« Afghan Optimism | Main | When You're Right »

Memoires of the Dean Campaign

Young Ezra Klein's review of Joe Trippi's book in The Washington Monthly makes a whole bunch of good points about the Dean campaign. On the other hand, I think it's wrong to get overly deterministic about this stuff. Dean lost because he did poorly in Iowa after having had his Iowa expectations built up so high. It's possible that a defter campaign would have just said that the Iowa demographics were no good for Dean, focused on more Dean-friendly New Hampshire, and then stormed into the weirdness of the southern primaries where you're dealing with a very small Democratic primary electorate and won. Who knows?

I think the demographic point is an important one, because Deanism represented one of the two growing demographic constituencies for the Democratic Party -- well-educated professionals drawn to the Democrats over social issues, the party's new identity as fiscally responsible party, and its support for environmentalism. (The other growth point is Latinos who didn't have a clear candidate in the '04 primaries). It's important to keep in mind that the 'net-centricity of the Dean campaign wasn't just about the internet -- it also has demographic elements. Gephardt, whose core constituency was older blue collar union members simply couldn't have organized his people in that way -- they, like the Iowa electorate as a whole, would have found it weird and off-putting, not cool and inspiring. Insofar as Democrats rely more heavily on the Web, they're going to be relying on a disproportionately white, disproportionately wealthy, disproportionately well-educated, disproportionately young sub-set of the party's base.

When it looked like Dean had the big mo', of course, he picked up additional support from the basically opportunistic AFSCME and from the SEIU whose president, Andy Stern, is always looking for The Next Big Thing and thought he found it. But this new bloc of people who have a basically different set of concerns never got well-integrated into the campaign. Stern's kept up his interest since then of wedding the labor movement (or at least the slice of it he controls) to the dynamism being exhibited in other spheres of the progressive movement. That's exactly the right thing to be doing and everything, I think, hinges on its success. Mark Schmitt was asking a while back if there could be a successfull progressive politics without strong unions at or near its core, and I'm pretty sure the answer is "no." At the same time, progressives clearly need to harness the power of 21st century technology and the ability of "post-material" issues to move certain segments of upscale voters into their column. It's a pretty hard circle to square, but so are all political coalitions at the end of the day.

September 30, 2004 | Permalink

TrackBack

TrackBack URL for this entry:
http://www.typepad.com/services/trackback/6a00d8345160fd69e200d8342179fe53ef

Listed below are links to weblogs that reference Memoires of the Dean Campaign:

» Fear My Byline from Pandagon
Looks like the secret's out: I've got a review of Joe Trippi's The Revolution Will Not Be Televised in the latest issue of the Washington Monthly. And now, thanks to the miracle of the internet, you can read it online.... [Read More]

Tracked on Sep 30, 2004 2:21:32 PM

Comments

I think you made one small mistake:

""because Deanism represented one of the two growing demographic constituencies for the Democratic Party -- well-educated professionals drawn to the Democrats over social issues, the party's new identity as fiscally responsible party, and its support for environmentalism.""

Actually, Deanism represents the ONE growing demographic of the Democratic Party: sophomoric, pacifist lunatics. Which is why the party is disintegrating.

Posted by: Steve | Sep 30, 2004 1:15:50 PM

As far as you've gone here, I think you're pretty much correct. The Dean campaign can be pretty muched summed up as well-to-do college kids and white collar wealthy people who are netcentric. And that obviously is not the core of the Democratic base.

I recently wrote a post on my blog Common Sense about how I think those disaffected Generation Dean kids (as if I wasn't one of them) will be the consultants and campaign managers who guide Democrats to victories because Dean didn't win. The new head of the base, so to speak.

Posted by: Nate | Sep 30, 2004 1:26:12 PM

And that obviously is not the core of the Democratic base.

No, not the core of the democratic base. However, they are a part of the Democratic base that was actively ignored for a long time. They weren't a piece of the Democratic base because they didn't vote in large numbers, and no campaign ever bothered to appeal to them. These were voters who either went for Nader or sat out the Gore campaign and didn't bother to volunteer, being content merely to show up to the polls to pull the lever for him on election day.

The contrast between Gore's message and Dean's message was really striking-- Gore's was, "They are for the powerful, we are for the people." The Dean campaign's message was, [effectively] "you are the powerful." Honestly, it's a much more compelling message.

White, young professionals and students don't get enthusiastic about a campaign message that focuses entirely on attracting traditional union support and the economically disenfranchised. Who knew?

Posted by: Constantine | Sep 30, 2004 3:08:20 PM

"Dean lost because he did poorly in Iowa after having had his Iowa expectations built up so high."

On a tactical level, this is somewhat true. But on a strategic level, Dean had lost the nomination by Thanksgiving.

After his summer triumphs, the Dean campaign internally knew it had to pivot toward the center of the Party that fall. This was to take the form of a middle class tax proposal, and a lessening of attacks on "Washington Democrats".

Due to the basic dysfunctionality of the campaign, and perhaps of the candidate himself, this pivot never took place. And by the time of the Gore endorsement, watching the Dean campaign was like watching a dead man walking.

If they had handled the tactics of Iowa and New Hampshire better, they certainly would have fared better. But the nomination was already out of their reach by that time. Even wins in IA and NH wouldn't have changed that outcome.

The best they could have done, after neglecting to do the necessary pivot the previous fall, would have been to end up as one of the final two candidates, with Dean getting the same 37% of the vote in CA and NY that Bradley had received 4 years earlier.

---

The moral of the Dean story is very similar to the moral of the McCain story in '00: you can't win a Party's nomination by relentlessly attacking that very Party.

Posted by: Petey | Sep 30, 2004 3:14:37 PM

"The Dean campaign can be pretty muched summed up as well-to-do college kids and white collar wealthy people who are netcentric. And that obviously is not the core of the Democratic base."

If they are not the core, then who is? Aging hippies? Old '60s civil rights activists? Blue collar union workers?

Look, the country is changing (as it always does). The Democrats need to change with it. I'm not saying leave behind what *used to be* the core of the party, but the core of the Democratic party in 1940 wasn't the same as it would be in 1965, and that wasn't the same as it is in 2004. Well-to-do, internet savvy, urban & suburban young people, as well as white collar liberals, *must* be the new core for the Dems. In fact, they're fast becoming the core.

This might be what MY was trying to get at (and if he wasn't, my bad). But I'm often discouraged when today's Dems keep clinging to the aging, rusting 'old core' of the party, instead of focusing on the newer, emerging core. Howard Dean knew this, and we started to see the first glimmer of realization of the new 21st century face of the party. This change will take time. It won't happen overnight. But it *does need to happen*.

Posted by: Matt (not MY) | Sep 30, 2004 3:22:47 PM

Until the democrat party becomes more
"pro-America" it will have trouble at
the national level. Clinton was a
once-in-a-generation politician who
could fool enough of the people enough
of the time to win.

Gore was not that a good a politician
and lost.

Kerry is not that good a politician
and will lose.

Most Americans are not members of the MSM
or College professors. America is much
further to right now than it was 22 years
ago.

If Bush wasn't so inarticulate he would be
up by 13 points, not just 3. But the
demographics of America will be it's destiny.

More nationalism. More Religiousness. More
of a move to the right.

Posted by: pragmatist | Sep 30, 2004 3:37:31 PM

Matt, you wrote, " well-educated professionals drawn to the Democrats over social issues, the party's new identity as fiscally responsible party, and its support for environmentalism."

Many of these types I know personally, I am one of them, and every one of us did not think highly of Dean's candidacy for a variety of reasons related to personality, strategy, and tactics - all of which ultimately reflect Dean's political judgement. He was not ready for prime time, as events and his reaction to events proved.

Posted by: Hard Time Killing Floor | Sep 30, 2004 3:51:52 PM

"If they are not the core, then who is? Aging hippies? Old '60s civil rights activists? Blue collar union workers?"

Same as it's always been: middle and lower income workers who stand to lose the most from Republican economic policies.

That's where the votes to get to 51% are, and that's where the Party's universally shared core principles are.

---

"Well-to-do, internet savvy, urban & suburban young people, as well as white collar liberals, *must* be the new core for the Dems. In fact, they're fast becoming the core."

The Dean '04 / Bradley '00 / Tsongas '92 / Hart '84 wing of the Party hasn't grown much over the past 20 years. And there's not much reason to think they'll grow a whole lot more over the next 20 years.

And at least Hart and Tsongas managed to win a few primaries...

Posted by: Petey | Sep 30, 2004 4:45:44 PM

middle and lower income workers who stand to lose the most from Republican economic policies. That's where the votes to get to 51% are,

The next time this strategy actually succeeds in bringing the Democratic vote above 51%, call me.

Posted by: Constantine | Sep 30, 2004 5:01:21 PM

"The next time this strategy actually succeeds in bringing the Democratic vote above 51%, call me."

Unfortunately, the Democratic Party has been the minority party at the national level since '68 because we're in the minority on cultural, racial, regional, and military issues. But we're in the majority on lunchbox issues, and that's been true, more or less, since '32.

But even more importantly, the two parties have switched constituencies on various issues many times over the past 100 years. But the one thing that has remained constant since at least 1896 is that Republicans are the party for the rich, and Democrats are the party for the workers.

Lunchbox issues not only are the basis for building a national majority, but they also unite Democrats across the Party spectrum.

Posted by: Petey | Sep 30, 2004 5:13:10 PM

I run a county Kerry campaign (college town), and we have 373 members almost none of whom are blue-collar. We do have a fair few union members. I've had no contact from the unions, but I've got a union list and now we're reaching out to them.
There's a separate student organization. We've also had drives to register students, HS students, and the homeless. We've also got a modern art display of voting booths around town.

Posted by: John Isbell | Sep 30, 2004 6:37:48 PM

the myth of the dean campaign was that it was successful. It wasn't. As a movement, it was a blip in time, and while it served as a proxy for discontentment over Bushco, it never really moved beyond that (mostly because the candidate couldn't deliver in real time). It quickly lost its momentum and direction (much quicker than it buitl it, by the way) and became more a feeling or a memory, than a reality.

For anyone to think the Dean would be a better candidate than Kerry, please consider the Dr Dean baby killer; Dr Dean crazy man, Dr Dean draft dodger campaign that would certainly be run by Bushco.

Posted by: daudder | Sep 30, 2004 7:00:11 PM

"I run a county Kerry campaign (college town), and we have 373 members almost none of whom are blue-collar."

College towns are the heart of the "new" demographics, of course.

Kerry won IA and NH (and thus the nomination) by racking up big margins among downscale & uneducated Democrats. My guy, Johnny Edwards, actually won the upscale & educated Dean demographic in Iowa.

Posted by: Petey | Sep 30, 2004 7:11:41 PM

For anyone to think the Dean would be a better candidate than Kerry, please consider the Dr Dean baby killer; Dr Dean crazy man, Dr Dean draft dodger campaign that would certainly be run by Bushco.

dean would have weathered the assault. you know why? because he, unlike kerry, would have hit back. how many weeks did kerry let go unanswered attacks against his war record? kerry allowed flip flop charges go unanswered, thereby allowing the charge to solidify. kerry is doing his best to do an impression of a punching bag. you expect people to trust somebody who wont defend his own honor? this is your example of a strong candidate?


if dean was so marginal to begin with, why did party hacks go out of their way to kill him? dean got hit from the left and right.

and why does matt sound like a club for growth ad?

"Howard Dean should take his tax-hiking, government-expanding, latte-drinking, sushi-eating, Volvo-driving, New York Times-reading ..." "... Hollywood-loving, left-wing freak show back to Vermont, where it belongs."

the party keeps losing race after race because of incompetence, cowardice and lack of principle. it needs to be smacked around. if you don't demand from the party certain standards and accountibility, then people deserve the party they get.

the truth about dean is that he had the courage to tell uncomfortable truths. the outcome proved that it's not just republicans who prefer to be lied to.

Posted by: y | Sep 30, 2004 7:25:40 PM

if you dig into DLC archives and search for clinton pre '92 position papers and speeches, you'll see how harshly your beloved clinton attacked his own party.

The moral of the Dean story is very similar to the moral of the McCain story in '00: you can't win a Party's nomination by relentlessly attacking that very Party.

Posted by: y | Sep 30, 2004 8:01:35 PM

I think Matthew brings up some good points. I was thinking about appealing to young college kids like me. One thing, of course, is that wrinkly ol' partrician Kerry won't identify as well with young professionals and college kids as Dean. But, for the party as a whole, what could we do? Here are my ideas:

-bash the RIAA a bit, and try to establish some kind of program to expand the public domain, perhaps by establishing some kind of government corporation that would buy patents and copyrights from their owners on a voluntary basis? The first use of this would be drugs and technologies, but maybe a few other things too, like publishing a series of k-16 textbooks in almost every subject, online or in the public domain, that would somehow be made the preferred texts of state universities? Unlike online textbooks, these would have the kind of assured authority printed textbooks have, and not have the stigma of being on a seedy academic webpage with a tilde in the address (there could be print versions too (though for some things, like showing how bird lungs work, electronic media is clearly superior), though probably just left to be published by academic presses, not by a government publisher). I think the benefits of such a small-scale public-domain expansion program would outweigh the costs.

-Another thing I think would appeal to young, hip professionals is if the Democrats endorsed ideas, like those recently seen in the corporate chartering structure of Google, which give employees the option of buying special shares with far more votes than a regular share. I think that the young professionals don't like the current corporate management system, not so much because they feel like they're being exploited, so much as they feel like their potential is stifled by higher-ups who don't understand the details at the low level (the specific technologies involved, the details of marketing techniques, etc). See Dilbert. I'm not quite sure how Congress could have an effect on corporate chartering, which is a state affair at the highest level, and a matter of venture capitalists lower-down for the most part, though.

-Talk a bit about how the importance of a good economy isn't just getting enough Dollars to pay the rent and buy food: it's about finding a job that fulfills you as a person, that actualizes your being. No, not everyone is going to be a graphic designer, but sometimes Democrats give the impression that the worker's utopia consists of fairly well-to-do union jobs in a manufacturing plant, mostly doing something repetitive. No, no, no! The Indians and Chinese can take that if they want it! The worker's utopia is people pushing the limits of their creative potential in the new economy! Okay, those last two sentences were bullshit, but job quality goes beyond salary and healthcare. One sector of the lower-middle end of the job market I think could use some new blood are those of skilled "fixers" like electricians, plumbers, etc. Mostly these people make fairly good salaries, the work isn't endlessly repetitive, and most of the current workers are aging and there's a shortage of them. Okay, that's not exactly a big appeal to the college kids and professionals, but I think it's a good idea anyway.

-Singles have values too! Do something to make it clear that being single is no less morally worthy than having a family. Now, families are great. Boost them, but singles aren't some weird brand of amoral sub-Americans. If Bush, say, does something like devoting money to marraige promotion, don't just call it silly. Say that marriage is a deeply personal decision, and every individuals and couple's decision to marry or not is a personal and highly contingent choice, not a reflection of some kind of character flaw.

Thoughts? Any ideas on other things to attract young professional types? Think my ideas suck?

I don't understand the point of y: Democratic party hacks betrayed their party's base by forcing Kerry's nomination over Dean's. But it was Dean who got the most endorsements from bigwigs. Kerry's victory seemed (at the time) to come out of nowhere from the core Democrats of Iowa. Now, none of this is to say that there weren't people who attacked Dean, but before Iowa, Dean, Edwards, and Clark seemed more like establishment candidates than Kerry.

Posted by: Julian Elson | Oct 1, 2004 2:44:50 AM

It's probably a private juoke between you two guys, in which case Never Mind, but otherwise isn't it time you dropped referring to him as "young Ezra"?

Personally, when I was being a Smart guy 12-23 surrounded by everyone around me being older, I find that sort of thing pretty annoying (much though I'd generally deny it at the time).

Posted by: Gary Farber | Oct 1, 2004 6:05:00 AM

julian, that's another point i wanted to make.

Democratic party hacks betrayed their party's base by forcing Kerry's nomination over Dean's. But it was Dean who got the most endorsements from bigwigs.

there is a reason why kerry was 30 points behind before iowa. he was at one time neck-in-neck with carol mosley braun. pretty pitiful when you consider he's the one who had the highest national name recognition next to lieberman.

who knows kerry better than his collegues in congress? and yet it was dean who lead in the superdelegate count. why didn't his collegues support kerry from the start? what does that tell you? it tells me that establishment dems themselves were sick of the status quo and the direction the party's been headed. they wanted new leadership.

how many original kerry supporters do you know? voters who were with him from the start? from before the iowa contest. not very many i wager. now why is that?

Kerry's victory seemed (at the time) to come out of nowhere from the core Democrats of Iowa

kerry didn't start to heat up till he started stealing dean's stump speeches. he and edwards all of a sudden started coming out opposing leave no child behind, the patriot act, etc, (all the things dean had laid the ground work in railing against) but without owning up that they themselves voted for the same programs. even edward supporters complained about kerry stealing edward proposals.

not to say dean was perfect, he had his faults for sure. but kerry operatives conducting push polling and running bin laden ads against dean did a lot to soften his support. don't know why people treat these kind tactics as inconsequential when democrats get all up in arms about this when republicans pull the same thing. was push polling only wrong when bush applied this against mccain? was conflating bin laden only wrong when it was applied against max cleland. apparently dirty tricks is acceptable when it's applied to fellow dems.

as i said dean had his faults, but at least he had passion, was fighter and wasn't a doormat.
i'll give kerry credit for reversing his freefall, he has ratcheted it up recently. but typically when kerry speaks, all the issues sound merely academic. there is a lot to be said for the critique that career politicians become too insulated in their beltway bubble and lose their ability in being able to connect with the public.

Posted by: y | Oct 1, 2004 2:57:30 PM

one more thing. i fit in none of matt's "club for growth" demographic. and the sterotype of dean and his supporters as nothing but a bunch of peaceniks, is so off the mark. it was especially insulting when fellow dems used the same kind of club republicans were using to pummel dean supporters.

all the hardcore pacifists were in the kucinich camp. dean supporters were more in line with his moderate position. we supported the first gulf war. the intervention in bosnia, etc. does that sound like an "unreconstructed" hippie liberal dove to you?

Posted by: y | Oct 1, 2004 3:17:07 PM

make that:

most of the hardcore pacifists...

Posted by: y | Oct 1, 2004 3:19:12 PM

y, don't listen to Steve. He's just a troll.

Matt's point isn't that Dean was some kind of weird hard-left type. In fact, Matt doesn't really mention Dean's foreign policy at all. His point was that Dean drew a lot of support from "well-educated professionals drawn to the Democrats over social issues, the party's new identity as fiscally responsible party, and its support for environmentalism," constituencies that Matt thinks are growing. How is that an insult to the Dean campaign?

Or, who do YOU think Dean's constituents were? How was it different from Edward's constituents, or Kerry's, or Clark's? You surely don't think that Democrats just divided randomly among the candidates: surely they had different appeals.

As for me, I thought that Kerry would make the best president of the bunch, I wouldn't say from the beginning, but from before the Iowa caucuses. I was in Illinois, and am a registered voter in Missouri, so I didn't vote in the primaries (absentee ballot for a vote in a rather late-primary state? I didn't think it was worthwhile.). I admit, Kerry wasn't exactly gold at the start of his campaign. Still, Kerry clearly didn't win the primaries by sucking.

Dean would have made a fine Democratic party nominee, and a fine President, but in a field of nine, it's a matter of arithmetic that eight will lose and only one will win. That doesn't mean that lessons can't be learned from campaigns other than Kerry's or Edward's, though. Matt wants to learn from Dean's. What do you think the lessons are?

Posted by: Julian Elson | Oct 1, 2004 6:13:22 PM

The comments to this entry are closed.