Monday, January 31, 2005

Dean, the DNC and Us

I'm not sure what to make of the fuss and skirmeshes involved in electing the new DNC chairman. As most of you probably know, the executive board of some Democratic subsystem called the association of state Democratic chairs, or something, has voted to support the young Don Fowler for chair over Dean. The vote by the larger association of state chairs is supposed to be today.

Ordinarily, the position of DNC chair is more about organization than substance, and for that reason, while I support Dean, the election of someone else to the position probably wouldn't make much difference. Except. The primacy of Dean in the race and the opposition to him have made the race a larger symbol of the direction of the party. And for that reason, Dean's losing would be a bitter pill to swallow.

But in the big picture view of things, the importance of the DNC chair is less than the existence of a prominent message or messenger, both of which the party today lacks. Organization and "strategery" is more critical when you are trying to disseminate a message and elect candidates across the country. But when you lack a message or compelling cause, the role of organization is only of peripherical impact.

I caught some of the replaying of the conference on Saturday on C-SPAN, getting to hear Fowler, Roemer, and Lindley(sp) address the caucus directly, and a few of the others respond to questions from the audience. There wasn't much of "message substance" covered, just some queries on how to respond to this or that event. I don't know whether to be disappointed by that or not. I know the DNC chair isn't necessarily about message: he or she will more likely reflect rather than direct the party's message. But for those of us who are starving for an unapologetic response to the Republican juggernaut, and a reshaping of the boundaries of political debate that conservatives have continued to shift further and further to the right, maybe our or my expectations have shifted.

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