a citizen’s journal by Thomas Nephew

Howard Dean, the 50-State Strategy, and Democracy Bonds

Posted by Thomas Nephew on November 9th, 2006

Howard Dean, Democracy BondholdersYesterday I got a message from the DNC inviting me and other supporters to a victory party at a brew pub* near Union Station. As a “Democracy Bond” donor, I would also have the opportunity for a brief meeting with Howard Dean before he spoke to the crowd.

So I went. I wish I’d brought a notepad, but I did bring a camera and a Cardin/O’Malley/Brown doorhanger left over from get out the vote work the day before for Dean to sign.

Dean was ebullient, as you’d expect. He jokingly thanked Rahm Emmanuel of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) , which came as a bit of a surprise given the reported fights over strategy between the two Democrats. Dean explained that the the dispute — Emmanuel wanted to spend Democratic resources on a few races, while Dean wants to build the party in “red” states and areas — helped publicize and explain Dean’s “50 State Strategy” to a wider public. (“Our web site would light up every time.”) Dean singled out Senator Charles Schumer (head of the Senate counterpart DSCC) for more unstinting praise, crediting him with key support for Jim Webb in Virginia.

One of the winners Dean was especially pleased about was Carol Shea-Porter in New Hampshire, who won against incumbent Jeb Bradley — after beating the DCCC’s candidate Jim Craig in the primaries, and then getting no help from the DCCC in the general election. (I should say that it’s possible Craig might not have got much help, either.) By contrast, the DNC’s “50-State” program set up operations in New Hampshire that benefited not only Shea-Porter, but also helped retake that supposedly conservative state’s legislature. There and elsewhere, the idea is to no longer write off any part of the country. For some other examples of the “50 State Strategy” at work, see Dean’s November 8 message and the “50 State Strategy” web site.

This kind of strategy is the opposite of what political donors usually want — a candidate, a timeline, a specific win to look forward to. Instead, it takes steady, patient support. So Governor Dean also specifically thanked us in the room for being Democracy Bond supporters — we give a small monthly donation by credit card. Dean said he appreciated that small donors like us “don’t want anything in return but good government” so that he didn’t need to “kiss part of anyone’s anatomy.” (Thereupon one lady said he could always kiss her.)

DNC at Cap CityLater on, in his remarks to the crowd, Dean counseled patience about Iraq in the short term, urging that Democrats first work on and pass legislation like the higher minimum wage, and either take the win or the veto and a 2008 campaign issue. He felt that it would be unwise to fall to squabbling about whether an Iraq pullout should be immediate, or in 6 months, or 8 months; the president still controls foreign and military policy.

Meanwhile, Dean argued, Democrats should be about redefining “moral values”; he pointed out that fully 30% of white evangelicals voted Democratic this election, the highest that’s been in a while. He went on to name issues like health care and poverty that also have to do with moral values; I was rude enough to add a loud “no to torture!” from the back of the room. I think Dean was getting there himself; he closed with saying that the United States should return to full support** for the Geneva Conventions, which earned him some of the longest applause of the evening.

I don’t mean to weigh in too much on the inside baseball of DNC vs. DCCC; as Thomas Schaller has argued, there’s room for both approaches to work together, even in campaign mode, as the two camps seem to have agreed back in September. The one wants to build the party over the long run, the other wants to win races right now, and people can feel strongly about that in the heat of a campaign.

But for my money, the place I’m giving the most is Democracy Bonds. We need a Democratic Party that’s respected and competitive everywhere, and that stands ready to help its grassroots supporters wherever they are.

I’m supporting that via Democracy Bonds — and I feel like I’m getting a very, very good return on my investment.

* Capitol City Brewing Company, great place, good beer.
** While I think I’m accurate about the gist of Dean’s remarks, these aren’t verbatim quotes; as I mentioned above, I didn’t bring a notepad. I was mainly there to celebrate.
EDIT, 11/9: (“Our web site…“) added.
UPDATE, 11/10: Via digby, word from TNR’s Ryan Lizza that James “I’m an idiot” Carville is floating the idea that Dean ought to be replaced — and to top it off, by Harold Ford. Steve Benen is also appalled.

7 Responses to “Howard Dean, the 50-State Strategy, and Democracy Bonds”

  1. Bill Day Says:

    Hmm, nobody invited me to party at the Capitol City Brewing Company, despite my Democracy Bond.
    Seriously, though, I agree with you and Dean and the 50 state strategy. We have taken back our country, now let’s hold on to it!

  2. Mrs. Coulter Says:

    Yay Dean! He deserves more credit than he’s getting in the media.

  3. Thomas Nephew Says:

    Hmm, nobody invited me to party at the Capitol City Brewing Company
    Well, I’ll invite both of you for a beer or 3 at Cap City at your earliest convenience.

  4. anonymousgf Says:

    I think Dean is right about being competitve everywhere. But I also think Emmanuel deserves a lot of credit, too. And Schumer looks like a genius from my vantage point!!!!

  5. Thomas Nephew Says:

    Victory has many fathers (and mothers). Emmanuel and Schumer deserve their share of credit, too.
    UPDATE: James Carville, on the other hand, is an idiot.

  6. eRobin Says:

    Without question, Howard Dean is my political rockstar. Losing the primary was a blessing in disquise – made possible b/c he was willing to let bygones be bygones, put personal insult behind him and help the party that tried to crush him – and stupidly thought that they had. Lucky for all of us, they were wrong. He’s the only reason I’m still a registered Democrat.
    When I met him, I had the chance to gush but instead pushed him on eVoting and Labor’s role in the Dem party. I don’t exactly feel bad about that but some days I wish I had been a fangirl and gotten a hug instead.

  7. » Blog Archive » Were recalls the way to go? Says:

    […] was a big “50 state strategy” advocate when DeanĀ  — whom I continue to admire and value — pushed it as chair of the […]

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