Friday, January 28, 2005

Do the Dems Want to Lose? Or, 'Anybody But Dean, Part 2': Election Ballyhoo



I attended a Democratic strategy session on Tuesday co-sponsored by Democracy for America and conceived as a "Listening Tour," wherein leaders from all levels of the Dem party (from precinct worker and neighborhood activist to DNC members) listened to the community give one-minute statements about the direction the Democratic Party needs to take. I received updates from both DFA and my local feminist listserv, both exhorting me to come and make my views known so that progressive values would be well represented in the party. The meeting was heartening for a number of reasons -- well-attended, intelligent and provocative personal platforms, good black/white representation, unity, righteousness, impeccably run (thanks to a master moderator from the NCCU Civic Engagement Task Force) -- and I went home feeling like the party wasn't going to crumble. Folks had LOTS to say about what the party was doing nationally and on both the state and local levels. Nobody minced words, everyone said their piece, and we headed home to regroup in other arenas. So, that said, what's my beef and what does this have to do with this article -- 'Anybody But Dean, Part 2' -- in Newsweek?

I'll tell you what: the majority of the folks in attendance at our strategizing session were in favor of Dean chairing the DNC. This was an unabashedly progressive crowd, and they'd weighed their concerns carefully: they wanted the man with backbone. They wanted to move from a position of strength. They wanted to continue to bring DEMOCRATIC VALUES to the forefront of political debate, not just play defense as the Repugs ran roughshod over all that we held dear. Did I mention that this event was co-sponsored by Democracy for America? Well, i-frickin'-ronically, that's the off-shoot of, say it with me, Dean for America. And there we all were, black and white, old and young (mostly older), progressive and moderate, atheist and faithful, and we were (majority) in favor of Howard Dean. The panel didn't seem to want to make the same commitment. Now, to be fair, they did not speak directly to this issue; they held their thoughts about the upcoming vote close to the vest. The point was to listen to us, afterall. But I couldn't help but think that they were not really hearing us. The local and state leaders did certainly pay close attention, and they had their own beefs with the current power structure, but the national reps, I don't know. I didn't feel like we had a lock on what I consider to be THE ONLY viable choice for DNC Chair.

Look at this maneuvering:
In the meantime, with the DNC meeting approaching on Feb. 12, party insiders have been conducting an urgent, so far fruitless, search for a consensus Dean-stopper. The Clintons don't like Dean on substance or style, seeing him as too left and too loose-lipped. But they're being careful. Hillary, already eying a presidential run in 2008, doesn't want to alienate the possible winner; she's leaving DNC maneuvers to Bill, whose answer last month was to sound out current chairman Terry McAuliffe about remaining in the job. (He declined.) The Clintons are said to have encouraged a good friend, veteran organizer Harold Ickes, to enter the chairman's race, but he begged off, too. Party leaders approached former senator Bob Kerrey, but he told them he would rather keep his job as president of the New School University.

Last week the search for a surefire Dean-stopper (if there is one) reached new levels, NEWSWEEK has learned, with several governors—among them Ed Rendell of Pennsylvania and Bill Richardson of New Mexico—trying to gin up a last-ditch plan: let Dean be chairman, but confine his role to pure nuts-and-bolts duties by layering him with a new "general chairman" spokesman for the party. They abandoned the idea after realizing that they didn't have the votes to change the rules—and because the person they wanted to take the new role, Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm, told them she had no interest.

Let's be real, people. We need to revive the Democratic Party, and I'll take "revive" in this instance to mean anything from 'resuscitate' to 'raze to the ground and build anew.' Howard Dean motivates people, builds coalitions, raises money, garners attention, fearlessly defends and promotes actual Democratic platforms, and is delighted to stick it to the Repugnicans and ask the hard questions. A war of choice sold on specious evidence, anyone? Morally correct stands at unpopular times, anyone? Remember that? Yes, and not only did Dean not shrink from his positions, he defended them with passion, clarity, and great integrity. Yeah, it's possible. Dean has proven again and again that he is not only willing but able to stand as the Dems' publicate advocate. I beseech you, who else has done this to equal benefit in recent memory? Who else ignites the party (for good mostly, but I'll take ill, too, because an ignited party is an engaged and active party)? Who motivates us to act outside of presidential years in electing progressive and fiscally responsible local candidates? And let's think what the DNC Chair does: raise money, get Dems elected. Hmm...proven trackrecord. Score for Howard Dean!

I've been a Dean fan from waaaaay back, so it may seem I am biased, but I've looked around, I've taken the pulse. If there were a better candidate for the job, I would be happy to campaign for him/her. But we don't have a better candidate. Have the majority of folks even heard of the other candidates? I am sure they are fine people, all of whom have worked hard for the Democratic Party, but, for instance, ARE THE POWERS THAT BE EVEN SERIOUS putting up a pro-life candidate? KISS. MY. ASS. This is the kind of shit that makes me dream of the day when I can tell the Dems to choke on their own pathetic pandering as I hop over to a viable Green Party. The absolute LAST thing we need is more right-leaning misguided concessions to the enemies of modernity. And this is the other thing Dean does: he exposes the hypocrisy and sameness of the Dem Party. We need new blood, and Bill and Hill have to know it's true. Entrenched Republican-liteness will sound our death knell. Dean for DNC Chair, dodgammit. We either save this party, or we don't.