Wednesday :: Jan 12, 2005

A Vote For Dean And Against The Beltway Consultants

by Steve

I have already posted a wordy piece today on strategy, but I wanted to weigh in on the twin subjects of the DNC party chairmanship, and consultants because they intertwine in dissecting what has gone wrong with the national party and how to fix it from here on out.

Yuval has expressed well his concerns about a Dean chairmanship of the DNC. I have already opined weeks ago that based on the available candidates I would support Dean. Yuval is right that Dean may have alienated some of the Beltway Dems over the last year.

To which I respond (with all due respect to Yuval): So what?

It’s not as if the Beltway Dems have accomplished anything that entitles them to be kingmakers any more. Yes, Gore won the popular vote in 2000 and Kerry got 48% against an alleged wartime incumbent in an environment of fear, but can you honestly say that those results were pro-Gore and pro-Kerry votes and based on clearly understood Democratic positions, or were those votes against Bush? Can anyone tell me what were the three or four themes and rationales for Kerry’s campaign or for Democrats as a whole last year or in 2002? With Dean as chair, there will not be any mystery about what the party’s core principles are, or any lack of energy in the party. We will not be a party of fundraising high-rollers and GOP wanabes. With Dean as chair we will leap ahead of where we are now in the areas of linking the grassroots to the elected officials through technology, and in using technology for DNC fundraising and communications, even to bypass and challenge the media. Dean will bring in a broad cross-section of people to the party who haven’t been in politics for awhile, and that will include Greens, moderates, and even some conservatives who have left the party. For those of you who are worried about the impact a Dean chairmanship will have on the party insiders and the finances, I think this is overblown as long as George W. Bush and Karl Rove are around, and as long as Dean sees to it that the various party-related committees (DSCC, DCCC, Democratic Governors’ Association) continuously get together for ongoing strategy and coordination activities just like (gasp) Grover Norquist does for the GOP.

Second, and in line with the concerns about the party being held hostage by the Beltway insiders and consultants, Yuval ran a good piece a while ago about Michael Lind’s observations in this month’s American Prospect that the party needs to adopt a more regionally-sensitive approach while still articulating and defending basic, core principles. I couldn’t agree more with Lind, and with the piece in this month’s Washington Monthly by Amy Sullivan “Fire The Consultants.” Sullivan’s thesis is that the DCCC and DSCC, and the presidential candidates use the same national Democratic consultants over and over again, and over and over again they lose (hello Bob Shrum). Instead, and this ties into taking a more regional and grassroots approach to our party’s politics, we should be promoting those consultants who win locally and in key states and regions. Sullivan points out that Rove doesn’t use Washington types for his national work, and she also points out that prior to 2000, Rove himself had no cachet at the national level.

It should also be pointed out that it was these same Washington consultants that were cautioning the Kerry campaign to refrain from waging an aggressive attack campaign against Bush (hello Tier One/Tier Two) after the primaries were wrapped up because it would look too negative, while the amateurs like me and others in the blogosphere like a lot of you were going ballistic because we knew what was coming if we didn’t set the negatives on Bush early. I have it on good authority that the junior staff at the Kerry camp in fact collected the stuff that was written here and elsewhere during the campaign, and shared and touted it with the consultants, who dismissed it. I don’t think this would have happened if a different mindset existed inside the party towards those outside the Beltway.

There’s a reason why parts of the country think Democrats are out of touch with them and are creatures of the Beltway or the East Coast elite: because for the most part, we are. It wouldn’t kill the party to find out what those who win campaigns for us in the regions know and do and then build upon their work. The goal, after all, is to win campaigns so that you can do good as you see it.

Democrats should look to, and develop their bench instead of rewarding the same “we’ll get paid no matter whether we win or lose” consultants. Besides, what’s wrong with bringing hungry, successful, and yes, ruthless regional and local consultants into the national Democratic arena? There is a better chance that the party will move away from our inside-the-Beltway failures and back to our principles, and develop a clear message and energetic tactics with a Dean at the top of the apparatus than the other guys.

Lastly, forget the Beltway concerns and ask yourself this: who would you rather see touring the country on the college campuses and in our communities to reinforce the basic message and principles, energizing the grassroots in our congressional districts, and talking with the editorial boards: Howard Dean, Wellington Webb, Simon Rosenberg, or Tim Roemer?

Steve :: 4:32 PM :: Comments (29) :: Digg It!