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Tuesday | June 17, 2003

What I will tell McAuliffe

I haven't had a chance to talk to McAuliffe yet, but after reading your comments in the "what would you tell him" thread, it's clear there are two things I need to stress: Communication and Coordination.

The Democratic Party will never have the single-minded discipline of the GOP. We value our diversity too much, and suffer as a result. Rather than have a strongman (DeLay, Bush) control our agenda, we have competing power factions snipping at each other. And while GOP interest groups can live side-by-side in harmony (unless you are the Log Cabin Republicans), there are inherent and fundamental rivalries amongst many groups on the Left (such as labor and environmentalists).

So it would be nice to say, "Terry, get everyone on the same page", but it's not really feasible. I hate to say it, but I'm increasingly convinced that our allied interest groups no longer represent anything remotely resembling the grassroots. Those organizations are riven by turf battles, thirst for political power and access, and are compromised by egos, unable to work together for the common good of the party and the people it represents.

But these organizations have money, and hence exert undue influence on the party. That needs to end. The grassroots of the party needs to reclaim a seat at the table.

And that's where the blogosphere comes in. Unlike the special interest groups, who organize around narrow issues, the blogosphere is a collection of eclectic personalities rallying around the party. We are the true grassroots -- working on behalf of a greater political movement, taking a "big picture" approach to politics.

Ultimately, we want the Democratic Party to succeed, because if it does, we can better protect the environment and worker rights and all those other issues important to our country.

Thus, the Democratic Party must work to encourage and build up the blogosphere. Imagine the Dean Fedayin, but in a magnitude of ten, working not for a single candidate, but for the entire Democratic ticket, from President, to Senate, to House, to school board.

A blogosphere that embraced the DNC, as it has embraced Dean, would be far more likely to help promote the party's key themes, unifying our message, and ultimately rallying our troops around a single, non-divisive cause -- electing Democrats. The current system doesn't promote that. But the blogosphere can.

I am a realist. I know the blogosphere is small. I know we don't wield much influence at this point. But we are growing, and with numbers comes strength -- in financial donations, in raw manpower, in an activist community organized to promote the Democratic Party and its agenda.

The DNC needs to encourage the blogosphere. It should offer blogger tools, such as free hosting. It should add a blogger directory to all of the party's websites. It needs to give bloggers some love, and not just those who donate the big bucks, but to those that faithfully and tirelessly, on their own time and dime, work to help the party achieve its objectives. It needs to use Meetup to promote party objectives.

The AFL/CIO and Sierra Club will always have their place at the table, but we need to give the party's true grassroots a seat as well. And this, the blogosphere, is the place to do it.

It's a sad state of affairs when many people at this site, frequented by politically astute individuals, cannot tell the difference between the DLC and the DNC. It's clear the Party needs to start talking to its party members in a more effective manner.

While there may be several ways to do so, I'll focus on the blogosphere. You know how the party sends representatives to the cable news shows to debate particular issues? It needs to do the same in the blogosphere. Top Democratic Party officials (McAuliffe, Pelosi, Daschle, etc) need to offer blog interviews and then stick around and read the comments. The party needs its own weblog. As do its affiliated Senate and House election committees.

One of the big reasons for Dean's success is an organization that has embraced the blogosphere. It is truly the one campaign that can claim, with complete honesty, that it listens to the grassroots. Indeed, its campaign manager, Joe Trippi, spends a lot of time posting on blogs, both large and small. Such tactics have earned the scorn of rival campaigns, who laugh at his "wasted" time talking to "obscure bloggers", but you can't argue with success. Next election cycle, every campaign will follow Trippi's lead, and we will all be better off for it.

Now imagine a Democratic Party with this level of commitment to the grassroots -- with party officials coming down to our level to discuss the various issues facing the party, soliciting feedback. The more vested we feel in the party, the more likely we are to offer our enthusiastic support. The more likely we will be to trumpet the party's daily themes and talking points. The more likely we will be to donate via ePatriots or the various other campaign committees.

I dream of a Democratic Party bolstered by a Dean-like activist community. If our party is to survive against the GOP's financial onslaught, it will need to rally the troops beyond the shrinking labor community.


Now I don't know how much time McAuliffe will have scheduled for me, but he'll have to listen to me say all of this. It's the future of the party, and he really needs to get it.

Posted June 17, 2003 09:42 AM | Comments (97)


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