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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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Monday, November 17, 2003


Small vs. Big

posted by Dana at Monday, November 17, 2003 permalink View blog reactions
The biggest turn any challenger to a President must make is the one from their nomination fight to a general election contest.

In the past this was done in a war room or a back room. Advisors and experienced pols would debate the question, wondering what was the proper time to shift course. And then, subtly at first, that course would be shifted, usually in April or May.

It was at that point, of course, that their ship would become becalmed. This was most notable in the 1996 Dole campaign. Clinton took advantage, striking hard with negative ads while Dole waited for matching funds to arrive.
It's that memory that is behind Dean's decision, affirmed by us, to forego matching funds.

But the becalming remains a threat. And I fear it may have already started.

Sign-ups have slowed. The thread of comments here at DeanNation has slowed. Folks are sitting back a little, afraid of assuming the nomination, but no longer motivated to fight hard for something that seems to be in our grasp.

It is now that the campaign will be won or lost.

We can win it, starting now, by building a meme, a general election theme, that will appeal to Republicans, Democrats and independents, one that is positive and appeals strongly to the better angels of our nature.

Douglass Carmichael may have started that process with a workshop he led last week. The workshop asked, where is the emotional attachment we feel to the political left or the right.

And it came to the interesting conclusion that, in both cases, it's usually a bias against bigness. The left fears big business, the right big government. Both project their fears on the other, and bigness wins.

This makes Dean's unifying theme, based as it is on 18th Century concepts like the Boston Tea Party and Declaration of Independence, so important. The are not about business or government, they are about bigness.

It's this message, of anti-bigness, that explains Dean's appeal to Republicans. Republicans are crossing over, admittedly in a trickle, and they're crossing over to Dean because they see in him an ally against bigness in our lives.

This is what we need to pick up on, here at DeanNation. This is how we turn the boat around, from the nomination fight to the general election. We turn it around with a big theme, something that transcends the short-term problems of the economy or Iraq, something that creates, frankly, a new Democratic philosophy, and a new majority.

And, as usual, the Doctor is way ahead of us. I find it very easy to follow a candidate like that.


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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.