Unapologetic progressive. Fearless activist. Plucky liberal.

The 50-state strategy

Yesterday I finished reading “Herding Donkeys: The Fight to Rebuild the Democratic Party and Reshape American Politics” by Ari Berman, which Rick recently gave me. It chronicles how the 50-state campaign, originally created by Howard Dean for the 2004 Democratic primary, was improved upon by the Barack Obama campaign such that it helped him win in 2008 in a landslide.

Obama carried Colorado, North Carolina and Indiana, states that Republicans tended to ignore because they had been red for years. Indiana went from 21 down in 2004 to one up in 2008 for Dems, thanks to campaign efforts in populous counties. Obama lost Idaho but helped Democratic candidates down ticket, like Walt Minnick, who won in the conservative First Congressional District. These were areas that had largely been ignored by the Democratic National Committee because they were seen as a waste of money. However, with Dean as the head of the Democratic National Committee and Obama as the candidate, counties got money and attention that they never had before.

During this time, there remained a large rift between Dean and Clinton-era Democrats. As James Carville, a former adviser to Bill Clinton, said in his book, “The revitalization of the Democratic Party has occurred despite, not because of, Howard Dean’s disastrous tenure as DNC chair.”

It’s hard to imagine how he came to that conclusion after Democrats won the presidency, House of Representatives, Senate, many governors’ seats and statehouses. The DNC had not been noted for its effective campaigning before Dean came on board, and he deserved a lot of the credit for helping so many counties and states turn blue.

But another Clinton-era adviser, Rahm Emanuel, was determined not to reward Dean for his hard work by giving him a job in the new administration. Emanuel clashed with Dean when he was heading the DCCC in 2006, and Emanuel is famous in Washington for his hot temper and lasting grudges. So Emanuel got the cushy job of chief of staff and Dean was left out in the cold.

That came back to haunt the administration when Dean became a vocal critic during the long haul toward health care reform. A doctor himself, Dean was a longtime advocate of a public option and was dismayed when Obama backed away from his commitment to government-sponsored health care. He was also skeptical of how his successor at the DNC, Tim Kaine, was handling relations between the national and local Democratic parties. Instead of listening to party leaders on the ground, Kaine and others were largely ignoring their concerns and curtailing money that had been flowing in under Dean.

The disagreement comes down to grass-roots activists who want to have more say in their party and lifelong political operatives who don’t want to have to listen to them. I think it’s shortsighted for either Democrats or Repbulicans to ignore the county parties, who are perfectly capable of turning on national candidates and campaigning for someone new. As Barack Obama said in his speech at the 2004 Democratic convention, “We worship an awesome god in the blue states, and we don’t like federal agents poking around our libraries in the red states. We coach little league in the blue states and yes, we’ve got some gay friends in the red states.”

Republicans live in San Francisco and Democrats live in Oklahoma City. Politicians cheat themselves out of votes if they write off what they think is enemy territory instead of trying to recruit new supporters. They can also anger staunch advocates by taking them for granted and concentrating only on a few swing states.

As Obama gears up for his re-election run, I will be interested to see if the Democrats have learned their lesson or if they target the states they think they have the best chance of winning. One thing is for sure: The White House and DNC won’t endear themselves to the base by courting them only when they need their vote.


Comments on: "The 50-state strategy" (3)

  1. jacksmith said:


    ( Health Care Budget Deficit Calculator — http://www.cepr.net/calculators/hc/hc-calculator.html )

    ( Briefing: Dean Baker on Boosting the Economy by Saving Healthcare http://t.co/fmVz8nM )


    As you all know. Had congress passed a government-run robust Public Option CHOICE! available to everyone on day one, our economy and jobs would have taken off like a rocket. And still will.

    The message from the midterm elections is clear. The American people want real healthcare reform. They want that individual mandate requiring them to buy private health insurance abolished. And they want a government-run robust public option CHOICE! available to everyone on day one. And they want it now.

    They want Drug re-importation, and abolishment, or strong restrictions on patents for biologic and prescription drugs. And government controlled and negotiated drug and medical cost. They want back control of their healthcare system from the Medical Industrial Complex. And they want it NOW!


    For profit health insurance is extremely unethical, and morally repugnant. It’s as morally repugnant as slavery was. And few if any decent Americans are going to allow them-self to be compelled to support such an unethical and immoral crime against humanity.

    This is a matter of National and Global security. There can be NO MORE EXCUSES.

    Further, we want that corrupt, undemocratic filibuster abolished. Whats the point of an election if one corrupt member of congress can block the will of the people, and any legislation the majority wants. And do it in secret. Give me a break people.

    Also, unemployment healthcare benefits are critically needed. But they should be provided through the Medicare program at cost, less the 65% government premium subsidy provided now to private for profit health insurance.

    Congress should stop wasting hundreds of millions of dollars of taxpayer money on private for profit health insurance subsidies. Subsidies that cost the taxpayer 10x as much or more than Medicare does. Private for profit health insurance plans cost more. But provide dangerous and poorer quality patient care.



    This is what the American people are shouting at you. Both parties have just enough power now to do what the American people want. GET! IT! DONE! NOW!

    If congress does not abolish the individual mandate. And establish a government-run public option CHOICE! before the end of 2011. EVERY! member of congress up for reelection in 2012 will face strong progressive pro public option, and anti-individual mandate replacement candidates.

    Strong progressive pro “PUBLIC OPTION” CHOICE! and anti-individual mandate volunteer candidates should begin now. And start the process of replacing any and all members of congress that obstruct, or fail to add a government-run robust PUBLIC OPTION CHOICE! before the end of 2011.

    We need two or three very strong progressive volunteer candidates for every member of congress that will be up for reelection in 2012. You should be fully prepared to politically EVISCERATE EVERY INCUMBENT that fails or obstructs “THE PUBLIC OPTION”. And you should be willing to step aside and support the strongest pro “PUBLIC OPTION” candidate if the need arises.

    ASSUME CONGRESS WILL FAIL and SELLOUT again. So start preparing now to CUT THEIR POLITICAL THROATS. You can always step aside if they succeed. But only if they succeed. We didn’t have much time to prepare before these midterm elections. So the American people had to use a political shotgun approach. But by 2012 you will have a scalpel.

    Congress you could have pass a robust government-run public option during your lame duck session. You knew what the American people wanted. You already had several bills on record. And the house had already passed a public option. Departing members could have left with a truly great accomplishment. And the rest of you could have solidified your job before the 2012 elections.

    President Obama, you promised the American people a strong public option available to everyone. And the American people overwhelmingly supported you for it. Maybe it just wasn’t possible before. But it is now.

    Knock heads. Threaten people. Or do whatever you have to. We will support you. But get us that robust public option CHOICE! available to everyone on day one before the end of 2011. Or We The People Of The United States will make this midterm election look like a cake walk in 2012. And it will include you.

    We still have a healthcare crisis in America. With hundreds of thousands dieing needlessly every year in America. And a for profit medical industrial complex that threatens the security and health of the entire world. They have already attacked the world with H1N1 killing thousands, and injuring millions. And more attacks are planned for profit, and to feed their greed.

    Spread the word people.

    Progressives, prepare the American peoples scalpels. It’s time to remove some politically diseased tissues.

    God Bless You my fellow human beings. I’m proud to be one of you. You did good.

    See you on the battle field.


    jacksmith – WorkingClass :-)

  2. Lori Woody said:

    Great post, Molly.

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