Saturday, July 10, 2004

Sowing Seeds of Democracy

This posting over at Blog For America proves the value of the "never let them run unopposed" strategy behind Dean's endorsements. It tells the story of the effect that one Jeffrey Siemer is having on one particular race:

When you are a previously un-opposed congressional candidate running for office with a warchest over 90 times as large as your democratic opponent, nothing can more be meddlesome -- or land a monkey-wrench in your plans -- than running against a Dean campaign inspired candidate with national grassroots support. The St. Petersburg Times yesterday reported on fundraising tactics used by U.S. Rep. Adam Putnam, the Republican incumbent for Florida's District 12. The grassroots have Putnam singing the victim song to his big donors.

I know that some have criticized Dean for endorsing candidates who, by traditional political logic, have no chance of winning. The standard procedure for a nascent political organization is to prove their value by racking up a few wins and thus drawing more powerful players to them a s they prove their political value. But that approach has lead us to a Democratic Party establishment that only pays attention to a narrow segment of races and leaves the rest of the party to essentially fend for itself.

And then they wonder why there aren't any good candidates to carry the party forward into the future.

Dean's approach is different. Success is not simply a matter of marking off wins on a check list. It also is about building organizations that will grow over time into political machines that will win the races that were previously considered un-winnable.

For example, at last weeks DFA meetup, we got a visit from Mik Sander, an average citizen who has decided to step up to the plate and take on the incumbent Republican in his State House district. He has virtually no organization nor institutional backing from the party. But he has drive and a good message and he is very personable. He's the kind of guy we, as citizens, should want representing us. But he would never get anywhere if he had to rely solely on the traditional Democratic leadership for help.

But maybe, with the support of organizations like Dean's (Mik has lobbied for, but has yet to receive a Dean Dozen endorsement), candidates like Mik can build the foundations they will need to achieve victory in the long run.

Simiarly, the story from BfA shows that, even if Jeffrey Siemer doesn't beat Adam Putnam, he has forced Putnam to go back to his fundraisers and tap the well again. That means less money available for other candidates. That means more time spent campaigning by Putnam. That means less time he can spend pushing the Republican agenda. And maybe, just maybe, more opportunities for him to make a mistake on the campaign trail.

That's called growing the party from the grassroots.


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