Wednesday, December 01, 2004

G.I. Joe... Trippi

Joe Trippi is one of those pundits I actually listen to. Not like, say, Chris Matthews, who, every time I give him credit, goes back to how great Bush's codpiece looked on the aircraft carrier. No Trippi is the real deal, and he's back with a vengeance to talk about grassroots saving the Democratic party and some new ideas.

It turns out that Mr. Kerry was a weaker candidate than Mr. Gore. Mr. Kerry lost so much ground among women, Hispanics, and other key groups, that the millions in Internet money, the most Herculean get-out-the-vote effort in party history, and the largest turnout of young voters in over a decade, could not save him. Had the young voters stayed home, the sea of red on the electoral map would have grown to include at least Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and New Hampshire-perhaps one or two more. Meanwhile, Mr. Bush, received 50 million votes in 2000, and 59 million in 2004. He added nine million votes. That is because Karl Rove had a plan and the Bush campaign stuck to it. There is no doubt that they executed it brilliantly. But the problem for Democrats is not Mr. Rove; it is that they're doing the same thing over and over again, expecting a different result. That's the definition of insanity. * Since the Democratic Leadership Council, with its mantra of "moderate, moderate, moderate," took hold in Washington, the Democratic Party has been in decline at just about every level of government. Forget the Kerry loss. Today the number of Democrats in the House is the lowest it's been since 1928. Democrats are on the brink of becoming a permanent minority party. Can the oldest democratic institution on earth wake from its stupor? Here are some steps to pull out of the nose-dive: * Democrats can't keep ignoring their base. Running to the middle and then asking our base at the end of the campaign to make sure to vote is not a plan. It sure hasn't worked. And to those who say talking to your base doesn't work-Read the Rove 2004 playbook! * Democrats must reconnect with the energy of our grass roots. One of the failures of the DLC was that its ideas never helped us build a grass-roots donor base. As a result Democrats held a lead over Republicans in only one fundraising category before this election cycle: contributions over one million dollars. That shows how far the party had strayed from grassroots fundraising before the Dean campaign. We must build a base of at least seven million small donors by 2006. With the Internet it's possible. But it can't just be about the money, it also has to be about ideas. * The one thing we learned in the Dean campaign was that the 30 or so people in Burlington, Vt., were not as smart as the 650,000 Americans who were part of our campaign. Instead of a DLC in Washington, Democrats should be holding Democratic Grassroots Councils in every county. Democratic National Committee members in each state, along with the state party, should host and moderate these meetings to help develop ideas that come from the people, instead of the experts in Washington. * A party that ignores the needs of state and local parties is doomed. We must begin to invest aggressively in states we continually write off in national elections. If we don't, the decline of the Democratic Party in these states will continue until we are non-existent. It's already occurring in many southern states. * In a world in which companies like Wal-Mart pay substandard wages with no real benefits, our party has got to find innovative ways to support organized labor's growth. A declining union membership is not good for the country, it's not good for working people, and it certainly is not good for the Democratic Party. * The Democratic Party has to be the vehicle that empowers the American people to change our failed political system. We all know the damn thing is broken. Democrats should lead the way by placing stricter money restrictions on candidates than the toothless Federal Election Commission does. A party funded by contributions from the people can do this. A corrupted and corroded party cannot. The Democratic Party shouldn't wait for campaign-finance reform-it should be campaign-finance reform. * Finally, What is the purpose the Democratic Party strives for today? What are our goals for the nation? You couldn't tell from the 2004 election. The fact is, very few good ideas come from the middle. Ideas in the middle tend to be mediocre. Political consultants have become adept at keeping their candidates in that safe zone. But the time has come to develop bold ideas and to challenge people to sacrifice for the common good. Experts will tell you that you can't ask the American people to sacrifice individually for the common good. Those experts are wrong-it's just been so long since anyone has asked them.
What have I been saying all this time? Several of these things are long-term goals, like helping rebuild organized labor. We can't really do that until we get some seats back in Congress and put aggressive regulation on corporations. But, considering that the biggest GOTV effort in Ohio came from unions, we do need it as a party without relying on it so heavily. Building our small donor base is also critical. What would have taken twice the time with old-style direct mailing can now be done in half the time with double the results with direct emailing. The Internet is fast and interactive and it can help us transform teh party to meet constituents needs and get new data to help us run our campaigns. Why do focus groups and rely on faulty media polls when we can just ask Democrats surfing the Web to hit the reply button when we email them with our ideas? The blogosphere teaches us to be adaptable and fluid, not static and fixed. Use it. Some things in our platform we don't need some we do. We need to understand why it is we support abortion, favor Social Security as a government entitlement and don't like tax cuts for wealthy people as a party. We have reasons, or was it just to get votes? In the beginning, we had reasons. Find them. I know I don't like abortion, but I believe the Court was right in its decision in Roe v Wade that the government doesn't have the right to tell a woman what to do with her body. I believe Social Security is a right that all Americans get for working their whole lives. The government should provide a safety net, in case they were not able to save for retirement. I think wealthy people should be willing to pay more in taxes to help out the least fortunate because it is the right and moral thing to do. That doesn't mean I wouldn't like to see legislation giving grants so that women don't feel they have to choose abortion or the rest of their lives. would also like to see actual sex education that teaches kids the consequences of their actions and what to if they have to face those consequences. It doesn't mean I'm not willing to see a small benefits cut or a slight raising of taxes to preserve the greater good that is Social Security. And it doesn't mean I won't give a tax break to a large corporation so long as they are hiring American workers and paying a decent wage with decent benefits. Those kind of tax breaks do create jobs. It means I'm a Democrat. I have no trouble expressing these values, I don't know why so many of our candidates do.

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