Saturday, June 11, 2005

Blogging the DNC: Democrat Party Agenda

Missed Dean giving his entire presentation and did not record all of his comments. I'm sure I can find a transcript later this afternoon.

The basis of his presentation was about organizing the party, grass roots efforts, inter-communications and developing consistent message that the entire party will focus on and use to relate to voters.

As opposed to what Susan Estrich said about Dean's efforts several days ago, it seems that Dean has a strategy for working on the "nuts and bolts" of the party. He commented several times on the need to develop the DNC in ALL 50 states, not just in big states or states that will have a significant impact on one election or the other. I believe he disagreed with the last election cycle's program and feels that it harmed the DNC's ability to have their message heard universally throughout the country.

He indicated that the party needed to do more to be in contact with and support local candidates on the city, county and state level. If Democrats are not at these levels, how do they expect to win on national and presidential levels?

This may be the base reason why Dean was selected as the DNC chairman. His own campaign took wing from a totally grass roots effort, working at the base to get support. The DNC obviously wants to use this strategy. It was this strategy that also allowed the Republican party to take away seats at all the levels that Dean commented on.

This is why Dean is travelling to so many states and meeting with these parties as opposed to trying to focus on just the national caucuses such as the black community, Hispanic, Asian, etc which Estrich feels did not get the focus they needed in the last cycle to keep them from peeling away at the last election.

While many have pointed to the "evangelical" vote as the drive for President Bush's election in 2004, it's true that the Republican part was able to obtain more votes from these areas than in the past and together, these along with "faith based voters" drove the elections.

What may be at issue here is that Dean's strategy is a long term strategy. In essence, the party has to be built again from the ground up. This is a long term goal. He spoke about making sure that financial and organizational support must be focused downward to the lowest levels of the party and not just maintained at a national level. Without strong party representation at a local level, the national party cannot survive.

The split in the party may well be that some on the national level are looking for immediate results and are working from the old playbook when the party had this strong representation in 90's. Dean seems to recognize it doesn't exist. However, Dean's strategy will not necessarily result in near term election cycle wins. What he seems to focus on is the long term survival of the party and looking to the 2008 presidential elections. His strategy may have some effect on the 2006 election cycle, but I would take it from many in the party's comments that they are worried this grass roots type of focus will not net them the support they need.

If this was a business, one would have to know that both Dean's strategy and the short term strategy has to have equal focus. Niether is less important than the other. While there are long term survival issues, if you can't pull it together in the next year, many businesses go defunct. That must be the worry of the DNC.

The other issue is whether Dean's ability to reach out on the national level to large minorities exists while at the same time retaining the large majority of Democrat voters and not alienating them with some rhetoric that is best left to the politicians who are now actually running. Here, Susan Estrich may have it correct.

This leads into the part of the discussion that I did try to record. These are not verbatim quotes I note below, but my best short hand without killing their actual meaning.

Here the DNC looks at statistics.

What were "moral values" voters? A question that seems to still plague the DNC and now finally gets the correct definition.

Cornell Belcher, Democrat Strategists. Finally, this guy gets it. "Moral values" equals "standing up for what you believe" and "fighting for it".

Talking socio economic status and how decisions are made.

Moral values is not about "gay marriage" and "abortion". It's about raising your children with principles. Democrat party and Republicans are missing boat. People use their faith and religion to help guide them in these decisions.

Economic conditions approval is dropping for president.

{Showing slides}

Direction country is taking, poll indicates people not happy with it. [my edititorial note...this may be an issue for Democrats but they may still not get the point; imagining that the unhappiness in the way the country is going relates to political issues or government is a serious error for any party. This is often about looking around and seeing crime, drugs, prostitution, slipping morals, etc not exactly related to things like the Patriot Act or jobs over seas. A more defined poll on this question would help guage the issues better]

Cornell Belcher has very good grasp on what they should look at:

Pocket books, education and security.

Unidenitified woman now asking if they can make inroads into faith voters by addressing violence in the media.

CB: This is more important than "right wing judges".[ed...admonishing party on focus of this issue in the house and senate?]

Losing control of their families (voters) through economics that require both parents to work and leave their children in others' care or unattended when they first get home from school.

Dems are seen as more closely associated with Hollywood and tarred with that brush.

Strongly religious country (get statistics)

62% of African Americans say they vote based on their faith.

Not just "right wing evangelicals".

Unidentified man: why don't economics make people vote more Democratic?

CB: Need to keep voice on economics, but have to address "moral issues". People feel they can't always control their economics, but family is last bastion of control and they feel it is under attack.

unidentified man: values issue raise out of poverty by good education and economic.

James Zogby: faith based votes are not just "evangelicals" it cuts across the board.

CB: Republicans are seen as the conservative religious party. Democrats are seen as "anti-religion".

Man: Doing inadequate job of articulating "moral issues = economic"; need to get others involved

Woman: if dems don't have a "message" why do statistics show that Democrats are now more trusted?

CB: it is about unhappiness with the Republicans, not because we are better and really more trustworthy.

Alice Travis Germond: Terrorism is 82% of reasons for voting in "morals" (makes comments about terrorism level changes during elections)

CB: People don't feel safer. Do you live in DC? Do you know what to do if we're attacked? DC is ground zero for attacks. No plan, no idea how to react in the public sector.

Dean: People don't know what we stand for because we aren't in all 50 states. (major part of his strategy).

Republicans supress votes, Democrats want people to have the right.

[insert previous Dean commentary]: Earlier, as part of the national agenda, Dean indicates that they will focus on voters rights and increasing the number of eligible voters and not supressing them as the Republicans have in the past. Part of their major strategy is to retain and build upon the group of lawyers that were employed during the Kerry campaign and have them set up a national hotline and education board that can answer questions on voting rights. Per his commentary, the main issues revolve around election workers not knowing the laws or "thinking" they know the laws and keeping people from voting (ed...just saw this occur in Egypt as well during their referendum). Said that over 700 incidents were corrected same day of election with assistance of these attornies. Things ranging from college students not being allowed to vote in the state they attend college (supreme court ruling indicates that they can) to other small infractions. Mostly from misunderstanding the law.

He indicates that the Republicans don't want to change the status quo because the large number of disenfranchised voters come from lower economic areas that historically vote Democrat. Insisted that he wants the largest number of people to vote, even if they don't vote for Democrats because that is what is best for democracy. Inclusive and interactive populace. [end insert]

Begins loosing focus that Cornell Belcher brought to the table and equating "moral values" with a large list of things from economics to education.

No stealing of pension funds equals "moral values". This was part of the workers' contract with these companies, part of their benefits and salaries, and they should not be allowed to shed them with such ease.

Honesty in government is "moral values"

Dean says can't be pointing fingers at other party and have problems inside own party. Democrats need to stand ready to point it out, take the hits where they have their problems and resolve to stop doing it just because the other party is. No golf trips or tours of Hong Kong on other people's dimes. Public sees that as just politics as usual. Corporations and organizations have more influence on politicians than the voters.

Operation American Freedom not Operation Iraqi Freedom (ed...that probably still won't work; unhappiness about Iraq is not based on whether we should or should not have gone there but on the length of time it is taking to pacify and depart; if Dems are serious, they will remember that concept)

Responsibility to one another and the elderly. That is social security issue. Obligation to care for our parents.

Old business: Establish Veterans and Military Families Council. Can't be strong on defense without right equipment and having good leadership in military at the top. Not the party that cut health benefits for veterans. Stood up for vets in congress. Christine Pelosi (Nancy Pelosi's daughter) is part of program.

Still looking to have different view on Iraq. Notes statistics that people are not happy with direction of Iraq.

Outreach to veterans. DNC stands for vets all their lives not just when they serve.

Need to get message out. Needs to be strong and consistent.

Essence of good politics is saying the same thing 50 million times 100 days in a row.

Need state chairs to get involved, get email addresses.

Resolution: Virgin Islands electoral votes in the electoral college
Resolution: Honor Gloria Johnson
resolution: Honor Jean O'Leary

New Busines: Resolution S 39 Apologizing for lynching in the house. sponsored by allen of virginia and landreu of Alabama. Please support this.

Evan Gates Black National Caucas.

ATG: we need to coordinate information on our very local DNC parties. List is incomplete. No email addresses, phone numbers and incomplete names and addresses.

Dean: Democrat party looks like what America. There will be no majority in the US in the next 50 years. Need to get message out that Dems are party of opportunities for all different people.

Blogger Analysis:

Basically, this meeting was about developing the "nuts and bolts" and looking at different areas that affected their performance in the last election. This meeting did not focus on developing a message so much as it threw out some ideas that they should look at in developing their message.

From several comments made, there are opposing views of their own party. The strongest view seems to be that the party does have a message, does have a plan, but it is not being spread among their constituents consistently and widely. The smaller view seems to say that, whatever the message, it isn't the right one and it needs to be redefined and THEN coordinated and dessiminated. This will be an on going struggle in the party.

I did find it interesting that Cornell Belcher noted the Judge issue as not really making in roads with the group of "moral value voters". It was one little sentence, but it seemed to stand out among the rest. A Polite admonishment that this is not winning them any points. I reviewed that issue earlier, but I want to flesh it out. From my perspective, the party members who are attacking the judges on the grounds that they are "extremists" and may allow their religious or political views to interfere have missed the boat. People see judges with "faith" as having "moral values" that my represent their own or be very close to it. As Belcher points out, the people of faith who are concerned about morals aren't all Republican right wingers.

Whether this admonishment will influence any of the Senators on Capitol Hill is another story all together.

Development of a uniform, concise and resonating message that begins to be espoused by all of their party from local to national politics will be the party's main issue while they struggle over whether building the base parties at the local level or putting national caucuses first.

For Dean to be successful, he will have to be able to focus on all three simultaneously or at least have a strategic plan that focuses on them consecutively with the same amount of effort: base party building; national caucuses and message. While at the same time, keeping the focus there and not on Dean's occassional lapses into inflammatory rhetoric.

In short, the party is where the Republicans were almost 30 years ago: needing to rebuild themselves from the ground up.


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Tom said...

Indeed the Democrats seem lost as a party. To some extent this is inherant in their makeup.

Each party is made up of various interest groups. In the GOP some of the groups are evangelicals, right-to-lifers, Gun rights folks, economic libertarians, War-on-Terror "neoconservatives", even "south part conservatives, and more. With few exceptions, these groups are not inherantly at odds with each other. Each can get what it wants without interfering in the others agenda.

Not so with the Democrats. Many of their constituency groups are inherently at odds with each other: environmentalists vs labor Democrats over economic development, gay rights vs black groups over moral and marriage issues, and then all the groups fighting amonst themselves for the for quota percentage in whatever affirmative action campaign is going on at the moment. Heck, they fight with each other over quotas to Democratic rules committees and such.

Will the Dems be able to overcome this? I don't know. They seem to be counting on their members to continue to identify themselves in traditional terms of race, sex, and class. I have to wonder if this is the direction in which our country is headed.

Then there's the generational aspect. Many Democrats are in the older generation, and are social security voters. Doesn't seem to me like the Dems are doing anything but alienating the "401k generation" or "investor class", as they are variously called. This cannot bode well for the future of their party, either.