Friday, December 12, 2003

Time to Believe

Michael Tomasky gets it (emphasis mine):

[...] If one thinks of the Democratic Party as rebuilding itself after its disastrous 1980s, then Dean—or more appropriately, "Deanism"—is a new and potentially more powerful stage of the rebuilding process. Clinton rebuilt (forgive the Marxist terminology, but it happens to fit) the superstructure. Dean is rebuilding the base. "If Clinton modernized the message," says Simon Rosenberg, the most prominent centrist Democrat who's enthusiastic about Dean, "then Dean is rebuilding the party. In the '90s party, it was, 'Write us a big check.' Regular people were left out of that equation. Now, through new technology, we're getting them back in."

There's a tricky thing about this rebuilding stage, though: It excludes party insiders. It has nothing to do with Washington. It's no wonder that Democratic insiders, so accustomed to having complete ownership of a process like a party primary campaign, should dislike Dean and even fear him: He has stolen the process right out of their hands. He is not "of" them in any way, shape or form. In fact, his accumulating successes merely serve to emphasize their irrelevance to this rebuilding stage. No wonder they should take a kind of emotional comfort in writing him off as the new George McGovern; it's much easier to dismiss a thorny thing than to come to terms with it.


The voters, the process and the man himself will tell us [who will be the candidate] in time. Dick Gephardt, John Kerry and John Edwards would all be perfectly good candidates. Each has an argument. With regard to Wesley Clark, we can't quite say yet whether he'd be a good candidate, though he brings a few qualities to the table whose potential appeal in November is obvious. And goodness knows, if any of the above manages to overcome Dean and become the nominee, he sure will have earned the title.

Unless, that is, he benefited from an insider-driven process designed to block Dean at all costs. At this point, after he has amassed the armies of small donors and bloggers and volunteers, blocking Dean is not blocking one man. It's blocking the hopes of millions of Democrats who—understand the importance of this—would walk through fire for a candidate for the first time in their lives. That isn't something that should be done cavalierly; in the long term, blocking the active participation of these millions may do more damage to the Democratic Party than four more years of George W. Bush.


Insiders need to start thinking about making their peace with Deanism. The party—the (still) post-1988 party—needs a rebuilt base, and Dean is doing that in a way that has no precedent. And instead of fretting about all the ways Dean could lose, the insiders might do better to spend some time thinking about how he might win.

Gee, where have I heard that before? :-)


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