Democrats Fighting Over 2006 Strategy

House Democrats are frustrated with Howard Dean and the DNC’s strategy for winning in 2006 and are being quite open in their dissent, reports Jim VandeHei in a page 1 story in today’s WaPo.

At a meeting last week, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (Calif.) criticized Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean for not spending enough party resources on get-out-the-vote efforts in the most competitive House and Senate races, according to congressional aides who were briefed on the exchange. Pelosi — echoing a complaint common among Democratic lawmakers and operatives — has warned privately that Democrats are at risk of going into the November midterm elections with a voter-mobilization plan that is underfunded and inferior to the proven turnout machine run by national Republicans.

[…]

Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chairman Rahm Emanuel (Ill.) — who no longer speaks to Dean because of their strategic differences — is planning to ask lawmakers and donors to help fund a new turnout program run by House Democrats. He recruited Michael Whouley, a specialist in Democratic turnout, to help oversee it. “I am not waiting for anyone anymore who said they were going to” build a turnout operation, Emanuel said. “It has got to be done.”

[…]

Rep. Charles B. Rangel (N.Y.), who would become chairman of the Ways and Means Committee if Democrats picked up the 15 seats needed to regain the majority, said in an interview yesterday that he will quit Congress if the party does not capitalize on an unparalleled opportunity.

[…]

Compounding concerns, liberal donors such as financier George Soros, who helped fund a $100 million get-out-the-vote program in 2004, have soured on what they regard as short-term fixes offered by party leaders, several major donors said. The $100 million drive was operated by America Coming Together and was aimed at identifying and getting voters to the polls. ACT helped increase turnout significantly in key states, including Ohio, but donors thought most of their money was wasted because the Bush-Cheney operation did better.

The House Republican Conference is chuckling over this, especially highlighting Rangel’s threat to quit if the Democrats lose. I think it’s more telling that Immanuel is just ignoring Dean at this point.

While the Democrats may well win anyway, owing to dissatisfaction with President Bush, the war effort, and high gas prices, they would do so despite their inept leadership. I’ve long believed that Dean and Pelosi were among the worst possible public symbols for the Democratic Party and have seen little under their tenures to dissuade me from my original impression.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. legion says:

    There’s a significant, but largely below-the-radar rift between Dems who are afraid to rock the boat by openly challenging Bush & the GOP and those who are willing to go toe-to-toe over the current failures. The problem is that the no-rocker’s are, pretty much by definition, passive-aggressive sh*ts who aren’t going to take charge, and the confrontationalists don’t have any charismatic public leader to coalesce around.

  2. McGehee says:

    The problem is that the no-rocker’s are, pretty much by definition, passive-aggressive sh*ts who aren’t going to take charge…

    We have those in the GOP too. We call them RINOs.

  3. Never interrupt your enemy when he is making a mistake.
    Napoleon Bonaparte
    French general & politician (1769 – 1821)

    I belong to no organized party. I am a Democrat.
    Will Rogers
    US humorist & showman (1879 – 1935)

    What is most interesting to me is that both factions in the democratic party are right and both are wrong.

    Dean is right that the democrats need to expand beyond their shrinking base. That ceding vast swaths of electoral college votes to the republicans spells long term disaster. Where he is wrong is you don’t try to do everything at once. The allies didn’t invade France in 1942 (excepting the Dieppe raid), they went where the axis was weakest (in fact they started with a non-participant colony) invading Algiers.

    And the Emanuel wing of the democratic party is right that each election has to be fought as a separate battle, not ignored tactically to concentrate on the greater strategy. But he is wrong in not adjusting the tactics to include the advancement of the strategy.

    The GOP has its problems, but at least they are much more on the ball organizationally.

  4. LJD says:

    Nancy Pelosi (Calif.) criticized Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean for not spending enough party resources on get-out-the-vote efforts in the most competitive House and Senate races

    Yes, by all means keep talking! Just get out there and get some money!

    I would hate to spill the beans, altuogh I really think the Dems will fail to pick up on it, but if they want to win, they need swing voters. They need those on the middle ground. Embracing the lunatic fringe is absolutely not the way to win.

  5. legion says:

    but if they want to win, they need swing voters

    One would think this would be obvious, but when dealing with politicians (of any flavor) terms like ‘obvious’ and ‘common sense’ don’t seem to apply…

  6. Michael says:

    liberal donors such as financier George Soros, who helped fund a $100 million get-out-the-vote program in 2004, have soured on what they regard as short-term fixes offered by party leaders

    Yes, because we all know how well the Democrats did in 2004. I think what Soros and the others fail to realize is that Dean doesn’t want a repeat of 2004, so he’s not going to run things like 2004. It’s not like the DNC is ignoring competitive races, but this time they’re also spending money in non-competitive districts to boost their party standings there.

    To pick up on the WWII reference, imagine if the Allies had only put forces into battles that were “competitive”, and simply surrendered if it looked like they would lose, or worse, didn’t commit fully to battles they thought would be easily won. That’s what the DNC has been doing, and because of that the Republicans were able to get surprise wins in races that should have been easy Democratic seats.

    Dean’s new strategy is to put competition into every race, to make the GOP spend time and money on every race, and to build up the democratic base in heavily republican districts. These aren’t “short term fixes” as Soros claims, in fact they only make sense in the long term.

  7. LJD says:

    Dean doesn’t want a repeat of 2004, so he’s not going to run things like 2004.

    That’s pretty funny. Have you at all been listening to the things coming out of Dean’s mouth? Many Dems are distancing themselves for fear of being associated with his far out ideas (like the ones that lost him the candidacy). All we need now is the ‘new and improved’ scream…

  8. Anderson says:

    Mistrustful tho I am of Dean, I have to suspect that anything that pisses off the apparatchniks (sp?) of the DNC can’t be an entirely bad thing.

    The DNC is a professional organization for losing elections.

  9. Dave Schuler says:

    I think it’s understandable that Emanuel and Dean would be at odds. Emanuel (my Congressman) is out there fundraising his rear end off (that’s his primary job—being a Congressman is just a sideline) and Dean is spending it faster than it comes in.

  10. Bithead says:

    What’s clear of all of this, however, is the concept that the democrats are still trying to argue over what their fundamentals are as a party.

    Somehow, people engaged in such an argument do not strike me as were the candidates for having power over me and mine, thank you.