For whatever reason, the choice of the leader of the Democratic party is decided in a rather “republican” way. Elected party officials gather and deliberate and choose the person who will be the face and pockets of the party for the next four years.
Luckily, groups like MoveOn.org are working to make the world more democratic. They have a nice petition style website where you can send a message to the delegates at the big shindig where the Terry McAulliffe's successor will be chosen.
I'm rooting for Howard Dean or Simon Rosenberg. I don't really know that much about Rosenberg, but Kos at dailykos.com seems to have nothing bad to say about him. Like Dean, he's from the creative center of the party. Neither is a moderate in the mode of Gephardt, but both look for ways to reach out across traditional boundaries. Neither feels bound by poor strategic choices of the past.
One thing I'd like to see, and that I think either of these men would move toward, is a more libertarian Democratic party. Dean took a strong position against any more federal gun control based on federalist and libertarian arguments. There are a bunch of techno-libertarians at Slashdot.org who don't vote, but would gladly support a party that found for a reasonable resolution on filesharing, copyright, and patent regulations. They want to be free to use the internet as a wild west, without government regulation or interference, except for the normal defenses against monopoly. While gun-rights libertarians may be hard to bring into the Democratic party because of inertia, no one has ever appealed to techno-libertarians. Republicans want to censor them, and Democrats don't use the language of rights and liberties that appeals to libertarian sentiments.
I remember being really excited when I caught the end of Howard Dean's first Meet the Press interview, because he was talking about issues in ways I'd been waiting for someone to talk about. Concerns about guns differ between states, so let's keep heavy artillery off the streets, and let individual states work out their own needs.
This is an approach to drug policy reform that could work. Couch it in terms of individual rights and responsibilities. Talk about making individual users responsible for their actions. Offer treatment to help people beat their dependencies, and then hold harsh sentences over their heads to keep them clean when they get out. It's a path that allows the revival of Roosevelt's second bill of rights.
The Democratic party has been sclerotic for years. Bill Clinton revitalized it briefly, but one charismatic leader is only as strong as the weakest part of his character. To do all the things we know America needs, the party needs to be rebuilt. Democracy for America and the New Democrat Network have done yeoman's work, and either one would be a model for what the Democratic party should become.