Joe Trippi, campaign manager for Howard Dean, lays it on the line in response to a "Can Dean Win?" post over on the unofficial Dean 2004 blog. I'm reproducing it in full here because it says so much about why I like the Dean campaign:
I will take a shot at this. For the better part of 22 years (since at least 1980) turnout has consistently gone down in Presidential elections. At the same time the electorate (those that vote) has become increasingly conservative. The conventional wisdom increasingly has become that Democrats must move rightward in order to win. Well the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result. In those 22 years we (Democrats) have lost the House and the Senate. And only one man (Bill Clinton) has won the Presidency. Now here Bill Clinton offers a quandry -- was Bill Clinton successful because of this theory that has taken over the minds of some of our party's best and brightest? Or was Bill Clinton successful because he simply was one of the most gifted politicians and communicators of our times? I subscribe to one of the most gifted along with Reagan. I believe Karl Rove gets this like few do. That in a world in which the electorate is shrinking, a world in which both parties poll -- and the first three questions in the poll are designed to boot out non-voters and only ask sure or probable voters what they think. That in that world you are going to get answers that are more to the right. In this world Democrats begin to move to the right -- to become more "electable". When you do this for over 22 years its called a death spiral. Your base becomes de-energized -- and Karl Rove knows this -- he knows that in this world -- victory for the Republicans requires nothing more than an energized base -- and that is all Bush and Rove are doing every day. Every move they make is aimed at one thing -- energizng their base -- and nothing more. Meanwhile the only candidate that is able to energize the Democratic base is rediculed as unelectable -- by the same folks that have succumed to the one theory that means staying in the death spiral. Did these guys not watch 2002? Did they not watch as Max Cleland a man that risked his life for his country -- lost limbs, medals and all -- and voted with George Bush 85% of the time go down to defeat? George McGovern will be nominated this year -- but his name will be Lieberman, Edwards, Gephart or Kerry. Its not the economy stupid, its about standing up for the America we believe in -- its about standing unequivically for what is right. Its about energizing our party as it has not been energized in decades -- from the grassroots up -- it means millions of Americans standing up and giving $10 or $100 or their time to fight for what they believe in. To win our nominee must understand that this isn't about health care, or tax cuts as much as it is a battle for the future of our country. It will not be the first time it has come to this. Elections like this one come but a few times in 100 years. We break the death spiral now -- and fight -- or odds are Karl Rove and the gang will deliver a massive turnout on the right and a major blow to the future of our party and our country. I don't expect many in my party to get this nor many pundits -- untill it is too late. The Dean campaign will become "electable" after the grassroots has energized and mobilized behind his candidacy and contributed millions of dollars -- and when the grassroots organization that carries him is so large it can not be ignored -- when that becomes clear to everyone -- when we together build that -- then Howard Dean will win the nomination -- and lead the fight to take back our country. And of course by then someone will have said we are electable. (Its the opposite of a death spiral). Trippi The Democratic leadership has, over the last two decades, completely misread where the electorate in this country is going. I think Joe has it right that the Republicans, under Karl Rove, have not made the same mistake. Here is one clear fact that demonstrates precisely what I mean: for the last several decades, Republicans have consistently outspent Democrats when it comes to running political campaigns. The ratio of expenditures is often 3-4 to 1 (sometimes even higher). Yet, despite this huge disparity in money, Democrats as often as not still defeat their Republican opponents. Why? Because the electorate (meaning the pool of elligible voters) naturally leans Democratic. The Republicans have to spend all that money in order to fool the muddled middle into voting against their best interests. They also spend that money trying to cheapen the political process so as to discourage more and more people from voting. They do this because, as Joe points out, what is left when they leave is a larger core of dedicated Republican voters who will work to put their people into office. When most political analysts look at this they miss the deeper meaning and only focus on the shallow surface. The numbers seem to suggest that the electorate is swinging, ideologically, to the right. Nothing could be further from the truth. This country is as liberal as it ever was. It's just that the core liberal interests have become increasingly disillusioned. They are either fooled into thinking that this or that Republican can represent their interests or, even worse, they just throw up their hands and don't even bother to vote. Joe calls the response of the Democratic leadership a "death spiral". It is a very apt term for what is happening. By totally misreading the tea-leaves, the leadership is pushing the Democratic party along a path that is guaranteed to drive down its appeal among its natural constituency. This will result in increasing number of voters who will either go Republican or just give up entirely. What has to be offered, instead, is a real alternative to the Republican program and so far only Dean has shown that he understands this. Some of the other candidates have been making promising noises but they still seem to be beholden to formulaic approaches and in me-tooism. If they aren't me-tooing for Bush they are me-tooing for Howard Dean. Neither is an acceptable approach. Joe Trippi gets it. Howard Dean gets it. I just hope its not to late for the rest of the Democratic party to get it.