Thursday, January 29, 2004

Spinal Watch

I'm thinking of starting a semi-regular feature in which I would check out the vital signs of the spinal transplant that Dean has given the Democrats. On that note I give you this New Democrat Network blog posting about the effect Dean has had on the presidential race (positive):

The Dean insurgent phase - from June 2003 to Jan 2004 - also coincided with a remarkable rise of the Democratic Party. In our June poll from last year all Democrats trailed Bush by 16-20 points in direct matchups. Today, in the latest Newsweek poll, all Democrats are within the margin of error of Bush, and Kerry actually leads. As Dean the insurgent changed our Party the public responded to our new, stronger and better approach and we gained 15 points across the board for all candidates.

How many people can seriously say that the rise in Democratic prospects would have been this dramatic if Dean had not been in the race? Dean may not be the one to get us over the finish line, but he has demonstrated that acting like an opposition party can actually improve your electoral chances.

Imagine that!

In the 90s we Clintonites fought each day for the forgotten middle class by raising money from wealthy Americans to finance our political operations. Voters and political activists were spoken to, not engaged in our politics. It was the classic broadcast era form of marketing - big money, lots of ads, lots of followship, all financed by the elite and the wealthy. The role of the middle class was to hear our message and vote our way. But fundamentally our politics was not about them no matter how much our rhetoric said it was.

It's interesting to see members of the New Democrats acknowledge that they treated the middle-class (and even the working class) as essentially pawns whose sole role was to go where they were told to go. The electoral defeats of the last few years came about, in no small part, due to an apathetic rebellion amongst those pawns. They didn't fight back. They just didn't do what they were told.

Dean stepped into the fold and gave the pawns something to fight for again. If the Democratic leadership were smart they would learn a valuable lesson from this: don't take the pawns for granted. The collapse of the Dean campaign may be an indication that pawns can't be Bishops and Knights. But they shouldn't be treated like cannon fodder either.

After all, even a pawn can check the King.

(Agh! I'm suffering from analogy overload!)

The Dean/Trippi contribution to all of progressive politics – including us New Democrats – has been huge. They clearly made mistakes along the way, perhaps fatal ones, but it cannot change the fact that our politics and our party today are stronger for it.

Joe, thank you. Good luck in what comes next, and give us a call. I would love to buy you lunch sometime.

Thanks in return for acknowledging what we've done. And don't worry, we aren't going away.

P.S., Maybe you could get Al From to write a similar conciliatory note?


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