The Next Democratic Party

GREAT article by Michael Tomasky in the new Prospect, here. And on the same note, Harold Meyerson's recent article about the DNC under Terry McAuliffe. Read those two for an idea of what Dean's campaign and recent operations reforms at DNC central mean to the party's future. Tomasky's point about the different ways Clinton and Deanism reform the party is right on.

Clinton's was a triumph of message more than anything else. He understood the broad swath of would-be Democrats that saw appeal in certain big conservative issues, he tried to honestly approach them from a liberal perspective, and on many fronts, he succeeded. He expanded the things Democrats could talk about with authority, and reclaimed ground which Republicans had been mercilessly beating Democrats on for years. But Clinton found success by calculating his message. Dean might do it by calculating individuals.

Building a majority by message may have an adverse effect on political loyalty. The danger is that voters become passive consumers of politics, evaluating packages of policy and judging individually whether each maximizes their agreement. Dean's campaign, on the other hand, starts with the loyalty and (hopefully) moves towards the coherent message. Dean supporters know they're having fun, that they're involved in a community, and that others in that community share some of their values. They are willing to put aside some discrepancies in position and abandon their candidate over inconsistencies; they are bound by big common goals, not finely calibrated policy positions.

Going after swing voters is one, albeit critical, thing. But it means nothing if yourwould-be base is eroding or not expanding. Dean's strategy may be the best hope for making sure that doesn't happen.


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