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"America has two great dominant strands of political thought - conservatism, which, at its very best, draws lines that should not be crossed; and progressivism, which, at its very best, breaks down barriers that should never have been erected." -- Bill Clinton, Dedication of the Clinton Presidential Library, November 2004

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Friday, November 21, 2003


Dean Summit Report From Atlanta

posted by Dana at Friday, November 21, 2003 permalink View blog reactions
I spent this morning at the Atlanta Dean Summit. I counted about 80 people there, including a few from Alabama. (Not bad on a few days' notice, on a weekday when we were supposed to be working.) Some were experienced Democratic organizers. Others were Dean people who knew nothing about politics six months ago and are now better at it than the pros.

Their breakfast spread, for instance, was outstanding. An army travels on its stomach. There was at least one TV crew, from Channel 11, and Tom Baxter of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, “collecting string” for future stories. I showed him the homemade apple-cheese pastries. “Who says there’s no such thing as a free lunch?” he joked, and enjoyed them immensely.

Joe Trippi, not the pastries, was what had brought Baxter there, of course. Joe didn’t disappoint, although he could never be a candidate because he tends to ramble, to give away his strategy, and to offer 10-minute answers to 1-minute questions. But the crowd ate it up. (How could they not?) “Have you heard the good news about Joe-Way?” I asked Baxter at one point, and he laughed.

Yeah, you're asking, but what did Joe say?

Two things. First, he emphasized the difficulty of the next few months.

“We could have $31 million right now,” the $12 million in the bank plus $19 million in matching funds. “The nomination fight would be over. Why turn it down? Because even though $31 million would assure us the nomination we’d still be dead men walking against Bush." Joe said that Gore had to shut his own campaign down for 32 days in 2000, before his convention. Imagine if he'd been able to campaign? But he couldn't, he had hit the spending ceiling. Bush, who didn't accept the caps then, either, had the field to himself.

“Our job now is to bridge the gap. We took a huge risk turning our back on $19 million . We don’t have it. We’ve got $12 million. We’ve got to get as much as we can this quarter. We have to build a bridge to the moment when we have the nomination. We have to carry the load to get to that moment. When we get to that moment the $200 million will be there,” because there are certainly 2 million Democrats ready to give it against Bush.

Second, Joe described the “pebble in the pond” problem. That’s how Gary Hart described his crusade. Drop a pebble, and watch the ripples. The problem is those ripples aren’t reaching as far today because “we’re starting to talk to each other. When we send out a petition on the net, and send an e-mail, it’s just the 500,000” already signed-up who go for it.

“Now there’s a lot of back talk in and not enough back out at the edge, and I’m not sure what to do about it.”

I’m leaving a long pause here because that last point is vital. Joe Trippi doesn’t have a solution for that problem. So what he said next is something we need to take to heart, discuss, and deal with, right now.

“You’re the pebble. You may call your son and mom and convince them. The ripple goes out, but with less energy. Somewhere out there the ripple stops. We’ve got to go to the outside core and energize it the way you’re energized.”

I joked before that each of you is Joe Trippi. Some of you have the answer. We need to get it, and get it to Joe, now.


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About Nation-Building

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.