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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Grassroots Questions Challenge Dems

The Nation has a trio of insightful articles meriting a read from Democrats interested in political strategy. Matt Stoller’s “Dems Get New Tools, New Talent” in The Nation reviews the latest developments in “field” — new ways to increase person-to-person contact of voters. Stoller describes the new software and technological landscape for field organizers and provides a revealing account of the ’04 Dem presidential campaign’s failure to efficiently deploy the latest tools and techniques of voter contact. Stoller lets political consultant Zack Exley ask a key question for Dems in ’08:

Democrats have enjoyed bumper crops of field organizers for two presidential cycles. The next big question is this: Will the nominee succeed in harvesting these crops and making the very best use of these organizers? Or will she or he put blockages and bureaucracy in the way of these young organizers, as happened in the 2004 general election?

Stoller argues that a competent, state-of-the-art field operation can be worth 3-5 points in a general election. Much depends on Dems meeting this challenge.
In her equally-provocative Nation article, “Grassroots Reseeded: Suites vs. Streets,” Laura Flanders asks a similar question:

Now is when the talk meets the walk. The Deaniacs have come into their own–men and women who were trained in Dean’s 2004 campaign are plotting the strategies of all the Democratic front-runners. Dean of the scream is coaching the state parties, and something like the infectious grassroots glee that Dean’s supporters felt years ago appears to be animating (especially) Barack Obama’s volunteers. Forty years after the coming apart of 1968, could this be the year that Democrats finally permit regular people to play a real role in party politics? Or is a whole new cohort of eager-beaver change-makers signing up for heartbreak?

Flanders notes the success of the Obama campaign’s preference for organizing over canvassing. “Canvassers assess voter preferences. Organizers inspire commitment,” says Marshall Ganz, a Harvard proff/’Camp Obama’ trainer quoted by Flanders.
The last Nation article, John Nichols’s “Progressive Democratic Challengers,” makes the case for ’08 as a very good year to weed out DINO’s and other congressional Dems who have supported the Bush-corporate agenda — and replace them with a new generation of authentic progressive Democrats. Nichols discusses the congressional candidacies of progressive Maryland Democrat Donna Edwards and others, and asks:

But what will Democrats in power do in 2009? Will they be as disappointingly cautious and unfocused as the Democrats of the 2007 Congress, who frustrated not just the party’s base but a broader electorate that gives the Democratic Congress lower ratings than the Republican White House? Or will they develop the progressive agenda and display the strategic sense needed to give meaning to all this year’s talk of “change”?…These local primaries have national importance, as they could answer an essential question: will a Democratic Party that muddled its message after gaining control of Congress in 2006 advance a progressive brief in the post-Bush era?

Nichols is encouraged by the energized candidacies of Edwards and other strong progressives. No doubt, their success will depend on their campaigns’ ability to tap the grass roots strategy, tools and commitment cited by Stoller and Flanders.

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