do that- I would be shocked, and happy because then I could trust that theya re more than a pretty picture. That's why I have been disappointed in his supporters, by the way. Not because they are bad people but because they are once again tauting form over substance,a nd when challenged to be challenged, they argue it doesn't matter- this is the way politics is. My question is shouldn't you try to suceed first, before you decide you will fail?

by bruh21 2006-12-26 09:12AM | 0 recs
Re: Transformational Politics -- Why the Dean Camp

With all due respect -- we may be saying the same thing.  If you do not believe in and trust the people -- you are unlikely to speak directly to what millions of them believe but are not being voiced by other politicians of similar standing.   I am not saying it "is" the definition.  I am saying it is a critical part of defining a transformational candidacy.   Saying "you all are great and smart, especially the ones smart enough to support me" is easy -- as you point out.  It is quite another thing to believe the people are great -- and to conduct your campaign in an authentic way that conveys that.  

by JoeTrippi 2006-12-26 07:31AM | 0 recs
Re: Transformational Politics

From Martin Luther King, Jr. Day Address by Al Gore
We the people are-collectively-still the key to the survival of America's democracy. We-as Lincoln put it, "[e]ven we here"-must examine our own role as citizens in allowing and not preventing the shocking decay and degradation of our democracy.

Thomas Jefferson said: "An informed citizenry is the only true repository of the public will."

The revolutionary departure on which the idea of America was based was the audacious belief that people can govern themselves and responsibly exercise the ultimate authority in self-government. This insight proceeded inevitably from the bedrock principle articulated by the Enlightenment philosopher John Locke: "All just power is derived from the consent of the governed."

The intricate and carefully balanced constitutional system that is now in such danger was created with the full and widespread participation of the population as a whole. The Federalist Papers were, back in the day, widely-read newspaper essays, and they represented only one of twenty-four series of essays that crowded the vibrant marketplace of ideas in which farmers and shopkeepers recapitulated the debates that played out so fruitfully in Philadelphia.

Indeed, when the Convention had done its best, it was the people - in their various States - that refused to confirm the result until, at their insistence, the Bill of Rights was made integral to the document sent forward for ratification.

And it is "We the people" who must now find once again the ability we once had to play an integral role in saving our Constitution.

And here there is cause for both concern and great hope. The age of printed pamphlets and political essays has long since been replaced by television - a distracting and absorbing medium which sees determined to entertain and sell more than it informs and educates.

Lincoln's memorable call during the Civil War is applicable in a new way to our dilemma today: "We must disenthrall ourselves, and then we shall save our country."

Forty years have passed since the majority of Americans adopted television as their principal source of information. Its dominance has become so extensive that virtually all significant political communication now takes place within the confines of flickering 30-second television advertisements.

And the political economy supported by these short but expensive television ads is as different from the vibrant politics of America's first century as those politics were different from the feudalism which thrived on the ignorance of the masses of people in the Dark Ages.

The constricted role of ideas in the American political system today has encouraged efforts by the Executive Branch to control the flow of information as a means of controlling the outcome of important decisions that still lie in the hands of the people.

The Administration vigorously asserts its power to maintain the secrecy of its operations. After all, the other branches can't check an abuse of power if they don't know it is happening.


To take another example, scientific warnings about the catastrophic consequences of unchecked global warming were censored by a political appointee in the White House who had no scientific training. And today one of the leading scientific experts on global warming in NASA has been ordered not to talk to members of the press and to keep a careful log of everyone he meets with so that the Executive Branch can monitor and control his discussions of global warming.

One of the other ways the Administration has tried to control the flow of information is by consistently resorting to the language and politics of fear in order to short-circuit the debate and drive its agenda forward without regard to the evidence or the public interest. As President Eisenhower said, "Any who act as if freedom's defenses are to be found in suppression and suspicion and fear confess a doctrine that is alien to America."

Fear drives out reason. Fear suppresses the politics of discourse and opens the door to the politics of destruction. Justice Brandeis once wrote: "Men feared witches and burnt women."

The founders of our country faced dire threats. If they failed in their endeavors, they would have been hung as traitors. The very existence of our country was at risk.

Yet, in the teeth of those dangers, they insisted on establishing the Bill of Rights.

Is our Congress today in more danger than were their predecessors when the British army was marching on the Capitol? Is the world more dangerous than when we faced an ideological enemy with tens of thousands of missiles poised to be launched against us and annihilate our country at a moment's notice? Is America in more danger now than when we faced worldwide fascism on the march-when our fathers fought and won two World Wars simultaneously?

It is simply an insult to those who came before us and sacrificed so much on our behalf to imply that we have more to be fearful of than they. Yet they faithfully protected our freedoms and now it is up to us to do the same.

We have a duty as Americans to defend our citizens' right not only to life but also to liberty and the pursuit of happiness. It is therefore vital in our current circumstances that immediate steps be taken to safeguard our Constitution against the present danger posed by the intrusive overreaching on the part of the Executive Branch and the President's apparent belief that he need not live under the rule of law.

I endorse the words of Bob Barr, when he said, "The President has dared the American people to do something about it. For the sake of the Constitution, I hope they will."

A special counsel should immediately be appointed by the Attorney General to remedy the obvious conflict of interest that prevents him from investigating what many believe are serious violations of law by the President. We have had a fresh demonstration of how an independent investigation by a special counsel with integrity can rebuild confidence in our system of justice. Patrick Fitzgerald has, by all accounts, shown neither fear nor favor in pursuing allegations that the Executive Branch has violated other laws.

Republican as well as Democratic members of Congress should support the bipartisan call of the Liberty Coalition for the appointment of a special counsel to pursue the criminal issues raised by warrantless wiretapping of Americans by the President.

Second, new whistleblower protections should immediately be established for members of the Executive Branch who report evidence of wrongdoing -- especially where it involves the abuse of Executive Branch authority in the sensitive areas of national security.

Third, both Houses of Congress should hold comprehensive-and not just superficial-hearings into these serious allegations of criminal behavior on the part of the President. And, they should follow the evidence wherever it leads.

Fourth, the extensive new powers requested by the Executive Branch in its proposal to extend and enlarge the Patriot Act should, under no circumstances be granted, unless and until there are adequate and enforceable safeguards to protect the Constitution and the rights of the American people against the kinds of abuses that have so recently been revealed.

Fifth, any telecommunications company that has provided the government with access to private information concerning the communications of Americans without a proper warrant should immediately cease and desist their complicity in this apparently illegal invasion of the privacy of American citizens.

Freedom of communication is an essential prerequisite for the restoration of the health of our democracy.

It is particularly important that the freedom of the Internet be protected against either the encroachment of government or the efforts at control by large media conglomerates. The future of our democracy depends on it.

I mentioned that along with cause for concern, there is reason for hope. As I stand here today, I am filled with optimism that America is on the eve of a golden age in which the vitality of our democracy will be re-established and will flourish more vibrantly than ever. Indeed I can feel it in this hall.

As Dr. King once said, "Perhaps a new spirit is rising among us. If it is, let us trace its movements and pray that our own inner being may be sensitive to its guidance, for we are deeply in need of a new way beyond the darkness that seems so close around us." om_content&task=view&id=325& Itemid=292

by mrobinsong 2006-12-26 07:35AM | 0 recs
True Transformational

Now the discussion is getting somewhere. In the past century the only truly transformational president was FDR. He had the great capacity to harness the energies of a country facing its greatest crisis since the Civil war and not just create policies but transform consciousness from social darwinisim towards a communitarian model of social order. This didn't come from stylistics like those of Dean.

Transformational politics may come only when a society in crisis is receptive to a perceptual change. Such a crisis may be headed our way with the impending collapse and failure on all fronts of the Bushevik policies and their consequences with the resultant impact on the American collective psyche. Does any potential candidate on the scene appreciate the profundity of this coming crisis and is ready to offer what is needed to help America become a healthy country instead of an inflated empire?

Maybe John Edwards. Maybe Al Gore. Obama has the skills and charisma but I don't get any sense that he "gets" where we are historically. The rest of the herd are strictly maintenance people.

by cmpnwtr 2006-12-26 07:39AM | 0 recs
Re: Transformational Politics -- Why the Dean Camp

And of course our opposition to the war and standing up for what we believed mattered.   I am convinced that transformational leadership is what the country  hungers for right now -- and that the first thing to look for in a candidate is does he/she get that it isn't all about them?  Think about it -- how many politicians are capable of thinking for a nanosecond that it isn't all about them -- that the world does not revolve around them?   Dean, Gore, and who is out there now that may get it?   Maybe Obama, and perhaps Edwards.   Vilsack absolutely gets this -- I am just not sure he can get enough traction -- but I the last guy to bet against a Governor from a small state getting traction.   There may be others.

by JoeTrippi 2006-12-26 07:42AM | 0 recs
Re: Transformational Politics

I'm one who believes in transformational politics. It is a tough haul for progressives as the main stream media & the big money tilt against us. To a large extent the MSM, following their cues from the RW, did Dean in with their characterization of him as a wild man - the defining moment was the Dean Scream.

This makes it difficult for a progressive to run a progressive campaign as his/her agenda & campaign style will be slimed by the media. That said, I'm very heartened by the Edwards campaign. He's running as an economic populist, with a focus on those left behind. This agenda will certain create the enmity of the rich & powerful who have never wanted to have this issue addressed.

Furthermore, the population, as a whole, have never been sympathetic to the plight of the poor. Edwards success will hinge on his ability to bring poor & working class whites into his coalition. If this occurs, we have the transformation of American politics.

by carter1 2006-12-26 07:46AM | 0 recs
Re: Transformational Politics

the real problem is cynacism. it's not just about the poor, but a belief that "they all do it, and this guy is the same way" as the domimant mentality. it's more powerful than anything the GOP throws at us.

by bruh21 2006-12-26 08:36AM | 0 recs
Govt of the people, for the people, by the people

Dean practice it in addition to talking about it--and continues to do so as DNC head--that for me is Transformational politics.

Who else can do it?

No one yet is doing it.  But will it work this time?

Last time--there was a great motivation to take our country back from what we think was evil direction-a threat to our constitution and democracy,  based on lies and wrong headed Iraq policies.

But now we won the first step to taking our country back by winning COngress.

Some people will relax now.  The work however is not done yet and still achievements can still be lost.  And the only person I can think of who really believes in Dean's politics is Al Gore.

John Edwards is learning being transformed by his supporters.  Clark is also learning from his supporters.  Warner started believing it but he decided to drop out of the race.  

Obama seems to me distrusts people power afraid of being called partisan, leftists, liberal, etc.

by jasmine 2006-12-26 09:26AM | 0 recs
Where's the Ideology?

Joe, you worked on the Ted Kennedy and Walter Mondale campaigns.  I don't have an encyclopedic knowledge of Mondale's positions but these two certainly fall into the "Liberal Lion" category in my mind.

There's a lot I like about Dean, but he was pro-guns, pro-free trade, and pro-death penalty.  All the main contenders this time around have similar kinds of problems, except Kucinich who is laughed out of the room because he's short.

Don't you think that policy positions have to figure into the definition of "transformational?"  If we appoint a "Republican-lite" as the leader of our party, what sort of useful transformation could possibly happen.

by hoose 2006-12-26 10:59AM | 0 recs
Re: Where's the Ideology?

hoose -- yes Mondale and Kennedy were Liberal Lions.  But you make a point I have been trying to make about ideology.   Dean as you point out was not a liberal lion -- far from it -- "A" rating from the NRA, The DLC had given him major kudos as a "centrist" governor, pro-free trade etc.  No one would have predicted that Howard Dean would run one of the more progressive and transformational campaigns in decades.   That's why I think it is a mistake to discount Obama, or even Hillary Clinton's ability to do the same.   Running for President brings out the best and the worst in those that seek the office.  I write no one off at this point.  

by JoeTrippi 2006-12-26 12:48PM | 0 recs
Re: Where's the Ideology?

Joe, I really appreciate the feedback, but something's still not clicking.

Take this for example: in '92 we elected free-trader Bill Clinton.  Despite a fairly liberal congress, he used the Bully Pulpit to give us the gift that keeps on giving: NAFTA and, in turn, all it's ugly step-children.

Now, it's natural to ask: if we didn't elect a free-trader in '92, would we have NAFTA et al?  It seems to me the answer is no (well at least until '02).

So, the conclusion is this: pick a candidate whose issue-positions best reflect liberal and/or progressive philosophy.

To pick a sillyish example: Obama and Hillary think it's a nifty idea to build a fence across the Mexican border.  If either or both of them get elected, they might use the Bully Pulpit to create a fence across the Canadian border?  And if we knowingly and willingly support candidates with these deep flaws, we're the ones to blame when they screw us.

In the next administration, we have a lot of damage to roll back.  I'd be a lot more comfortable with a candidate that has a history of living the liberal and/or progressive philosophy in areas like free-trade, NAFTA, the PATRIOT Act/wiretapping, etc, etc, etc.

by hoose 2006-12-26 02:42PM | 0 recs
Re: Where's the Ideology?

The case I would make is that if you pick a transactional politician -- no matter what their ideology is they will be transactional.   There was no transactional politician in either party who would have opposed the war.  Why?  Because transactional politicians know how to read a poll and every poll said that 75% or so of Americanss (at the time) supported the war in Iraq.   Bill Clinton was a transactional politician's transactional poltician.   Its a shame really because I think with all his other skills if he realized his ability to empower people he could literally be the first truly global transformational figure and change everything without holding office (something I think Gore has figured out and is trying to do -- which may mean he does not run for office ever again).

Don't let anyone ever tell you its not about the money.  Its all about the money.   So if a candidate has to rely on the established money channels to have any chance of being elected President -- and if that candidate is a transactional politician -- the rest of us are screwed.    

A campaign that believes in the American people, and depends on them for its funding is a campaign that has a real chance at being transformational.

by JoeTrippi 2006-12-26 03:05PM | 0 recs
Re: Where's the Ideology?
hoose, this debate seems semantical. It's about policies and your commitment to them, "transactional" presidents make changes to the staus quo.
That said, I too, wonder why Kucinich does not have more of an impact on this discussion. He might be able to lead the debates in Iowa that exposes Corporate Democrats for thier hypocracy and to "focus" some of the others.
He should have a significant part to play in '08.
by bmelz 2006-12-26 05:04PM | 0 recs
Answer: Obama

As a college student, I feel quite strongly that Obama is a transformational figure in American politics. Besides the fact that he transcends normal categories of political discourse, he has the ability to realign political allegiances purely by strength of his charisma; whereas we now speak of Reagan Democrats, we may one day speak of Obama Republicans.

As for his recognition that "it's not about him," Obama has remarked a number of times that the hoopla surrounding his prospective candidacy is about the current moment in politics than about him individually. Whether or not he chooses to run a "Campaign 2.0" or not, he is clearly someone that people think of outside the caricatures of left and right. Obama speaks to Americans like they are intelligent people, which is the same trait that made Dean so appealing to me in the first place.

(Random Trippi-related aside: I worked as an intern in the cubicle next to your wife's in Burlington with Mike Silverman and crew. She was a charming woman.)

by Ozymandias 2006-12-26 11:10AM | 0 recs
Re: Answer: Obama

nothing personal- but as a college student how are you talking for generations other than your own about the impact of Obama's rhectorical skills. And, by the way, transformation isn't about being charismatic- it's anti cult of personality. So this diary is the opposite it seems to me of what you are arguing.

by bruh21 2006-12-26 11:48AM | 0 recs
Re: Answer: Obama

I don't speak for other generations, let alone my own, but there are plenty of important data points that suggest that a. my generation is trending heavily progressive and b. my generation is quite large, and politically active, relative to previous generations. However, to solidify these facts, we need another cycle or two of solid democratic performance in the 18 - 30 year old camp to calcify preferences. Obama is the candidate with the greatest amount of support among young people. So strictly on mechanical grounds, it makes sense to think of Obama as "transformational" in that his candidacy gives us the greatest chance at historic realignment.

Speaking more symbolically, it seems unlikely that any political figure can be successfully transformational without being charismatic. It was Robert Kennedy's rhetoric of shared destinies and reconciliation that inspired a generation - much more than any list of policies. Similarly, Obama speaks to a younger generation of voters by appealing to our desire for a radically different direction based on our shared interests. It would be overstating things to compare Obama to RFK at this point, but he's certainly heading in that direction. For example, look at the innovative work Obama has done in Illinois on crime and health care.

by Ozymandias 2006-12-26 12:48PM | 0 recs
Re: Answer: Obama

if in 2012 or 2016 after showing himself to be capable he wanted to run- fine. Now, I just find your entire position overwrought what I would like him to be. It reminds me of myself in 1992 when voting for Clinton- I was so sure he was the second coming. Now, older, I know it doesn't workt hat way. its easy to say what people want to hear, but what the point is here isn't about specific policies, it's about asking people to be better than what they are. he can say what he want, but only time will tell, and I don't think many of you his supporters are helping by trying to make this happen in 2008/

by bruh21 2006-12-26 12:55PM | 0 recs
Re: Answer: Obama

You're quite right about the following:

It would be overstating things to compare Obama to RFK at this point[.]

Lemme just riff on this for a sec.  Please understand, while I'm clearly commenting on something you wrote, I intend to comment on a larger trend that supporters of Sen Obama exhibit, and which -- frankly -- I find comical in the extreme.  Too many supporters of Sen Obama are overwrought in their exuberance of the man, here you've offered us one example.  I remember hearing a report on NPR on the recent visit to New Hampshire by Sen Obama, the reporter asked some audience members to describe why they were there, and to provide their thoughts of the Senator.  One after another, each of the audience members seemed to be reaching for greater and greater labels to bestow on Senator Obama: he's great, greatest hope ever, none compare, etc.; till finally, the last person that the reporter interviewed began to compare Sen Obama to Jesus... then she trailed off.  The reporter then proceed with the customary Obamamania-related story: huge crowds, rock star, etc.  Anyhow, the spectacle -- at this point -- seems irrational and utterly overblown.

Anyhow, on to more important things.  At this point, like many, I have some reservations about Sen Obama, given what I perceive as his predilection to pander and, too, his tendency to playing it safe.  Of course, I'm open to his candidacy and would support him wholeheartedly in the general.  That said, because I want some concrete reason to support him at this point, please provide (ideally in the form of diary, not just a comment) some more info to flush out what you wrote:

look at the innovative work Obama has done in Illinois on crime and health care.                                     

What is the "innovative work" that Sen Obama has performed? What constituencies were pitted against each other and how did he navigate through that?  How, if at all, did he compromise on a progressive position to archive a larger goal?  What substantive compromises did he obtain from the opposition?

Thanks in advance for answering these questions.

by bedobe 2006-12-26 05:07PM | 0 recs
Re: Transformational Politics

I think what is being widely missed here is Joe's point about what made Dean and the Dean campaign transformational.   Was it transformational language?   Or was it transformational campaign policies?   Therein lies the difference between a Dean and an Obama.

It is true that Dean says, and still says, "the power to change our country rests in your hands not mine..."   But what made that real were concrete means to transfer the initiative from a centralized campaign HQ to thousands of supporters across the country.  One of those means was the Dean Meetups.  Another was opening Blog For America to commentators across the country.   And there was more.

As Dean himself noted in his book, it was a very scary thing to do, but they trusted their supporters and transfered to them the power and authority to act.

In the interest of full disclosure, I've run a Dean/DFA meetup since April 2003.  I will never forget the moment in the summer  of 2003 when I brought out the first letter to Iowa kits.  There was an almost ecstatic gasp that ran though the room-- the people there just thrilled, and it actually was a thrilling moment.    Sounds corny, but it's true, you had to be there.

People were actually being given something real to do-- and more importantly trusted to do it.  The later is a very, very big point.  Campaigns-- and I have seen many of them-- almost never trust rank and file people.  

There is a certain arrogance, for one, thinking you have to be special to do politics, but also an unwillingness to let go.  So you  commonly have campaign staffers, many of them very young, trying to micromanage people who may have been doing politics for years, and getting them pissed off and blowing them off.  

Will Obama be transformational?  Who knows?  How will he run his campaign?  Will he seek to empower others?   As the old saying goes, fine words butter no parsnips.  

I will assert one thing.  There is absolutely nothing transformational about media superstars.  That is part of the political culture of the top down,  politics as a passive spectator sport that has nearly destroyed American democracy.   If he wants to follow the route of a media superstar, Obama may well turn into the new Mario Cuomo, another politician with a gilden tongue, but who represented nothing new.  

Time will only tell.  Of course, one can ask of such an unknown quantity-- is it reasonable for the rest of us to have to wait and find out?  Especially when there are leaders-- in this case Dean and Gore, who are the real McCoy.

by tea in the harbor 2006-12-26 12:15PM | 0 recs
Re: The New Paradigm of Transformational Politics

What we are all talking about, in my view, is a new post-Dean paradigm of transformational politics.

This paradigm is less centered on developing political personality cults than it is on the day-to-day Internet-mediated interactions between the candidates and their supporters.

In the post-Dean era, what matters is whether the candidates resonate with their supporters and collaborate with them in articulating their shared visions and policy prescriptions for achieving them on an ongoing basis with ever greater specification.

If this resonance and collaboration is there, their supporters will fund their war chests through online donations, help get their message out through the blogsphere and provide the people-power their GOTV operations need to win their election campaigns. If this ongoing resonance and collaboration weakens, their campaigns will wither on the vine.

In this new paradigm era, the focus will increasingly and permanently shift from expensive media-intensive TV-focused campaigns to home computer users and bloggers watching YouTube and grassroots GOTV operations energized by genuine activists rather than hired hands and robocalls, as exemplified by's house parties and phone banks. The focus will shift from getting pre-packaged "messages" out to passive voters to the continuous crafting of shared visions and detailed policy platforms "on the fly", as the candidates and supporters get to know each other better and have more time to delve into the nitty gritty of what could actually be done under the prevailing circumstances.

This new paradigm shift will force candidates to come up with new material and interactive town hall formats instead of regurgitating the same stuff over and over again in scripted venues. I for one got tired of hearing Edwards, Kerry, Dean, repeat pretty much the same speech over and over again, and I suspect that many people share my view.

The new paradigm will also force candidates to dovetail their evolving, increasingly detailed policy positions with their fundraising efforts. I am probably not the only one who is getting tired of receiving so many requests for donations from so many parties and candidates. They send me emails with one or two policy tidbits to kindle my interest and then hit me for a donation. There is exponential overkill here that can only be surmounted if candidates get into the habit of providing more and more specifics about their stances that get us sufficiently enthused that we opt to send them a donation. By so doing, they will increase exponentially the amount of money that can be raised online in small donations - across as well as within state lines, both of which are critical to pulling the rug out from under the big money interests that have taken over campaign financing.

Last but not least, this new paradigm shifts the focus away from these unending debates about candidates' strengths and weaknesses, years before the election cycle begins, onto the interactive process of running people-powered campaigns. We are all so desperately hoping that presidential candidates will emerge who can fulfill our hopes and dreams that we spend years trying to talk ourselves into climbing on bandwagons that are not ready to roll. In the post-Dean era, the real action is going to take place during the campaigns rather than during the preening and prepackaging phases, which are all too often focused more on obscuring the candidates' views than revealing them.


by Nancy Bordier 2006-12-26 01:58PM | 0 recs
FWIW, here is my

"Wish List" for 2008 for the front of the ticket:

1) Gore 2) Bob Graham 3) Dean 4) Jack Reed 5) Feingold|Warner 7) Richardson|Sebelius|Napolitano 10) Obama.

VP choice doesn't have to follow this order (as it depends on the Pres. nominee and how they go well together as well as create a "balance", both in electoral and policy terms), but I am open to many VP choices that are not on this list.

by NuevoLiberal 2006-12-26 01:23PM | 0 recs
Re: FWIW, here is my

Al Gore, Patrick Leahy, Dean, Feingold. I'm from Florida, Bob Graham is a great choice too. They are fine candidates, doing great work in their present capacities.

by misscee 2006-12-26 04:41PM | 0 recs
Don't think Dean was &quot;different&quot;...

The whole transformational/tranactional differential sounds a bit forced to me.

As an early Dean supporter, I went for Dean not for the "transformational factors" (defined as "look at 'you' the voter") but for the "transactional factors" (defined as "look at 'me' the candidate").

I'm not getting elected, the candidate is and he/she is the one who is going to do something...that's how representative democracy works.

I wanted a candidate who flat out opposed Iraq war and Dean was it.

"<James MacGregor Burns wrote "A transformational leader stands on the shoulders of his followers, expressing coherently those ideas which lie inchoate in the hearts of the followers -- and in the process makes his followers into new leaders.">

That is the key to Obama success, he articulates clearly what many people believe. The "that's I meant factor" that people experience when Obama speaks.

As far as a leader simply being a channel for the voters thoughts, I don't buy that at all. That's not what a leader is or does.  A real leader goes beyond that and appeals to the "angel of our better natures", has foresight, vision and intelligence to look into the future and articulate how to get there.

by BrionLutz 2006-12-26 02:35PM | 0 recs
Re: Transformational Politics -- Why the Dean Camp

"All modern campaigns and transactional campaogns are built around a candidate who proclaims to the nation "Look at me -- aren't I amazing?".  

The Dean campaign (and any transformational campaign successful or not) was built around a candidate who proclaimed "Look at you -- aren't you amazing?"

Sorry.  Much as I appreciate what the Dean campaign did in the last presidential, by November/December 2003, when every campaign was moving into its final message of improving the country for the American people, the Dean campaign focused almost entirely on how amazing the Dean campaign was.  True enough, but people who don't care about politics weren't impressed.  The Dean campaign shouted "look at us - aren't we amazing" more than any campaign I've ever seen.

by terry312 2006-12-26 03:38PM | 0 recs
Re: Transformational Politics -- Why the Dean Camp

Terry -- we made more than our share of mistakes in the Dean campaign -- we were far from perfect -- but  we thought differently than the other campaigns and we tried actively to avoid transactional politics and move the Democratic Party towards transformation.   Even the critism that the campaign was "Look at us, aren't we amazing"  as flawed as that might be its still not "Look at me aren't I amazing".  John Edwards ran the best campaign of any of the Democrats in 2004 -- and just had the most rotten luck of any candidate I have seen.   I think Edwards would be a much stronger candidate in 2008 if he gets to a transformational message that empowers people to make change.   I hope someone in 2008 takes what you think we did right in 2004 to the next step.

by JoeTrippi 2006-12-26 05:00PM | 0 recs
Re: Transformational Politics -- Why the Dean Camp

By 2008, the economy is going to be such a disaster that "Look at you, you're great" isn't going to cut it.  I think the key will be new energy techologies.  The message will be: "Look at me, together we'll invent our way out of the hole that's been dug around us for the last eight years and lead the world again."  It's the WWII frame but with carbon-based fuels instead of Muslims starring in the bad guy role.

Jobs, education, economic growth, foreign policy - everything but health care - can be addressed via a sane energy policy.  It captures Americans' imagination and taps a powerful and comforting national identity myth - a much better one than the imperial model that Team BushCo has been developing.

I haven't seen a candidate show any interest in providing any Big Idea yet, much less one built around an energy plan.  Even Edwards, with all his poverty talk, doesn't get that he's still talking about the problem without offering a compelling solution.

by eRobin 2006-12-26 05:56PM | 0 recs
A problem with &quot;it's all about you&quot;...

I think you're right about this being the reason, along with his campaign manager, why Dean was the source of so much excitement online.

However, there's a problem with politics that "all about you."

It's the same problem you get when a reporter takes to the street and asks passersby what they think about various events and issues.

The people haven't studied the events and issues and history and law and political feasibility.  

So we get a lot of very ignorant opinions.  Even those people themselves, if they felt action would follow on their opinions, would probably want to put in some research before seeing that happen.  

We live in a society where people are taught in school to value talking not for content, but for its own sake.  Participation grades.

But participation without information can be not only a waste of time, but a danger.  I don't want anybody building my house, fixing my car, or running my country based on their charming oratory skills.

I don't want a warm presense convincing me that together with others like myself, I can build that house or fix that car or run the country.

Because, you see, I want someone competent doing those jobs.  Someone with training.  Someone with recognized intelligence and skills.  Someone with experience.

So I'll pick the other internet candidate of 2004, the one that we drafted to run because of his amazing resume and leadership and proven understanding of issues like what would go wrong if we invaded Iraq.  I'll pick Wesley Clark.

by catherineD 2006-12-26 07:27PM | 0 recs
Re: I was with you all the way through ........

............your post untill I read the last line about Al Gore who's not running for the thousandth time.


Barack Obama 2008!

by FreedomOFSpeechFromTheDNC 2006-12-26 09:11PM | 0 recs
Re: Transformational Politics -- Why the Dean Camp

That's very good Joe. Can we put it on

by danwalter 2006-12-27 11:30AM | 0 recs


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