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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

When Small Is Big

In the 2003 New Yorker profile of Karl Rove, which Ed linked to on Monday (for obvious reasons), Nicholas Lemann made a point that really stuck out to me. Lehman was suggesting that this might have been Karl Rove’s blueprint for the Democratic party. This is what he wrote:

“The [Democratic] Party has three key funding sources: trial lawyers, Jews, and labor unions. One could systematically disable all three, by passing tort-reform legislation that would cut off the trial lawyers’ incomes, by tilting pro-Israel in Middle East policy and thus changing the loyalties of big Jewish contributors, and by trying to shrink the part of the labor force which belongs to the newer, and more Democratic, public-employee unions. And then there are three fundamental services that the Democratic Party is offering to voters: Social Security, Medicare, and public education. Each of these could be peeled away, too: Social Security and Medicare by giving people benefits in the form of individual accounts that they invested in the stock market, and public education by trumping the Democrats on the issue of standards. The Bush Administration has pursued every item on that list.”

One year later, Democrats broke every presidential fundraising record they had. Two years after that, the DSCC and the DCCC outraised their Republican counterparts in route to retaking both houses of Congress. This year, the trend continues – the presidential candidates are pulling in breathtaking amounts of money, and the DNC, DSCC, and the DCCC are all, once again, beating the GOP.
Despite a lot of GOP effort, nothing on the money front seems likely to change anytime soon. And while the big donors and constituencies that Lemann described four years ago are all still contributing, they aren’t the reason for the Dems’ newfound prowess.
But a lot has changed since 2003. Small donations solicited online changed the game. Thousands and thousands of people are making regular donations to candidates on every level, many of them giving money for the very first time. Together, they’ve carved themselves a wholly new role in Democratic politics. And that’s happened in just four years.
I think it’s important that we remember how far we’ve come in so little time.

One comment on “When Small Is Big

  1. Albert Whited on

    So, how do we beat the likes of Lemann at their own game? Here’s one way: institute a voluntary civil service alternative to the military services.
    Call it the National Administration for Society, Conservation, and Reconstruction, which would be chartered to provide eager young hands for the many domestic tasks that have long been overlooked and underfunded by niggardly GOP lawmakers–a New Deal-style, CCC/WPA-like organization. Conscripts would sign on for tours of duty, receive room, board, pay, and post-service benefits similar to the GI Bill.
    Then we could give our young people a choice: you can volunteer to slog it out in an Army of One, or you can speed into a bright and shining future in NASCAR!!!
    I think the overwhelmingly more popular choice would be obvious.
    Well, maybe some other organization would litigate over the acronym (Darn those tort “reforms”!), but one gets the idea. Replace an authoritarian service that pumps our kids full of jingoism and brainwashes away their scruples against slaughtering their fellow human beings. In its place institute a community service that reinforces civic responsibility and commonality. Build leaders instead of PSTD-sociopaths. Nurture the new generation, rather than treat it as so much cannon-fodder. Ultimately build an electorate innoculated against demagoguery and motivated toward the common good. I can think of no surer strategy for forever defeating the GOP.


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