Sunday, March 20, 2005
Dean In Toronto
Governor Dean was present at the Democrats Abroad conference in Toronto Friday and Saturday. He made some interesting comments on what Democrats need to do, particularly in crafting their message to Americans. Excerpts are below.
"Spreading the message
"Keep it simple" is the key to the White House, failed Democratic presidential candidate Howard Dean told members of his party from around the world last night.
One major reason his party lost the 2004 race to the "brain-dead" Republicans is that it has a "tendency to explain every issue in half an hour of detail," Dean told the semi-annual meeting of Democrats Abroad, which brought about 150 members from Canada and 30 other countries to the Toronto for two days.
"I'm going to be very disciplined about how we deliver messages. We can have policy deliberations in rooms like this. On TV, we have to be very focused."
The Democrats, in fact, will try to copy the Republicans, who are masters at making their message stick, he said. "The Democrats will have three things, maybe four, that we're going to talk about."
Dean's party is struggling to recover from the Nov. 2 American election, in which George W. Bush's team not only won the White House but also took firm control of the Senate and House of Representatives.
Last month, Dean, 56, was elected chairman of the Democratic National Committee, a powerful 440-member group that plans presidential nominating conventions, takes in most donations, and promotes the party and its candidates.
John McQueen, the Democrats' international campaign chair, has called that result "the most significant change in party leadership in more than a generation."
Dean won the job by acclamation, even though the party establishment, its congressional wing and many big donors and unions initially opposed him.
It was, said delegates to yesterday's meeting, a triumph of the grassroots. Dean built up enough support that party insiders had to bow to the inevitable.
Dean's presidential campaign was propelled by Web communications. And he's promoting a "bottom-up" Internet-connected party, run by state organizations rather than the centre. He has called for an end to the "consultant culture" — the legions of paid advisers employed by defeated candidate John Kerry that, critics complain, confused the candidate's thinking and messages.
...Dean appeared relaxed and enthusiastic. Party members treated him like a star and gave him three long standing ovations.
An example of the party's new discipline is its current focus on Bush's plan to privatize Social Security, said Dean, who was governor of Vermont for 10 years before quitting in 2002 to run for president.
The Democrats won't be distracted by other issues, "as long as we're kicking the living daylights out of them on Social Security."
"The Democratic Party will not win elections or build a lasting majority solely by changing its rhetoric, nor will we win by adopting the other side's positions," he said when he announced his bid to become party chair. "We must say what we mean — and mean real change when we say it."
While Dean wants focused policies, he acknowledged some issues aren't clear-cut and his party must work hard to come up with effective messages.
"The majority is on our side. We need to figure out how to talk differently about these issues."
And he said he hasn't made a lot of noise about Iraq, even though he opposed the U.S. invasion that was launched two years ago yesterday, because "we're there" and "the price of not succeeding is going to be enormous for America and for Iraq's neighbours."
Democrats Abroad, founded in 1964, has about 20,000 members in 45 countries, including 5,000 in Canada.
It was established to encourage the 7 million American citizens living outside the United States to register to vote as Democrats.
It claims to have registered more than 250,000 voters worldwide, including 35,000 in Canada, in 2004. Its goal is 1 million registrations next year and 2 million for the 2008 U.S. presidential election.