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August 15, 2006
The Problem Is Leadership

E.J. Dionne presents an intriguing look into Democratic Party politics at the mid-terms, and relates a story of disunity and disarray. Unfortunately, though, Dionne misses the bigger problem with the Democrats, focusing on self-image rather than the real issue:

The Democratic Party has a self-image problem.

Talk to Democrats at every level about the strong position the party is in for this fall's elections and the conversation inevitably ends with a variation of: "Yeah, if we don't blow it." Karl Rove's greatest victory is how much he has spooked Democrats about themselves.

This, in turn, leads to a problem among political elites and, especially, fundraisers: While Republicans believe in their party and in the cause of building its organization from bottom to top, Democratic sympathizers tend to focus on favorite causes and favorite candidates, notably in presidential years.

The reference to Karl Rove reveals much about the root problem with the Democrats. Dionne's column gives readers a revealing look inside party politics at the moment, but it doesn't get to the real heart of the illness. What plagues this party more than anything else isn't Karl Rove or a lack of big-ticket donors, or even disagreements over strategic planning for short- and long-term growth. It's a complete lack of leadership and innovative thinking.

Karl Rove is not their problem. Their problem is the lack of a Karl Rove.

The Democrats have an image problem, as Dionne writes, but the image problem springs from divisiveness and the lack of any coherent ideological message or policy platform. That divisiveness springs from one main source: Howard Dean. He has spent far too much time railing on about his hatred of "Republicans, and everything they stand for" and not enough time building the kind of relationships with elected party leaders and donors to create a consensus direction for the Democrats. People pointed out this probable result at the time of Dean's appointment as chairman of the DNC, and apparently no one but the DNC is surprised by the result.

Dean offers voters the same, tired Bush hatred that lost the Democrats three successive national elections, elections they arguably could have won. The DNC hired him to harness the energy of the radical Left that swooned over Dean early in the 2004 electoral cycle and produced $40 million in small-ticket donations. Unfortunately, that segment of the party is the only one that responds to Dean's hate-ins, and the larger donors have started to turn their backs on the party. Nor has Dean played well in the Democratic sandbox, alienating key elected officials such as Rahm Emanuel, who heads the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.

This leadership has resulted in contradictory electoral strategies, with the DNC working at cross purposes to the DCCC and the DSCC in a midterm election that the Democrats have a chance to win. It also has resulted in the lackluster thinking and promotion behind their policy statements. The Democrats have given no one any reason to think that they will deliver better government over the Republicans, other than wallowing in GOP hatred. Even their one unifying theme, the "culture of corruption", has collapsed as it swallowed up Democrats and Republicans alike -- showing the folly of relying on that theme in the first place.

And with leadership that can't even work with itself, the American public has no confidence that Democrats can produce leaders that will work within government.

Dionne gives an excellent catalogue of symptoms; all he misses is the chief diagnosis.

Sphere It Digg! View blog reactions
Posted by Ed Morrissey at August 15, 2006 6:47 AM

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» What The Democrats Need Is Better Analysts from Hang Right Politics
Karl Rove is not their problem. Their problem is the lack of a Karl Rove. Read Captain’s Quarters fisking of EJ Dionne’s diagnosis of democrat woes. Read the whole thing! ... [Read More]

Tracked on August 15, 2006 11:15 AM

» Democrats smelling defeat in 2006? from Macsmind - Conservative Commentary and Common Sense
Sure sounds like it. Salon’s Art Devine is already playing the “vote fraud” card (tune it up Olberman!), and EJ Dionne’s “Pre-Post-Mortem” kind of spells it out: Three months out and it’s Doom and Gloom for t... [Read More]

Tracked on August 15, 2006 10:07 PM


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