- Pennsylvania Among 'Terrible 10' Most Regressive Tax States
- February 4 Non-Partisan Training: HOW TO RUN FOR ELECTION BOARD IN 2013: HOW TO RUN FOR COMMITTEEPERSON IN 2014
- Republican Governors Opt-In to Medicaid Expansion
- The Reports of Unions' Death Are Greatly Exaggerated
- Ask Allyson Schwartz to run for Governor
- Mind the gap: Opting Out of Medicaid Expansion Leaves Low-income Families Behind
- Jan. 14 Workshop:HOW TO RUN FOR ELECTION BOARD IN 2013; HOW TO RUN FOR COMMITTEEPERSON IN 2014
- Seth Williams on Guns, Jasmine Rivera on School Closures @PFC Meetup Wednesday
- PA Revenue Strong Midway Through Year; Tax Cut Could Have Big Impact
- What to Make of the Fiscal Cliff Deal?
Obama, Dean, and the New Politics
There's so much rhetoric about the demographics and symbolism of the Clinton-Obama split in the Democratic electorate (young/old, black/Latino, male/female, rich/poor, vision/experience, change/restoration, etc.) that it's refreshing to read journalism that breaks down what this means, and why campaigns for candidates who don't differ sharply on much really don't seem to like each other.
This Washington Post piece on union organization in Ohio reads in part like typical on-the-campaign-trail stuff, but also notes that while most of the AFL-CIO unions have backed Clinton, Obama's won most of the the splinter group Change To Win, including the Teamsters, the hotel and service workers, and others. Change To Win broke with the AFL-CIO over political and organizational strategy, and has a greater emphasis on grassroots organization and expanding the base of union workers.
Likewise, The Nation has an excellent piece that reads the Clinton/Obama split in the light of Howard Dean's 2004 Presidential campaign and his management to date of the DNC. Since Dean lost in 2004, it wasn't clear whether his message and his strategy was really the wave of the party's future or just a neat new way to raise some money. Likewise, Dean was criticized for devoting DNC funds to organization in all fifty states rather than focusing on a few battlegrounds to build a larger congressional majority.
Well, now Obama is riding Dean's wave, connecting with younger and affluent voters on the web, organizing precinct-by-precinct from the bottom up, and winning delegates by rallying Democrats and independents in heartland states. He's Dean with vastly more charm, more profile, and more discipline. Meanwhile, the Clinton folks are stinging at the fact that they're not only unable to beat back Obama, but may find it difficult to win the war of ideas and resources against a vindicated Dean at the DNC.
It all goes to show you that many stakeholders in the party have a lot more at stake than who's at the top of the ticket -- and why strategists may be quick to attribute whatever happens in this election to the personalities and capabilities of the two people running, and not how they ran. Otherwise they could find themselves marginalized not just for backing the wrong horse, but the wrong direction.
Compare this to this NYT op-ed by Clinton supporter Geraldine Ferraro. :
In the Democratic primary in South Carolina, tens of thousands of Republicans and independents no doubt voted, many of them for Mr. Obama. The same rules prevail at the Iowa caucuses, in which Mr. Obama also triumphed.
He won his delegates fair and square, but those delegates represent the wishes not only of grassroots Democrats, but also Republicans and independents. If rank-and-file Democrats should decide who the party’s nominee is, each state should pass a rule allowing only people who have been registered in the Democratic Party for a given time — not nonmembers or day-of registrants — to vote for the party’s nominee.
The notion is that the superdelegates represent grassroots Democratic voters better than voters in a presidential primary -- where turnout often fails to crack 30 percent. This, despite the scandalous fact that each of these elected officials won in a general election in which both Republicans and independents were gratuitously allowed to participate, often after winning uncontested or even more sparsely attended primaries.
In fact, Ferraro is so concerned about these superdelegates winning their primaries that she worries about them being coerced to vote for Obama in order to stave off a primary challenge. Meanwhile, let's keep as many people who might not have their party bona fides together (especially the young people and nonvoters we keep talking about turning out in the general) from participating in the party. Now that's grass-roots democracy.
Ferraro also reminds us of her history in the long tradition of mediocre big-D Democratic politics. The superdelegate system was created after Ted Kennedy tried to introduce amendments to make the party platform more liberal after his unsuccessful primary challenge to Carter in 1980.
In 1984 I headed the party’s platform committee. We produced the longest platform in Democratic history, a document that stated the party’s principles in broad terms that neither the most liberal nor the most conservative elected officials would denounce. It generated no fights at the convention. It was a document that no one would walk away from. We lost in 1984, big time. But that loss had nothing to do with Democratic Party infighting.
Kudos to you, Ms. Ferraro. Democrats lost the Presidency again in '88, needed a third-party challenger to win in 1992 and 1996, quietly accepted a stolen election in 2000 and nominated another unobjectionable and unelectable candidate in 2004. Heaven forbid anyone see Democrats disagree with each other on TV. Let's just bleed for another quarter-century.
This is why I feel like the style vs. substance distinction is a flawed one -- process and politics, after all, fuse the two. The way you conduct your campaign isn't about "issues," but it's nevertheless substantial. How you think about the future of your party and electoral politics is substantial. So is your theory of how political change happens.
On all of these counts, I agree with Obama and not Clinton, and it's ultimately the vision of the Democratic Party first articulated by Dean but shared by Obama that I most believe in. And there, I think, is the sharpest distinction to be drawn between them.
(These paragraphs originally appeared in two posts on my personal blog Short Schrift. I am volunteering for Barack Obama in 2008.)