Tuesday, February 17, 2004

Political Change and Reinvigoration

Very nice piece by Stirling Newberry on Daily Kos about internet politics post-Dean.

As someone who has decided to put aside private life to pursue work in the public sector, I will tell you why: because there is nothing that we can do, here and now, that will make our lives better, our children's lives better and our nation better - than politics. For a long time politics was gridlock, say little and do less.

That's ending - with the events of the last 5 years, it is clear that action is better than inaction. What is also clear to the people on the inside - is that the old donor base is, well, old. To get a new one, they are also realizing that they have to change, as institutions, as people, as a party.....

....Right now projects are forming that will change the Democratic party at its core. We are working to draw message, ideas, energy - the high value work that Democrats have proven they are capable of - and bring them to the inside. The corresponding task for those of us who are "outside" is to learn the political system, learn the rules, the language, the restrictions, so we can begin targetting our force on issues and elections of importance. Kos is way out in front doing it - others are doing so as well.

But to make them work, it will require work. What the inside listens to is proof - we've proven we can push issues, get coverage, raise money. We have to learn what an international football player would call "finishing" - putting the ball in the net. To get a chance to do that, we have to build candidates, build coalitions, take seats on Democratic Committees. This will begin openning up the process.

With an open process creates an avenue for new ideas, and new ways of implementing old programs. It brings new faces, and new connections, a fountain of youth to restore to vibrancy the party as a progressive party.
I agree with much of this; I still think the "old school" view of politics has legitimacy, and there ARE lessons about "new politics" to be drawn from the Dean campaign.

The core idea of change and renewal, however, is the key insight here. I've been saying for a while that the Dean campaign is, in many respects, the Democratic equivalent of the Goldwater campaign for the Republicans; what I hadn't anticipated is that it will probably be 2003- not 2004- that is seen as the watershed year, because that was the year that non-traditional networks (whether grassroots or online) made their presence and importance known. One need only look at the ads on Eschaton, Calpundit or Daily Kos to see that politicians are taking these networks seriously.

Yes, Kerry is pretty much guaranteed to be the nominee. There's no doubt about that now. In most respects, though, that's what's so great about this. The Democrats don't have to lose a general election in order to be re-invigorated for a later one, like with the Goldwater and Reagan campaigns. the invigoration has already taken place, and the lessons of the Dean campaign can be applied to Kerry in the general election. Although I'm still not an enormous fan of primaries, if this is the result, then this primary may have been the best thing to happen to the Democrats since FDR.

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