Wednesday, January 21, 2004
One down, six to go
The angry Dean meme is in full bloom, just as predicted a few weeks ago on several left-of-center blogs. I’ve just finished watching a bit of news for the first time in nearly five days, and I’ve got a very different perspective on what is being broadcast right now.
Everything is still a bit foggy, as I’m running on inconsistent sleep, but here’s my take. Last night Howard Dean gave the most courageous speech of his political life. Before the results were in, whispers around Des Moines said the media was already writing our obituary. And lo and behold, what I see today on my screen bares that out. But that’s not the truth.
All weekend, Dean’s Storm Chasers and team Gephardt had the only sizable presense on the ground. There was a tight and hard core group of Kucinich backers on the ground but they were vastly outnumbered. Kerry and Edwards had zero visible presense on the ground. How they came out on top will be disputed for quite some time, and here are some bits of information that I came across over the course of last night.
Word is that the Kerry campaign funneled a ton of resources into courting the establishment in Iowa, and then used that existing network to turn out the vote. They weren’t visible until caucus day, when they coordinated their efforts and targeted large population centers. Some undecideds broke for Kerry, but not as many as it may appear at the moment.
Edwards benefited from a few coordinated “Stop Dean” efforts. Dennis Kucinich sold out his anti-war, anti-PATRIOT Act constituency when he cut a deal with Edwards and advised his supporters to throw their weight behind the North Carolina Senator who authorized the war and co-authored the PATRIOT Act. Kucinich supporters in large part stayed home or stuck around to caucus for Dennis, but a few seem to have heeded his call and thrown some scattered precincts to Edwards. A few undecideds broke for him as well. But it’s also known that the RNC targeted the caucuses (more later on their efforts to sabotage some of the events this weekend) and that their loyal troopers were on orders to turn out “for the young guy”, as a few people I overheard put it. Several precinct chairs who made it to the party were overheard saying how unusually large contingents of Republicans showed up, switched their registration, and caucused for Edwards.
Dean and Gephardt have been killing each other in Iowa over the past month. We peaked there about a month ago (as did Gephardt, but arguably he took himself out with the ads), right after the media started their assault and the Gephardt campaign started to attack us with their ad buys. Neither candidate benefited from the harsh words they traded, and each lost points with soft supporters, who later broke for other candidates or stayed home. However, both candidates had great grassroots support in Iowa and it is a testament to the Dean grassroots that we were able to knock Dick Gephardt out of the race. We went to Iowa having always been the real untested underdog and we made it out of there with one of the three tickets. There were also whispers from Dean supporters at the party – especially young ones – that they were intimidated into leaving their caucuses by some more seasoned caucus attendees who supported other candidates.
In the end I wonder if some heads will roll in Burlington, and I’ll be honest here. You can talk all day about how we pulled the “negative” ads last week, but it was too late. They never should have gone up in the first place. Again and again during the past few election cycles, we’ve seen how the public responds to harsh advertising. Even if it’s not technically negative per se (or even if the ad is factually correct in some cases), voters are turned off by the negative tone. And besides, we are supposed to be a campaign based on hope and empowerment, and it would probably be a good thing to get back to that.
Now back to the “angry Dean meme”, also known as the one that won’t go away. I’ve watched all day as the media portrayed Dean as an angry man who went over the top last night. I don’t believe that anyone who was there feels that the Gov was angry (press included; they are just pushing a storyline; more on that later). In fact, he was more pumped than I’ve seen him in quite some time. The energy in the room was palpable. As we waited for him to take the stage, spontaneous chanting broke out. Most people were excited about making it past Iowa, especially considering that originally we were never supposed to be here. John Kerry was the anointed frontrunner from the beginning, and John Edwards was the new face of the Democratic Party. We were nothing, an asterisk as we like to say, and we’d made it past Iowa. It was a great feeling even though there had been a brief period earlier when the results were coming in where we were all surprised by the results and disappointed to not be first or second. I think many people wondered how Kerry and Edwards pulled it off, but once more reports filtered in from the field it all began to make sense. They all tried to stop us, and we even tried inadvertently to stop ourselves, but the grassroots were strong and we made it. Well before Dean took the stage the slogan for the evening had already been written: One down, six to go. *
Senator Tom Harkin introduced the Gov by making a brief and uplifting speech about the power of the grassroots, and how there are only three tickets out of Iowa and one was ours. Then the Gov came out to the tune of “You Ain’t Seen Nothin’ Yet” and the crowd went wild. Americans flags and red and blue pompons waved wildly as the Gov removed his jacket, rolled up his sleeves, and gave a powerful, hopeful, uplifting speech. A beaming smile filled his face as the crowd roared back in appreciation. We fed off each other’s energy and the feeling was incredible. Afterwards, celebration ensued as we looked forward towards New Hampshire.
We’re still in a fantastic position to get the nomination. We’ve got a network of volunteers in all 50 states, a sizable chunk of money in the bank, good name recognition, and right now we’re in a position to stage a comeback in New Hampshire and beyond. I hope that everyone understands that, and I want everyone to know that what happened Monday night was a beautiful thing. We’ll redouble our efforts and we will get to the convention and it might be a dogfight, but I believe in the grassroots, I can’t imagine giving up after all our hard work, and I believe we can still win this thing.
* as in one contender – Gephardt
* also, I just realised that this might seem a bit off to some people. i composed this last night before i crashed out, just FYI.
cross-posted to annatopia
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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.