"We are one people, all of us pledging allegiance to the stars and stripes, all of us defending the United States of America. In the end, that's what this election is about." -- Barack Obama, DNC keynote address, July 2004

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Monday, August 30, 2004


Republican National Convention

posted by Brian Ulrich at Monday, August 30, 2004 permalink 0 comments View blog reactions
Here's the open thread for Day One of the RNC. I'm curious what people think of protests. Are they valuable in promoting the causes? Also, at the link is a post by David Asednik of Oxblog on how the media coverage contrasted with his view of the protests.

UPDATE: Matthew Yglesias has more thoughts.


CNN Transcript

posted by Brian Ulrich at Monday, August 30, 2004 permalink 0 comments View blog reactions
Here's the transcript of Dean and Blitzer people wanted. Thanks to Barb in comments.

Friday, August 27, 2004


Politics in Columbus

posted by Brian Ulrich at Friday, August 27, 2004 permalink 3 comments View blog reactions
Sepoy of Chapati Mystery has short account of some time he spend registering voters in Columbus, Ohio. It's both amusing and depressing. Here's my favorite part:
"We were at a mall in downtown Columbus and it was pouring outside. I wanted to go inside but others told me that doing voter registeration inside the mall was not allowed. Huh? I didn't believe it but the manager of the mall, upon enquiry, exclaimed, 'I am a Republican,' and walked off. The question was, can we set up a small table by the entrance to offer voter registeration. So, I trolled the mall with the clipboard inconspicuously, casually asking people under the breath, 'Hey, you registered to vote, man?' yeah."


Venture-capital democracy

posted by Aziz P. at Friday, August 27, 2004 permalink 0 comments View blog reactions
This landmark piece in the New York Times documents the rise of the "venture-capital" political movement on the left. There's something thrilling about the way that the complete One Party domination of the Republicans - leading to worship of party before principle - has been the impetus for a new breed of politics to rise on the Left, a new emergent infrastructure that has very little to do with the Democratic Party. It's nearly impossible to excerpt an 11-page story, but there are some important points I want to make.

The first point is recognizing what democracy in America is truly up against - a vast, right wing conspiracy of money and "vertical integration" of conservative think tanks and mainstream media outlets, that is funded to the tune of 300 million dollars a year. The story is best told by - of all things - a Powerpoint presentation:

Last summer, he got a call from Simon Rosenberg, president of the New Democrat Network, a fund-raising and advocacy group in Washington. Would Rappaport mind sitting down for a confidential meeting with a veteran Democratic operative named Rob Stein? Sure, Rappaport replied. What Stein showed him when they met was a PowerPoint presentation that laid out step by step, in a series of diagrams a ninth-grader could understand, how conservatives, over a period of 30 years, had managed to build a ''message machine'' that today spends more than $300 million annually to promote its agenda.

Rappaport was blown away by the half-hour-long presentation. ''Man,'' he said, ''that's all it took to buy the country?''

Stein and Rosenberg weren't asking Rappaport for money -- at least not yet. They wanted Democrats to know what they were up against, and they wanted them to stop thinking about politics only as a succession of elections. If Democrats were going to survive, Stein and Rosenberg explained, men like Rappaport were going to have to start making long-term investments in their political ideas, just as they did in their business ventures. The era of the all-powerful party was coming to an end, and political innovation, like technological innovation, would come from private-sector pioneers who were willing to take risks.

Here's some more detail on this presentation, from later in the article (the author sat down with Rob Stein personally) :

The presentation itself, a collection of about 40 slides titled ''The Conservative Message Machine's Money Matrix,'' essentially makes the case that a handful of families -- Scaife, Bradley, Olin, Coors and others -- laid the foundation for a $300 million network of policy centers, advocacy groups and media outlets that now wield great influence over the national agenda. The network, as Stein diagrams it, includes scores of powerful organizations -- most of them with bland names like the State Policy Network and the Leadership Institute -- that he says train young leaders and lawmakers and promote policy ideas on the national and local level. These groups are, in turn, linked to a massive message apparatus, into which Stein lumps everything from Fox News and the Wall Street Journal op-ed page to Pat Robertson's ''700 Club.'' And all of this, he contends, is underwritten by some 200 ''anchor donors.'' ''This is perhaps the most potent, independent institutionalized apparatus ever assembled in a democracy to promote one belief system,'' he said.

The inevitable response from conservatives is that George Soros is doing the "same thing" - and they imply worse. But is it? The article goes on to analyze the relative resources being committed by Soros with a simple example:

By the time this election year ends, George Soros will have contributed more than $13 million to the independent political groups known as 527's. (The term is shorthand for the section of the tax code that makes them legal.) For this reason, Republicans insist that the 74-year-old Soros, who may become the largest single political contributor in history, has resolved to buy the Democratic Party.

This is, on its face, a little silly. To put things in perspective, $13 million is a fraction of what it takes to run a serious modern presidential campaign, let alone control a party. And Soros, who made his fortune as an international investor, is worth an estimated $7 billion; his foundation alone gives away some $450 million every year. In other words, if George Soros really felt like buying the party, you would know it. For Soros, spending $13 million on a campaign is like you or me buying 100 boxes of Thin Mints from the Girl Scout next door.

The real significance of Soros's involvement in politics has little to do with the dollar amount of his contributions. What will stand out as important, when we look back decades from now at the 2004 campaign, will be the political model he created for everyone else. Until this year, Democratic contributors operated on the party-machine model: they were trained to write checks only to the party and its candidates, who decided how to spend the money. But by helping to establish a series of separate organizations and by publicly announcing that he was on a personal mission to unseat Bush, Soros signaled to other wealthy liberals that the days of deferring to the party were over. He became what the financial world would call the angel investor for an entirely new kind of progressive venture.

That last part is key - that the point is to create a network of angel investors, who fund ideas. This doesn't require a cabal of wealthy investors, it can be done via a coalition of smaller ones - for example, the Dean campaign. The author interviewed Dean himself:

''If John Kerry loses, we're going to have a real fight for the soul of the Democratic Party, which began in my campaign,'' Howard Dean told me. His new political action committee, Democracy for America, is giving money to liberal candidates in states where Democrats are edging toward extinction. ''And whether the progressives win or not,'' Dean said, ''will determine whether the Democratic Party has a future in America.''
implicit in Dean's prediction are two possible outcomes worth considering, if only because they lend themselves to historical precedent. The first is that the new class of Democratic investors could conceivably end up skewing the party ideologically for years to come. A lot of the political venture capitalists were strong supporters of Dean in the primaries, in the fervent belief that his campaign -- which became, in effect, a classic liberal crusade, in the Jerry Brown mold, only with more money -- was leading the party back in the right direction. Although several donors described themselves to me as ''pragmatic'' in their worldview, the moderate Kerry seemed to elicit in them all the passion of an insurance actuary (Soros labeled him ''acceptable''), and they manifested a pointed distaste for Clintonism as a political philosophy. The way they look at it, centrist Democrats spent a decade appeasing Republicans while the right solidified its occupation of American government.
The second potential outcome to which Dean alludes -- that the Democratic Party, per se, might not always exist in America -- might sound, coming from Dean, characteristically overwrought. But it does raise a significant question about the political venture capitalists: what if, in the future, they decided not to support Democrats at all? Suppose there came along an independent candidate, free from the baggage of Democratic Party politics, who espoused with conviction the kind of agenda that donors of the Phoenix Group or America Coming Together really wanted to hear? The forbidding barrier to independent candidates has always been money. But the 527's aren't tied to a party; they can provide unlimited amounts of money to support any cause they want, provided they adhere to certain legal technicalities.

And that's the key to reclaiming our democracy. The thing that Dean demonstrated was that the money is there - and it doesnt need angel investors either. Rappaport and Soros and the other venture activists are themselves as non-essential as the Democratic party itself. The point is that with the passage of MCain Feingold, the patries are restricted in a way that allows other groups to thrive - and gives them incentives to cooperate. These new alliances can lead to coalitions of the many - and as Dean showed us, the needs of the many overwhelm the greed of the few.

There's a lot more to say on this topic, but the entire article is deep food for thought and deeply relevant to my review of Joe Trippi's book, The Revolution will Not Be Televised" which I expect to complete in a few weeks. I will try to tie these threads together in a more coherent fashion later.. but for now, read the whole Times article, and reflect on just what is happenning here. Not just for 2004, but for well beyond.

Wednesday, August 25, 2004


open call for guest bloggers

posted by Aziz P. at Wednesday, August 25, 2004 permalink 0 comments View blog reactions
Anyone still here? :)

I've moved to Chicago for two months to do some research with my advisor, and will be back in Houston mid-October. But my dissertation is rolling towards completion, so it's unlikely I can maintain a high output of blogposts even after that. But there's still our whole community that we built here together, and I think many of you have voices that need to be heard. So I'd like to ask for nominations for regular ocntributors in comments to be posters.

Anyone interested? email me at azizp at gmail dot com. I think it would be great especially to give our most prolific commentators like Anthony, Robert or Jo or any of the others a chance to try out their hand at frontpage posting. Let me know if you think you want to try it and I'll set you up!

And a special call-out hat-tip to Barb, whose posts in comments are always front-page material. Please use your access! :)

Monday, August 23, 2004


Column on Dean

posted by Brian Ulrich at Monday, August 23, 2004 permalink 0 comments View blog reactions
"Dean brought that passion back into national politics. He is regularly criticized for saying 'the wrong thing,' which usually turns out to be (a) true and (b) what a lot of us were thinking. Those of us who lack a national voice are grateful to him. Truly, we all owe him -- Democrats who want to be themselves, Republicans who are worried about huge budget deficits, and everyone who cares about the democratic process and wants to see people get involved, argue, campaign and vote."

And the redemption of liberal politics in the U.S. has only just begun.

(Via Blog for America)


New Open Thread

posted by Brian Ulrich at Monday, August 23, 2004 permalink 0 comments View blog reactions
Discuss whatever. And by the way, over the weekend someone asked me if Muslims worshipped cats.

Tuesday, August 17, 2004


Dean vs. Bennett

posted by Brian Ulrich at Tuesday, August 17, 2004 permalink 0 comments View blog reactions
"Republican William Bennett and Democrat Howard Dean will debate opposing political ideologies and key election issues on Thursday, September 30, in Portland, Maine, as part of the upcoming Fall Conference of the American Council of Engineering Companies (ACEC)."

Monday, August 16, 2004



posted by Brian Ulrich at Monday, August 16, 2004 permalink 0 comments View blog reactions
A group of anarchists has entered the political process:

"Anarchists generally pride themselves on their rejection of government and its authority. But a faction of them fed up with the war in Iraq say they plan to cast anti-Bush votes this fall.

"The voting debate was just one of the topics explored at the three-day North American Anarchist Convergence, which brought about 175 participants to Ohio University.

"Some attendees rejected the voting proposal."

Sunday, August 15, 2004


Dean Democrats Making a Difference

posted by Brian Ulrich at Sunday, August 15, 2004 permalink 0 comments View blog reactions
Late summer news got you down? Maybe reading this will cheer you up:

"Out of the smoldering embers of the Dean Presidential campaign, 1000 points of light are emerging nationwide. It was just over a year ago that the Democratic Party leadership stated that we wouldn't be able to retake the US house until 2012. Now suddenly the Party is imbued with a new spirit of optimism. Why? Because, that cold day in Iowa when the DLC and the Republican right-wing breathed a sigh of relief as the Dean campaign went down in defeat--few people noticed that the Dean movement continued to fight on undaunted..."

Thursday, August 12, 2004


Dean on CNBC

posted by Brian Ulrich at Thursday, August 12, 2004 permalink 0 comments View blog reactions
Sorry I missed this, but Howard Dean has been on CNBC.

Wednesday, August 11, 2004


Across the Aisle: Sudan

posted by Brian Ulrich at Wednesday, August 11, 2004 permalink 0 comments View blog reactions
I've noticed from the comments a lot of people are closely following the situation in Sudan. This is a good issue for bipartisan cooperation, as Sudan has long been a pet issue with evangelical voters. These churches are usually tied to missionary work in places like Africa, and when the missionaries come back they're quite convinced it's a continent whose most serious problems require more international attention. Here is the text of a recent open letter to President Bush on the subject:

"It is imperative for your administration to take additional clear action. We represent organizations which led efforts to enact these ground-breaking human rights initiatives: the International Religious Freedom Act, Sudan Peace Act, Trafficking Victims Protection Act, and just last week House passage of the North Korea Freedom Act. Your Administration's goal -- to redefine our national interest not as power but as values, and to identify one supreme value, what John Kennedy called 'the success of liberty' -- could be jeopardized by not taking a strong enough position on Sudan's genocidal behavior. The World Health Organization estimates that ten thousand people are dying each month and that a catastrophe equivalent to what occurred in Rwanda a decade ago could unfold within weeks.

"Americans, especially tapping our resources within the religious and non-governmental community, must act quickly to alleviate this crisis. As representatives of our 51 denominations and 45,000 churches, we are urging our churches and related para-church ministries to give generously to the relief and development agencies active in the Darfur, and encouraging other national alliances in the World Evangelical Alliance to do same. Our agencies are willing to work with any and all international bodies, including the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization, to alleviate the suffering. We are already consulting with the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Agencies for Food and Agriculture, Tony P. Hall."

There's more at the link. Do I know what to do about Sudan? No. But I agree that it is a problem we should all try to address.

Monday, August 09, 2004


Reflections on "Bush Hatred"

posted by Brian Ulrich at Monday, August 09, 2004 permalink 0 comments View blog reactions
Tim Young reflects on whether he hates President Bush, and why he feels the way he does. His post is hard to excerpt, but worth reflecting on.

Saturday, August 07, 2004


Washington Post on Obama

posted by Brian Ulrich at Saturday, August 07, 2004 permalink 1 comments View blog reactions
Tina Brown had a column about Obama last Thursday:
"In the media-saturated Hamptons, the summer's poolside reading is emblematic of life in the 21st century: the 9/11 commission report and Us magazine. There doesn't seem much alternative to the daily diet of terror and trivia -- except for the lingering impact of Barack Obama, which continues to reverberate as the only bounce worth talking about.

"Obama-mania has reminded everyone that seriousness can be electric. The breakout keynote speech at the Democratic convention by the 42-year-old African American senatorial candidate from Illinois was one of those moments when the cultural momentum suddenly pauses. Could the world of ideas be exciting again? Star quality has become so debased it was almost spooky to see celebrity suddenly attached to the evoker of a political vision instead of the winner of a reality show or the star of an overhyped movie. Two days later when Obama emerged from the convention hall in Boston to climb into a modest white sedan he was mobbed like P. Diddy."

No real news there, but it's interesting to see the media find a liberal star they actually love.

Tuesday, August 03, 2004


political intelligence: oxymoron for the 2000's

posted by Aziz P. at Tuesday, August 03, 2004 permalink 0 comments View blog reactions
Hiatus override! I've criticized Dean for being wrong on an issue before - but on the issue of politicizing intelligence, he's got it right. And just like his famous observation that capturing Saddam didn't make Americans safer, he's being vilified for pointing out the obvious once again.

This is what Tom Ridge, defender of the Homeland, actually said last Sunday:

But we must understand that the kind of information available to us today is the result of the president's leadership in the war against terror, the reports that have led to this alert are the result of offensive intelligence and military operations overseas, as well as strong partnerships with our allies around the world, such as Pakistan.

emphasis mine. Of course, what Ridge neglected to mention was:

Much of the information that led the authorities to raise the terror alert at several large financial institutions in the New York City and Washington areas was three or four years old, intelligence and law enforcement officials said on Monday. They reported that they had not yet found concrete evidence that a terrorist plot or preparatory surveillance operations were still under way.

Here is what Howard Dean said:

It's just impossible to know how much of this is real and how much of this is politics. And I suspect there's some of both in it.

It strikes me that using four-year old information to issue a terror alert warning, a serious occassion which the director of Homeland Security uses to make a campaign pitch, does indeed have some politics interjected where there should be none.

Atrios points out that the media critics of Dean today have not been shy about saying accusing Presidents of politicizing intelligence in the past. But Dean is being accused of a straw-man argument he did not make, namely that all terror alerts are purely for wag-the-dog purposes. More on the relevance of this straw man later...

The Rightists immediately leapt baying for blood, with their same tired refrain of Repudiate This (hey hypocrites: Repudiate that yet?). Today, Glenn notes with pleasure that Kerry seems to have responded:

"I don't care what [Dean] said. I haven't suggested that and I won't suggest that," Kerry said. "I do not hold that opinion. I don't believe that.''

But Glenn is wrong - Kerry hasn't repudiated Dean's (correct) observation, he just disavowed knowledge of what Dean said - and Kerry was actually responding to a question about the straw man, not Dean's actual statement, in that quote.

It's actually a clever dodge, though blunted by the insistence by CBS that Kerry was "distancing" himself from Dean's comment when actually he did nothing of the sort. But Dean is useful to Kerry for the appearance of being "distanced" and still free to say things that are, once you get away from the talking head obfuscation, blatantly obvious to the average American (whose rationaliity I never impugn).

Sunday, August 01, 2004


a bit of a break

posted by Aziz P. at Sunday, August 01, 2004 permalink 0 comments View blog reactions
Hey fellow Dean Nation denizens - just wanted to let you know that I'm going to be taking a bit of a break from political blogging for a few months. I will not post much here unless there is some new and major Dean- or Obama - related news, at least until after the conventions and debates.

I hope my co-bloggers will continue to post in my absence - things will likely slow down quite a bit, but this community is important to me and I don't want it to wither away. So I'm putting it on hold, and that way I can recharge, and come back stronger than before.

I'll post in a week or so with a review of Joe Trippi's new book, but other than that, I'll see you guys in October :)

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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.