I have been very concerned lately about some of the top down involvement in local politics.  I will just mention two specific instances briefly.  One is the IL 6 race with Cegelis and Duckworth.  That has been discussed a lot here heatedly.  

The other is really worse in a way, because the Florida state party chairman, Karen Thurman, is involved with the DCCC’s Rahm Emanuel in drafting a very wealthy Republican to run in Florida’s District 16.  There are two very qualified Democrats in the race already,  why not fund them?  Why have meetings with a registered Republican instead of supporting the ones in the race?   I have been getting some stuff ready for a diary on this issue, but first I decided to reread some sections of Howard Dean’s book.

I have thought a lot about what Howard Dean’s feelings on this top down type of power play might be.   He can’t really say it now, you know.  In his position as chair, I guess he must be careful.   But actually he made some references obliquely to circumstances like this in his book last year called You Have the Power.  
“We have to rebuild our grassroots organization.”

From page 155 of the book:

Letting go of central control in campaigns is what gives the electorate–particularly activists–real power.  I learned this by doing it.  When I first used the phrase “You have the power,” I didn’t at first realize the full impact of what I was saying.  I meant only that Americans through working together to change America, could overcome the forces of the right wing and reassume their constitutional role in running the country.

What I didn’t understand was that “You have the power” was a lot more than a rhetorical phrase.  It didn’t apply only to people’s power to change a country, it also applied to their ability to direct a campaign.

He further mentions that the idea of a decentralized campaign terrifies most politicians who have grown used to giving out their ideas and letting others respond.   He points out that learning to trust the grassroots is not easy, but necessary for the future.

From page 158:

Without the involvement and commitment of people at the ground level, you don’t really have a party.  You have no pool from which to draw future congresspeople, senators, and presidents.  And you have no genuine excitement.

He says we have to put people back at the center of political campaigns, that we must stay centered on our traditional Democratic values, which are about people.  He says “the truth is when you trade your values for the hope of winning, you end up losing and having no values–so you keep losing.  

We have to reconnect to the base.
In my own opinion this is where the Democratic party has failed us badly.  The continuing effort to force picked candidates into races shows that some are not paying attention yet on this.

From page 163:

In recent years the Democrats, in our pursuit of big dollars, have neglected the people we’re there to serve.  We let our connection to our base atrophy and have forgotten, as they say in politics, who brought us to the dance.  In service to a falsely named “centrism,” we’ve sidestepped every major request from labor unions, especially on including worker protections in our free-trade agreements.  

And I think this would be his answer, if by chance he could even give one in these situations, that we can’t keep “searching for someone to come along and unlock the door…and heal what ails our country.”

From page 187:

The truth is that person is you, not me or any other politician or leader.

If our country’s in trouble, it’s not only because George Bush is an inept president and the Democrats haven’t stood up to him.  It’s because we always looking for someone to come along and save us.  What I learned during the campaign is that the only way for people for find this kind of salvation is by saving themselves…..by tapping into the power that’s already inside them and figuring how to use that power in the outside world.

Governor Dean may not yet or ever be able to stop the Karen Thurmans and the Rahm Emanuels from going out and recruiting rich Republicans in a race with good Democrats who already qualify…..but at least by posting this I get a sense he would most heartily disapprove.   He can’t say it now, but he said it last year.  

I guess it has to come from the folks on the ground.  A scary thought here since we only find out what is happening after it has happened, and then by reading it in the newspapers.

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