Two weeks before the Iowa caucus, the Dean machine was saying exactly the same thing: "we gonna win, big." "The forces of democratic reform are coalescing around Dr. Dean," etc. etc. Well, he tanked, big time. Fact is, he came in a distance third.
Methinks that history will repeat itself here in the DNC contest. Dean is --despite himself -- a polarizing figure, who will drag progressive politics into a new era of irrelevance, sadly. This is not his fault, of course. It is simply the reality of the current political climate we live in. You can here Bush and Rove snickering in the Oval Office about the idea that Dean will become chair. Guffawing actually. Too bad Webb got out so quickly. He should understand that recent history is likely to repeat itself. Give me Rosenberg. Or -- gulp -- Frost over Dean any second of the day. We'll at least have a fighting chance that our party will remain relevant. If he wins, the party, just like the process that elects its leadership, will sink into the oblivion of recently defunct party appararatus like the Soviet Central Committee (which seems to be the model for the "modern" DNC chair election process!)
Look, the effect -- if not the intention -- of his political effort in the past year has been to deepen the divide in the democratic community. I'll agree with you that this was not have been his goal or his vision, but it certainly has been its consequence.
The point is that that far from finding the path or an intellectual or programmatic coherence or poetic or narrative or "frame" or however you want to call it that would unite the broadest elements of the party (and elements of the other parties, too) to a democratic capital D sensibility, in the sense that Clinton was able to do, Dean's efforts sadly have had a polarizing effect. You can't deny that fact, no matter how much you believe in or want to love the guy, his passion, his intention.
We need to be clear eyed about this. Otherwise, we are doomed to ever more dangerous conservative successes. Sorry to have to shine the cruel harsh light of the truth on all of the pro-Dean reverie. But let's all wake up to reality, before it is too late.
This is the latest Elected Offical and National Leader endorsement list from Rosenberg's website.. in notice the broad support from red state dems (in addition to reformist and diverse segments of the dem family)..
Members of Congress:
Rep Ben Chandler (KY), Rep. Artur Davis (AL), Rep. Loretta Sanchez (CA) and Rep. Adam Smith (WA).
Former DNC Chair:
Joe Andrew (IN)
Current State Elected Officials:
Bronx Borough President Adolfo Carrion (NY), Cincinnati Councilman John Cranley (OH), San Francisco District Atty. Kamala Harris (CA), San Francisco City Atty. Dennis Herrera (CA), State Auditor Crit Luallen (KY), State Treasurer Jack Markell (DE), State Treasurer Jonathan Miller (KY), House Minority Leader Chris Redfern (OH), State Rep. Peter Sullivan (NH) and State Labor Commissioner Michael Thurmond (GA).
Former Elected Officials:
Gov. Tony Knowles (AK), Gov. Don Siegelman (AL) and State Attorney General Jeffrey Modisett (IN).
Former Administration Officials:
Small Business Administration Administrator Aida Alvarez (CA), White House Director for Intergovernmental Affairs Mickey Ibarra (DC), Treasury Dept. Deputy Chief of Staff Karen Kornbluh (DC), White House Press Secretary Mike McCurry (DC), Ambassador Edward Romero (NM), Commerce Dept. Undersecretary Rob Shapiro (DC), Commerce Dept. Chief of Staff Rob Stein (DC), Chairwoman US International Trade Commission Paula Stern (DC) and Federal Trade Commissioner Christine Varney (DC).
Hispanic Strategist Sergio Bendixen (FL), Chris Heinz (PA), and Fmr. Howard Dean Campaign Mgr. Joe Trippi (DC).
I don't see how or why Ickes' endorsement should be seen as a momentous for Dean. Let's be straight here: Dean represents a sensibility in politics that is all about fissure and division. His strength is to capture and motivate an angry assertive minority -- who ultimately and temperamentally -- like to see themselved as outsiders. Losing -- loudly -- is what Dean is good at. Winning is not Dean's thing. I wish all the enthusiasts who surrounded this guy can now refocus their efforts, their e-mails, and their passion on somebody who actually will know how to WIN national elections. And that ain'd Dean. Coming in a bad third in Iowa is as far as he got to triumph. We can't risk forgetting that. We -- democrats, progressives, believers, will be condemned to permanent minority status if we are willing to give the keys to our party's car to Dean. Even Trippi realized this, and bailed on him. Don't we want to win again? And what is Ickes thinking, other than trying to do what he always does -- preserving his "kingmaker" status by a late, and what he probably percieved as safe endorsement. If he had any guts at all, he would have made this endorsement back when he decided not to run, or as soon as Dean did. And if he was truly wise and thoughtful about how the Party can get back to winning again, he would be backing Simon Rosenberg, along with lots of the red state Democratic leaders and pols who have actually won in their campaigns with Rosenberg help. Can't we finally move on to a new set of leaders in our party? Can't Dean and Ickes go ride off into the sunset somewhere, gently, without mucking it up for the party and its future, and the next generation of Democrats?
Fact is, the blueprint you offer sounds nice, but the brutal reality is that to pull it off, the dems need someone who has a proven track record of running and winning campaigns in red states, who can draw together all parts of the party in common cause, who has real experience running big national organizations supporting multiple candidates, who also has been able to get backing from very serious people from all different parts of the country, from all parts of the democratic tent -- and especially from the kind of emerging innovative elected leaders who will become the standard-bearers of this party. That's not you, Mr. Fowler. I've been most impressed by Simon Rosenberg, whose manifesto offers the same reform-minded approach, but he's got simply much more experience than you in building and leading a national political organization and running and winning hard races all across the nation, especially in red states, not to mention the backing of Reps Loretta Sanchez, Artur Davis, as well as people like Mike McCurry and Joe Trippi, and a whole lot more.
For anybody who really cares about the future of the party, the country, or the netroots, it is deeply depressing to think that either Dean or Frost may end up as head of the DNC. It is entirely specious to say that either man has any real know-how on how to inspire change and build community through the internet. Neither had anything to do with the internet until guys like Trippi and others who knew a thing or too about political organizing came along. For Dean to say he invented the netroots is like Gore saying he invented the internet. As for Frost, isn't he yesterday's answer? Fine man, no doubt. But the next key strategist and operator to pit against Rove, Mehlman and Ralph Reed? You got to be kidding. The only one of the seven candidates who can outfox the Republican media and poltical machine at their own game -- and get the party winning again -- is Simon Rosenberg. That is why pros like Trippi, Mike McCurry, and a slew of up and coming dems who actually fought and won hard races in red states with Rosenberg's help are publicly backing Rosenberg.
We can't risk hubris just yet about who has won the blog wars. What is more important than talking about who blogs more is for progressive leaders -- and the next DNC leader -- to start talking brass tacks about a long term plan to support and sustain the netroots. Far as I can tell, the only one doing that and who "gets" it is Simon Rosenberg. Check out this piece on the how the DNC should support the netroots that ran yesterday (Jan 20) in the Oakland Tribune and other California papers in the run up to the DNC's regional meeting today in Sacramento. It clearly spells out why the netroots should be supporting Rosenberg.
WHEN the seven candidates for chairperson of the Democratic National Committee gather this weekend in Sacramento seeking votes at the party's western regional caucus, they would do well to remember what Marshall McLuhan famously wrote four decades ago, that "the medium is the message." The very future of the party may depend on it.
As the Democratic Party learned bitterly last November, in order to win the hearts -- and votes -- of an enduring electoral majority, it must do far more than refine its policies and shape consensus on its core values. It also must understand how to more effectively communicate with its voters and build a modern media infrastructure capable of doing so.
The fact is that the conservatives have outspent and outclassed progressives in the battle for the ears and eyes of voters in virtually every form of media. Fox News, Sinclair Broadcasting, Rush Limbaugh and Armstrong Williams are but the tip of the well-funded, determined and metastasizing Republican media machine. The effort by the chairman of the Federal Communication Commission last year to permit more -- not less -- media consolidation has only advanced this trend. The consequences have been daunting to Democratic campaigns, especially in the nation's heartland.
To compete and win in future elections, Democrats must be equally audacious when it comes to the scale and reach of their own communications machinery.
-First, they must launch their own Democratic public works project, dedicated to modernizing and investing in the party's communications apparatus. This will mean a bottom-up overhaul of the database, Internet and broadcast capacity of national, state and local party organizations, focusing on cutting-edge technology and best practices.
-Second, they must more boldly support -- operationally, financially and legislatively -- the emerging independent media communities, which are just now beginning to attract mainstream audiences as the result of rapidly increasing broadband Internet connectivity and easier and cheaper access to production tools and online distribution platforms.
This is true not just for independent news and information outlets, but equally for music videos, video games and other cultural and entertainment ventures that are becoming increasingly potent platforms for progressive political communication and organization.
-Third, they must focus more support for, and empowerment of, grass-roots local and ethnic independent media outlets, especially in our nation's lower income, exurban and rural communities, which comprise the nation's fastest growing segment of media consumers.
-Fourth, they must nurture deeper alliances with the "netroots," especially the so-called "blogosphere" of independent Net-based writers and activists, as well as with new online social and cultural networks. This will mean more targeted support in terms of advertising dollars, as well as access to, and commentary from, prominent Democratic and progressive leaders.
-Fifth, and most immediately, they must have the wisdom to elect a new type of party chairperson who grasps how media and technology are reshaping the nation's political landscape and has the proven skills and experience to outfox the Republicans in their use. It is not sufficient for the Democrats' next chair merely to be an effective television spokesperson. There are many compelling voices within the party's leadership who will -- and should -- handle that role.
Far more important to the Democrats' future electoral success will be a hands-on technically savvy political organizer and communications strategist committed to reinventing the party's communication capabilities, not only to compete with Karl Rove's well-oiled message bulwark, but in the service of an informed, engaged and democratic civil society.
Such a party leader must see Silicon Valley, Hollywood and the Internet as more than convenient places to raise money, but as vital partners in building new communities, inspiring voter participation, sharing ideas and developing new business and funding models to support independent media across the nation.
Above all, this new leader must make clear that in the wake of the 2004 election, the new DNC cannot stand for Do Not Communicate. It must mean Do Not Capitulate.
Jonathan Spalter, a resident of Oakland, and Jamie Daves of San Francisco are co-founders of the San Francisco-based Independent Media Consortium. They served as senior officials at the White House and Federal Communications Commission, respectively, during the Clinton-Gore Administration.