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Sunday, December 12, 2004

Booted from the DNC

Sometimes, all these politicians look alike to me

I read this, pre-Sunday morning breakfast and Chrsitmas shopping, even before I fumbled my way to Radio Canada and had to read it twice.

Bad bloggers and the State-level DNC
by Jerome Armstrong

There's something wrong when the chairs and executive directors go on and on with their praise toward the internet that's brought millions into the coffers of the DNC, and then turns around and kicks Joe Trippi and his band of bloggers out of the meeting room when the "closed" Q & A with the DNC Chair candidates occurs. You could have walked right in off the street and into the candidate Hall unencumbered, but if you happened to be a blogger, or the guy who brought the strategy of embracing the small donor activist on the net for the Democratic Party, and he's got a blog, out you go.

There's something wrong when DNC Chair candidate Donnie Fowler, during his 5-minute presentation on his candidacy, singles out Matt Stoller as an example of embracing the technological ideas that are going to bring this party forward, and then some DNC staffer walks up to Stoller and tells him he's got to leave the room, because he's a blogger.

There's something wrong when the DNC members are holding a vital meeting on the "Fowler Amendments" which are the most reform-minded amendments to the DNC Charter in the last 30 years (a radical takeaway from DC-based members by the states), and the DNC closes the meeting to bloggers; not realizing that we are the vehicle to crusade for this reform (Stoller and I went inside anyway, even though we suffered getting kicked out halfway through the meeting).

There's something wrong when over and over throughout this meeting, there's been praise for the internet, the small donor, and I've even heard the term "Netroots" spoken here casually, a term I first used to describe what was happening with our campaign for Howard Dean back in the fall of 2002. And yet, even though we were invited to come to this event by the candidates themselves, even though there are many in DC that encouraged we come to this event and engage in the process, we were not welcome. In fact, we were thrown out of multiple meetings, even those that regular people off the street could attend.

There's praise for the internet here, rejoicing over the small donor, and they're using new-fangled words like netroots and blogosphere, but dem' bloggers that drive the leading edge of the battle, that raised millions for candidates and the DNC? Don't come, you're not really welcome.

That was a problem I mostly worked around while here in Orlando for the DNC meeting. Except for the full-colored brunt I gave to some suit from North Dakota that came up to me and said "bloggers leave", I held it cool and in-check. I've dealt with bumping against authority quite a lot, and can deal with the laggard mentality. But it is a problem. I guarantee you that Frank Luntz is not getting kicked out of any RNC meetings; but that blogger Joe Trippi can't stay inside the room, it means there's something wrong inside the DNC.

And it's not just in DC, as most of these ED's, VC's and Chairs from the states seem to think. Nevermind the bizarre disconjunct of their kicking us out while they eye the DNC coffers from the internet's small donor with greed. Put aside their praise for Terry McAuliffe having figured out how to hook up 2 million new activist small donors, while they kick out the activists that help make it happen. We want to hear what they are going to do to reform the DNC inside the states, because it's inside the states, not just in DC, that this reform needs to happen.

Since I was kicked out of the Q & A "closed" meeting with the candidates, I can freely blog it (if I had stayed, I certainly would not have). In that meeting, a couple of DNC candidates had the fortitude to tell these states what they needed to do, and for that, they not only got the least number of votes in the exit poll that we did, we had respondents that singled out that they would not support Harold Ickes, just because he told them the truth.

What Ickes told the state executive directors, and the state chairs, was that they needed to get their shit together, to build up their own in-state small donor base, to put together a business plan, and quit whining about getting a hold of the DNC's money. It's the truth. Go and look at some of these state Democratic Party websites, they are pathetic. Even the good ones suck. Ickes told them to get to work, they didn't like that, so he's in my top three. A lot of these states didn't get jack for this election, but a few of them, most importantly, Florida, Missouri, Ohio, and Iowa got millions and millions, and they not only failed to win (except Michigan), not only are their rumors of financial corruption I've heard about a few of those, but they are not being held accountable.

I'm all for taking DC to task, Democrats there need it; but we need to reform the Party at the state level too. After being inside their meetings for three days, I can tell you, many of these states have directors and officers that need a good reform-minded kick in the ass out the door a lot more than we did.

Now the problem is simple and it's one which is going to smack Kos, Atrios, and Jerome in the face again and again. What do they do? Are they journalists promoting a particular viewpoint or are they party activists using the blogs to get out a message.

I'm not going to any Democratic Party organizational meetings so it's not a problem for me.

The DNC state people don't know if their internal discussions are going to wind up online or not and they didn't have any indication they wouldn't. The conflict is not so much with the state party but the role of the bloggers. A simple statement of off the record should have sufficed to keep things private, but they don't know where these folks fit in.

My belief is simple. If you invite me to an event, you want to see it on my blog, unless you tell me it's for background. This is one of the reasons I opposed taking money from the DNC in Boston. And why the RNC setup at the Tank worked so much better. Once you take favors, people own you. No matter their intentions, they think they have a claim to you and your work. I rather let you guys and Henry Copeland pay the bills. Much easier that way.

What the DNC doesn't get is that the party has changed. It's not a left clone of the GOP. It is becoming a very different beast, one where the number of players has expanded greatly. These things would get a line or two in The Hill or National Journal and that's that. Now, people care. People want answers and they want to know where the party is headed. The fight over the DNC chair will not be an easy one or go the way the insiders think. Which is why someone of such high profile as Howard Dean could be nominated for the job.

I wouldn't be surprised to see Al Gore pop up as a compromise candidate at some point, either, since that seems to be the way the party is headed. But it won't be another insider and it won't be a quiet vote. A lot of people got a taste of politics and they like it.

Now, I thought the following the day after the election, but I didn't say it because people would have killed me, and truth be told, I didn't like the way it sounded, but now, it's becoming clear: while bad for the country, George Bush's second term may actually make for a better Democratic Party. Why? Because the things which got us so close in 2004 aren't going anywhere. Sure, people are less interested in politics since the election, but the drop in readers is a lot less than you would think. And the interest is a lot stronger. When Clinton won, people felt relieved and didn't build the party around him. The GOP went batshit in trying to destroy him and built up their party. After 1996, it got worse.

Well, this is the cold water on our complacency. And while some folks wanted to cut and run, after they stopped the whining, they focused on the real issue. I know the TNR crowd wants some kind of civil war, but the rest of us know that it wasn't the man, but the message which needs work. We need to find ourselves and define ourselves and our issues.

I don't think the DNC is going to like the reaction to their high handed treatment of Jerome and Matt. In fact, if a few e-mails landed in Fowler's e-mail box, I would hardly be shocked.

posted by Steve @ 8:29:00 AM

8:29:00 AM

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