Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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May 11, 2006
By: Kevin Drum

DEAN AND THE DNC....The Washington Post reports today on the continuing war between Howard Dean and everyone else. Basically, Dean has raised lots of money and wants to spend it rebuilding the Democratic Party apparatus in all 50 states, while everyone else wants to save the money and spend it on advertising blitzes in close races later this year.

Over at Tapped, Ezra Klein and Garance Franke-Ruta both seem to take the anti-Dean side of this. Garance in particular argues that "Should Democrats fail to regain power, its likely they wont get as favorable an electoral environment again any time soon, regardless of what's built out on the ground."

But I'm not sure that's true. Here's the problem: no one ever thinks there's a good time to spend money on long-term organizing. If it's a bad year, the last thing you can do is spend your precious dollars on anything other than fighting this year's fights. If it's a good year, you need to take advantage of momentum and spend all your money fighting this year's fights. But if that's the case, when is it a good time to build long-term infrastructure?

Now, it's possible that Dean is going too far. For one thing, if you build infrastructure you need to do it at a pace that can be sustained. There's no point in spending $50 million this year if the whole thing is going to collapse because you can't spend $50 million every year. Still, you have to take the plunge sometime, and frankly, this seems like a pretty good year to me. There's enough momentum that Dem candidates are probably going to do pretty well regardless, and it's worth remembering that 2008 is the real prize anyway. I'd rather make good progress this year, even at the risk of losing a couple of close seats we could otherwise have won, if the payoff is a stronger organization in 2008.

In any case, shouldn't the real question be about the quality of Dean's infrastructure project? After all, you can spend money both wisely and poorly, and I'd be a lot more interested in hearing whether the money is being put to good use, not whether it ought to be spent on ads in October. Maybe somebody needs to write that story instead.

Kevin Drum 12:51 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (84)

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Comments

Ezra is an extremely smart young man, but for him to question Dean on such matters is kind of uncool. Only because Ezra is more like an arm-chair pundit and Dean is an actual politician in the trenches.

Posted by: lib on May 11, 2006 at 12:56 PM | PERMALINK

it's called eating the seed corn.

Posted by: mudwall jackson on May 11, 2006 at 12:59 PM | PERMALINK

whatever has been done in the past? do the opposite.

garance and ezra are wrong, wrong, wrong.

Posted by: nova silverpill on May 11, 2006 at 1:03 PM | PERMALINK

lib:

That's sort of a fair point except for two problems:

  • Dismissing the validity of criticism on the "arm-chair" basis is disingenuous and meaningless. You're not President, so you can't really criticize Bush.
  • Even taking the "in the trenches" attribute at its face value (i.e. having actually done this sort of thing, Dean has better knowledge of how it's done), it's worth referring to Garance's criticism that Dean has indeed done this sort of thing before... and screwed it up.

Quite honestly, I have no insight one way or the other. I'm sympathetic to the viewpoint that the existing DNC establishment resents Dean's usurpation of authority. I'm also sympathetic to the viewpoint that sometimes slash and burn dismissal of tried and true practices and policies just leaves you with a slashed smoking mess. I don't know which (or how much of each) position is correct in this case. But it's not smart to ignore the possibility that the engineer of the train has the throttle jammed full open.

Posted by: Rick on May 11, 2006 at 1:04 PM | PERMALINK

I totally take Dean's side on this one.

Emmanuel's and Schumer's interests are narrow and short-term: me me me me me. Raise a lot of money and give it to ME so *I* can be re-elected.

But raising money for individual candidates is mostly the responsibility of, well, INDIVIDUAL CANDIDATES. Dean chairs the party, and the party is more than the candidates.

One also notes that the DSCC and the DCCC, which Schumer and Emmanuel chair, have ALSO raised tens of millions of dollars, and have as much or more on hand than their Republican counterparts, ALL of which will go for races.

And finally, one notes that Dean is way ahead of average in terms of fund RAISING for the party. He merely has chosen to spend it rather than hand it over to the me-me-me boys and back away bowing.

I have a lot of respect for both Emmanuel and Schumer, but they're dead wrong on this one, and their very public complaints are annoying as hell.

Posted by: bleh on May 11, 2006 at 1:06 PM | PERMALINK

Dean has made no secret about his plans to prioritize rebuilding the party apparatus in all 50 states. The people who have donated money knew this. And now some clueless Democratic consultants want to tell Dean, and all the people who trust him with their donations, to do something different? Well, they can go Cheney themselves.

Posted by: decon on May 11, 2006 at 1:08 PM | PERMALINK

seems to me to be a media story. There's plenty of room for compromise here between Dean and Emmanuel with certain funds dedicated to gotv

Posted by: andy on May 11, 2006 at 1:09 PM | PERMALINK

"In any case, shouldn't the real question be about the quality of Dean's infrastructure project? "
===
That is indeed what many people are worried about. For example, paying to have people walk around neighborhoods leaving paper door hangers. I'm sure it makes the people distributing stuff feel good about themslevs, but is that really worth the money? Is that going to make anyone vote for a Democrat?

Like Rick said, Dean did try this kind of stuff when he ran for President (orange hats, anyone?) and he blew through a tremndous amount of money and didn't win a thing. So it's not like he's got a great track record, either.

Posted by: hubcap on May 11, 2006 at 1:09 PM | PERMALINK

Well, I'm a mild Deaniac myself, but this is a good question to ask... and the corollary question is to how good a use would Emanuel, et al, put the same funds, given the crappy-consultant problem that haunts the party? After all, it's possible that both plans would suck, or that both would be awesome if adequately funded, making a serious assessment of priorities necessary.

OT: Kevin, I see that PA was one of the blogs that Molly Ivins gave props to in her most recent column, which IMO is quite the compliment.

Posted by: latts on May 11, 2006 at 1:09 PM | PERMALINK

Excellent post by bleh, who's dead right about Emanuel and Schumer.

Posted by: shortstop on May 11, 2006 at 1:09 PM | PERMALINK

This is a battle over the future of the party. Dean is and shall remain an outsider for the foreseeable future. His policies are a threat to insider control freaks at the DCCC and DSCC. How long before HRC weighs in or is Rahm weighing in for her? I think it is a fight worth having. There are many purple states that could use the help.

Anyway you have to wonder how good the DSCC/DCCC are at predicting races. They really don't have much of a winning track record. Why should we believe they know what they are talking about?

Posted by: aiko on May 11, 2006 at 1:11 PM | PERMALINK

Garance at TAPPED says: "Howard Fineman is predicting an onslaught of accusatory nastiness as part of the national Republican campaign strategy this fall. Emanuel is concerned that the Democrats, now so well-poised to make inroads in the House, will find themselves under-funded at that crucial moment."

The answer to that is not to save money to fight the slime-a-thon when it rolls around, but to define both ourselves and the GOP now, rather than waiting (as always) for them to define us.

Given the last several election cycles, where it seems the GOP has always been out there defining the Dems because the Dems never bothered to establish their own brand, this should be pathetically obvious.

And the Beltway Dem strategy of laying low and letting the GOP stab itself to death may work, but if they eventually get their act together, it leaves us unprotected against the inevitable sliming.

As Reagan said, if your opponent is drowning, throw him an anchor. That's what the Dems have to do - go on offense, both in terms of attacking the Pubbies and pushing their own agenda. Give people something to vote for, as well as reinforcing in people's minds why they'd be crazy to vote GOP.

Posted by: RT on May 11, 2006 at 1:11 PM | PERMALINK

I agree, with bleh, and would add one point.

Howard Dean was ELECTED chair of the DNC by its members on a platform of doing exactly what he is doing. He was elected to do just this, and he needs to stick to his guns.

If they wanted to go this direction, they should have gotten a candidate elected on the platform of doing the same old thing they have always done.

Posted by: exhuming mccarthy on May 11, 2006 at 1:12 PM | PERMALINK

Put the money into building the party. The long term work needs to get done. A sound foundation will reap greater rewards, especially after some success in 2006.

Posted by: tomeck on May 11, 2006 at 1:12 PM | PERMALINK

Quality of Dean's effort: From what I read, he's trashing the gays. Doesn't strike me as high quality work.

Posted by: anonymous on May 11, 2006 at 1:18 PM | PERMALINK

I'd rather make good progress this year, even at the risk of losing a couple of close seats we could otherwise have won, if the payoff is a stronger organization in 2008.

Precisely.

Posted by: craigie on May 11, 2006 at 1:19 PM | PERMALINK

I want to weigh in in favor of Dean as well. He ran on this program, he raised that money on this program, and he should stick to his guns and carry out that program. No matter what kind of tantrum Rahm Emmanuel throws.

Not that I think that RE is a loser. He's just a sharp-elbows kind of guy, which is good. But Dr. Dean is a feisty guy too, a fighter. That's what we like about him, isn't it?

Posted by: Doctor Jay on May 11, 2006 at 1:19 PM | PERMALINK

2008 is the real prize? 2008 means nothing if we can't protect the Supreme Court. We need the Senate in 2006.

That said, I agree with Dean that building infrastructure is the way to go.

Posted by: NAR on May 11, 2006 at 1:19 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin

The complains about Dean's plan have to do with nothing more than who gets the money. Is the money going to be paid to a lot of grass roots organizers or is it goiing to be paid to a handful of Washington professionals who have repeatedly demonstrated that all they really know is how to spend a lot of money to lose.

Give Dean his chance. It can't hurt and it might help. Tell the beltway boobs to either look for work or raise their own damn money.

Posted by: Ron Byers on May 11, 2006 at 1:21 PM | PERMALINK

Oops, Emanuel.

Lotta respect, sure, yeah, including knowing how to spell his NAME...

Posted by: bleh on May 11, 2006 at 1:26 PM | PERMALINK

It's a common mistake, bleh.

Posted by: shortstop on May 11, 2006 at 1:28 PM | PERMALINK

Emanuel and Schumer don't have the right to say 'boo' to Dean until they manage to create a sense among the public that the Dem congresscritters will lead the nation out of the mess it is in.

Right now, they've got work to do.

Posted by: Tom DC/VA on May 11, 2006 at 1:29 PM | PERMALINK

Couple things:

1) This isn't quite right: "The Washington Post reports today on the continuing war between Howard Dean and everyone else." The everyone else is Schumer and Emmanuel and the rest of the DC political establishment. This is really states vs. DC.

2) The Post article basically described that Schumer and Rahm Emmanuel met with Dean and started yelling at Dean for not signing on for yet another last minute ad blitz Congressional strategy. Yup, they felt free to yell at the elected Chair of the DNC for explicitly following the 50 state strategy that Dean ran on. They put up their candidates for DNC chair, they got beat, but now they feel free to scream and yell at the guy who won.

3) This kind of story illustrates one other huge problem for the Democrats - a lot of the base just don't like high profile democrats. They don't like Biden, Lieberman, Schumer, Emmanuel, Kerry, Hillary Clinton, Steny Hoyer, etc. And they don't like them on 3 levels.
a. They dislike the strategy they keep proposing,
b. they don't like their attacks on progressive Democrats, and
c. they generally don't like how arrogant they appear to be.

And I definitely am one who would not want to give a red cent to either Schumer and Emmanuel to play with. Mainly because we tried this strategy in 2000, 2002 and 2004 and got beat. Why are we doing the same thing again?

And, I'm also reluctant to give to the DNC until they make perfectly clear that they're going to stick to the strategy they promised. My guess is that this visceral reaction isn't that uncommon.

4) Lastly, are staff at the DNC really that stupid to chat about an internal fight to the Post? Or did the Post reporter just make it up?

Posted by: Samuel Knight on May 11, 2006 at 1:30 PM | PERMALINK

I understand the state party heads are pretty happy with Dean and the support (money, staffers, effort) they're getting from the DNC. I'll take their opinion any day.

Posted by: Morat20 on May 11, 2006 at 1:33 PM | PERMALINK

Here's your bumper sticker:
You can't always believe the media because Republicans own the media.

Posted by: slanted tom on May 11, 2006 at 1:36 PM | PERMALINK

This debate is simple.

Dean = questioned and still questions Our Leader.

Party Insiders = "Yes sir, Mr. President, we should invade Iraq."

Ergo, Dean is a traitor to our glorious republic and should not be allowed to make phone calls unmonitored to the honest boys Our Leader has put in charge of the NSA, CIA, etc, much less should he be allowed to plot to strengthen Our Leader's enemies. The insiders understand this. They would never betray Our Leader.

Posted by: urkel on May 11, 2006 at 1:36 PM | PERMALINK

Anyway, if this is "an almost historically fertile election year" as Klein puts it, isn't this the perfect year for a full-court press?

Posted by: Tom DC/VA on May 11, 2006 at 1:37 PM | PERMALINK

You know what?

I have just the funniest feeling that this time around, there's going to be a lot more money in the pot than anybody even imagines so far, and that each buck in that pot is going to get far more bang than in other years, because people are seething or screaming over the Republican rule, and eager for another story.

I've got to believe that Dean's move is a good one, because in the end there will be ample means for everything. It's going to be the fish-and-loaves story for politics.

Posted by: frankly0 on May 11, 2006 at 1:44 PM | PERMALINK

Whatever it takes to defeat Jerry Lewis, I'm in favor of.

Posted by: Tilli (Mojave Desert) on May 11, 2006 at 1:45 PM | PERMALINK

The claim that Dean is "trashing the gays" is based on his firing of one gay man and his hiring of another gay man for the same DNC job. The problem was, the fired person was a buddy of John of AmericaBlog, who then proceeded to trash Dean and ban any commenter from his site who disagreed with the trashing. Too bad, because AmericaBlog is really good most of the time.

Posted by: Joe Buck on May 11, 2006 at 1:51 PM | PERMALINK

Trashing the gays clarification:

National Gay and Lesbian Task Force slams Howard Dean, Returns $5,000 gift from DNC

by PageOneQ

After it was reported that Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean misrepresented the portions of the party platform relating to marriage, the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force returned a $5,000 contribution to the party, PageOneQ has learned.

Posted by: anonymous on May 11, 2006 at 1:58 PM | PERMALINK

while everyone else wants to save the money and spend it on advertising blitzes in close races later this year.

Should be read as:
while candidates and campaign consultants want to save the money and spend it on direct funding to candidates and campaign consultants in races later this year.

Posted by: Wapiti on May 11, 2006 at 2:00 PM | PERMALINK

i gave money to the DNC in part b/c dean is the chair. i didn't give money so that rahm and chuck could have atm card access to it. dean has chosen to make party building a priority for the elections of all kinds of demos in all kinds of places. not just moderate/liberal congresscritters from the NE and left coast.

Posted by: trrwv on May 11, 2006 at 2:04 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin: "But if that's the case, when is it a good time to build long-term infrastructure?"

Not only that, there's the cycle business, too. Two years ago, with the Presidency on the line, you couldn't imagine holding money back. But now you can't hold it back because you need the house.

It's an EXtremely common debate in all organizations: getting people to see the big picture and spend money on a long-term strategic plan is always tough work. Dean's legacy will ride on this. But consider: he's pretty much bulletproof, and took this incredibly low-prestige job so he could go in and spend his capital. He's doing it. We'll see.

(If the opposite kind of leader was in there--McAuliffe, say--who was trying to line up money at the top to dump into races this year, do you think he'd find THAT easy sailing? Not likely. It's a tough job.)

Posted by: Jeff Alworth on May 11, 2006 at 2:05 PM | PERMALINK

What were the Dems thinking when they installed this guy as head of the DNC??

Posted by: Frequency Kenneth on May 11, 2006 at 2:05 PM | PERMALINK

2006 is the real prize. You win 2006, and you're almost guaranteed 2008 with the new oversight you have in Washington (to expose shananigans and what not). Dean is more right than his critics, but some of the money should be lent out to key races.

Posted by: Jimm on May 11, 2006 at 2:05 PM | PERMALINK

What's amazing is how much money all these guys are sitting on and how little they have accomplished with it so far. The media is still slanting hard right and the Republicans are still much better at crafting and spreading talking points than we are.

Day after day, the Republicans aren't even trying to serve the American people. Despite all the national poll numbers tilting heavily Democratic, most Americans still support their local Republican Congresscritter.

Posted by: reino on May 11, 2006 at 2:07 PM | PERMALINK

I should add that in theory I don't support national political parties contributing anything to individual candidates, especially last-minute advertising blitzes. But, since this progressive notion about removing the stink from political races is not the current law, and is not on the platform (too bad), you may as well play with the cards you're dealt. I'd rather see the Democrats take a progressive stand on electoral reform though. A tough and principled stand, but so be it.

Posted by: Jimm on May 11, 2006 at 2:08 PM | PERMALINK

You don't hold money back with the Presidency on the line, do you? That's funny of course, because Kerry didn't spend $13 million, I think it is?

Maybe he should use that money now? No, he's using to run for Prez again.

Hillary? No, she's gobbling up cash to pound a poor schlub into the ground in a non-competitive race. And of course have Murdoch throw a fund raiser.

Posted by: Samuel Knight on May 11, 2006 at 2:09 PM | PERMALINK

What were the Dems thinking when they installed this guy as head of the DNC??

"Installed" should be "elected" but of course a shit-brained Bush apologist such as yourself has no grasp of this particular concept.

And to answer the question: we were thinking that not only would Dean build the infrastructure needed to kick your despicable ass, but he'd cause your collective heads to explode with apoplectic rage every time his name is mentioned. It was sort of a two-for-one special.

Posted by: drjimcooper on May 11, 2006 at 2:11 PM | PERMALINK

KD:

and it's worth remembering that 2008 is the real prize anyway.

Actually, I believe that is a serious misread, Kevin.

I for one would MUCH rather have a Democratic Congress face a Republican President than the other way around. 2006 is here and now; the apples are beyond ripe, it's time for pickin'. By 2008, there may not only be no more picking-ripe apples, there may be no more apple trees to pick from.

Just usin' a badly extended metaphor to be just sayin'

Posted by: Nash on May 11, 2006 at 2:13 PM | PERMALINK

I need to correct what I wrote the other day. The Republican win in 1994 entailed a reversal of 12% of House seats, not "under 10%" as I wrote.

If the Democrats want to reclaim the House in 2006, they need to think small. Put a big effort into backing Francine Busby, but don't waste time and energy trying to unseat Duncan Humter (two California races.) You'll have to replace Mollohan in W. Virginia just to retain that seat. If you can identify 65 Republican seats and campaign hard in those districts, you might win enough for a majority.

Building now for a strong showing in 2008 isn't a bad idea, but it might entail losing in 2006. I think however that Dean risks missing the "tide in the affairs of men" that is currently running against the Republicans. Republicans are busy trying to repair relations with their base. If by Nov 2006 Americans have discovered that: (a) the economy is still strong; (b) lots of people in each district are working on road and energy projects; (c) the Democrats are demonstrably as corrupt as the Republicans; (d) the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are not being lost; (e) the prescription drug benefit isn't a disaster; then the Dems will have lost the chance to unseat the Republicans.

Posted by: republicrat on May 11, 2006 at 2:22 PM | PERMALINK

Comparing Democratic campaigns, it would seem everyone but Dean contributed to making liberalism a loosing strategy. Ignore everyone but Dean, and maybe the Democrats can regain some power. Not that it will change anything, since Democrats are really just Nixon Republicans.

Posted by: Powerpuff on May 11, 2006 at 2:27 PM | PERMALINK

In 1997, based on a tip from a psychiatrist, Rather's attacker was identified as William Tager. According to the psychiatrist, Tager, who was currently serving time for killing an NBC stagehand, blamed news media for beaming signals into his head, and thought if he could just find out the correct frequency, he could block those signals that were constantly assailing him. Hence the enigmatic inquiry

Posted by: SomeOtherClown on May 11, 2006 at 2:28 PM | PERMALINK

bleh on May 11, 2006 at 1:06 PM

that's a good contribution to the debate. This isn't truly and "either-or" situation.

Dean raised a lot of money for his Iowa and New Hampshire campaigns, but he was whupped mightily in both places. I wouldn't trust his political judgment to put together a winning strategy.

As a republicat, I want both parties to do well, and I want Dean to do well. I just don't think he knows how to.

Posted by: republicrat on May 11, 2006 at 2:28 PM | PERMALINK

All fifty states? Well, ideally, yes. But theory is theory. As much as we may want to devote money to making sure the Democrats in Alaska are more viable than they are now, I fail to see why we shouldn't spend more money in, say, Missouri and Ohio. Hell, even in the states the Democrats usually win, even if by close margins, like Minnesota or Oregon, the party could use some help.

I say this because I remember reading a story of the intensely well organized reelection effort undertaken in Ohio for President Bush even months before the RNC convention. Contrast that to the efforts by the Kerry campaign, which were doing one-tenth of a half-assed job leading up to and perhaps after the convention. It wouldn't necessarily make the difference, but it certainly helps to be running in the same sort of race that the other side is running in, I believe.

Posted by: Brian on May 11, 2006 at 2:31 PM | PERMALINK

RT made a good comment also: The answer to that is not to save money to fight the slime-a-thon when it rolls around, but to define both ourselves and the GOP now, rather than waiting (as always) for them to define us.

Democrats do not have to agree on everything, but it would be very much in their interest to rally around 5 - 10 important points, and hammer at them on and on, emphasizing what Democrats want more of and how the Republicans have been bad for the country. I don't agree with all criticisms of the Republicans or all proposals of the Democrats, but the way to win is to get in front on the positives (first) and the negatives (after establishing the positives) instead of waiting to respond to the Republicans.

Posted by: republicrat on May 11, 2006 at 2:39 PM | PERMALINK

Why the implicit assumption that the Repubs are going to get it together in the next two years. If they hold Congress this year, exactly will be different? They'll suddenly become fiscal conservatives holding Ws feet to the fire?

Democrats have to be a national party active in all 50 states. Sure, that costs money. So why aren't we defining the Reps NOW so THEY have to spend the money defending themselves?

Defense is a losing strategy for the minority party.

Posted by: Robin on May 11, 2006 at 2:46 PM | PERMALINK

The complains about Dean's plan have to do with nothing more than who gets the money.

Bingo. The most disheartening thing about politics is the knowledge that a large portion of campaign contributions go to paying off various consultants, friends, and campaign insiders... similar to a right-wing think-tank, in fact. Since Dean is sending the money to restaff state party offices rather than funneling it towards a group of party advertising consultants, there's a lot of tension.

Posted by: Constantine on May 11, 2006 at 2:49 PM | PERMALINK

Republicrat makes a good point--we should all keep in mind how good Dean was at raising money in the '04 primary and how inept he and his people were at using it. I'm sure some Deaniac sorts are going to screech loudly and inform me that Dean's campaign went down the tubes because Democratic insiders and DLC sorts masterminded his downfall, but the fact remains that Dean wasted tremendous funding and support advantages and failed to get votes. A cadre of enthusiastic supporters does not really make for a campaign strategy.

Posted by: Scribblerus on May 11, 2006 at 2:54 PM | PERMALINK

we should all keep in mind how good Dean was at raising money in the '04 primary and how inept he and his people were at using it

Ah, but how did that money go down the tubes? To a large degree by blowing it on a huge advertising blitz, a percentage of which went into Joe Trippi's pockets via his consulting company. In this case, Dean is spending the money in a much different manner than he did during his campaign.

If the Dems lose groups on the state and federal level in '06, Dean (and I, as an advocate of his efficacy as DNC chair) will have been proved wrong. But he was elected on a platform of "I will use this strategy for the party in the years of head." He's using that strategy. I think it'll work. Were the people arguing that it won't work the people who were saying what a great job Terry McAulliffe was doing?

Posted by: Constantine on May 11, 2006 at 3:00 PM | PERMALINK
Now, it's possible that Dean is going too far. For one thing, if you build infrastructure you need to do it at a pace that can be sustained.

I don't think that's true as you present it (you have to be able to continue spending at the same level); I think building up local party organizations is going to be more expensive than maintaining them at the new, more active level.

Further, I think that building the organizations primes the pump to generate additional resources. Its preparing the ground rather than just popping your head out at election time, seeing what ground your opponent has set up for you, and fighting on that.

Arrayed against Dean's strategic approach here are proponents of the narrow-focus tactical approach that have produced the stunning Democratic advances of the last 12 years.

Posted by: cmdicely on May 11, 2006 at 3:06 PM | PERMALINK

See, the Dems should have found somebody to sell out to, the way the Repubs did to Big Business. Money wouldn't have been a problem. And look, all it cost the R's was their souls.

Posted by: CN on May 11, 2006 at 3:06 PM | PERMALINK

As a Deaniac, early adopter, I agree that Dean, with guidance from Trippi, wasted the money. Now the argument is should the party let other Trippi wannabes waste the money again. They can do whatever they want, none of my money is with them. Everyone is a Daniel Webster, selling themselves to the highest bidder, and I will not support them. Vote Debs.

Posted by: Poerpuff on May 11, 2006 at 3:08 PM | PERMALINK

Personally, I'm all about organizing 2007. Democrats need to build more trust by doing outreach in off years. However, there are plenty of things that Dems can do to "build" infrastructure that do not require boatloads of cash. The great thing about "grassroots" efforts is that they are, well, grassroots.

I would love to see more discussion on the best approach for creating a viable and sustainable infrastructure.

Posted by: gq on May 11, 2006 at 3:08 PM | PERMALINK

Scribblerus:

we should all keep in mind how good Dean was at raising money in the '04 primary and how inept he and his people were at using it

Apples and oranges, Scribb. Dean and his advisors were the ones making the specific but (arguably) wrong decisions how to place their ad buys and spend their monies. In the modern world you are trying to conflate with this, Dean is now raising the money and doling it out--he has very little to say on exactly how that money gets spent. He may have the deposit tickets for individual candidates, but he no longer has hold of their checkbook. So, think of another reason, but that one just doesn't hold up.

Posted by: Nash on May 11, 2006 at 3:13 PM | PERMALINK

I'm glad I'm not the only one who was so dispirited to see the TAPPED folk take the establishment side (Garance I expect; Ezra was a disappointment).

As I said over at TAPPED, what Schumer/Emanuel seem to think (and I don't dislike either man) is that this strategy of concentrating on a severely limited number of districts, which has failed to yield results for a decade, is suddenly going to pay off THIS YEAR, so forget about any new approach. (And it's not like they're getting no mney; it's just, they want it ALL)

It's impossible to know for sure if the drastic reduction in competitive seats (a president at 31%, and we're reduced to hoping for 15 seats?) has merely happened at the same time as this targeted strategy, or is a direct result. But I analogize to the only-recently-widely-realized bit of baseball wisdom: if you play for one run (by bunting), 1 run may be all you get. I fear Schumer/Emanuel are Gene Mauch; Dean is a sabremetician, wants to play for the big inning.

I'm certainly not saying give nothing to late races; and I'm sure there'll be plenty of funding available, if not all S/E want. But we have to look ahead. The Dems, while they've recovered much of their image from its 80s nadir, still remain uncompetitive in lots of areas simply because they're invisible, and thus easily caricaturable as horned demons. If we want to establish a serious majority to enact progressive policy, we can't keep playing for tactical victories within the 48 yard lines; we need to establish a presence in more districts, so a millennial opportunity (like the one the Bush meltdown offers) will be good for 50-70 seats, not 30 in our wildest dreams.

Posted by: demtom on May 11, 2006 at 3:22 PM | PERMALINK

It occurs that since Dean is raising his money from non-traditional sources (ie small internet donations)that Rahm and Chuck can do just fine with McAulliffe's old rolodex.

In fact when you look at the last paragraph of the Post article, they are doing just that and doing better than the Repubs at this stage of the game.

So, from the echo chamber: Give 'em hell Howie.

Posted by: Pat Ryan on May 11, 2006 at 3:22 PM | PERMALINK

"After it was reported that Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean misrepresented the portions of the party platform relating to marriage, the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force returned a $5,000 contribution to the party, PageOneQ has learned."

I'm in favor of gay marriage, but I don't think it's a winning political strategy at this point, and as a NoCal voter, I was really peeved that Gavin Newsom (SF's mayor) almost single-handedly injected the issue into the 2004 elections.

Maybe having the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force return a check to the Party isn't such a bad thing. Any gay person who votes Republican't is a self-deluded idiot.

As for Chairman Dean, whatever he does on this particular issue, he is one of three, count them d, Democrats who can actually talk the talk on TV. Barack Obama, of course, is one of the other two. The third one is consultant Steve McMahon.

Nancy Pelosi makes me scream. Her appearance on Press the Meat was absolutely HORRIBLE! This woman should take a lesson from Speaker Hastert and refuse to talk on TV. Rahm Emanuel is a little better but not much. He rambles around and tries to answer questions (always a mistake) when hitting the talking points hard, and well, is what is ALWAYS needed on TV.

One of the things the Democrats need badly is spokespeople. Articulate, hard-hitting, accusatory spokespeople.

Consequently, I'll take Dean over anyone from Congress, even Obama, who may be a little too "nice" for the current season, given Republican'ts' already avowed tactic of sliming any and all Dems as their ONLY strategy for November.

Posted by: Cal Gal on May 11, 2006 at 3:26 PM | PERMALINK

Personally, I love what Dean is doing and I think it will make a difference. In the 04 election at this same time, I couldn't get ahold of anyone in the local democratic party. This year, they called me, invited me to a training, and I'm a section coordinator overseen by a district coordinator and assiting 5 precinct leaders to mobilize their precincts. When I go by the headquarters, it is a lively place.

My experience in the last election cycle was that, to get active, you really had to go look for such opportunities, what I see now is that the party is really reaching out. I think this is going to be great.

Posted by: Scott Herbst on May 11, 2006 at 3:28 PM | PERMALINK

Depends on what is meant by infrastructure. If it's spent well, then I'm for it. I agree with the point about being able to sustain it over the years, too.

Posted by: metaphoria on May 11, 2006 at 3:31 PM | PERMALINK

Now if Dean uses some of the money for testosterone shots for the Dem leaders in Washington he would be God!

Posted by: lib on May 11, 2006 at 3:46 PM | PERMALINK

cmdicely and others nail it.

The observation that Dean probably learned a hard lesson with all the ad money that was wasted during his political campaign is an excellent one.

And Dean learned another bitter lesson: polls can really mislead you. He learned that uncertainty makes equations very tricky. Polls are always uncertain instruments and are much more so when a political environment is in flux. Previous assumptions or double checks that you use to edit out the "noise" become invalid overnight.

Thus polls have generally missed a lot major changes in different countries. For example, most polls didn't pick up the 1994 GOP surge, almost no-one predicted the Canadian Tory wipeout when they went from a majority to 2 seats in one election, etc.

And we are in uncertain times - those polls are moving a lot. But the district targetting that Emmanuel relies heavily on being able to use polls to identify which districts to target. But Dean knows that you can't count on knowing each district that well. So you need to spread out your resources and you should go for the big win. Particularly in a year when your party wants to nationalize the election as much as possible.

Notice one other thing that gets hurt when political opinions are in flux: gerry-mandering. It gets much harder to fix the districts if big groups switch allegiances or become disaffected.

Thus, the fairly simple strategy:
1) Pound the President.
2) Tie GOP to the President,
3) Put resources everywhere to pick up the gains wherever they might come.

BTW - I think Dean's background as a doctor probably helps. Doctors frequently engage in that intuitive covering of uncertainty.

Posted by: Samuel Knight on May 11, 2006 at 4:01 PM | PERMALINK

I can attest to what Scott was refering to. in '04 the most I saw of the Democrats was a voter registration drive a month and a half before the election (and this is in the middle of San Francisco). While last November I got one call and two visits at my door from Democratic activists reminding me to go vote duirng the special election. That's a huge difference and it was during an off-year special election!

Posted by: Nied on May 11, 2006 at 4:08 PM | PERMALINK

Dean is right. Maybe it's because I live in Texas, but the Democratic party infrastructure here is in complete shambles. The only thing I can figure is that the party has given up on Texas, figuring it is a secure red state, so no use spending any money here. It pains me to see what a joke the party has become in Texas. Even though I'm liberal, I actually vote Republican, because at least they actually run a full slate of candidates, and I can always vote against the incumbent. The Democrats can't even get together enough bodies to go to the county caucuses. It's sad and pathetic.

Posted by: Pocket Rocket on May 11, 2006 at 4:08 PM | PERMALINK

The problem with Dean was, and remains, his failure to scale his technology platform. He was unable to "scale the intimacy" in early 2004 and he's still not doing it.

Fact is, the defacto chair of the party today is Markos Moulitsas Zuniga.
http://www.danablankenhorn.com/2006/05/the_argument_on.html

Posted by: Dana Blankenhorn on May 11, 2006 at 4:10 PM | PERMALINK

Someone asked above what value it is to do paper door hangers yard signs and fliers and things like that. Does stuff like that really get people to vote Democrat???

The answer to that is a resounding YES!!!

Door fliers, literature drops, fliers at the polls -- these remind people that Democrats are an active and vital force in their lives. That we live where they live. That we are who they are.

During the Kerry election day, our Virginia precinct had not prepared sample ballots. All we had were little fliers that talked up the Democratic party. People in the party told us not to even bother with the little fliers, because people knew how to vote.

But you know what? People in line were GRATEFUL for the fliers. I couldn't hand them out fast enough. And this was in a red district, in a red precinct, in a red county in a red state! But they loved knowing we were there. And when the governor's race rolled around -- guess which way they voted?

Democrat.

Posted by: Gretchen on May 11, 2006 at 4:31 PM | PERMALINK

This is a new world people. The Democratic Party needs to recognize that there is a MASS of people out there willing to contribute moderate amounts of cash to BOTH help organize AND to support candidates.

Dean set up the Democratic Bond program and I hope everyone out there reading this will take the time to sign up for it. Pledge what you feel comfortable with per month with the clear understanding that it will be used for exactly the kind of grass roots organizing we MUST have to rebuild the party and win victories.

Why does the GOP keep winning elections even when they are totally covered in manure? Because they have a VERY strong set of shock troops in the form of evangelical churches where people are willing to contribute money AND manpower. Look at Ken Blackwell in Ohio. The state is awash in corruption and under the radar, Blackwell and fundamentalist preachers across the state are hard at work laying the groundwork for their cause.

We need to be doing the same thing with country and district chairman doing the dirty work to organize volunteers, encourage more contributions at the grass roots level for organizing and getting ready for the 2006 and 2008 elections.

Make no doubt about it, the GOP is already planning its strategy (read Howard Fineman in this week's Newsweek) and it involves energizing their base with the kind of raw meat issues that keeps them contributing time and money to keep the thugs in power.

Each of us, if we really care about winning, has to be prepared to contribute NOW to help build the grass roots organization and keep doing it on a regular basis (the bond program is easy to join and automatically takes your contribution each month....no real pain.) And we need to be ready to contribute larger bucks for elections....in our hometowns and states AND in areas where extra bucks can make the difference at crunch time.

The folks in Washington need to look at the grass roots as a new and energizing resource....Stop worrying about saving the money you raise from us now for use in late October. Use that money now to organize. Then get good candidates in place and in close races, turn to us for help.

And Hillary.,...if you are really serious, be prepared NOW to commit a hefty chunk of that lebendy zillion dollars you have already raised for a race you have already won and have it ready to go to those close races. It will win you support and the party victory in 2006.

Posted by: dweb on May 11, 2006 at 4:56 PM | PERMALINK

Howard Dean is one of the few Democrats left that believes you run in elections in order to win.

Posted by: dr sardonicus on May 11, 2006 at 5:31 PM | PERMALINK

I am a Democratic Town Chair in NH, in a small town, and we have a DNC organizer in our Congressional District who will be here til 2008 helping us build a grassroots organization we can keep going after he leaves. We've been playing the short term, let the same old people run things game and losing for years. How about investing in the future?
KEEP NH Blue!!!

Posted by: bloomingpol on May 11, 2006 at 6:29 PM | PERMALINK

Looking back at Kevin's post, here:

In any case, shouldn't the real question be about the quality of Dean's infrastructure project? After all, you can spend money both wisely and poorly, and I'd be a lot more interested in hearing whether the money is being put to good use, not whether it ought to be spent on ads in October. Maybe somebody needs to write that story instead.

Its too bad, then, that we don't have any alternative media, like maybe some kind of internet "web logs", where enterprising citizen-journalists might write about the issues that the major media isn't covering well...

Posted by: cmdicely on May 11, 2006 at 7:35 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin,

The "real prize" isn't, as implied, the presidency in 2008. It's control of both houses of congress. And that takes spending $ on organizing at the local levels all across the nation.

Dean's right.

Posted by: rcc on May 11, 2006 at 8:16 PM | PERMALINK

All these debates premised on the assumption that the amount of resources are fixed are stupid.

Resources available depend on whether you inspire people to give and volunteer.

I'm a little suspicious that the establishment doesn't want to change in ways that will probably result in more contributors and more volunteers. They want to retain control.

And if you're an affluent Democrat with a hawkish view on Israel and you support trade agreements like the WTO and NAFTA, why would you want to rock the boat? If the Republicans win, you get what you want and if the Democrats win, you get what you want.

But if you allow the Democratic Party to change, then you might not get what you want.

Posted by: Carl Nyberg on May 11, 2006 at 9:31 PM | PERMALINK

"but don't waste time and energy trying to unseat Duncan Humter "

The thing is, this can be really wrong. An insurgent Dem can force an incumbent to spend 3-4 times as much as the insurgent to protect his/her "safe" seat, and that's money which can't be spread around to other races. That's part of the point of the 50-state strategy; not only do you make sure you have a candidate in place in case of lucky breaks (a Congressman decides to suddenly retire, whatever), but also because small spending sometimes forces big spending in districts with incumbents who aren't about to take any chances.

Posted by: Kimmitt on May 11, 2006 at 9:47 PM | PERMALINK

It seems to be far better to organize everywhere, build some sort of infrastructure in every state, even the most dismal, and then borrow from the infrastructure at crunch time. E.g. build in Utah or Idaho, let them ``pick their noses'' as Begala termed it so snidely, in 2006, but have the best of them ready to roll into Nevada or Montana or Arizona or Oregon or Washington -- pick the most appropriate purplish state -- to help out there in 2008. Plus, if you invest in every state, you're bound to enrich the talent pool across the party.
Throwing everything at the swing states gained absolutely nothing in 2004, and the whole world is worse off because of it.

Posted by: secularhuman on May 11, 2006 at 10:21 PM | PERMALINK

Kimmitt on May 11, 2006 at 9:47 PM

that's a reasonable point. But money is finite on both sides, so you have to make calculated risks.

Posted by: republicrat on May 11, 2006 at 10:44 PM | PERMALINK

Build from the bottom up. The last thing I want to see is Democrats writing off virtually half the country and hoping that they will prevail in the other half. Build everywhere.

Posted by: William Jensen on May 11, 2006 at 11:56 PM | PERMALINK

republicrat: If by Nov 2006 Americans have discovered that: ... (d) the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are not being lost; (e) the prescription drug benefit isn't a disaster; then the Dems will have lost the chance to unseat the Republicans.

Remind me to shake, republi. The wars are lost, and the prescription drug benefit is a disaster.
And the corruption in your party is so massive and systemic that it overwhelms the petty corruption of a few Dems.

Posted by: Nell on May 12, 2006 at 12:29 AM | PERMALINK

the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are not being lost.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
So why did Afghan have a bumper opium crop?
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Costs of war
The social costs of two decades of civil war in Afghanistan have been enormous. More than one million civilians are believed to have been killed and countless others injured. During the time of the Soviet occupation, over six million people fled the country. Although many returned after the Soviet withdrawal, there are still over two million Afghan refugees in Iran and Pakistan, making Afghans the largest single refugee group in the world. Inside the country, the infrastructure and institutions of state have been largely destroyed by the conflict. According to the UN, the socio-economic conditions of the population are amongst the worst in the world. Healthcare is rudimentary and many are without access to basic healthcare provision. Thousands of children die from malnutrition and respiratory infections every year. Maternal mortality is one of the highest in the world. Literacy rates are extremely low and are estimated to have dropped to as low as four per cent for women. Afghanistan is ranked bottom of the UN gender development index.
-----------------------------------
SO how many more people do you pro-war mongers have to KILL before you stop Winning [killing] and actually WIN?
Your Argument is insipid, deadly, and quite wrong.

Posted by: Abraxas on May 12, 2006 at 12:38 AM | PERMALINK

Remember when we used to tell our kids, Anyone Can be President.
Now its if you have enough money, you can be president.
--------------------------------------------------
We have lost our Virtue. Money has become more important than life itself.
Maybe it is time for this ball of fecund, Gaia, to sling all of us from the surface.
We as a race, a lonely planet, intent on killing one another, for what? Empty Space? Where are you people going? 6000 years+ and you still dont get it.
Still you fight, for something that YOU do not Own, you sell what is not yours, you covet that which you shouldn't.

Its Time, Its Time Its Time.
The Earth Will Split if Man does not stop.

Posted by: Abraxas on May 12, 2006 at 12:51 AM | PERMALINK

Dean's money should go to 50 state infrastructure. It will pay large returns. There won't be any close races this year. The republicans will lose and lose hard. The president is falling like a stone and there is no way to stop him. The wheels have truly come off.

Posted by: patience on May 12, 2006 at 2:45 AM | PERMALINK

I agree with William Jensen that the Dems need to build from the bottom up. These strong state organizations have been the key to recent Republican dominance; it's time the Democratic Party followed suit, instead of being the prisoner of Capitol Hill denizens and Ivy League policy wonks who are fearful of losing control to "flyover country" people, even if they are progressive Democrats.

Posted by: Vincent on May 12, 2006 at 11:19 AM | PERMALINK

I agree with the poster who said that organizing on a national level forces Republican canditates to spend more to hold onto the seats they have. Given how badly the Republicans are doing this year, it will take a lot of money to do so--especially if they are forced to spend heavily on every race.

Strengthening the party at the grassroots level might have the added advantage of evening out the Democratic message. Democrats in DC have long been accused of being out of touch with the base--reconnecting at the state and local level would strengthen their position with people likely to vote Democrat.

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