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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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Thursday, November 13, 2008


Dean done at DNC - whither the 50 state strategy?

posted by Aziz P. at Thursday, November 13, 2008 permalink View blog reactions
While this news has already made its way around the liberal blogsphere, it's worth making a note of it here for posterity's sake, given this blog's origins and history. Howard Dean's tenure at the DNC is drawing to a close, and the future of the 50-state strategy seems to be in doubt. Chris Bowers has been following the story at OpenLeft and summarizes:

People inside the DNC are telling me that the program is not dead. This doesn't surprise me, because it is a popular program and I imagine that many of the remaining staffers at the DNC are committed to the program. At the same time, all of the organizers--who were chosen by local state parties--have been fired. That effectively kills the program, no matter the messaging and commitment of the remaining staffers.

The best bet is that the remaining staff at the DNC will try to push for a continuation of the program once the new administration is in place. In the meantime, many of the large donors who always wanted Dean out and the program terminated seem to have, at least, temporarily received their wish.
I've seen in the comments that many people think Obama is replacing "Deaniacs" with his own people. That is a failure to understand how the fifty-state strategy works. The DNC organizers were all chosen by the local state parties, not by Dean. Now, the idea that you fire a bunch of locally chosen people, and then send "your own" people back to those local areas, is absurd. The new people will be reviled, and unable to function with the local parties. No one is being replaced. The program is being terminated. 200 community organizers just got fired by Obama's campaign. How ironic.

Bowers suspects that the firing of the local activists has something to do with Rahm Emmanuel's selection as Obama's chief of staff (Emmanuel famously warred with Dean over the expense of the 50SS). This seems unlikely to me, however, as Emmanuel's role as Obama's COS is not really related to the workings of the DNC or political strategy, but rather focused on implementing Obama's governing strategy. He doesn't dictate policy but implements it.

A counter-argument could be made that there isn't much point in paying for these activists right now, since we are just leaving an election cycle. It's not like the people fired can't be recruited anew as 2010 draws near. In addition, Obama's own campaign has a lot of local talent and volunteers of its own and it's entirely possible that he wants to use some of them to staff the new 50SS when it's needed again, for both experience and fresh blood.

Given that Obama's rhetoric and campaign were so wedded to broadening the playing field, and the 50S being so central to his victory, I doubt he'd abandon it. However some fiscal prudence seems reasonable now that the battle, for now, was won.

Related: 50-State Strategy Page at DNC website, Discussion at OpenLeft here and here. Also, a great story on NPR today, with Dean himself talking about the 50-state strategy in detail.

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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.