Welcome Ari Berman (HerdingDonkeys), and Host David Weigel (Slate)

[As a courtesy to our guests, please keep comments to the book and be respectful of dissenting opinions. Please take other conversations to a previous thread. - bev]

Herding Donkeys: The Fight To Rebuild The Democratic Party and Reshape American Politics

Welcome to a parallel universe. A casual onlooker might mistake it for our own. The same people run their Congress and their Democratic National Committee. The same election results toss out half the Republicans in 2006 and the rest in 2008. But in our universe, those events were recorded as the triumphs of smart folks like Rahm Emanuel and David Plouffe, winning despite the ruinous work of the DNC. In Herding Donkeys, Ari Berman reports from a place where Howard Dean deserves the credit.

It’s a strong case. Berman reported this book, stunningly, by hanging out and getting sources comfortable until they admitted things. He opens on election night 2008, walking alongside of Dean, and hears President-Elect Barack Obama tell the DNC chairman that “I wouldn’t have won without you.” Now, think about how many election night wraps actually gave credit to Dean.

There was far more coverage of Dean’s “disastrous” election to run the DNC, back in 2005. I remember watching a Daily Show episode at the time where the embedded fauxporter hung around, talked to some losers, and decided that the Dean election was automatically hilarious. A college Republican got national media to show up for a “Dean scream” contest.

Berman tells that story, and every other story of the Dean tenure, from the inside. There’s fascinating kremlinology about how party structures work (term to be interpreted loosely) at the top, and how stories like “Dean’s blowing it” become Washington wisdom — self-interested parties feed them to reporters, who gamely adopt the narratives. Rahm Emanuel flits in and out of the story, pronouncing the Fifty-State strategy and everything Dean does as “fucking bullshit.” Dean tells Berman that the conflict is actually good; because Beltway reporters really only spin their heads around to look at brawls and car crashes, constantly fighting for his theories meant that they got covered. It’s one of many astute lessons here on how politics and media actually work.

Washington isn’t wanting for books like that, though. Herding Donkeys really works because of the time Berman puts in with Democratic Party foot soldiers. I like the details that come out of a visit to the Polk County, North Carolina Democratic Party, when Berman sees how local chair Margaret Johnson decorates it: “grey donkey details on the walls; a blue flag of a donkey atop the state; a porcelain donkey with a straw hat on, next to a picture of Bill Clinton.” We learn what blogs and books motivated the great Democratic comeback of 2006-2008. It’s going to be familiar to readers of this blog, but it’s never been drawn out in one story before.

The takeaway: This is one of the best books you can read about how politics actually work right now. Let’s get the discussion started.

179 Responses to “FDL Book Salon Welcomes Ari Berman, Herding Donkeys: The Fight To Rebuild The Democratic Party and Reshape American Politics (updated)”

BevW March 17th, 2012 at 1:48 pm

Ari, Welcome back to the Lake.

Dave, Welcome to the Lake and thank you for Hosting today’s Book Salon.

Dave Weigel March 17th, 2012 at 2:00 pm

Glad to be here! Bring on the questions, though I’d be shocked if Ari needs me to pinch-hit.

Ari Berman March 17th, 2012 at 2:01 pm

Thanks for having me back. Dave, thanks for hosting.

DWBartoo March 17th, 2012 at 2:01 pm

Thank you, Ari and David, for joining us this afternoon.

DW

dakine01 March 17th, 2012 at 2:01 pm

Good afternoon Ari and Dave and welcome back to FDL this afternoon.

Ari, I have not read your book and apologize if you address this in there but I could once say that I as a “life-long” Democrat However, watching the idiocy that was and is the DCCC, DSCC, and even DNC these days reinforces to me why I switched to “not affiliated”

My question – given the actions of the DCCC, DSCC, and DNC, are the Donkeys even worth attempting to herd anymore?

Mauimom March 17th, 2012 at 2:04 pm

This is one of the best books you can read about how politics actually work right now. Let’s get the discussion started.

I just finished the book, and completely agree, David.

Welcome, Ari.

Ari Berman March 17th, 2012 at 2:05 pm
In response to dakine01 @ 5

Hi Dakine – My book is about the attempt by grassroots activists and organizers to change the Democratic Party and make it more bottom-up, relevant and progressive in nature. This movement had success in 2006 and 2008, but took some serious hits in 2010. I do think these efforts, however, are still ongoing and there are attempts to shift power away from the DCCC, DSCC & DNC to make the party more relevant to the base. If you give up on Dems, the only other choice is really the GOP right now, which isn’t a very appealing prospect for many Democratic activists.

Ari Berman March 17th, 2012 at 2:05 pm
In response to Mauimom @ 6

thanks!

Mauimom March 17th, 2012 at 2:05 pm

In thinking about the title of your book, “Herding Democrats,” I’m reminded that anyone who’s worked on a ranch where you have to herd horses, cattle, sheep or goats will tell you that the way you “herd” them is a) to get one or more persons to help you and b) to get behind them, urging them in the direction you want them to go, and employing some dogs to yap at their heels when necessary.

You don’t proclaim, “I am so wonderful, follow me,” and then get out in front, expecting them to follow.

Ari Berman March 17th, 2012 at 2:07 pm
In response to Mauimom @ 9

care to elaborate on that point?

Dave Weigel March 17th, 2012 at 2:07 pm

dakine01 – I’d be interested to know what you think the DNC et al are squandering. Is the problem that they are ham-handed, or is the problem that progressive organization are too weak to check them? (I’m comparing their ability to the Tea Party’s party-policing abilities.)

dakine01 March 17th, 2012 at 2:09 pm
In response to Ari Berman @ 7

But when the grassroots are continually undercut by the Beltway Village Idiots politicians who have the megaphones, it does make it seem to be a wasted effort quite often

And since the Beltway Idiots politicians of today, are taking positions that are to the right of the mainstream Republicans of my youth, it does seem that the effort to re-take the Dems and make it responsive to the grassroots is no more difficult than what would be needed to build a left leaning 3rd party.

Ari Berman March 17th, 2012 at 2:10 pm
In response to Dave Weigel @ 11

Dave, you raise an interesting point. I think a lot of Democratic activists, though opposed to Tea Party policies, wish they had a Tea Party of their own on the left. I wrote about this in my new afterword. We got a taste of energized progressive activism with Occupy Wall Street but that was purposely disconnected from the electoral process. The next step, it would seem to be, is to take some of the energy from OWS and direct it toward the electoral process as well. Occupy both the system and the polls.

Mauimom March 17th, 2012 at 2:10 pm
In response to Ari Berman @ 7

If you give up on Dems, the only other choice is really the GOP right now, which isn’t a very appealing prospect for many Democratic activists.

Perhaps true for “activists,” but you are forgetting the lesson of Martha Coakley/Scott Brown. For “regular” Democrats, there’s the option of staying home.

I’m the parent of two kids, 26 & 24. Both voted for Obama in 2008, and the older volunteered for him. She called me sobbing with joy the night of the election.

In 2012, neither will donate nor lift a finger. I suspect they won’t vote for him either. [I’m trying to encourage them to at least go to the polls to vote for down-ticket Democrats.

Both report that all of their friends feel similarly.

When I read your reports of Obama folks thinking that part of their winning strategy is to “re-energize” 2008 voters, I think “good f***ing luck, you morons.”

Ari Berman March 17th, 2012 at 2:11 pm
In response to dakine01 @ 12

A left-leaning third party would do better in a parliamentary system like in Europe, not in a winner-take-all two party system like our own.

TarheelDem March 17th, 2012 at 2:11 pm

Thanks for this discussion, Ari and Dave.

I would be curious as to how Howard Dean and that DNC crew found the condition of the state Dem parties in the South, how they seemed in 2008, and how they seem now.

I expect that this question might also apply to states outside the South in which Dems can’t seem to get any traction as well.

dakine01 March 17th, 2012 at 2:11 pm
In response to Dave Weigel @ 11

All of the above. The beltway crowd is ham handed, they happily recruit Republicans to run as Democrats, and the supposed Progressive organizations are caught neatly in the “Veal Pen” and are afraid to make the politicians fear them (which it is obvious the R pols fear the Tea Party) because they might lose their “access”

Mauimom March 17th, 2012 at 2:13 pm
In response to Ari Berman @ 10

Oops, off typing another comment.

Just trying to say that Dean’s techniques, and those of Ganz, are better at “herding” Democrats, in contrast to Obama’s, which seem to be the “I’m so cool. Follow me.”

I should also add — at least in reference to Obama’s “leadership” — that when one’s “herding” farm animals, it’s ultimately to send them off to the slaughterhouse.

Mauimom March 17th, 2012 at 2:15 pm
In response to TarheelDem @ 16

Tarheel, there’s great discussion in the book of the Dems in NC. I highly recommend it.

Good discussion on Colorado as well.

Ari Berman March 17th, 2012 at 2:15 pm
In response to TarheelDem @ 16

Hi Tarheel Dem. Very good question. The Democratic Party was in very bad shape in the South when Dean took over. Remember that many in the national party had urged Democrats to write the region off altogether. The fifty-state strategy gave these southern states some important resources, in the form of staff, a voter file and training, which some states had never had before. That had an impact in 2006 and 2008, when Dems picked up lots of seats in the South. Unfortunately, many of those gains were erased in 2010. So there’s a lot of work to be done rebuilding the party down South, especially outside of the swing states like NC & VA. I don’t think that’s been enough of a priority for the party so far in 2012.

RFShunt March 17th, 2012 at 2:16 pm

I apologize that I haven’t read your book (and sheepishly admit that this is the first I’ve heard of it). But it sounds very intriguing, and my Kindle is getting hungry again, so I think I’ll get it.

My question is this – from your rather unique vantage point, what do you think are the most effective concrete steps we can take to counter the effect of large campaign money running and ruining the process?

Ari Berman March 17th, 2012 at 2:17 pm
In response to dakine01 @ 17

it’s important for independent organizations to put pressure on Democratic groups and also the organizers in the ‘veal pen’ who in many cases are co-opted by the national party instead of challenging them.

eCAHNomics March 17th, 2012 at 2:17 pm

Does the fact that Howard Dean sold out to the lobbyists before you can count to 3, and today is getting paid by the well known MEK cult (one of the few Ds, along with the mostly rightwing nutcases like Guiliani) to have themselves delisted from U.S. terrorism groups, make you reevaluate his role in 2008?

dakine01 March 17th, 2012 at 2:18 pm
In response to Ari Berman @ 20

And those losses in 2010 go back to the ham handedness of the Beltway crowd. The 50 state strategy proved its worth as you note in ’06 and ’08 yet here we are in ’12 and there are a lot of incumbent Rs getting a free ride after primaries cuz the WH is hoarding all the cash and not willing to fight for a D Congress.

Mauimom March 17th, 2012 at 2:18 pm
In response to Ari Berman @ 13

I did a fist-pump “yes” when I read your remark about how the REPUBLICANS learned the lessons of 2006 and 2008 better than the Democrats.

Dave Weigel March 17th, 2012 at 2:20 pm

The Southern parts of Berman’s book are the most surreal to read. Just months after the book originally came out, a lot of the people he was writing about had been obliterated by the Tea Party comeback. Southern Republicans may be providing Democrats with some openings, but I think the local parties will have trouble changing from their current arrangement: Liberal leadership, largely African-American, with a white voter base that keeps shrinking as its members become Republicans. (This isn’t a normative judgment of the coalition, jut an observation that it’s not as white and conservative as it was.)

Ari Berman March 17th, 2012 at 2:22 pm
In response to RFShunt @ 21

Thanks RF. I think the battle to get money out of politics requires a multi-faceted approach that isn’t likely to happen in one election cycle.

There’s the legislative angle, pushing for pieces of legislation like the Disclose Act and Fair Elections Now Act. In my view, the most important reform would be robust public financing of elections, which would actually give politicians an incentive to seek small donations, which they don’t have now.

There’s the long-term fight to get a constitutional amendment to repeal Citizens United.

And then, quite frankly, it seems to me that we’d need a different Supreme Court, one that is willing to reconsider the Citizens United decision.

Ari Berman March 17th, 2012 at 2:25 pm
In response to Dave Weigel @ 26

Dave is right. The environment is very challenging for Southern Democrats right now. One of the consequences of the 2010 election is that Republicans control the redistricting process throughout the South and they have been relentlessly targeting white Democrats for extinction. As a result, the few Democrats who remain represent largely minority areas and serve in the legislative minority. It’s very difficult, under these circumstances, for Democrats to get elected to the state legislature or Congress in large enough numbers to have an impact. I wrote about this recently in The Nation: http://www.thenation.com/article/165976/how-gop-resegregating-south

seaglass March 17th, 2012 at 2:26 pm

“And then, quite frankly, it seems to me that we’d need a different Supreme Court, one that is willing to reconsider the Citizens United decision.” I think this is a more realistic approach to any overturning of that decision. The GOP will easily block any attempt at a new amendment.

eCAHNomics March 17th, 2012 at 2:27 pm
In response to Ari Berman @ 22

Haven’t the “Ds” been bought wholesale by corps that they don’t need voters anymore? Or just enough voters to scare by their we-suck-less tactic, to eke out a massive “victory” against truly nutty Rs. I can’t see how pressuring anyone in a “party” so far gone that it will make any diff.

I was told by O’s snot nosed 20-something volunteers in mid-07 when O was the candidate (though before the convention), when I complained about O’s FISA vote: “So what’s your choice?” Forget Rahm’s poisonous language about progressives. If that attitude had permeated so far down the OFA that early, why would they pay any attention now?

Giving credit where it’s due, Clinton was the originator of the Third Way, so the issue had already been decided in 1992, which is 2 decades ago.

Ari Berman March 17th, 2012 at 2:27 pm
In response to Mauimom @ 25

yeah, it’s true, The Tea Party really studied what Dean did in 06 and 08 and tried to emulate it in 2010 (with a lot of success), while Democrats abandoned many of the lessons that worked so well for them. In 2010, the Democratic Party was very top-down, timid and disconnected from its base.

BevW March 17th, 2012 at 2:27 pm
In response to Ari Berman @ 22

How would they break out of the “veal pen”, is there enough money from other sources to become “independent” again? Their whole organization is funded by the co-opters.

Unless you can get a whole lot of angry women demonstrating about the women’s healthcare signed up – where is the power? New members and new funding.

eCAHNomics March 17th, 2012 at 2:28 pm
In response to Ari Berman @ 27

O will appoint several more right wing judges to SCOTUS in his second term. Changing that composition seems hopeless.

Ari Berman March 17th, 2012 at 2:29 pm
In response to seaglass @ 29

I think the best chance of repealing the Citizens United decision would be under a Supreme Court with a 5-4 liberal majority.

RFShunt March 17th, 2012 at 2:30 pm
In response to Ari Berman @ 27

Interesting. Everything you list (all of which I think are good ideas) is something that has to happen from the inside (possibly excepting the constitutional amendment.)

Kind of a catch-22 there, isn’t it? You gotta get in to change it and if you want to change it, they won’t let you in.

This leads me to ask another question. What did you see in the form of outside pressure from civilians that had the most influence on candidates and for those who won, legislators?

eCAHNomics March 17th, 2012 at 2:31 pm
In response to Ari Berman @ 28

Hasn’t ALEC been working diligently to co-opt state legies, which are in any event much cheaper to buy?

Dave Weigel March 17th, 2012 at 2:31 pm

eCAHNnomics – In what sense are Obama’s judges right-wing? Interesting. I’d have thought that the threat of Romney-appointed Federalist Society capos would be the rare unifying liberal argument for Obama.

TarheelDem March 17th, 2012 at 2:31 pm
In response to Ari Berman @ 20

What is behind the impulse to write off difficult states? Is there a vested interest in having never having the Democratic be a viable alternative party in these states?

As for NC and VA, since 2008 they have been trending toward the same incompetence that the Democratic Party has in the rest of the South. It is disconcerting to me that in my native state of South Carolina, members of the same family have been party executives for around 30 years, the exact thirty years of the decline of the Democratic Party in South Carolina. (The Alvin Greene fiasco was symptomatic of how incompetent the SC Dem leadership had become.)

Ari Berman March 17th, 2012 at 2:33 pm
In response to BevW @ 32

Bev, OWS proved that there is a real desire among people for something different. The movement was successful precisely because it didn’t originate in DC and wasn’t run by one of the major progressive groups. So it may be that new people and new funders will step in to change things. I also think there’s an increasingly realization in the wake of OWS among some in the ‘veal pen’ that independent pressure is crucial to changing the system and and pushing Democrats in a more progressive direction.

seaglass March 17th, 2012 at 2:34 pm
In response to eCAHNomics @ 33

I don’t agree, they certainly aren’t going to be as far right as Roberts , Scalia etc. It could be that Citizens United not Roe will soon become the acid test for any court nomination. People are outraged over the results of the CU decision.

Mauimom March 17th, 2012 at 2:35 pm

A money quote from your Afterward:

“Obama’s supporters didn’t expect him to govern as an ideological leftist. But a president without clear principles leaves his base dispirited and the public confused about where he stands on the biggest issues of the day. Obama won a number of legislative battles [I'd dispute that] but he forfeited the war of ideas.”

In my view, Obama, and the Obama supporters, view this as an question of personality {“Obama is so great. We have to support him.”] They just can’t comprehend that for millions of us, it comes down to ISSUES. If Obama’s not doing the right thing on the ISSUES we care about, we can’t support him.

Ari Berman March 17th, 2012 at 2:35 pm
In response to RFShunt @ 35

I think OWS had a lot of success in ‘changing the conversation’ and the economic debate in this country, but the next step at some point will be to push for specific policy changes. Getting candidates to support efforts to get money out of politics would seem like the type of organizing campaign that a lot of people could get behind right now.

seaglass March 17th, 2012 at 2:36 pm
In response to Dave Weigel @ 37

“I’d have thought that the threat of Romney-appointed Federalist Society capos would be the rare unifying liberal argument for Obama.” Your right Dave, at this juncture its all Obama has. The GOP is making that case every day they go after women.

JClausen March 17th, 2012 at 2:36 pm
In response to eCAHNomics @ 36

eCAHN,
Thanks for clarifying with your insightful comments that we are in the veal pen crowd today.

DWBartoo March 17th, 2012 at 2:37 pm
In response to Ari Berman @ 7

Speaking of “prospects”, Ari, many here, at FDL, consider that another four years of “Looking Forward” with Obama at the helm will render the prospects of “the people” right down to the product of Swift’s “Modest Proposal”.

You suggest that 2008 was a good year for grass-roots efforts, where some of us actually worked to elect Barack Obama on the VERY slim “hope”, that although he was NOT an FDR, that, in my case, as Obama has children approximately the age of my youngest, that he would care about the world that his children would be inheriting, that their cohort would be inheriting.

I took my daughter along and told her how historic and important that it was that this nation might well elect a person of color, a black man, as President.

And this nation DID find the courage to do that …

And then, all of us were betrayed: a seamless “transition” to ALL of the worst of the Bush/Cheney abuses of the Rule of Law, with some new and VERY nasty “twists” took place … the wars continued, the FRAUD of the “astute” elite was rewarded, there was no honest accounting, no consequences, and now Barack Obama claims that he may kill anyone, any where and anytime, including American citizens, without judicial due process … and so on and so forth.

Another four years of “this” and I do not see how, the Democratic Party may have ANY legitimacy for or “relevance” to “the people”, indeed, what kind of a “base” do you imagine will still, except for those who “benefit” or are blind to what is happening to other human beings, especially if a war with Iran, which can ONLY happen if America joins in, which will likely be the equivalent of WW III, be around, and willing to say, “I’m a Democrat, and we are the best thing going and the only choice you have, look how BAD the other guys are …”

Gonna be kind of “thin” isn’t it?

Then we look at the Democrats in Congress … none of them stand up for the people, that being “off the table”. No single payer, no stand against the Patriot Act, no oversight, no apparent awareness of the suffering going on …

Ari, you have noticed the suffering, the loss of jobs, of foreclosed homes, of state Attorneys General “signing” on to an “agreement” a Settlement” that took more than a month for actual “terms” to be decided upon and, finally, released to an appalled and horrified public …

However, you have noticed the pain, the fear, the worry, would that be correct?

Why does it seem that the Democratic Party does not?

Considering that many who voted for Obama, once, will NOT do so again …

What makes you consider that the Democrats will have, very soon, any prospects, at all?

DW

Ari Berman March 17th, 2012 at 2:38 pm
In response to eCAHNomics @ 36

Yes. Many state legislators work only part time and make very little money, so it’s very easy for groups like ALEC, with a lot of corporate funds, to influence them. ALEC provided the blueprint for many pieces of legislation introduced by the GOP since 2010 (attacks on unions/public sector, restricting voting laws, etc) in states like Wisconsin. The states, much more so than Congress, are now the laboratory for the conservative movement.

eCAHNomics March 17th, 2012 at 2:39 pm
In response to Dave Weigel @ 37

Since Sotomayor has absented herself from so many votes, you haven’t seen nuttin’ yet. She’s pretty conservative and will be very much a defender of O’s power grab when she gets going. And Kagan? With a name like that, what would you expect.

O has pulled the same tactic that Rs use. Get someone in place from a disadvantaged group who will do your bidding, but anyone who criticizes that person can be accused of racism or sexism. And uninformed observers think that bc it’s a woman or a black, the person is automatically liberal.

Remember that the books are cooked. So one or the other being allowed to vote with the minority will be repeatedly raised as evidence that O’s appointment are NOT as rightwing as they really are.

Kinda like having tokens like Sanders in the senate keeps false hopes alive.

RFShunt March 17th, 2012 at 2:40 pm
In response to Ari Berman @ 42

Couldn’t agree more, but I was asking a slightly different question.

Was there anything you witnessed during your time covering your subjects, that came from non-players, which caused the political figures to take notice and adjust their approach or policies?

Ari Berman March 17th, 2012 at 2:40 pm
In response to seaglass @ 43

the judges Obama would appoint would certainly be less right wing than Romney’s.

Dave Weigel March 17th, 2012 at 2:40 pm

eCAHNnomics — ALEC’s model would, theoretically, be easy for liberals to copy. But as far as conservatives can tell, the organization is a response to a brilliant cross-platform Democratic organization that had outsmarted them at the state level. Getting back to what Ari said about the lessons of 2006/2008 — Republicans were gobsmacked by the “Secretary of State Project,” which helped elect liberals to mostly-ignored, powerful state offices. In 2010 they were largely able to take back those offices, which are going to present problems for Democrats in 2012 — Ohio, Colorado, New Mexico.

eCAHNomics March 17th, 2012 at 2:41 pm
In response to seaglass @ 40

“People” are outraged about a lot of stuff. Yet O keeps pushing for more more extreme right positions. He’s all about pulling the wool over our eyes.

Crumb throwing season is in full swing. Can’t wait to see how many are taken in by empty promises.

eCAHNomics March 17th, 2012 at 2:42 pm
In response to Dave Weigel @ 50

ALEC’s model would, theoretically, be easy for liberals to copy.

I don’t understand how. The corps have all the money and all the power.

Ari Berman March 17th, 2012 at 2:43 pm
In response to DWBartoo @ 45

DW, people are no doubt disappointed with Obama, for many different reasons. at the same time, the latest polling shows that his coalition from 2008 is nonetheless starting to reassemble. http://nationaljournal.com/magazine/stronger-but-not-secure-20120315

dakine01 March 17th, 2012 at 2:44 pm
In response to Ari Berman @ 49

Which is kinda the point for a lot of folks. Saying “My appointees won’t be quite as crazy as theirs” is not a particularly winning way to energize the base

masaccio March 17th, 2012 at 2:45 pm
In response to Ari Berman @ 31

There is no sign of change. There was ever any respect for the left, either the people or the ideas, in either the 2006 or 2008 Congress or in the White House after 2008. Both seem perfectly willing to do nothing for the middle class and perfectly willing to do the bidding of the rich.

Nothing will change this year. The “party leaders” go for the most conservative candidates they can find, and do nothing to support anyone who might have a touch of good sense or willingness to change things. Case in point: Maine.

I do not see any fight in the party, just go along and get along. All I get from the White House is demands that I help and give money.

I won’t help.

tomallen March 17th, 2012 at 2:45 pm
In response to Ari Berman @ 49

He’ll just stab us in the back. He won’t shoot us! WIN!

Ari Berman March 17th, 2012 at 2:46 pm
In response to RFShunt @ 48

I think OWS in the most recent example of that.

The fifty-state strategy was more of a political strategy than a policy per se, but that started as something that state party activists came up with and then got candidates, like Dean, to support, in the face of pretty serious opposition from the national party establishment.

eCAHNomics March 17th, 2012 at 2:47 pm
In response to tomallen @ 56

Well put. I’d rather face my assassin but O is too cowardly to do that.

Mauimom March 17th, 2012 at 2:47 pm
In response to DWBartoo @ 45

Then we look at the Democrats in Congress … none of them stand up for the people, that being “off the table”. No single payer, no stand against the Patriot Act, no oversight, no apparent awareness of the suffering going on …

DW, right up there in the pantheon of horrible things Obama has done is his destruction of the Democratic party.

He’s denied them funds.

He’s squashed all criticism, both of himself and of the horrid positions he’s taken.

He’s destroyed the identity of the party: now it’s only slightly less identified with Wall Street than the Republicans.

He’s removed all hope for the “future” of a Democratic party.

masaccio March 17th, 2012 at 2:48 pm
In response to Dave Weigel @ 50

They may think that, but it is wrong. In the 70s I served on a number of committees of lawyers who worked towards finding sensible solutions to all kinds of problems.

Now, every single one of those entities is a tool of corporations. I saw the first of them in the late 70s, a group of “independent experts” who created a “lemon law” for used cars that has never been used successfully.

Dave Weigel March 17th, 2012 at 2:48 pm

masaccio — How is Maine a “case in point?” Democrats including Chellie Pingree herself beseeched Angus King to get out of the race. He wouldn’t, so they opted not to set up a three-way contest that a Republican could win, as was the case in the 2010 gov race.

Mauimom March 17th, 2012 at 2:49 pm
In response to masaccio @ 55

Hey, didn’t you get that invite to donate $3 so you might get to have dinner with Barack and sit next to the guy who “used to be a life-long Republican”? [His new "base."]

seaglass March 17th, 2012 at 2:49 pm
In response to eCAHNomics @ 47

“And Kagan? With a name like that, what would you expect.” WITH A NAME LIKE THAT? What exactly are you trying to say eCahn?

Mod Note: Please try to stay on topic of the book and engage with the author

DWBartoo March 17th, 2012 at 2:49 pm
In response to Ari Berman @ 53

“Disappointed”?

Ari, do you notice the worsening pain?

The fear?

The despair?

The worry?

The frantic sense that civil society is for sale to mere money?

Thank you, Ari, this has been a most “interesting” opportunity to observe how some people calculate the “political odds” and the meaning of “winning”.

DW

john in sacramento March 17th, 2012 at 2:50 pm

Don’t know if you have another book in the pipeline Ari, but here’s an idea for the cover

http://misscellania.blogspot.com/2012/03/people-power.html

realitychecker March 17th, 2012 at 2:50 pm
In response to Ari Berman @ 34

You won’t get a liberal Court from Obama. Kagan just voted with the hard-righties to erode Miranda (Holding: Interrogating a prisoner about a new crime INSIDE A PRISON is not custodial interrogation requiring Miranda warnings.) Obama will continue to be “corporate agenda” and “civil liberties erosion” all the way.

Ari Berman March 17th, 2012 at 2:50 pm
In response to TarheelDem @ 38

The impetus is that the party has limited resources and would be better off spending its money elsewhere. I don’t agree with that, but that’s the argument.

I think the Democratic Party everywhere, but especially in the South, needs an infusion of new blood. The gains of 2006 and 2008 proved that it’s not hopeless, but their needs to be an effort to develop a new generation of leaders down there and to also give the states the resources they need. Too often, the few Dems down there are on their own, and there is almost no progressive organizing in many of these states to push progressive ideas or legislation.

eCAHNomics March 17th, 2012 at 2:51 pm
In response to Ari Berman @ 57

My Q about Dean at 23 has not been answered.

Wasn’t he just a token place holder until real Ds could take over. I think Dean was a knowing participant in the kabuki and is laughing all the way to his bankster friends. If there’s anyone the progressive “base” should be disgusted with (after O, of course), it’s Howard Dean.

Mauimom March 17th, 2012 at 2:52 pm
In response to Mauimom @ 59

Ari, I was struck by the contrast you describe in the book between the approach Dean took, when he was campaigning to be DNC chair, of pledging to SUPPORT state Democratic parties, and Obama’s recent announcement to them of “you’re on your own [no money for you].”

tomallen March 17th, 2012 at 2:52 pm

Basically, you have a choice: completely turn the Democratic Party far leftward as FDR did after Hoover’s disastrous presidency (and get huge majorities), or become irrelevant.

I think I know which choice the corporate Democrats have chosen.

Ari Berman March 17th, 2012 at 2:53 pm

nice pic!

Ari Berman March 17th, 2012 at 2:56 pm
In response to Mauimom @ 69

yeah, it’s a big shift. part of that is a consequence of Obama winning the White House. Once he did that, the national party largely took the state parties and local activists for granted. That was one of the major mistakes the party & Obama made in 2010. since then, the states have gotten some more resources, comparable to what they had under Dean, but it doesn’t seem to me like local organizing in still really much of a priority. Obama is chiefly concerned with his own re-election in 2012.

masaccio March 17th, 2012 at 2:56 pm
In response to Dave Weigel @ 61

Not trying means that the progressives are screwed again.

eCAHNomics March 17th, 2012 at 2:56 pm
In response to seaglass @ 63

She may not (or may, I admit I haven’t taken the time to unearth the ties) be genetically related to the neocons of the same surname, but my guess is she’s biding her time and playing the tokenism game for all it’s worth.

My substantive point, which you may have missed bc I went off on one of her superficialities, is that she is being allowed to vote with the minority as part of the D.C. kabuki.

realitychecker March 17th, 2012 at 2:57 pm
In response to Ari Berman @ 49

What difference does that make in practice if the net net is STILL a solid right wing majority?

Mauimom March 17th, 2012 at 2:58 pm
In response to Ari Berman @ 57

The fifty-state strategy was more of a political strategy than a policy per se, but that started as something that state party activists came up with and then got candidates, like Dean, to support, in the face of pretty serious opposition from the national party establishment.

I recall some comment of yours that Dean recognized that the fifty-state strategy needed continuous work. It wasn’t something you just “create” and then forget/neglect.

eCAHNomics March 17th, 2012 at 2:58 pm
In response to realitychecker @ 75

Better stated than my more emotional rant. Thanks.

Phoenix Woman March 17th, 2012 at 2:59 pm
In response to Ari Berman @ 72

And with the recent news that OFA/DNC isn’t giving a dime of Obama’s 2012 money to the DCCC or the DSCC — in a break with decades of precedent — we see just what dire straits those groups are in.

Ari Berman March 17th, 2012 at 3:00 pm

If progressives decide that they can’t change the Democratic Party or that it’s not worth changing, that will only give more power to the corporate Democrats many people on FDL abhor.

john in sacramento March 17th, 2012 at 3:00 pm
In response to eCAHNomics @ 68

I am

Maybe it’s just me projecting, but I thought he was a real progressive. And that sometime during his tenure as DNC Chair he was corrupted by succumbed to the DC ego machine and cocktail wienie wannabee circuit to become one of “them”

Phoenix Woman March 17th, 2012 at 3:00 pm
In response to Mauimom @ 76

Yup. That requires a strong national org, strong enough to beef up the local ones on a consistent and continuous basis. But that’s not what the corporate money men want.

Ari Berman March 17th, 2012 at 3:01 pm
In response to Mauimom @ 76

yeah, it was meant to be a constant. The Obama people could have expanded and modernized the strategy after 2008, but instead they largely ignored the party and focused on their own organization, OFA, which hasn’t had much success.

TarheelDem March 17th, 2012 at 3:01 pm

This is not a popular position for most. But I think that every Democrat who votes should have the choice of one progressive to vote for. And every voter should have the choice of a variety of positions to vote for in the general election.

Democrats give GOP candidates a pass in too many offices. Which is a manifestation of writing off whole categories of voters.

What drives this impulse to write off potentially Democratic voters?

eCAHNomics March 17th, 2012 at 3:01 pm
In response to Ari Berman @ 79

And if progressives decide that they can change the Ds

that will only give more power to the corporate Democrats many people on FDL abhor.

Ari Berman March 17th, 2012 at 3:03 pm
In response to Phoenix Woman @ 78

my guess is eventually Obama 2012 will help raise money for DCCC and DSCC, but right now they are spooked by the hundreds of million of $ Koch brothers and other conservative funders plan to spend against Obama this year

eCAHNomics March 17th, 2012 at 3:03 pm

Yessir. We give up our idols with feet of clay far too late.

Phoenix Woman March 17th, 2012 at 3:04 pm
In response to Ari Berman @ 79

True, as we saw with Scott Brown. But how can we best take back the party when we don’t have the money of a big corporate interest? (Then again, by that same token, it’s a lot harder to form a major political party from scratch than it is to take over one; to do the former, you’d need a few billion dollars and ownership of at least one major TV and one major radio network.)

eCAHNomics March 17th, 2012 at 3:04 pm
In response to Ari Berman @ 85

I think O is not spooked by anything.

His affect suggests he abhors being prez, but loves campaigning bc he can fool so many so often.

Mauimom March 17th, 2012 at 3:05 pm
In response to Ari Berman @ 72

Ari, as you can probably tell, many of us here, while originally voting for Obama, are now completely disgusted with him.

We’re often characterized as “crazy,” “unrealistic,” whatever, but I was struck by a number of the “portraits” in the Afterward of your book of former Obama supporters/campaign workers: they seemed just as disgusted, turned off.

E.g., the woman from North Carolina who said

If President Obama wants to go out there and commit political suicide by saying he ‘s going to cut Social Security and Medicare, we’re going to have to get as far away from him as possible.

Ari Berman March 17th, 2012 at 3:05 pm
In response to TarheelDem @ 83

the impulse, as I mentioned, is a belief that Democrats can’t win in these areas. I agree with you that voters should have a choice and also that conditions can change and you never know what will happen in any given election. the more organizing that’s done and the more candidates that run, the better the prospects for the party down South.

Mauimom March 17th, 2012 at 3:06 pm

John, you really ought to read this book for Ari’s excellent discussion of what happened to Dean at and post-DNC.

masaccio March 17th, 2012 at 3:06 pm
In response to Ari Berman @ 79

Let’s try to imagine how progressives can change the party.

It may require hallucinogens.

tjbs March 17th, 2012 at 3:07 pm

All’s I’m hearing here is we got the best we can expect so go for some incremental meaningless change and claim some incremental meaningless change is da bomb, while the rich corporations rule and buy any democrat they want.

i’ll be dead before the democrats , like o, deliver anything but more misery.

DWBartoo March 17th, 2012 at 3:08 pm
In response to Ari Berman @ 79

So be it, then, Ari.

Remember the “nice pic!”?

When enough thoughtful human beings leave a political party, then what happens?

It dies.

Now, if it were a “corporation person”, it could, conceivably, live forever.

Things die … things change.

And that is the way it is.

That scares you?

Many feel the same way about what is happening to themselves, to their society, and to their nation.

If, or when, the Democratic Party may understand that truth, then and only then may it find relevancy.

DW

tomallen March 17th, 2012 at 3:08 pm

“If progressives decide that they can’t change the Democratic Party or that it’s not worth changing, that will only give more power to the corporate Democrats many people on FDL abhor.”

So DONATE NOW!

I mean, actually leaving isn’t the only threat that the Democrats would actually understand, right?

Oh, wait.

realitychecker March 17th, 2012 at 3:08 pm
In response to Ari Berman @ 79

Same result if we support the party as run by those corporate Democrats, no? They get more power. Or am I missing something obvious?

tjbs March 17th, 2012 at 3:10 pm
In response to eCAHNomics @ 88

He’ll be a great statesman like clinton when he retires though and don’t forget rich beyond his wildest dreams.

Ari Berman March 17th, 2012 at 3:11 pm
In response to Mauimom @ 89

yeah, there definitely was and is a lot of anguish among Obama supporters I profiled in the book. some of those people who were very critical of the president in 2011, however, have become less so in 2012. that might be because they are watching the GOP nomination and terrified of the prospects of a Republican president. but they also like that Obama is talking more about jobs these days and that the economy is improving, albeit not fast enough. He’s no longer viewed as the savior he was in 2008, but someone who would be better than Romney on many issues.

Mauimom March 17th, 2012 at 3:11 pm
In response to Ari Berman @ 90

But that impulse/belief is just what Dean DISproved via his fifty-state strategy: you should do people the service/honor of going to every venue, of talking to them, listening to them, giving them an alternative candidate to vote for.

And voila, it worked in several venues.

With Rahm’s SOP, we got Heath Schuler. [Excellent discussion in the book, BTW, of what a true slim he is.]

Knut March 17th, 2012 at 3:11 pm

He was a fine governor in Vermont, and I think he ran for.president in part because he was such a capable executive.

RFShunt March 17th, 2012 at 3:12 pm
In response to Ari Berman @ 82

From where I sit – and admittedly this is anecdotal – it’s worse than that.

The two people I know who were very active in OFA spent 3 years waiting, and pleading, to be put to work. There was no such response from OFA and now they are both totally turned off by the sudden desire for their support again now that’s it’s election time.

Margaret March 17th, 2012 at 3:12 pm
In response to Ari Berman @ 79

If progressives decide that they can’t change the Democratic Party or that it’s not worth changing, that will only give more power to the corporate Democrats many people on FDL abhor.

Spot on. Though I am the first one to say “no more votes for Vichy Democrats”, all I can say to those people who think staying home on election day or voting Republican in order to “teach them a lesson” or to “send them a message”, would have the remotest chance of achieving the desired result is actually a number and not a word:

2010.

I don’t know what the answer is but I know what it isn’t: The one that was tried then.
Thank you for pointing that out and for being here today.

Ari Berman March 17th, 2012 at 3:14 pm

People who are disillusioned with the Democratic Party can instead support organizations that are pushing to change the underlying political system or trying to push the party in a more progressive direction or candidates who are more outspokenly progressive.

DWBartoo March 17th, 2012 at 3:15 pm
In response to Margaret @ 102

Margaret, do you consider that there are no genuine alternatives to “staying home” or voting for the Republicans, available to people?

DW

seaglass March 17th, 2012 at 3:16 pm

Ari many of us here understand we live in a Plutocracy now with some limited voting. Would you agree that its not likely to change any time soon given the balance of forces at work in the country at the moment? Or do you believe that Progressive change is still a possibility?

Ari Berman March 17th, 2012 at 3:17 pm

Many Democratic activists I profiled in the book have also decided to spend more time working on state politics, in response to the radical Republican governors and state legislators who were elected in 2010, and less time working for Obama.

themisfortuneteller March 17th, 2012 at 3:17 pm

Coming late to this discussion from here in Kaohsiung, Taiwan, but I’d like to ask Mr Berman (whose work I’ve enjoyed for years) when the Democratic Party plans to stop accepting at face value — and then stupidly repeating — carefully crafted (by Dr Frank Luntz) Orwellian language such as “Citizens United” and “Death Tax” and “War on Terror” instead of framing their own (assuming they have one) point of view with “Corporations United,” “Estate Tax,” and “War on Peace,” et cetera. For example, I keep hearing Chris Matthews of MSNBC incessantly repeating the “Death Tax” canard at every opportunity, without ever pointing out that no such law exists. It seems to me that the Democratic Party just hasn’t the first clue about how to accurately and creatively use language for shaping the national discourse in ways favorable to progressive (I wouldn’t dare say “liberal”) candidates and programs. I guess I just want to ask Mr Berman if he thinks the Democrats will ever get over their apparent desire — post Bill Clinton — to just offer Americans a slightly less right-wing corporate party than the crypto-fascist Republicans.

Margaret March 17th, 2012 at 3:17 pm
In response to DWBartoo @ 104

Nope. All I said was the answer isn’t to stay home or to vote Republican. That was tried. It failed miserably. That’s all.

john in sacramento March 17th, 2012 at 3:17 pm
In response to Mauimom @ 91

Thanks, I’ll have to get it

I was at the Western States DNC Caucus when Dean first announced he was running for DNC Chair in 2004-2005 (?) I’m not a part of the DNC or anything, but we (former Deaniacs) were encouraged to lobby to get the DNC members to vote for him because we knew change had to happen from the bottom-up. Not Obama’s years later marketing slogan, but real change, for real people. Ending the wars; real healthcare; campaign finance reform; equality … yada, yada, etc.

… I’m still waiting

Mauimom March 17th, 2012 at 3:19 pm

You will love this book.

tomallen March 17th, 2012 at 3:20 pm
In response to Margaret @ 102

Hey, remember the platform Democrats ran on in 2010?

….

Yeah, same as this year. “We suck less than the Republicans.” And how did that work?

….

Oh, and you’re expecting things to go differently?

Here’s a thought. Suppose a candidate actually ran on a New Deal type platform? Like the most popular politician in US history? I mean, it’s not like we’re in a depression or anything — oh wait. But it’s not like everyone knows that corporations control everything and need to be regulated. Oh, wait. But you’d have to stand up to a military-industrial complex, and no president could … oh, yeah, and that dude was a Republican.

But keep giving up. Because that’s worked so well so far. :-(

Margaret March 17th, 2012 at 3:21 pm
In response to Ari Berman @ 106

Yes, that’s the obvious avenue. Another is to think third party but the one undeniable fact is that until the money is taken out of the system, there will be corruption and avarice among our elected officials and a third party candidacy is a huge, expensive uphill battle. I’ve been looking at both options very carefully for 2012. I’m leaning toward voting for worthy Dems but voting third party where there are none.

Ari Berman March 17th, 2012 at 3:22 pm
In response to seaglass @ 105

I think that getting money out of politics is a long-term fight, not something that will change overnight. When enough people get angry enough, things will begin to change. We’re headed in that direction now–people are so fed up with Super PACs and the increasing amount of money in the political system, that eventually we’ll reach a tipping point.

DWBartoo March 17th, 2012 at 3:22 pm
In response to Margaret @ 108

Appreciate the clarification, Margaret, as the clarity is very necessary these short-tempered, antagonistic days …

;~DW

Ari Berman March 17th, 2012 at 3:23 pm

think you’ll really like the book

masaccio March 17th, 2012 at 3:23 pm
In response to Ari Berman @ 103

Speaking for myself, I’m not disillusioned, I’m angry. There is no prospect of change anywhere. Every avenue is choked off by the eternal election.

joelmael March 17th, 2012 at 3:24 pm

This is all so very depressing. What stage of grief are we in? How do we come out the other end of this,..this (pardon the term) hopelessness?

A plan or plans is/are needed.

seaglass March 17th, 2012 at 3:25 pm
In response to Ari Berman @ 113

By then it might not matter Ari. Have you taken a look at the Pentagon’s new heat ray and other crowd control tools its developing? I think the Oligarchs think they have the upper hand now given this technology. I don’t think they’re afraid of us at all.

Ari Berman March 17th, 2012 at 3:26 pm

I do think that OWS was very successful in changing the political debate and injecting the language of the 99 percent into the vernacular. There was no discussion from Obama or other Democrats about the 1 % before that. So at least that’s a step in the right direction. But you’re right, on most issues conservatives have been very successful at winning the messaging wars (although I would argue they’ve lost it in the last few months).

DWBartoo March 17th, 2012 at 3:29 pm
In response to Margaret @ 112

Yeppers, yet, honestly “worthy” Dems, who dare to distance themselves from the “job one” issue are mighty thin on the ground, it seems, Margaret.

And I think that ALL candidates ought to be subject to the “Canfield Questions”, as well … enough of this, “Well, let’s elect them first and, then, give them a chance … to see … what they do …”

;~DW

DWBartoo March 17th, 2012 at 3:33 pm
In response to seaglass @ 118

And HR 347 should keep “the people” in their “place” …now THAT was buy-partisan legislation at it bestest, seaglass, a united political class, revoking ARTICLE I.

DW

bigbrother March 17th, 2012 at 3:34 pm
In response to Ari Berman @ 98

A different political approach is to go on attack easy targets in policy.

TarheelDem March 17th, 2012 at 3:34 pm
In response to Margaret @ 112

For progressives, the mission in 2012 is likely to be increasing the number of principled progressives in the downticket offices, going down to members of various city and county commissions. And doing defense on state legislatures and councils of state. And making preparations last year for the 2014 midterms (we’re likely already behind the curve). And preparations for the 2016 and 2020 Presidential and Congressional elections.

Three things I’ve learned from the way the Republicans have gained power in the South:
Think long term; very long term. And be persistent.
Do the math; know how many voters you need to win convincingly and where they will come from.
Attack the opposition’s strengths. Everyone knows their weaknesses. (You could call this the “swiftboat principle”).

If you go the third party route, it too has to be a “big tent” party. The conversations on platform in any coalition are going to be contentious, but there must be unity in order to gain people power.

Ari Berman March 17th, 2012 at 3:34 pm

Not so long ago, conservatives felt just as hopeless about the direction of the Republican Party. Important to remember that. If you don’t like Obama or Democratic candidates, support organizations that will work to change the underlying political system or push for progressive change.

Ari Berman March 17th, 2012 at 3:36 pm
In response to TarheelDem @ 123

good points from TarheelDem:

Three things I’ve learned from the way the Republicans have gained power in the South:
Think long term; very long term. And be persistent.
Do the math; know how many voters you need to win convincingly and where they will come from.
Attack the opposition’s strengths. Everyone knows their weaknesses. (You could call this the “swiftboat principle”).

Margaret March 17th, 2012 at 3:36 pm

Guys, I came here to engage Mr Berman, not everybody else. I thought those were the rules of book salon?

seaglass March 17th, 2012 at 3:36 pm
In response to DWBartoo @ 121

Exactly DW. OWS scared the crap out of our little Lords and Masters in DC and every State house. Now they are waving their new toys in our faces, telling us all to STFU or face the heat ( literally.)

Mauimom March 17th, 2012 at 3:37 pm

Ari, if I could loosely summarize your book, I’d say that it describes how the Dems “organized” themselves [with all the comedy, disorganization and mistakes that "organize" and "Democrats" in the same sentence imply] to get from 2000 to [what appeared to be] a victory in 2008.

If you could look into your crystal ball, and acknowledging the damage, disappointment, sell-outs, disillusion*, etc. that’s occurred between 2008-2012, what would you say 2012-2016 holds?

*Edit: And anger. I should tip my hat to masaccio’s anger, my own, and that of anyone else.

Ari Berman March 17th, 2012 at 3:37 pm
In response to Margaret @ 126

Hi Margaret, what are your questions? Will do my best to answer them in time remaining.

Ari Berman March 17th, 2012 at 3:41 pm
In response to Mauimom @ 128

good summary! really hard to predict what will happen in 2012-2016. obviously a lot depends on whether Obama is re-elected. I do think a President Romney would govern much like the Republican governors who were elected in 2010 and would be more conservative than many pundits are forecasting.

Margaret March 17th, 2012 at 3:43 pm
In response to Ari Berman @ 129

My question was, does your book offer any helpful insights or suggestions about new and creative ways to influence the Democratic Party and candidates that doesn’t involve being enormously wealthy? Because I agree wholeheartedly with the general consensus that the current incarnation of the Party doesn’t reflect my values anymore. In fact, they are far to the right of where the Republicans of the 1980s were in many cases. Any thoughts on solutions to drive the Democrats to once again practice the values that they still claim, (somewhat ludicrously), to espouse?

Mauimom March 17th, 2012 at 3:44 pm
In response to Ari Berman @ 130

I was really asking what might happen to the DEMOCRATS. Perhaps there’s Scenario One – Obama wins, and Scenario Two – Obama loses.

I frankly don’t think there’s any way he loses. I’m not gonna sidetrack the discussion on whether that’s good or bad for the country, just note it.

And [for extra credit]: what about Hillary?

Mauimom March 17th, 2012 at 3:45 pm
In response to Margaret @ 131

Margaret: excellent question. Ari: ignore me; answer Margaret.

Ari Berman March 17th, 2012 at 3:45 pm
In response to Margaret @ 131

yes. my book is about how grassroots organizing and activism helped change the Democratic Party and lead to many of the victories in 2006 and 2008. that was the core of the 50 state strategy that I chronicle.

DWBartoo March 17th, 2012 at 3:47 pm
In response to Ari Berman @ 119

Ah so, that is why Obama capitulated to the demands of the religious “set”, on “insurance” … they were losing?

I understand that the vast majority of Americans think a war with Iran would be mistake, does that mean Israeli “conservatives” are “losing” … Obama?

Why am I suddenly thoughtful?

Yes, OWS was successful, we agree, Ari, is that why individual OWS sites are under attack, possibly?

What has Obama said about that? Or HR 347?

Camp David, “looking forward”, appears to be where a lot of elite “action” will be occurring over the next four years and nine odd months …

After that, the Dems will lead us to a better world.

In the meantime, and it will be a VERY mean time … folks will just have to fend for themselves (while “rebuilding” the Dem party and making it relevant … even if they lose their homes, have their Social Security “improved”, are unable to afford gas for their cars, or food for their table).

DW

Mauimom March 17th, 2012 at 3:47 pm
In response to Ari Berman @ 134

One of the problems I’ve found is that current “grass roots organizers” in my neck of the woods tend to all be Obama-bots.

I don’t find it very realistic to think about working with them and changing their POV, so must one be an insurgency AGAINST them?

Margaret March 17th, 2012 at 3:48 pm
In response to Ari Berman @ 134

And in your opinion these strategies can still be effective now? How do we convince Democrats that when they behave like Republicans, their constituents will vote for the other person who is calling him/herself a Republican?

Thank you. I will certainly pick up a copy.

DWBartoo March 17th, 2012 at 3:49 pm
In response to TarheelDem @ 123

Yes. Strategy is your special talent, TD, and a much appreciated talent it is!

DW

bigbrother March 17th, 2012 at 3:49 pm
In response to Ari Berman @ 134

Sounds like a must read for local groups.

DWBartoo March 17th, 2012 at 3:50 pm
In response to Margaret @ 131

Superb question, Margaret!

DW

BevW March 17th, 2012 at 3:52 pm

As we come to the end of this great Book Salon discussion,

Ari, Thank you for stopping by the Lake and spending the afternoon with us discussing your new book and the Democratic Party.

Dave, Thank you very much for Hosting this great Book Salon.

Everyone, if you would like more information:

Ari’s website (TheNation) and book (HerdingDonkeys)

Dave’s website (Slate)

Thanks all, Have a great weekend.

Sunday – Rasmus Nielsen / Ground Wars: Personalized Communication in Political Campaigns; Hosted by Benjamin Kallos

If you want to contact the FDL Book Salon: FiredoglakeBookSalon@gmail.com

Ari Berman March 17th, 2012 at 3:53 pm
In response to Margaret @ 137

Thanks Margaret. I do think it can still be effective. Much of what worked in 2006/2008 was abandoned by Democrats in 2010 (and adopted by conservatives), which is one reason the party lost so many seats.

It’s also important to put pressure on Democratic candidates to support a progressive agenda. Primaries are usually the best way to do that–that’s been the principle way conservatives have been able to push the party further to the right.

Mauimom March 17th, 2012 at 3:53 pm
In response to Margaret @ 137

How do we convince Democrats that when they behave like Republicans, their constituents will vote for the other person who is calling him/herself a Republican

This is why I’m a big advocate of voting Third Party [as opposed to not voting at all].

At least if you vote Third Party — and it will become more true if more folks vote Third Party — the “losers” [both of them] can see that there’s a pile of votes out there that they could have had, if only they hadn’t taken such stupid positions.

If folks don’t vote, the “loss” will always be spun as “Dems weren’t conservative enough.” Instead, they should be saying “Dems weren’t Green enough” or “Dems weren’t Socialist enough.”

seaglass March 17th, 2012 at 3:53 pm

Ari how does one grab control of the Dem. party at the grassroots? It seems that from what I’ve observed the local party orgs. are just as corrupted by money as the State and Nat’l orgs.

DWBartoo March 17th, 2012 at 3:55 pm

Thank you, Ari and David, for joining us.

We’re a sometimes tough lot, but appreciative, nonetheless.

I hope that you both may join us in future.

Thanks to Bev, as always, for a stimulating and interesting Book Salon.

DW

Ari Berman March 17th, 2012 at 3:55 pm

Bev, thank you for having me! Dave, thanks for hosting. And thanks to the FDL community for the very good questions. Hope you like the book! I’m also on Twitter for those who want to communicate that way: @AriBerman

DWBartoo March 17th, 2012 at 3:56 pm
In response to Mauimom @ 143

That is a big BINGO!!!, Mauimom, and wisdom, true and powerful.

DW

TarheelDem March 17th, 2012 at 3:56 pm

Thank you, Ari and David, for this helpful discussion.

Margaret March 17th, 2012 at 3:57 pm
In response to Mauimom @ 143

I just don’t think the Democrats will get the right message. They didn’t get it in 2010 but became even more conservative and I have no reason to expect they would get the correct message in 2012 either.

Margaret March 17th, 2012 at 3:57 pm

Thank you David and Mr. Berman.

Mauimom March 17th, 2012 at 4:01 pm

Ari, if you’re still here, one final question: after listening to this “tough crowd,” and admittedly we’re out there on the fringe, do you think Obama & Co have any clue of the depth of negative emotion that’s out here? They seem to think they can just “register new voters and ‘re-energize’ the old ones.” I think that’s crazy. Your thoughts?

Margaret March 17th, 2012 at 4:02 pm

Thank you very much for being here.

themisfortuneteller March 17th, 2012 at 4:07 pm

Since I haven’t read Mr Berman’s book, I hesitate to ask what readers of it probably know already, but — given the yeoman work done by Howard Dean in putting together state Democratic Party organizations that later put candidate Obama ahead of former New York Senator You-Know-Her in the 2008 primary contest — what accounts for nominee Obama’s siding with Rahm Emmanuel in blacklisting Dean from any meaningful role in the new Democratic administration? I have particularly in mind the post of Secretary of Health and Human Services, which Dr Dean actively sought and for which his knowledgeable championing of Medicare for All might have made for a significantly different — and possibly even credible — National Health Care program for America.

waynec March 17th, 2012 at 4:08 pm
In response to Ari Berman @ 98

In other words, “We suck less.”

DWBartoo March 17th, 2012 at 4:09 pm
In response to Mauimom @ 151

Excellent question, Mauimom.

The answer would be interesting.

(It might have some bearing on the next four years and nine-odd months.)

Not certain “we” are the unfashionable “fringe” any longer, btw, I think we’re growin’ on “the people” … and MUCH more annoying to the bigwigs, HR 347 wasn’t enacted simply to “contain” OWS … remember the “f…..’ retards”?

DW

oldgold March 17th, 2012 at 4:22 pm

The Electoral College is the primary reason we have only 2 viable political parties. Until it is abolished, any meaningful third party movement is doomed to empower the major political party the insurgent political movement is most ideologically distant from.

The 1912 Electoral College result illustrates this. Taft [23.2%] and TR [27.4%] received a combined total of 50.6% of the popular vote, but only a combined total of 96 [18%] Electoral College votes. Wilson with 41.8% of the popular vote received 435 [82%] Electoral College votes.

TarheelDem March 17th, 2012 at 4:29 pm
In response to DWBartoo @ 155

You mean the “f…ing retards” who had the view that the way to get the public option would be to force opponents (Blanche Lincoln) of it to pay politically? That is, doing what conventional wisdom said was to way to increase progressive power. I guess we’re winning on that one. Blanche lost. The GOP won and got overconfident, exposing to the public that the system was broken. That widespread public realization fueled the Occupy movement (and still does btw, at least along the path that the Walkupy walkers have been following.) And Rahm Emmanuel having been shuttled off from chief-of-staff to mayor of Chicago (don’t necessarily think it was a reward even though he was swapped for Bill Daley) is now facing being mic-checked everywhere he speaks. And his austerity budget for the City has the potential for breaking the old Daley machine; it’s not delivering the goods anymore.

We should continue being “f….ing retarded”.

TarheelDem March 17th, 2012 at 4:33 pm
In response to oldgold @ 156

The history prior to the Civil War makes one doubt your argument about the electoral college. It should be abolished and the President elected by popular vote and get the states inherent power out of it. But it is possible to have third parties run. But if there is no clear winner, the system flips it to the House of Representatives.

What prevents viable third parties is the amount of resources that are institutionally tied to the two-party system that emerged out of the Civil War. And the fact that the 1% control those resources.

DWBartoo March 17th, 2012 at 4:39 pm
In response to oldgold @ 156

How do you propose that the Electoral College be abolished, oldgold?

You have just implied that there is no actual choice, at present, but to support your candidate …

All other “recourse”, you state explicitly, being doomed …

Until you separate the two, your appraisal from your allegiance, how may the truth of the one not be affected and subservient to concern for the other?

DW

DWBartoo March 17th, 2012 at 4:44 pm
In response to TarheelDem @ 157

As I say, TD, exquisite strategy is the talent you best display here, that you’ve others, at least equal in value, I doubt not in the slightest.

Yes. Onward un retarded!!!

;~DW

Lorraine Watkins March 17th, 2012 at 4:49 pm

In late and haven’t read all the comments. But speaking as an one time active Democrat in Georgia I have come to believe it is going to require more help from a more progressive national party and help such as Dean provided. Our party power structure is controlled by Conservative Blue Dogs, or I should say the white male contingent. It may not be fair to the Metro Atlanta area but it seems otherwise the party is pretty segregated.

It doesn’t help our spirits to have the DNC tell us no money for this campaign because we are a lost cause then have Obama fly in for $38,000.00 plate dinners, taking away from Georgia some millions from 2 events. The money flows only one way. Ordinary progressives have no voice outside our blogs.

DWBartoo March 17th, 2012 at 4:52 pm
In response to TarheelDem @ 158

Yes, oldgold did, apparently, forget a wee detail or two.

Possibly, oldgold’s purpose, might not have found those details convenient to the inclusion?

However, in oldgold’s defense; oldgold does feel the need to protect us … from ourselves.

Retarded as we may be.

DW

oldgold March 17th, 2012 at 4:53 pm
In response to DWBartoo @ 159

By amending the Constitution.

And, I stand by my position that a meaningful third party challenge in ’12 from the Left would result in a Republican electoral landslide. Of course, thankfully, that is not going to occur.

oldgold March 17th, 2012 at 4:54 pm
In response to DWBartoo @ 162

I feel no need to protect you from yourself. I am simply expressing my opinion.

TarheelDem March 17th, 2012 at 4:58 pm
In response to TalkingStick @ 161

Applause. Exactly on target. And increasingly black Democrats are learning to play the game, being bought out by the same interests that buy out the Blue Dogs. At the local level that would be the real estate and development industry and the local Chamber of Commerce.

eCAHNomics March 17th, 2012 at 5:02 pm
In response to TarheelDem @ 165

I’ll bet black Ds are cheaper than white Ds, and female D doormats are cheapest of all.

Mauimom March 17th, 2012 at 5:03 pm

Read the book, themisfortuneteller. It’s really good, and will answer your questions.

Talking Stick @ 158: I think you’ll find the book interesting too.

I don’t mean to sound like I’m shilling, but I did read the book and found it a fascinating “inside history” of the organizing that took place [mainly thanks to Howard Dean] to get from 2000 to 2008. With all the destruction, tamping down, co-opting and just selfish general Evil done by Obama, it’s hard to imagine how Dems can “rebuild.” That’s one of the things I was trying to get Ari to speculate on.

TarheelDem March 17th, 2012 at 5:05 pm
In response to oldgold @ 163

I agree with your position. But given the condition of the Republican party’s Presidential candidates, it could be that a strong left electoral movement around a full coalition slate in 2014 could position the Democratic Party as the conservative party it is and start the process of the GOP going the way of the Whig Party.

DWBartoo March 17th, 2012 at 5:06 pm
In response to oldgold @ 164

Ah, that is good to know. And, oldgold, I am glad you have relieved yourself of that thankless task, which once you said was a motivation for your efforts and comments.

How do you, realistically, imagine that such a Constitutional amendment might be accomplished, IF the two parties continue to dominate ALL of the political landscape?

That is the next, and obvious, question, which I hope that you might be willing to ponder and possibly answer.

And I mean that, oldgold, most seriously and very respectfully.

DW

DWBartoo March 17th, 2012 at 5:08 pm
In response to eCAHNomics @ 166

You’re back!!

You done us proud, eCAHN.

Carry on, please.

;~DW

DWBartoo March 17th, 2012 at 5:11 pm
In response to TarheelDem @ 168

Such thoughts have crossed my wee mind, as well, TD.

DW

TarheelDem March 17th, 2012 at 5:12 pm
In response to eCAHNomics @ 166

In most major cities of NC, a campaign donation of $5000 is all it takes on the surface. And few candidates need more that a couple of donations like that to cover their campaign costs–mostly yard signs.

There are persistent rumors about preachers (white and black) who are in politics and how a donation to a church (goes for buildings and preacher’s compensation mostly) is a great way to launder bribes.

jest March 17th, 2012 at 5:15 pm
In response to TarheelDem @ 165

The CBC is absolutely shameful & irrelevant.

Their dereliction of duty to their constituents is the absolute worst. Worse than the sellout Progressive Caucus.

Darth Obama was a former member. Allen West is a current member.

bluewombat March 17th, 2012 at 5:22 pm
In response to dakine01 @ 12

Your posts mirror my thoughts exactly. Good on you for asking, and good on you for your followup.

oldgold March 17th, 2012 at 5:28 pm
In response to TarheelDem @ 158

Other than the 1824 presidential election, what pre-Civil War elections are you referring to?

realitychecker March 17th, 2012 at 5:31 pm
In response to Mauimom @ 143

That’s how I’m seeing it as well, at this point in time. Third party voting sends a “you are rejected” message that may have more impact than anything else we can do electorally in this cycle.

bluewombat March 17th, 2012 at 7:52 pm

Yup, that’s how I’ll be voting.

Rocky Anderson for President!

swede March 18th, 2012 at 5:54 am

The only way to pressure the Democrats from the left is by organizing an effective third party. The only way. The other way, working from within, will continue failing. Because the Democrats will certainly not have it. They cant afford to annoy Corporate America – their owners – with populist policies. This should be clear by now. It seemed clear enough already in 2010. Its now 2012. Maybe time to stop talking about it and start doing it?

juliania March 18th, 2012 at 10:05 am

Really, really important conversation here, and now that the author has gone on to other pursuits, I hope it is legitimate to comment on some of the comments.

Margaret, with great respect for your knowledge, I would beg to disagree that the 2010 result was a failure. Indeed some of the worthier downticket persons lost their seats, but since the point for many (and incidentally I wasn’t one of them, but I completely sympathize) was to send the message TO the Democratic Party that they were losing their base, I believe it was a complete success.

The voters stated loud and clear that they were unhappy. It was then up to the Democrats, with Obama at their head, to respond to that message, and they did NOT do it. The failure was theirs. And I believe more folk are now disenchanted with Obama’s tactics than might have been had that message not been sent. I believe a third party has a huge chance, even underfunded and undermedia’d. People want to build on the SUCCESSFUL message they sent in 2010. So, they will be looking for that alternative and the energies are all there pent up with frustration and need, but oh boy are they there! Mauimom stated her experience with her kids; I have more than she and ditto here. Kids burdened with debt and no obtainable jobs or homes and no savings incentives with interest rates – everything is now stacked against future prospects for the young. The message worked – and the Democrats IGNORED the message. But we didn’t; we saw them fail.

Second point. (Sorry to be long here, but it is the end of the thread, so I won’t have many readers I guess.) oldgold says:

“Taft [23.2%] and TR [27.4%] received a combined total of 50.6% of the popular vote, but only a combined total of 96 [18%] Electoral College votes. Wilson with 41.8% of the popular vote received 435 [82%] Electoral College votes.”

This brings up the Progressive Party, which I am not an expert on, but they outdid the Republican party by more than four percentage points in that election. I am reading the Collier book about the Roosevelts, only halfway, and the point I take is this: TR had tried for the Republican ticket and failed, then tried to re-enter Republican tickets downstream and was rejected by them. The Progressive Party seemingly went away.

But somebody noticed, and that my friends was FDR.

We have a long, long road ahead.

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