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The Kicking Jackass

By Ron McBride  Posted by Larry Sakin (about the submitter)     Permalink
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When the DLC attempted to move the Democratic agenda in favor of more centrist positions, prominent Democrats from both the centrist and conservative factions (such as Terry McAuliffe) assumed leadership of the party and its direction.

Some liberals and progressives felt alienated by the Democratic Party, which they felt had become unconcerned with the interests of the common people and left-wing issues in general. Some Democrats challenged the validity of such critiques, citing the Democratic role in pushing for progressive reforms.

The 2004 campaign started as early as December 2002, when Gore announced he would not run again in the 2004 election. Howard Dean, former Governor of Vermont, an opponent of the war and a critic of the Democratic establishment, was the front-runner leading into the Democratic primaries. Dean had immense grassroots support, especially from the left wing of the party.

John Kerry became the choice of the DLC, but was unable to reconcile his initial support of the Iraq War with his opposition to the war in 2004, or manage the deep split in the Democratic Party between those who favored and opposed the war.

After the 2004 election, prominent Democrats began to rethink the party's direction, and a variety of strategies for moving forward were voiced. Some Democrats proposed moving towards the right to regain seats in the House and Senate and possibly win the presidency in the election of 2008; others demanded that the party move more to the left and become a stronger opposition party.

These debates were reflected in the 2005 campaign for Chairman of the Democratic National Committee, which Howard Dean won over the objections of many party insiders. Dean sought to move the Democratic strategy away from the establishment, and bolster support for the party's state organizations, even in Red states.

Public opinion on the war in Iraq continued its steady negative trend, and this, along with widespread sentiment among conservatives that the government had let spending get out of control, continued to drag President Bush's job approval ratings down to the lowest levels of his presidency. The main hurdle for Democratic victory in the House was the districting system (Gerrymandering) that made over 90% of the seats "safe" for one party or the other. To regain a majority, the Democrats needed to take nearly all the rest.

As a result of the 2006 midterm elections, the Democratic Party is set to become the majority party in both the House of Representatives and the United States Senate when the 110th Congress convenes in 2007.

Part of the Democratic Party's electoral success can be attributed to running mostly conservative-leaning Democrats against at-risk Republican incumbents.

The most common symbol for the party is the donkey, although the party itself never officially adopted it. The origins of this symbol are unknown, but several theories have been proposed. According to one theory, in its original form, the jackass was born in the intense mudslinging that occurred during the presidential race of 1828 as a play on the name of Andrew Jackson, the Democratic candidate. Jackson had been called "Andrew Jackass," and the defiant Jackson adopted the nickname.

On January 19, 1870, a political cartoon by Thomas Nast in Harper's Weekly titled "A Live Jackass Kicking a Dead Lion" revived the donkey as a symbol for the Democratic Party. Cartoonists followed Nast and used the donkey to represent the Democrats, and the elephant to represent the Republicans.

In the media, Democrats (and states which consistently vote Democratic) have relatively recently been depicted as blue, while Republicans, and the states in which they dominate, as red.

This combination of the Blue representing Democratic States and the kicking jackass became the symbol of the WeDemocrats.org political organization. WeDems is an organization of progressives from various parties, all 50 States and DC. Their stated goal is to revive the moderate-left wing of the party, following the leadership of Gov. Howard Dean.

Howard Brush Dean III (born November 17, 1948) is an American politician and physician from the U.S. state of Vermont. He is currently (as of 2006) chairman of the Democratic National Committee. Dean served as chairman of the National Governors Association from 1994 to 1995; during his term, Vermont paid off much of its public debt and had a balanced budget 11 times, lowering income taxes twice. Dean also oversaw the expansion of the "Dr. Dynasaur" program, which ensures universal health care for children and pregnant women in the state.

An early front-runner in the 2004 Democratic Presidential nomination, Dean denounced the 2003 invasion of Iraq along with Democrats who he felt should have more strongly opposed the Bush Administration and showed strong fundraising ability; however, he eventually lost the nomination to Senator John Kerry of Massachusetts. Dean formed the organization Democracy for America and later was elected chairman of the Democratic National Committee in February 2005.

Democracy for America (DFA) is a political action committee dedicated to supporting fiscally responsible, socially progressive candidates at all levels of government.

Originally founded by former Vermont governor, Howard Dean, the organization is now chaired by his brother, Jim Dean. It aims to increase grass-roots participation in the Democratic Party and in government as a whole by encouraging members of the public to involve themselves in the political process both as activists and as candidates.

The organization focuses on:

Supporting fiscally responsible, socially progressive candidates for all levels of office using grassroots volunteers, money, and advice in order to build a farm team of progressive candidates.

Training the grassroots in get out the vote techniques and giving back to the community through service projects via DFA Corps.

Working with other progressive organizations

Some of this work is facilitated through their participation in America Votes. All U.S. states have local affiliates of DFA (Democracy for America). The group is headquartered in South Burlington, Vermont. DFA now has 37,700 members.

WeDemocrats.org began using the tools and training of DFA when they were formed on October 5, 2006.

It seems that as a National Group they were outgrowing the staff and abilities of DFA to handle the over 1,400 members in the two months they had existed. Rather than be cutoff from DFA completely WeDems agreed to become a statewide group and since Ron McBride, the founder of WeDems lived in Illinois and that is where DFA put them.

In return for their agreeing to this downgrade, DFA would recognize and include WeDemocrats.org in the National Organization in their Coalition Groups List for National Grassroots Groups.

WeDemocrats.org continues to grow with almost 1,500 members as of this writing. DFA suddenly purges the group and removed every member not from Illinois, over 1,300 members were not given a choice, and they just suddenly disappeared as did WeDemocrats on their "Groups I Belong To" list on DFA.

In addition to purging the membership, WeDems ability to contact their members was hampered by the removal of access to those 1,300 members emails, DFA said they couldn't provide WeDems with those emails because of their Privacy Policy, WeDems studied the Policy and did not see such a provision. One would reasonably expect that a group's management would be able to contact their members, but it seems not the case for groups in DFA.

Choosing grassroots fundraising as a way to fight special interests

WeDems chose as their first national issue to champion that of Clean Elections & Electoral Reform. They believe that the answer to part of this is setting term limits. In the Senate two (six year) terms, in the House four (two year) terms, and for the Supreme Court twenty years. To accomplish this they are calling for a Constitutional Convention. The US Constitution Twenty-Second Amendment of 2/27/1951 restricts the length of office that a person can hold as President to two terms and total of ten years. We believe if term limits are imposed on politicians, corruption in politics would decrease by the simple math of it. The less time a person has to gain favor with those who would pay for favors, the less abuse would take place.

In America today, only about half of those eligible to vote are registered and fewer than half of those registered actually vote. One way we may be able to overcome the apathy and cynicism that so many feel about politics and elected officials is to stop the flood of money that is drowning out the public's voice. The way to do this is with grassroots efforts creating such a wave of protest that our elected officials are forced to act.

This Amendment would be only part of the Campaign for Clean Elections & Electoral Reform by WeDemocrats.org.


Ron McBride is a co-founder and Executive Director of We Democrats, a new progressive political action group. http://wedemocrats.org
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