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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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Saturday, November 22, 2003


More From Joe At The Grassroots Summit

posted by Dana at Saturday, November 22, 2003 permalink View blog reactions
Looking at my notes, I found some other important points from Joe Trippi’s “Dean Summit” speech. (I assume he gave the same sort of talk everywhere, but I heard this in Atlanta.)

"People have to get over their belief that they can’t make a difference. The system has taught all of us you can’t make a difference, that your $25, your $100, your four hours tabling don’t mean a hill of beans. And they’re right. By themselves it won’t do anything. But 2 million Americans doing that, the same small thing, is huge. It will change this country’s political history, it will change the country. We’re not just talking about changing Presidents, we’re talking about changing politics.”

Trippi discussed James McGregor Burns, the historian, who wrote about the difference between “transactional” and “transformative” leaders in 1977, expanding on it in 2002. As Publishers Weekly notes, “He distinguishes between ‘transactional’ leaders, who thrive on cutting deals, and ‘transforming’ leaders, whose sweeping changes totally revamp political institutions.”

How can you tell a transforming leader? First, noted Trippi, a movement grows up spontaneously around them. (Sound familiar?) Second (and this is the important part), leaders emerge from within that movement. Anyone in the room, he said, could become such a leader. So can anyone on this blog. (This means YOU.)

The rest of this is a blockquote, because it’s just Joe, riffing, and by the end of it he had teared himself up.

What’s destroyed the party is not negative ads. What destroyed the party is polling. I’m talking about polling that doesn’t ask people what they think.

Back in the 70s a bunch of people in our party got smart. They asked questions to find only definite voters. They talked only to sure or likely voters. Then they could talk to that group in the middle that was undecided. When you do that for 23 years, you create an artificial electorate. It’s more conservative than America, because you left out people and never ask what they think.

Do that for 23 years and it’s a death spiral.

We got to an electorate we couldn’t win in by 2000.

Karl Rove only has to hook up a red lead in the left hand of his supporters, hook up the right lead in another supporter, hook it up to a car battery and let it go. There are not enough votes in the middle to win.

There are a lot of people in our party who want to do this one more time. The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, expecting a different result.

We’ve lost everything. We lost the House, we lost the Senate, we lost the Presidency. Now they control 40 state legislatures. Now they have 30 something governors. It’s all gone the wrong way. One victory in that entire period – Bill Clinton.

They’d have you believe it was because Clinton was centrist. It might be because he was the most gifted politican we’ve had in like 40 years.

We have to get over Washington Democrats’ disbelief we can take the whole thing, this year. We have to get over peoples’ disbelief we can take the whole thing.

They’re so afraid of losing they’ve forgotten what it takes to win.

The other side owns the damn place, and they broke it. They own the store, our economy’s a mess, there’s no jobs, the foreign policy is a mess, people have doubts about where the country is going. Any time you have that and you’re the change agent, the change agent will win every time. Look at 1994, when they threw all our guys out. When our party becomes the agent of change we will win it all, especially when we have 2 million people fighting Bush even, and reload to help our challengers.

Do that and we take the whole thing. We are building this to make the party competitive in a way it’s never been competiive in the last 23 years.

There are a lot of doubters out there, but they’re doubting a lot less today.

Every four years a bunch of guys come out saying look at me, ain’t I amazing? Howard Dean says something totally different. He says look at you, aren’t you amazing?

We can do this, but we have to find the 2 million people who believe as we believe. They’re out there. You've found 500,000.

Today, let’s all resolve to find the rest. If each of the 500,000 now in the campaign find three more people, just three more people, we're there.

So wear your Dean button, your shirt, your hat. Make it a part of you. And when someone asks you about it, talk. Do it honestly, from the heart. Some people may disagree, perhaps vehemently. But you will also be surprised. People will listen.

And you will be on your way toward becoming one of those transformative leaders yourself.


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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.