Seeking Democratic Leadership of the Future . . .

The Young Democratic Development Network (http://www.yddn.org e-mail: leaders@yddn.org) is seeking out City Chairs to coordinate our efforts in cities across the country.

The Young Democratic Development Network (YDDN) was founded at the urging of a group of major Democratic donors who are concerned about the future of the Democratic Party and see an opportunity to strengthen the Democratic fundraising apparatus through the involvement of young people.  Democrats clearly have to fight an uphill battle when it comes to fundraising given the substantial advantage Republicans have when it comes to donations from business and other interests.  Democrats have done a good job of bridging this gap through a more broad based fundraising effort.  However, the fundraising apparatus of the Democratic Party is nowhere near as sophisticated as that of Republicans - with their Pioneers, Rangers and elaborate fundraising network.  

The idea is to develop the Democratic fundraising network for the future by appealing to young people.  Young people have substantial opportunities to participate in the Democratic Party through campaign work and other type of volunteering.  However, there has been no real effort to involve young people in fundraising, except in the broadest way.  This is a mistake for two reasons: 1) when aggregated, young people represent a substantial fundraising opportunity for the present and 2) young people are more likely to donate and fundraise in the future (when they have more money and connections) if they have been exposed to political fundraising earlier.  The idea of creating a culture of political giving/fundraising is similar to the approach many colleges and universities take towards development - whereby they seek high giving rates from alumni starting at graduation (even though the actual gifts are relatively small).

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Making Republicans the Party of the Past

Last night I wrote that the Democrats -- and progressives within the party, in particular -- need to position themselves as the party of the future, echoing similar calls by people like Gary Hart, Evan Bayh, Mark Warner and others.

But positioning oneself as the party of the future is only half of the equation. At the same time, there is a requirement to show that the alternative, one's opponent, is rooted in the past, specifically a past that people would not like to see repeated.

To an extent, George W. Bush was successful in using this tactic during the 2004 election, even more so during the 2002 midterms. During these campaigns, Bush and his Republican allies attacked Democrats for having what he called a "pre-9/11 outlook" on the world. And even though the President failed to lay out much of a forward-looking vision, he was able to win by painting the Democrats as stuck in the past.

A President who used this technique for even greater effect was Harry S. Truman during the 1948 election. During a number of speeches towards the end of the campaign, Truman successfully linked Republican nominee Thomas Dewey to the previous GOP president, Herbert Hoover, in the eyes of the public. On October 27, 1948, Truman addressed a crowd in Boston and made the following remarks. (A page-by-page scan of the speech is available here with a truncated version about two-thirds of the way down the page here.)

The leaders of the Republican Party served notice on America then and there [1928] that they would stop at nothing in order to gain power.

Don't think that the elephant has changed his habits in the last 20 years. This Republican elephant is not that kind of elephant. They're trying to make you believe he has that new look, but he hasn't.

With Dewey tied to the record of Hoover in the minds of American voters, Truman was able to score a surprising victory in 1948. And although it certainly was not the only cause for his success that November, it did play a role in getting him another four years in the White House.

This all brings us to this year. I am not advocating we hammer Bush as a reincarnation of Herbert Hoover, mainly because too few Americans have first-hand memories of the days of the Hoover administration (and those that do tend to vote Democrat, anyway). Likewise, I do not suggest we remind voters that President Bush's private accounts scheme is almost exactly the same as Barry Goldwater's privatization plan from the 1964 election.

But what I do believe we must do is show voters that President Bush and the Republicans in Congress are stuck in the past. On economic issues, we tell voters that no matter what problem arises, Republicans suggest the same old 19th century laissez-faire solutions instead of offering the innovative solutions required by the 21st century we live in. On social issues, we remind voters that Republicans are rehashing the same old divisive battles of yesteryear instead of trying to solve the problems that actually afflict us today. On foreign policy issues, we explain to voters that Republicans are stuck in a Cold War mentality, and that fighting a war against Al Qaeda and its ilk requires new techniques and not the ones we used against Russia more than 20 years ago. On energy issues, we show voters that the Republicans' lust for oil -- a 19th century technology -- won't solve today's energy needs.

Given the Republicans' set of policies, it shouldn't be difficult to portray them as wanting America to move backwards instead of forwards. But in the last few election cycles we have not been able to do it. Yet if we want to win this fall, in 2008 and beyond, we must convince voters that we are the party of the future and the GOP is the party of the past.

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