Wednesday, November 19, 2003

The Democratic establishment is atwitter with the notion that Howard Dean would be "the next McGovern". Their logic seems to roughly follow this syllogism:
  1. McGovern had energetic support from the party's base
  2. McGovern lost the general election
  3. Energetic support from the party's base is a bad thing, because candidates (like Dean) with energetic support from their base don't win.

Which is such obvious nonsense that Kos thinks there's something else going on:

...the hatred the establishment feels against Dean has nothing to do with ideology. Dean hasn't paid his dues with the establishment. Dean campaign manager Joe Trippi has made his name working the campaigns of insurgent (hence anti-establishment) candidates like Jerry Brown. He is not part of the chummy inside-DC club of Democratic Party consultants.

If Dean wins the nominantion, he becomes the head of the Democratic Party. He gets to replace McAuliffe and fill the top ranks at the DNC. Suddenly, a "DNC Chairman Joe Trippi" is a real possibility, and for an establishment that has spent the better half of the last decade laughing at Trippi's antics and dismissing him as a kook are suddenly standing on shaky ground.

And he quotes just about all of a Ryan Lizza TNR article in support of the proposition.

If so, then it would appear that the Democratic leadership has become a chummy insider group that is more concerned with preserving its own position and hobnobbing with other members of a self-defined "in crowd" than actually hitting the hustings. A proposition borne out by other things that Kos and Lizza don't discuss in detail -- they mention the importance of Dean's endorsement by the SEIU, a large and rising union, but don't say why he won it, which turns out to be apropos:

The SEIU offered all the candidates the same resources: a list of their local leadership and a warning that the route to the endorsement began not in Stern's fifth-floor office on L Street NW but through the rank and file. "Everybody got the same advice," an SEIU official said. "Howard Dean took it to heart." No other candidate came close to Dean's outreach. "Shockingly" not close, Stern said.

Dean did outreach and mobilized the base. The favored candidates of the insiders just tried to get chummy with the leadership, sure that that would be enough. And that is why they failed.

And the chummy insider-ness is a style of politics that translates into a style of governing -- as with the Clinton healthcare debacle, where a policy decided on by horsetrading in a famously closed room could not be passed because the opponents did a good job of selling the opposition, in part with a "folks like us" ad campaign (Harry and Louise) which the Democrats -- then in control of the White House and Senate -- simply couldn't match.

Looking in from the outside, it's difficult to avoid the impression that whatever you think of Republicans' policies, some of their complaints about "liberal elitist" attitudes are correct -- that the Democratic party apparatus just doesn't like dealing with and mobilizing large numbers of grubby, ordinary folks. And so they wind up trying to take the politics out of politics. And that is why they fail.

(SEIU link via Nathan Newman)

Kos puts most of this attitude on the "Clinton crowd", by the way, which is a bit of a paradox -- Clinton did win, after all. But the exception probes the rule -- he won his first national election guided by a maverick outsider, Carville, who was looking from the outside in after that.

Late note: As Nathan Newman has been pointing out for a while now, the liberal prediliction for trying to win political victories through the courts can be seen as another symptom of the same disease...


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