Wednesday, January 04, 2006

On Dean

I like Howard Dean. I know, this marks me as whatever it is it marks me as. I got sucked in by the way his campaign reached out to people, not just to party insiders. I liked that he spoke his mind, and, while he'd occasionally express his thoughts in a way that was unclear, he was saying sensible things.

He took a reasonable stand on gun control, declaring that there was enough federal law, but that states should be free to act more agressively if need be. I liked that he was talking about reaching out to disaffected people in traditionally "red" states (his infamous comment about "people with Confederate flags on their pickups" was poorly expressed, but the outreach is wise and necessary).

And he was expressing doubts about the justification for invading Iraq when other people were pussy-footing the issue. Turns out, there weren't WMD in Iraq, and his skepticism was justified and accurate.

His off-the-cuff comments gave him the air of a radical even though his policies were and are quite moderate. His last hurrah was the infamous scream, which served to confirm the narrative which had been thrown up around him.

When he was chosen as the DNC chair (for which I endorsed him), there were predictions in the political establishment that he'd financially ruin the party.

Turns out, not so much.

The Democratic National Committee raised more than $51M in 2005, a record for an off-year and twenty percent higher than the comparable period in 2003.

And remember, 2003 preceded a presidential election, so fundraising would have been more intense.

This isn't soft money, and it probably isn't the traditional deep-pocket donors. Dean isn't just bringing more money in, he's bringing in more people, making the Democratic party more democratic. He's working to put DNC paid staff in every state, to build state parties and develop local issues and candidates. He's going and raising money for the DNC, but also for state parties themselves.

New York and Kansas will spend that money differently, and that's OK. That's as it ought to be. It isn't an imperial leadership style. Hes a leader to gives people who know the problem an opportunity to find solutions that work. If Kansas finds a good way to reach out to rural voters, the DNC can take that elsewhere. If someone else figures in out, Kansas can learn from them. That's how democracies are supposed to work.