Friday, May 14, 2004

Dean defies "conventional wisdom" again

DHinMi brings an interesting perspective to the Dean Dozen in this post over at the DailyKos:

On this list, there are only two candidates who have a high probability of seizing seats currently held by "the right-wing conservatives who dominate our government," but even one of those seats is in a legislative body (California Assembly) under the control of a solid Democratic majority.  And even if every candidate on this list wins their race, they will not constitute a a critical mass of Dean support in any state or legislative body where they could band together or on which he could  build for the future. All he will have done is help elect a handful of people scattered mostly in part-time legislatures.  

I can see how Dean's list seems to run contrary to conventional political thinking. But maybe that's the point.

Dean himself defied conventional political thinking and came damn close to actually winning the nomination. Did he do so because he was such a superior candidate? Possibly. But I think the greatest part of Dean's success was timing. All the internet activism, meetups and bring-out-the-bats wouldn't have made any difference if the party establishment hadn't been fundamentally weak to begin with. And it was weak in large part because it had become so focused on "conventional political thinking".

Dean's list is as much symbolic as it is strategic (possibly even more so). I think he is attempting to infuse energy in the party at all levels, not just at the small narrow band of wedge races that the national party has devoted so much of its attention to in recent years.

Of course there are good arguments to be made for focusing limited resources only in those areas where you are most likely to have the most immediate impact. This is especially true in the 50-50 nation we live in today where a change in a few seats can change the whole course of the country.

But there are also arguments to be made that to narrow a focus can leave the rest of the party feeling like their voices don't matter. This is a policy that encourages apathy in the Democratic party and it is that apathy that provided the opening for the Republicans to move in and take over.

Remember that 20 years ago Texas was a solidly Democratic state.

Update:

There's an excellent response to DHinMi's post here

I think it is important to remember that "winning" is not simply a matter of winning elective office. You "win" in politics when you change the political direction of the country. Howard Dean didn't "win" the nomination, but even many of his detractors would concede that he changed the direction of the race in a good way.

So, even if many of the Dean Dozen don't win their races, they can still have an impact on the overall process by using the bigger soapbox Dean is giving them to influence the political dialog.

Winning is more then just getting more votes than the other guy (the 2000 election should have taught us that).

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