Takin’ It to the Streets

That’s Howard Dean’s approach in his battle with the Democrats’ Congressional leadership over the party’s strategy for November’s elections.

Dean and the Democratic National Committee are committed to a “50 state strategy,” in which the Democrats try hard to compete everywhere. Dean thinks that’s the way to rebuild the party. The Democrats’ Congressional leadership, on the other hand, fears that spending money in all 50 states is a diversion of resources that could cost them their chance to win a majority in the House, the Senate, or both.

Dean is now taking his appeal directly to the party’s rank and file, with thinly-veiled criticism of the party’s leadership. He’s asking activists to make donations specifically to support his 50-state strategy. These are excerpts from an email I got from Dean this afternoon:

I want to write to you today about a problem. I talk a lot about the successes of our 50-state strategy and ways you can get involved. But today I want to talk very frankly about the obstacles we still face.

We have seen so much rapid progress in so many places (sweeping four special elections in Mississippi, flipping three state legislature seats in New Hampshire that had been Republican-held for nearly 100 years) that it’s easy to forget that the 50-state strategy is a controversial plan.

For most of us the 50-state strategy seems pretty obvious: a truly national party must build the infrastructure to fight everywhere for every level of office, period. The Republicans realized this over 30 years ago and have a monopoly on our government because of it.

Some critics say that our early investments in a permanent ground operation will hurt our chances to win this year. That’s a false choice.

With a donation now, during this drive for the 50-state strategy, you can say that you knew the 50-state strategy would work, and that you made it happen.

For the next two weeks you’re going to be hearing a lot from us — facts about the 50-state strategy and testimonials from the ground across the country about how it’s already working.

Please take the time to forward this message. Now is the time to get the word out: we have a choice to build a new Democratic Party and a new way of doing business, and it’s up to ordinary Democrats to stand up and be counted to make it happen.

So there is a fundamental split in strategy between the Democrats’ elected leaders and the Democratic National Committee. Worse, Dean, as DNC Chairman, is going over the heads of the leadership to promote his own strategy directly with the party’s activist base. I’ve already said that I don’t think the Democrats will recapture either the House or the Senate this year, and this intramural conflict can only hurt their chances.

Coincidentally, within minutes after receiving Dean’s email I got the weekly Evans-Novak Political Report, in which Robert Novak writes:

The continued failure of Howard Dean’s DNC to raise money has made it a political non-entity.

The Democrats would be better off without Dean, but there is no way to get rid of him until after November.