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Spineless Democrat Leadership

Discussion in 'BBS Hangout: Debate & Discussion' started by wnes, Jun 2, 2005.

  1. wnes

    wnes Contributing Member

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    I am not a Democrat. But if I were, I would be worried.

    Iraq Is the Issue
    (link)
    John Nichols

    They came to hear Howard Dean.

    But they got the message that matters from Arianna Huffington.

    That's because, while the chairman of the Democratic National Committee delivered a tepid and predictable address to the Campaign for America's Future's "Take Back America" conference on Thursday, the columnist and author who not that many years ago identified as a Newt Gingrich conservative was the speaker who showed up with a road map for renewal of the Democratic Party.

    Where Dean made no direct mention of the war in Iraq during a lengthy address to the morning plenary that kicked off the fullest day of the annual gathering of progressive activists, Huffington went to the heart of the matter.

    "We cannot continue to ignore the debacle in Iraq if we are going to have any hope of [Democrats] ever again being a majority party," said Huffington, the conservative who came in from the cold and has recently lent her name and her energy to the www.huffingtonpost.com blogspot.

    At a conference where the schedule was heavy with domestic-policy discussions but short on discourse regarding foreign policy, Huffington bluntly told the crowd, "We can not have a solution on the domestic front without addressing what is happening in Iraq."

    After a quick tour of the quagmire ("Ahmed Chalabi is the oil minister -- this is like something out of Saturday Night Live") and of the Bush Administration's steady pattern of misdeeds and missteps, Huffington asked the fundamental question of Congressional Democrats and party leaders: "Where is the oversight?"

    "There is no oversight going on in this most corrupt and most immoral Congress that we have right now," she said, adding that, "I'm very troubled by the way our Democratic leaders go on television and sound like spineless Republicans." (Later in the day, at the one conference session that was devoted to foreign policy issues, former CIA analyst Ray McGovern recalled Dean's recent "now that we're there, we're there" comment regarding the "need" to remain in Iraq and then said, "That sounds like Rumsfeld to me.")

    Noting that, in a recent television appearance, US Senator Hillary Clinton said she was not comfortable talking about developing an "exit strategy" to withdraw US troops from Iraq, Huffington said, "With respect to Senator Clinton, if you are not comfortable setting an exit strategy, please point us to someone who is."

    Clinton is much discussed as a potential Democratic presidential nominee in 2008. But Huffington drew some of the loudest applause of the conference when she said of the 2008 race, "I want a Democratic presidential candidate who can give a straight, unambiguous answer on Iraq."

    It was deserved applause for the message that Democrats will either hear or doom themselves to an agonizing repetition of the electoral debacles of 2002 and 2004.

    "There is no way in a time of war that you can be a majority party without having a policy position [that is distinct from the Republicans]," explained Huffington, who suggested that, instead of avoiding the debate about national security, Democrats need to turn the debate on its head.

    "The Democratic leaders need to make it clear that these men running our foreign policy are dangerous," she said. "There is no way Democrats can win an election unless they make it clear that these Republicans are not making this country safer."
     
  2. No Worries

    No Worries Contributing Member

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    This is a good read wrt Dean. As the DNC chair, the politicians want to muzzle him but the locals love him. Dean as DNC chair and as ex-presential candidate will get press coverage. Those Democrats who disagree with Dean's statements will also get press coverage. That looks like a win-win scenario.

    100 Days and Counting
    By Sam Graham-Felsen, AlterNet. Posted June 2, 2005.

    The Democratic Party in D.C. is ready to call Dean a disaster, but the local parties love what he's done so far. Who's right and who's wrong?

    No one wrote about Terry McAuliffe's first 100 days as the chair of the Democratic National Committee. I'm willing to bet the landmark didn't even occur to anyone, with the exception, perhaps, of Mr. McAuliffe himself. But when 100 days passes and his successor, Howard Dean -- the most highly anticipated, scrutinized, equally loathed and beloved DNC chair in recent memory -- is at the helm of the party, it's a different story. It is, in fact, a story.

    It goes without saying that 100 days is an arbitrary and premature point at which to assess whether Dean is saving or screwing the party. Right-wing pundits have already started celebrating what they see as Dean's speedy march towards failure. Although Dean is hitting "record levels," according to DNC spokesperson Laura Gross, with a million-dollar-a-week fundraising pace, conservatives are gloating over RNC chair Ken Mehlman's $34.2 million-twice the amount Dean has raised so far.

    And Dean's image problem was and still is a primary concern of party leaders Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi, who publicly opposed Dean's candidacy and privately urged him to tone down his rhetoric after being appointed Dean sent shudders through the Democratic establishment with his now-infamous suggestion in May that Tom Delay "go back to Houston, where he can serve his jail sentence."

    Even Barney Frank, not exactly a tight-lipped centrist, said Dean's words were "overstate[d]," "unfair," and "just inappropriate." Meanwhile, the people who make up Dean's base -- progressives and grassroots activists eager for an overhaul of the Democratic Party -- haven't been too pleased either. Many are uncomfortable with the news that Dean is buddying up with establishment D.C. Democrats like Reid and New York Senator Chuck Schumer; others are uneasy with him spending time in Washington period.

    On April 20 Dean told a Minnesota audience about his Iraq war stance, "Now that we're there, we're there and we can't get out? I hope the President is incredibly successful with his policy now."

    Coming from a former presidential candidate whose momentum was built largely on a candid and unwavering anti-Iraq war platform, the statement prompted immediate outrage on the left, voiced in an open letter to Dean from longtime peace activist Tom Hayden. Dennis Kucinich followed Hayden's lead, asking Dean, "Did these words really come from the same man who claimed to represent the Democratic wing of the Democratic party? It was [our] hope and expectation that you would prevent the party from repeating its past drift to the Republican-lite center."

    Dean's first major media appearance as DNC chair did little to abate the criticism. Appearing on Meet the Press on May 22nd, Dean endured an endless barrage of linguistic nitpicking from Tim Russert. Intent on perpetuating Dean's image as an unstable hothead, Russert gave the chairman little opportunity to explain his vision for the Party, instead tossing out gems like, "You said in December of 2003 that we shouldn't prejudge Osama bin Laden. How can you sit here and have a different standard for Tom DeLay and prejudge him?"

    Republicans on the Hill snickered. And for the soundbyte-oriented Democratic establishment, this was proof positive of everything they'd warned about Dean. Hayden and Kucinich couldn't have been too happy about the performance either. Even though Dean stood firm on his criticism of Delay, he equivocated on abortion and didn't even approach the issue of withdrawal from Iraq.

    It's no wonder then that Dean has avoided the national spotlight, with criticism being launched at him from all sides and media-jealous Democratic colleagues muttering about his inability to stay "on message." But perhaps the main reason that Dean's been AWOL from the Sunday talk show circuit is that he's been busy traveling the country, learning about the state of politics at the local level. Since he began as chair on February 12, Dean's priorities have been set less on cultivating a perfect, all-encompassing message for the Democratic Party and more on "showing up."

    In the last three months, Dean has visited 18 states, where he has met with Democratic officials at the state and local level and promoted his plan to build the party infrastructure from the bottom up. Unlike McAuliffe, Dean isn't arriving in limousines; he's flying coach, paying for his own bus tickets, and carrying his own bags. And if you listen to the people that Dean has spent most of his tenure thus far speaking to -- people in some of the Reddest states of the country -- Dean is doing a fantastic job

    Dean ran for chair on a platform promising to radically depart from the previous DNC strategy of targeting specific states during crucial election cycles. His plan was to focus on all fifty states, cultivate candidates at all levels of government, and get paid grassroots organizers on the ground immediately. "I'm not much of a Zen person," he remarked upon accepting chairmanship, "But I've found that the path to power, oddly enough, is to trust others with it. That means putting the power where the voters are." Judging from my conversations with state and county leaders, Dean is doing exactly that.

    Dean's "Red, White, and Blue" tour through the South was initially met with trepidation, not only by Democratic insiders, but also state party leaders who feared Dean's aggressive "northeastern liberal" style wouldn't fly in their states. When Dean showed up, for the most part, those impressions were shattered. The Dean they saw was not a firebrand, but a pragmatic leader determined to build the nuts and bolts of the party. "I was nervous before Governor Dean came to town," said Gabe Holmstrom, Executive Director of the Arkansas Democratic Party, "but I found that Dean had a lot of insight into local politics and a real interest in taking a much more aggressive role in organizing from the grassroots. His commitment was clear." Party leaders described crowds at Dean events in their states as "electric," "ecstatic," and "very excited." Nick Casey, West Virginia's State Chair told me people were driving in "three hours from the south, five hours from the east, just to hear him."

    After years of being virtually ignored by the DNC, state party leaders are extremely enthusiastic about Dean's state partnership program. On April 8, Dean announced the first round of his investments in the states, half a million dollars that would be spread among the state parties of Missouri, North Carolina, North Dakota, and West Virginia. Since then, Mississippi, Nebraska, Nevada, Wyoming, and Kansas have received DNC funding. In Nebraska-which received ten times the $12,000 they got from Terry McAuliffe last year-the state party is putting organizers in all 93 of their counties. In West Virginia, Casey is excited about using the additional funds to recruit teachers to serve as mentors for Young Democrats clubs at high schools, and energizing long-stagnant groups like the Federation of Democratic Women. "In 2004, we started campaign after the May primary," says Casey. "We just started our coordinating campaign a month ago for 2008. That makes a hell of a difference."

    Chairs from other states which are yet to receive funding, such as Arizona's Jim Pederson, are looking forward to boosting the basics-improving technology, getting enhanced voter files, and putting organizers on the ground to reach out to potential voters who haven't been contacted in years. Montana's State Chair, Bob Ream, is thrilled about the prospects of hiring more organizers for his state. "We only have one person trying to cover the whole state as a field organizer. With funding, we can get two or three more and locate them in far eastern and western Montana," Ream says. "Precinct level organizing was something our party did forty or fifty years ago and I think it's important to get back to that, especially in a state like ours that is so scattered, population-wise."

    The state leaders I spoke with all praised Dean for allotting them with real independence, a tangible indicator of what they see as his dedication to the bottom-up model. Gabe Holmstrom is glad that Dean is "shifting the power outside of the Beltway" an allowing his state party to hire its own staff, from its own state, on its own terms. Jim Hester, State Chair from Tennessee agrees, saying that "It's important from a messaging standpoint too, because it's better when people who are living in the real world -- people who get up, go to work, feed their kids -- are sharing their concerns about the country. We need to talk about what we real people need, not what the disconnected folks in Washington think we need."

    Hadley Glover, a 31-year-old mom and Democratic chair of Arkansas' Benton County, says Dean's plan is "music to her ears." With the highest Republican population in the state, Benton County residents are inundated with negative portrayals of Democrats. But with money and county officials on their side, Glover says, Benton county residents can define the party themselves. "It's easy to cast stones or call names or dismiss political parties with cliches. It's very difficult to do the same thing when it's your next door neighbor or the person you go to church with," says Glover. "We've got to put a face on the party that people know. It's very easy for them to dismiss John Kerry as a 'babykiller.' It isn't so easy to call Hadley Glover a 'babykiller.'"

    According to Hester, Dean's not only giving state and county-level parties independence to cultivate their own messages, he's asking for their help in cultivating a national message for the party. "We've had more communication and more of a close working relationship with the DNC in the short time he's been here since any other time in my memory," says Hester. "There's a real back and forth exchange of ideas that's taking place now." In Dean, Glover hears the DNC saying, "'We don't have to control all the purse strings, we don't have to make all of the yes-or-no decisions in order to make this work.'"

    Time will tell if Dean truly intends to continue in his commitment to the grassroots. Dean intends to personally visit or send DNC staff to party headquarters at all fifty states by the end of July, and plans to extend his partnership program to every state in the country as soon as possible. But will he continue to pour money into organizing on the local level in 2006 and 2008? If the establishment feels the grassroots have gained too much power, will Dean buckle?

    Democratic pollster Pat Caddell, who says he saw Dean "roll over like a puppy after Kerry won the nomination when he should have put pressure on him," is a skeptic. Caddell thinks Dean's grassroots talk could very well just be a gimmick. "If you're really going to be empowering people you actually have to let them in, rather than just get money off of them," he says. Additionally, he doubts that the grassroots energy from 2004 can carry over much longer. "You cannot sustain the grassroots enthusiasm without changing what the party stands for. You can't tell me the Democrats have a real vision right now. The grassroots can only exist when you believe in something."

    Still, state party leaders like Hester are optimistic. "What Dean is doing right now has never happened before in an off-election year," says Hester. "He's going out there right now and putting DNC money where his mouth is. He said he was gonna come down South and listen to us and that's what he did. That's real and that's tangible."

    For all the hits on Dean coming from Washington for his slow fundraising start, his lack of media savvy, and his as-yet undelivered technological improvements to the party machine, it's worth noting that the D.C. Democrats who criticize him don't have much to stand on as they've been a bunch of losers in the recent elections. After all, the only real political "experts" out there are the ones who win campaigns.

    The Democratic state chairs in the heavily Republican states -- who have seen why Democrats have been losing firsthand -- think Dean's taken the right approach. His face-to-face meetings with local party officials and his message of devolving power from Washington are proving to Democrats across the country that they can and should be a part of the political process. And that, at 100 days in, is something can Dean be proud of.
     
  3. tigermission1

    tigermission1 Contributing Member

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    I agree the Democrats are spineless, and they disgust me much more than the Republicans ever did. At least the Repubs stand up for their beliefs, the Dems are now nothing more than Republicans-lite.:rolleyes:

    God I wish there was a way to just abolish both parties and start over again.:eek:
     
  4. pirc1

    pirc1 Contributing Member

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    How about we form the Clutch Party for the moderates?:D
     
  5. glynch

    glynch Contributing Member

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    While it is indeed disgusting to have a spineless politician, the only thing worse is to have one who is cock sure, but wrong. For exampe GWB.

    Huffington is right. With 80% of the Democrats thinking Iraq was not worth it, and a strong majority of independents also thinking that, the Dems can't keep trying to stay silent on the Iraq quagmire. (For Max, he likes the word).
     
  6. Sishir Chang

    Sishir Chang Contributing Member

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    I had a discussions with some people at a Memorial Day BBQ about this. One guy who was an independent who didn't follow politics very much said that he wasn't going to vote for Democrats because he felt they didn't have a central message. Another guy who follows politics and is a Democrat agreed they needed a message to win most of the contested races in 2006. My own opinion was that they weren't going to run on a national message and were instead going to run on local issues and I think what's Dean's doing illustrates that.

    It might work since there are only a few competitive races and its not going to take too much to swing Congress to the Democrats but I also think there's a real risk if they can't pull in marginal voters who don't pay attention to politics without an overall national message.
     
  7. Sishir Chang

    Sishir Chang Contributing Member

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    It would just break down into YOF and YOH wings.
     
  8. pirc1

    pirc1 Contributing Member

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    Oh, that is so true.:(
     
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