February 20, 2005


Democrats' Grass Roots Shift the Power: Activists Energized Fundraising, but Some Worry They Could Push Party to Left (Dan Balz, February 20, 2005, Washington Post)

At a minimum, say party strategists, the shift will mean a more confrontational Democratic Party in battles with President Bush and the Republicans. But some strategists worry that the influence of grass-roots activists could push the party even further to the left, particularly on national security, reinforcing a weakness that Bush exploited in his reelection campaign.

It was Dean during the presidential primaries who argued that it was time for the "Democratic wing of the Democratic Party" to reassert itself, an implicit criticism of strategies that guided President Bill Clinton in his battles with Republicans in the 1990s. Clinton recently warned Democrats not to assume that the policies he pursued are incompatible with a vibrant, progressive wing of the party.

As Dean takes the helm as party chairman, Democrats now face a competition between what might be called the Dean model and the Clinton model, between confrontation and triangulation. This amounts to a contest between a bold reassertion of the party's traditional philosophy that fits the polarized environment of the Bush presidency vs. a less provocative effort to balance core values with centrist ideas that proved successful in the 1990s but has since produced a backlash within the party.

Bill Clinton was elected president of the United States twice. Howard Dean couldn't beat John Kerry in the Democratic Iowa caucuses. the choice of models doesn't seem difficult.

Posted by Orrin Judd at February 20, 2005 11:35 AM

The "Dean model" is and always has been based on the premise that maximizing turnout inevitably leads to Democrats getting elected. That he missed the most obvious lesson of the 2004 election speaks poorly of Dr. Dean's basic political skills.

Posted by: AC at February 20, 2005 11:45 AM

Anti-labor Blame-America-firstism is not the traditional philosophy of the Democratic party of Hubert Humphrey, Scoop Jackson and Daniel Patrick Moynihan.

What is Clintonism other than whatever gets him elected? As was said of Estes Kefauver, another Yalie turned Southern politico, he'd be a Chinese Communist if it would get him elected.

They have no political unity, because to publicize the issues that motivate their core voters today would be to alienate about 70% of the electorate.

Posted by: Bart at February 20, 2005 1:21 PM

Clinton had a huge advantage, though; he's a shameless pathological liar. Whereas Dean fancies himself riding the cutting edge--if by 'cutting edge', we mean recycled McGovernism. A cardboard man with pretensions of mediocrity.

Posted by: Noel at February 20, 2005 8:04 PM

Watching Dean debate Richard Perle was amusing (and sad). Apparently Dean believes our main goal should be to make all the 3rd World love the USA so much that no terrorist would dare to hide, recruit, or plot while in said country. The audience (Portland, OR) cheered.

Somehow, I don't think the electorate in general will share those sentiments.

Posted by: jim hamlen at February 20, 2005 9:32 PM