When Howard Dean announced "I will not run for President in 2008, because I feel that if the DNC isn't reformed, no democrat can win." at this weekend's DNC regional meeting in Atlanta he raised the eyebrows of the room. When he later told the state delegates that he would not be able to transform the Democratic Party without their complete support and efforts, the room was leaden. A silent 'Oh he's going into his bit about having the power and all that' floated over the room, conversations about something else threatened to rise. And then everyone moved right along.
I realized then that Howard Dean, whose ideas I've supported, wasn't enough to save/resuscitate the Democratic party. Even if he were to enact change with swagger to match George W. Bush, the winning attitude isn't enough. Historically / Rhetorically the Democrats' agenda of social justice, civil rights, and economic fairness has kept me attracted by a belief that, even if the system is broken, at least I'm on the side that might not screw things up even worse. But when Dean's admonishment about the need for every democrat to pull up stakes and rework the party was received flatly, I discovered for myself what johnharkeygibbs explains in his post below.
While I continue to believe that a burst of energy may inflame the Democratic Party, I also recognize that the evolutionary odds are against it. Every government misdeed, paling when compared to 9/11 in the emotional minds of Americans, is passed over as a widget in a news cycle. The democratic party is locked in a half-hearted rah! session wondering how things got so bad, so fast.
"The challenge of the twenty-first century is how to reframe our thinking about just what it is that we are moving toward. Pessimism has not turned out to be such a great friend to the leftist cause. Obviously we can't go back to believing in naive versions of progress, but neither can we continue to wallow in futility." Too right, john. Though I would add that our abject shock at the behavior of our government in the last four years is often mistaken for pessimism. The problems have been magnified and multiplied since BushCo. got into the foreign policy business.
So, what to do? I Floated A Concept at Scrutiny Hooligans in the wake of the election, "While a strong leader heading the DNC might stem the entropy, it's local politics that will keep the reenergized grassroots vitality alive.
Alabama's Progressive Democrats have the opportunity to provide the electorate with a new approach to Democratic politics. A newly born Green Democratic Party might flourish in urban and liberal areas. A Black Democratic Party might serve to promote the interests of African-Americans. If fractures in the Democratic Party exist, why not take advantage of our diversity?
By adding a descriptor to the Democratic Party name, democrats can remain united as people whose central political interests revolve around social justice, civil liberties, prosperity, and safety. Like spokes on a wheel, the various 'special interest' parties can strengthen the national party if their constituents continue to identify as Democrats."
I would now add that new Parties, local and regional, can reinvigorate democracy with or without the Democratic Party. Local efforts to win school board seats, city council seats, mayoral seats anywhere in America create a culture of empowered democracy. The principles on which progressives run will differ, and that's what local politics is all about.
Should Dean rally the DNC, should Barack Obama become half the man we think he is, should journalism return - then we'll talk about a transformation that might resonate. I will continue to support candidates whose views are closest to my own, no matter their party, but I will also work to create a progressive mentality based on recognizing that the best function of government is to ensure the freedom of its citizens while providing an atmosphere in which people can thrive.
Many aren't waiting for the next Martin Luther King, Jr. to come along in today's politics, they're too busy trying to whip their horses to the finish line first. And whether a great leader emerges in our culture or not, each of us can still go out and do the work we would like to see done.
Let the wave rise and let's find out if it'll float any boats.