Tuesday, August 19, 2003
From's Last Stand http://www.prospect.org/print/V14/8/franke-ruta-g.html
Al From is quivering with rage. It's the end of a long day in late July at the Wyndham Philadelphia, and with a sheen of sweat coating his face, he gleams with emotion as he launches into the closing speech of the day at the DLC's annual conference. It's a grim speech, delivered in rousing, impassioned tones more vehement than any other speech that day. "We cannot allow our party to be hijacked!" thunders From, railing against the leftists who have been his bête noire since he founded the DLC in 1985. "The future of our party and more importantly the future of our country is at stake."
Chatter among presidential campaign staffers in the weeks since the DLC conference suggests that From's grip on the younger generation of his ideological compatriots is weakening. "I don't think anyone thinks of From as a leader," says one senior aide to a presidential candidate regularly praised by DLC heavyweights. "People don't like Al From," remarks a campaign operative with a different DLC-backed presidential candidate. "People like [DLC President] Bruce [Reed]." Adds an aide to a third DLC-supported candidate, "I think they've gone out of their way to pick a fight with Dean to satisfy their need to stay relevant."
Those are surprising words from people whose candidates' might be expected to benefit from From's harsh talk and the DLC's now 4-month-old "Stop Dean" campaign. But an increasing number of Democratic elected officials, consultants and campaign operatives are beginning to suggest that the DLC's campaign against Dean involves a fundamental misreading of today's political environment. In Newsweek, James Carville advised Democrats to "give [Dean] a chance" and challenged the DLC take that an anti-war candidate is unelectable. "It's not if you're against the war that matters," he said. "It's how and why you're against the war." At the DLC forum, Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell cautioned against "name calling." Washington state Rep. Laura Ruderman, a John Kerry supporter, rose with dismay at the conference to decry the "rat hole" into which the DLC-Dean conflict was dragging the party. "Quite frankly, it's the kind of eating each other alive that drove Jim Jeffords out of the Republican Party," she said. Perhaps the most unexpected salvo came in early August during Al Gore's speech to the online activist group MoveOn.org. Simply speaking to the anti-Iraq War group was an affront to the DLC, and in his remarks, Gore called for Democrats to respect dissent and questioning of the war, a position From and Reed have decried as "weakness abroad."
The irony here is that From's political influence stems from his excellent work in broadening the Democratic Party's base. But his entire case against Dean is founded on the assumption that Dean is exactly unlike himself. The most cursory of analysis, however, indicates that Dean's campaign is the one that seems almost tailor-made for From's endorsement.
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Nation-Building was founded by Aziz Poonawalla in August 2002 under the name Dean Nation. Dean Nation was the very first weblog devoted to a presidential candidate, Howard Dean, and became the vanguard of the Dean netroot phenomenon, raising over $40,000 for the Dean campaign, pioneering the use of Meetup, and enjoying the attention of the campaign itself, with Joe Trippi a regular reader (and sometime commentor). Howard Dean himself even left a comment once. Dean Nation was a group weblog effort and counts among its alumni many of the progressive blogsphere's leading talent including Jerome Armstrong, Matthew Yglesias, and Ezra Klein. After the election in 2004, the blog refocused onto the theme of "purple politics", formally changing its name to Nation-Building in June 2006. The primary focus of the blog is on articulating purple-state policy at home and pragmatic liberal interventionism abroad.