Tuesday, January 11, 2005

Times change

Howard Dean has picked up the support of both Kevin Drum and Ezra Klein, two bloggers who were not sold at all on Dean during the primaries.

At the same time, Joe Trippi, Dean's erstwhile Campaign Manager has endorsed Simon Rosenberg.

Kevin and Ezra both seem to support Dean for the same reason I do: he has the best chance of really shaking up the party and lord knows the party needs shaking up.

Trippi, on the other hand, is a more interesting case. Here's his statement endorsing Rosenberg:

If our party is to win in the 21st century, we have to have a strategist who knows how to practice 21st century politics. That means expanding participation, embracing technology, and building an apparatus that can counter the Republican machine. Simon Rosenberg was among the first in politics to acknowledge the power of the movement we built with Dean for America and he wasn’t afraid to speak up about how we were fundamentally changing politics. He knows that in the age of the Internet, our politics must be interactive and participatory to engage citizens. He knows the Internet is not just an ATM for candidates and parties, but a tool for bringing in millions of Americans who want to be a part of the political process. For Simon, building a new progressive politics for our time is not just lip service, it is a passion backed up by his record. I’m backing Simon for chair because I know I can work with him to help build a modern, winning Democratic party.

I have a few thoughts on this. First, Joe is entitled to his own opinion. His past association with Dean does not require him to support him from now until one or the other dies. I would hope that Joe's position does not lead to bitter feelings at the precise moment when Democrats need to unite. Just remember that unity does not require unanimity.

On the other hand, I think Joe owes more of an explanation for his not endorsing Dean. His statement doesn't even mention his former boss. Saying nothing isn't smart, especially when everyone is going to ask about this. Silence will lead to a lot of unnecessary speculation and bad feelings. For example, a lot of people could think that Joe is simply suffering a case of sour grapes since Howard fired him. I don't think that is the reason, but by not saying anything about it, Joe leaves himself open to that accusation.

Now, as to why Joe has endorsed Rosenberg, his statement suggests that Joe and Simon are kindred spirits when it comes to new technology. Rosenberg "gets" the internet better than any other candidate for the DNC chair (even Dean, who rarely uses the internet himself). Rosenberg has been making a strong push for online support in the last few weeks. He's even come out with a proposal to strongly integrate blogs into the organizational apparatus of the party. All this is good, but it strikes me as borderline pandering for online support.

I am all in favor of greater use of the internet by the Democrats. But it is not a panacea. It will take a lot of work on several different levels to bring about a Democratic renaissance. My gut feeling is that Dean understands that better than Rosenberg. Dean has suffered the painful experience of losing a national campaign and so he has a better idea of what is insufficient to win.

The next DNC chair has to "get" the internet. But he also has to "get" the grassroots. He has to "get" the labor unions. He has to "get" the Democratic party leadership. He has to "get" the establishment media. He has to "get" framing. He has to get "get" a whole host of other issues.

And, finally, I think he needs to be something of a superstar. He needs to immediately get the media's attention when the party wants to push something. Dean has the visibility right now. In fact I would say he is probably the most  recognizable Dem after Clinton, Clinton and Kerry (and Kerry's star is fading fast). He will certainly get more attention than either Reid or Pelosi. Do any of the other candidates have that kind of immediate draw?

Howard Dean is a renaissance man for a renaissance party. That's why I'm supporting him.


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