Monday, November 22, 2004

Politics, Politics, & Politics (Oh My): The Return of Keeping It Real Politik

I've been over to a new blog several times in the last day or so, one devoted solely to politics for those who were, let us say, none to pleased with the results of the recent election. It's run by a good pal of mine, Mike Valdman, and is entitled The Sorest Loser. Definitely give it a whirl if you're of a like mind, or have an open one (which, sadly, fewer and fewer of us seem to possess nowadays).

Hanging out over there put me in a political mind this chilly SoCal evening (well, it's chilly for us, okay?). I had a bunch of thoughts on the wackiness of the media in American culture, but I'll get to that another day. I suppose I've been trying to divert myself from politics, at least for a spell, as I feel as disheartened and flattened as any Democrat you are likely to meet. But the truth is that now is the time to do the hard thinking, at least for those who care and for those who are willing to do so. I think it's time for those who care about this country, especially the young-ish generation, to get off our collective asses and have our say. Stand up and be counted. Etc.

That being said, a scan of some left-leaning political websites and blogs will tell you that there's about to be a battle for who will lead the Democratic party -- both philosophically and literally -- into the near and medium-term future. Part of that battle is being fought right now to see who will replace Terry McAuliffe as the Democratic National Chairman. Right now, John Kerry and other old school moderates would like to install Tom Vilsack, the Governor of Iowa and finalist in the Veep sweepstakes this year (along with Gephardt and Edwards). I think that he would be a poor choice: someone is needed who is going to break the mold and energize the party for many years to come.

While many people are "scared" of how "liberal" Howard Dean is, I believe he would make a much better choice. Under the tutelage of the brilliant Joe Trippi, the Dean campaign revolutionized campaign financing forever by making the Internet a "killer app" of grassroots politics. He made it hip and fun to be into politics again, and perhaps most of all, he made people feel that being a Democrat was a good thing again: that we stand for something and are willing to fight for it. The truth is that Dean is a former practicing physician, an overall brilliant guy, and was a very successful Governor of Vermont.

Dean shares a quality with John McCain: he tells you what he thinks, and I think that's what makes both figures two of the most popular in American politics. They also both exhibit an independent streak that annoys the party insiders and delights independents. I think McCain sold out more than a little bit by how much he openly embraced Bush this year (I think that was a realpolitik maneuver for McCain '08) but that we can get into another time.

Do I think Dean would make a great president? I have no idea, but I must admit I was in a small way relieved when he slipped in the primaries (DB Note: Dean was a goner prior to The Scream, contrary to popular belief) as he presented a phat target for Karl Rove & Co. However, I do think he is and can continue to be a driving force in transforming the Democratic Party into a leaner, meaner (screamier?) machine.

Another thing the Democratic Party needs to do is, as Jesse Jackson Jr. recently put it, is to have an across-the-board overhaul of politics-as-usual. We need to develop a "bench" of party superstars, as the current crop is awfully thin:

- Hillary Clinton in '08 is looking like a shaky proposition at present. A polarizing, Northeastern Senator who will dredge up the recent political past may be too much to overcome in facing off against a heavyweight GOP opponent like McCain or Giuliani.

- John Edwards is Southern, charming, bright, and personable, but he never proved that he helped the ticket in any substantive way and faded badly after his stellar (and media driven?) primary run. And, he "retired" from the Senate so he's way out of the spotlight for the time being. (That being said, DB wishes Mrs. Edwards the very best for a speedy recovery.)

There are some bright new stars out there, such as Governor Mark Warner of Virginia, and, especially, Senator-elect Barack Obama of Illinois, but we need many more.

What is good is that Democrats are finally realizing, as a minority-status party, that there needs to be a foundation of media, grassroots organization, technology, and communication to match the Conservative Machine that has been built and finely tuned over the last twenty years. Indeed, stories and rumors that percolate on conservative websites like The Drudge Report and conservative radio (of which there are many personalities: Rush, Hannity, Savage, etc.) then float into conservative newspapers (The Washington Times, The Wall Street Journal) and television (Fox News, oh ye of Faire and Balanced fame). This has been brought to the level of science to redirect the course of national discourse. Apparatus to combat this machine, such as blogs, websites, Air America radio, and liberal-minded think tanks are just coming on line now.

I hope that we get some leadership together to harness the new ideas and new personalities that are out there. And I hope we get our collective acts together for '06.

I, and 50+ million people like me, need something to look forward to.

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