January 23, 2005


Who Will Be the Next Alpha Democrat?: Seven candidates for party chairman try to pull ahead of the pack in a Sacramento forum. (Mark Z. Barabak, January 23, 2005, LA Times)

The race for Democratic Party chairman came west Saturday with seven contestants, including two former congressmen and former presidential front-runner Howard Dean, auditioning for the chance to lead the country's minority party over the next four years. [...]

Handicapping the race is nearly impossible, given the small electorate and the one-on-one nature of the campaign, conducted mostly over the telephone and in private meetings. But most observers agree that Dean is the front-runner by dint of his considerable name recognition and his wide grass-roots support, with others vying to emerge as the most viable alternative.

On Saturday, at least, they were treated as equals. The seven hopefuls sat elbow-to-elbow onstage in a crowded Sacramento hotel ballroom, working to distinguish themselves in a variety of ways.

Former Rep. Tim Roemer of Indiana spoke of his service on the Sept. 11 commission and attacked President Bush on his strongest political suit, the fight against terrorism.

"Have they succeeded in catching Osama bin Laden? No. Have they made the axis of evil weaker? No. Have they made us a safer world by attacking the people in Iraq? No," Roemer said, as the audience joined in, shouting out in the negative. "We Democrats can and must do better."

David Leland, the former chairman of the Ohio Democratic Party, noted that he was the only one onstage to have served as head of a state party.

Activist Donnie Fowler said he was the only candidate who had been "on the ground" for candidates in 14 states over the last 20 years.

Wellington Webb joked about his status as the only African American in the field, quipping that as former mayor of Colorado's biggest city, "I proved in Denver … that someone with a mustache can win."

Simon Rosenberg, an activist from the centrist New Democrat wing of the party, offered perhaps the day's most provocative pitch, vowing as chairman to "end the monopoly of Iowa and New Hampshire," the two states that lead off the presidential nominating process. The proposal drew a roar from the crowd of California activists, who have simmered for years over the state's minimal role in the primaries.

Appealing to the same sentiment, Dean drew another big cheer by saying, "We have to stop using this state as an ATM machine and leave a little money here."

Reprising one of the arguments of his presidential campaign, Dean insisted Democrats need not change their positions or abandon the party's progressive principles.

"We are the centrists," he said. "We do not need to be mini-Republicans."

Nostalgia for Saddam and a promise to make the Party more like CA don't seem the ticket back to power, no matter how much you whistle while you work.

Posted by Orrin Judd at January 23, 2005 8:39 AM

"Progressive principles"--all charged up to progress back to the past.

Posted by: Lou Gots at January 23, 2005 1:14 PM

"Seven democrats" — two short of a softball team.

Posted by: Raoul Ortega at January 23, 2005 1:25 PM

If you view the issues confronting us in a three dimensional framework: Economic, Foreign/Defense/Terror, and Cultural, the problems facing the Democrats become apparent. It is impossible for the Democrats to appear tougher on terrorism than the GOP, they have a several decade old record of mollycoddling America's enemies to hold as baggage. The constant references to Vietnam in the Democrat discourse show how addicted they are to this erroneous model. It was wrong then and it is even worse now. Can any sensible person seriously believe that Osama and Saddam were the George Washingtons of their respective regions? So the Dems lose this part of the diagram.

On Cultural issues, the Democrats win when they can phrase issues as matters of 'tolerance' but lose when they push towards 'acceptance.' Americans are not a nation of snoops and eavesdroppers. But most of us adhere to what would be seen as extremely conservative social views in much of the First World, and we take those views seriously. It is one thing to condemn the murder of Matthew Shepard, it is quite another to support gay marriage. The Democrats do not understand this, or choose to refrain from understanding this because they are so dependent upon contributions from Hollywood and similar environs where debauchery is the norm. Thus, in the culture war, so long as the GOP keeps away from Gary Bauer and keeps James Dobson away from major metro areas, the Dems lose here too. Frankly, the Democrats have done a far worse job of keeping their nuts off the airwaves and pay the resultant price.

The battlefield shifts next to economics. The Clinton Administration, by their own admission, behaved like the GOP while in office when it came to economic matters. So, if you are a culturally conservative, patriotic voter from the working class or the lower middle class, where are you going to turn? The Democrats decided to chase corporate and Hollywood money, along with that of a few self-dealers like Soros, special-interest types like Peter Lewis, and downright sickos like Geffen and Katzenberg. They turned their backs on working class private sector America. Even the head of the AFL-CIO is a public sector unionist.

If the Democrats are going to have a chance of appealing to swing voters, they are going to have to do so on economic matters because they are on the wrong side of the divide(OJ calls it the 40% side) on defense and cultural issues. There is nothing in this new group of 7 Dwarves to indicate that this will change any time soon.

Posted by: Bart at January 23, 2005 1:54 PM


Softball teams field 10 including a short fielder.

Posted by: Robert Schwartz at January 23, 2005 2:51 PM

Okay, I'll take your word for it, as on the rare times I played I was only there for the beer, so the memories are more than just hazy.

But they do have enough for a hockey team, don't they?

Posted by: Raoul Ortega at January 23, 2005 4:24 PM

More than enough for hockey, which takes 6.

David Leland worked for my firm some years ago. We were very happy when he got to be the chairman of the Ohio Democrat party. The Ohio GOP was probably equally thrilled. Since then they have dominated both houses of the legislature and all statewide elected offices.

His wife Cindy is the cantor of our synagouge. I really like her. I hope he does not win and take her away from us.

Posted by: Robert Schwartz at January 23, 2005 4:45 PM