I find it difficult to express my severe disappointment with my former hero, James Carville. When Carville appeared on the national political scene, he was a real breathe of fresh air. The Cajun Democratic dynamo was a real man of the people speaking in the language of the average man on the street and talking about real world issues.
Carville appears to have slowly been captured by the system. He is now talking like an inside the Beltway politician and spewing the normal venom of the Washington insiders against the populist leader of the Democratic Party, Howard Dean.
Carville seems to think that Dean should be replaced because the Democratic gain in Congress was not bigger than the landslide it was. (No seriously, he has been making statements to that effect. I am not making this up.) Carville and other Washington insider critics believe that the Democratic National Committee could have won around a dozen more seats in Congress by putting more money into those House races.
Dean has been focused on a real 50 state strategy of Party building that has already helped Democrats gain control of Congress and the US Senate. We made impressive gains in Governorships and state legislatures. We made impressive gains in the West and Northeast. The decline of Democratic prospects in the South has been halted and significant future gains appear likely.
It is true that more money would have produced victories in certain campaigns had they received more national support. The campaign of Chris Bell in the Texas Governor race is a prime example. The Ford Senate campaign in Tennessee really needed more national financial support. The House seats not won are important but targeting the right ones would have been difficult if not impossible to determine. Money pulled from other DNC efforts might have resulted in losses elsewhere in this election cycle and future elections.
Carville seems to be excessively focused on short-term gains. This kind of thinking is largely responsible for the decline of the Democratic Party in the pre-Dean era. The Washington power elite had been playing insider politics as a zero sum game looking for immediate gains at the expense of the future before Dean became DNC Chairman.
Our entire nation has been suffering from this kind of short-term thinking from the elite in DC and Wall Street. As a nation and a political party, we need to relearn the concept of sacrificing now and investing to produce a more bountiful future. Howard Dean gets it!
Carville has lost touch with his populist roots. Dean has not. Dean would spend money building a grassroots Democratic structure in places like Mississippi, Iowa, Montana, Kansas, Colorado, Alabama, Georgia, New Hampshire, Wyoming, Utah and Idaho. He would make the Republicans fight to hold their geographic base instead of always being on the defense trying to protect a shrinking Democratic geographic turf.
The Democratic Party needs to be a truly national Party with a truly national leadership. We have that kind of leadership at the Democratic National Committee. We have a national leader who wants to recruit and strengthen our Party at the county, town and city level everywhere. He will not write-off places like Licking County, Ohio or Lincoln County, Tennessee or Cecil County, Maryland. He will not surrender Valdez, Alaska or Lynchburg, Virginia or West Jefferson, North Carolina to uncontested Republican dominance.
Dean will fight for our great Democratic Party in all 50 states and not just a dozen or so competitive Congressional Districts. Democrats will fight in those Districts and another 400 more in 2008. We will fight again in 2010 and 2012. This fight is eternal. We need a Party organization that is permanently vigilant and not based just on individual candidate campaigns during election years. Dean gets it!
The great Democratic tide is still rising. It is a populist tide. The Washington insiders and power elite in the Democratic Party can join the effort or be swept away. The 2006 Election was the beginning and not the crest. This new populism is based on a struggling middle class given national power by the Internet and the rise of new organizations. This populism is closely tied by issues and background with the grassroots of the labor union movement and local civic reform movements. It has deep roots in the FDR New Deal traditions of the Democratic Party. Dean gets it!
In the heartland, the Democratic Party has shown surprising new life in recent years. The Red heartland has started to become Purple and looks headed Blue. This development can be seen in activities like My Rural America.org http://myruralamerica.org .
Carville needs to get out into the heartland and start talking to local Democratic leaders. Carville needs more Kansas and less DC. Dean has not been captured by the system. I still have hope for Carville. I will be praying for him. I hope he can learn from Howard Dean and reconnect with his roots in the populist tradition of the Democratic Party.
Written by Stephen Crockett (co-host of Democratic Talk Radio http://www.DemocraticTalkRadio.com .) Mail: P.O. Box 283, Earleville, Maryland 21919. Phone: 443-907-2367. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org .
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