Sunday, January 23, 2005

Fresh Horses

A report from the DNC Meeting today in Sacramento, CA. This is also posted at mydd, where there are many comments from others who were there. A video will be made by the CA Dem party and will appear on their web site.

Condoleeza is my color, but Barbara is my kind.

About a dozen of members of our local DFA group drive the 100 miles to Sacramentoto support Howard Dean for DNC Chair. We arrive at 9:00, just as things start. Once we get there one of the locals tells me, "We originally thought 80-100 people." But by this morning they knew there would be 400+ of us, and indeed we fill the 400+ seats in the room where breakfast is being held. While we eat Cal state Sen Joe Dunn speaks, a progressive who represents the conservative Orange County California, who was involved in catching Enron with their hands in my wallet. The Reverend Al Sharpton enters, to applause, interrupting Joe. Ultimately Joe Dunn's highminded speech about freedom and justice receives a standing ovation at the end.

Sharpton begins speaking. During a short preamble praising Barbara Boxer Sharpton recieves three standing ovations.  "I want the people of California to know: Condoleeza is my color, but Barbara is my kind.".  Supports Marjorie Harris for one of the five Vice-Chair positions.  We need young people in the party.  We need to expand this party, stop having pity parties.  They beat us because we were too cowardly to stand up and fight for morals.  [hits the basics on why Democratic values are moral values: poverty and Iraq].  By the time his 8-10 minute speech was done he had recieved about 10 standing ovations.  That man is an orator, and the only speaker who held a candle to him during the entire day was Dr. Dean.

Sharpton's protege, Marjorie Harris, then gave the 90-sec version of her stump speech.  She spoke of bringing "the hip-hop voters" into the party, and said that being progressive on the issues is the way to do that.

We then stood for a brief reflection on our guys and gals in Iraq.  I was shocked to find that it brought tears even to my eyes, which, through thick and thin, are almost always dry.  It was a very sobering moment, to be among such a large group of partisan Democrats and share with them my support of our troops, which is the best kind.

Then members of the DNC were then introduced.  There were perhaps 20 of them at breakfast, mostly from California of course, but plenty from throughout the west: 2 from Alaska and 1 from Arkansas and quite a lot from Colorado.

90 seconds each from the grass roots

Attendees had been told ahead of time that they could apply for the right to speak for 90 sec.  Of those who asked, 5 were then randomly selected, and they spoke next, mostly in support of progressive values.  The second spoke in favor of health care for all and said there is no one better to fight for it than Howard Dean, and that it should be the centerpiece of our domestic agenda.  The third, also a Deaniac, spoke at length in favor of reform.  

The 4th speaker was introduced as a young person -- a black woman probably in her early 20's who said she had been activated by seeing Howard Dean on Good Morning America.  She introduced herself with an apology about her weak rhetorical skills, and proceeded to demonstrate speaking skills that would only occasionally be matched during the rest of the day.  The 5th was a woman who just lost a Cal State Sen race in a very red district to a Republican who was much better financed.  She began with the point that the Cal state party had given her $100, while her opponent had received great amounts of support.  She talked about running an all-county campaign.  She endorsed Howard Dean.

The grassroots talks were to continue, but after an intermission:

Candidates for DNC office begin speaking.

First Mike Honda, who is running for Vice Chair.  He was running on regional representation.  An unconvincing pitch.

Second Nelson Diaz: we've got to stop being lucky.  "I go to church every day.  We've got God in our corner."  

Third Alvaro si Fuentes, current Chair of the Hispanic Member of the DNC.  Decentralize and move away from DC.  We have to assist state parties in electing Dems.

Fourth: Susie, running for Vice-Chair [currently Deputy Chair of the DNC].  Spoke out in favor of social justice and Roe v. Wade.  "It's the counts, stupid"

In my book two and three are the reformers, I hope they do well.

Fresh Horses

And back to the 90 second talks from the grass roots.  Five more attendees were selected.  First: from a progressive Dem club that is here to revive the Dem Party.  Endorses Dean.  We need a leader that doesn't run from the Repubs, that stands up  for our values.  Second a Dean Dem club of Silicon Valley member: After losing 3 elections its time to stop being afraid of DLC warnings that we're not enough like Repubs.  When Dean ran for governor he got votes from 1/3 of Repubs and then turned his state into a blue state.She was also a good speaker -- I hope she's running for office.

4th is the Chair of Sac'to for Democracy [Caryn or Karen Bernali?], with her 3-year-old daughter in tow: no more republican-lite.  There is a disconnect between the grass roots and some of the Dem leaders.  Since when did our party decide to cross the line between civilization and barabarism by voting for Gonzalez and Rice.  There was more.  Appeared to be Hispanic.  She was rhetorically powerful to the point where again conchis began to tear up.  Rhetorically, she was the 2nd-best so far.    Somebody run this woman for elected office: ten years from now, I want her to be my senator

5th spoke of her win out in mostly-red eastern CA.  Praised Boxer.  Endorsed Dean.  Next: I want a DNC Chair who isn't driven by fear.   The Republicans are using fear of terrorism as a distraction.   Next Ralph Hiller a founder of Latinos for America.  Endorsed Dean.  Next Kathleen Hill: Addressed her remarks to the DNC.  I'm about nuts and bolts.  I was Cal coord of Howard Dean's Presidential campaign.  I would venture you have never seen most of hte people in this room.  These people are the grass roots.  Most of them were trained to do campaign work as part of the Dean Pres. run.  Next speaker from Fresno (which is cow country).  She spoke about how much rural Dems need clubs, seek them.  Next a guy from Silicon valley who heads his Dem club, who says he was activated by Howard Dean, and then he went from 2 years ago not really being active to now spending 30-50 hours/week doing Dem activism.  Next another Dean activist from Sil valley who represents the Dem wing of the Dem party.  She worked for Montdale, she worked for McCarthy.  She feels that in later years she has not felt Dems have represented her.  Dean turned her libertarian son back to the party.  Next a woman from Santa Cruz, about 150 miles away.  Says she hadn't been active, for decades.  After seeing Dean, she held half a dozen house parties.  Next a rouser from an older white guy from a rural area, who spoke about the women they've gotten elected this year.  

Next a Sonoma DFA guy [Malacondra on dkos and mydd].  I'm newly activated.  I have immense respect for the people who've been fighting in the trenches for the Dems for all these years.  You may fear that all these new Dean people are barbarians at the gate.  "We're fresh horses".  Next woman from a different DFA group.  Improvises and picks up the previous line: we are fresh horses.  Talks about the competence and energy in the grass roots.  

Next another DFA member endorsing Dr Dean, activist since 1968, talks about how powerful the effect of Dean has been on doing the spade work of Dem activism.  Next woman from Marin and Sonoma DFA groups endorses Dean.   A woman from El Cerrito gives an impassioned issues speech and endorses Dean.  Woman from Grass Valley stands up and almost tearfully spends 90 sec talking about how much the environment is under thread under Bush Admin.  Closes by endorsing Howard Dean.

There were a few more, then a recess, after which Howard Dean was to speak.

Howard Dean gives his stump speech to 500 people

We ran a great campaign in 2004.  The Repubs ran a better one.

Win races at all levels

Secretaries of State

When I made my Pres. run, to get power we gave power away

We enable your leafleting, but we let you decide what to say in the leaflets.

The Repubs have a great organization.  

But it's top down.

We are not like that.

We are not gonna give you talking points from DC.  We are gonna let the message be generated bottom up.

If this is a typical DFA crowd there are greens, Perot voters, McCain voters, even moderate voters who are tired of borrow-and-spend

We are gonna computerize your activism, so you don't have to look up the same phone numbers over and over

But we're not gonna tell you what the message is.

We're gonna fight to win races in CA, because if we don't, some day CA is gonna be a red state.

And we're gonna win in [he begins listing other states, and builds into his Dean Scream Parody, which is always is a big applause line and gets the biggest standing ovation of his speech.]

"Barak Obama was a Dean Dozen candidate before he was Barak Obama."

"You can't trust the Republicans with your money any more."

"We're gonna be the party of moral values.  It is a moral value not to leave debt to your children.  It is a moral value not only to have the strongest military in the world" but to also provide moral leadership.  It is a moral value to have health care for every American.  It is a moral value to tell the truth to the American people before you lead them into war.

Truman quote: the real Repub beats Repub lite every time.

Then did his nice bit on free trade.  His main point here is that if we're gonna have globalization for corporations then we ought to globalize the rights of working people.  Walmart is bringing down wages in China, and that's hard to do.  I tell this to business leaders: We need to support organized labor and the right to organize, because that is good for capitalism and democracy.

Closes with the story of the Texas evangelical Christian, who tells him he disagrees with many of her most important convictions, but supports him because he is a man of conviction.

We are going to be the party of reform: political dialog, issues, party.

Nonlunchunch Break

Introduced myself to Sharpton and Marjorie Harris.  

Talked to some folks from one of CA's reddest counties, out in Yosemite country.  It was refreshing to talk to committed activists from so far out.  They clearly would have appreciated more help from the DNC in building their local base.  They complained about having so little support from the CA Dem Committee, which didn't even pay for the filing fee of the candidate who ran against their Republican US Representative.  But what they spoke about most strongly is that they don't want outsiders sent in to help canvas.  It seemed pretty clear that they viewed this as harmful, or at least as something that embarasses them in the face of the very voters they seek to persuade, rather than merely as inefficient.

Howard Dean provided free ice cream for all.

Afternoon: The Big Meeting

The meeting is translated into American Sign Language (ASL).

7 DNC Candidates are on the dais.  Curiously, none of them is typing at a laptop.  

50 DNC Members were present, seated at the front of the audience.

A number of people running for vice-chairs and other positions.

The candidates introduce themselves:

David Leland

Ohio Party Chair for 7 years, got Dem mayors in all 50 cities, there when Clinton won the state in 1996.

50 state strategy,

Dem Community Action networks:

365 days/year.

[In my view, it's easy for him to say all of this.

Not clear to me why this guy is bothering to run.]

Donnie Fowler

They've asked us to concede the South, West, rural, religious voters.

I am tired of conceding.

DNC doesn't mean Do Not Change -- It means Do Not Concede

Swing v. base voters -- this is a false choice.

[As a strategist about voting groups, he's not terribly convincing.  Indeed, his riff about our base being women and minorities is recognizable as a Dean riff.]

Argues that he's the only candidate that has a lot of experience in the trenches in local races etc.

Howard Dean

Lays out his plan to pay for each of 50 states' Exec Dir, finance people, and 2 grass-roots organizers.  For $250,000/year/state, it's worth it.

We will empower you to improve on the things you're already doing that we can win Gov, Congress, Sen, and ultimately Pres 2008

Martin Frost

Starts by mentioning Matsui, and then weirdly talks for most of a minute about his role in getting the Japanese reparations bill through.

Tells us who he is: a civil rights guy, deeply committed.

Talks about his experience in retail politics

For years, I beat Karl Rove in Texas.  I beat Karl Rove way beyond when he thought I could.

[This counts as an accomplishment?  You're the guy originally responsible for losing civilization to the anti-Christ, but you feel you slowed him down, so you want us to appoint you as protector of humanity so you can lose some more?]

Wellington Webb

Appeal to base, e.g. minorities.

Talks about how the 447 DNC members just sit and applaud while they recieve their instructions: wants them to have a role and be listened to.  This drew substantial applause from the DNC members, while the rest of us kept quiet and let them be heard.  He scored some points here, now I see why he polled well in Orlando.

His message is very much a racial (and gender) justice message


[said lots, I didn't get it all.  This was a great stump speech.]

The people need a voice in this political system

We've got to build a media machine

We've got to fight and win every day of every year.

End monopoly of Iowa and NH

People from the south and minorities must have a voice in choosing the nominee

Roe v. Wade

We're on the right side of history

We've been on top before and we'll be there again.


First a Dem, last a Dem, and always a Dem.

I'm a fighter.

Praises CA

Our national security message is better than Bush's?  Goes on to give Kerry's stump speech on Bush's national security record and on jobs.  [Does he know that the 2004 election is over, and furthermore that he's not running in it.

Curiously, he sounds just like the guy in the Firesign Theatre comedy troup who does the parodies of political stump speeches.  Perhaps he has a future in comedy.]

Truman: doing the right thing, that's easy.  Figuring it out: that's tough.  [He brought this up in the context of the Jersey Girls, who he didn't mention explicitly, but he might have been talking about his whole speech: I don't see any concrete ideas here.]


These were given ahead of time by DNC Members.  The audience had the opportunity to give questions to the DNC members, who were free to submit those to if they liked.  Questions were randomly assigned to the 7 candidates.  In each case I list the candidate who got the question, then the question in a single sentence, then, if I got it down, his answer:

Dean: How would you have won in 2004 [answered well, much as this morning]

Frost: How do we convince rural voters we represent them?  Take back the issue of keeping them safe.  By rights, we own it.

Leland: Western Primaries Terry Mac is organizing a commission to look into this: but probably what we need is less primaries, and instead more caucuses. [conchis begins coughing up blood.]

Rosenberg: How are you going to get youth involved?  Only demographic we increased our percentage in during the last 4 years is young people.  We must speak to their core values.  Focus on letting young poeple have a leg up.  The college Dems of America were kicked out of the Dem party by LBJ over View Nam -- I brought them back in during Clinton 1992.  My investment in media has always been about winning in the coming America.

Fowler: How do you win Latino voters?  You let Latino voters set the strategy.  A lot of people don't understand that Latinos of different origins speak in different dialects, and when you're placing ads, you need to be developing tthem with people who know the relevant dialects.

Roemer: What have you done concretely to promote gay rights?  He's proud of our position on gay rights.

Webb: What can we do to get acceptance for our message on gun safety?  Chuckles at the irony of this question being given to an urban mayor.


[bagel finally]


Rosenberg: what have you done while on your state central committee? Simon answered with a cataloging of the ways in which he has, e.g. as the head of NDN, helped various state parties.

Frost: asked about getting the DNC and its staff out of the beltway: Spoke convincingly about this.  First, says he wants to break the consultant class of losers.  Talked about guys he'd hired when DCCC head and said they were all over the country all the time.

Leland: What grass-roots organization have you done in your home state.  He seemed to feel incredibly qualified as a result of his experience as head of the Ohio DNC.  [As an aside, conchis points out that we lost Ohio in 2004 and 2000.  This is perhaps partly thanks to Leland's 7 years as head of the Ohio DNC.]

Roemer: ...

Dean: If not the next DNC Chair, will you pledge to support the party under its next chair, and ask your supporters to. [Remember, these are assigned randomly.]  Of course, as pledged.  This isn't about the Dem party for me.  The reason I want this position is because I think helping the party is a way to give America back to the American people.

Frost: Do you support the Fowler rule. [Over my head.]


Fowler: How will you use technology to improve communication with the party?  Answered that he has 6 years experience in tech, but offered no ideas.  The big problem is the antagonism between the national and state parties.  We need to stop this.  I have the experience of doing grass roots work on the ground in 14 states, not just giving money from a national organization.

Rosenberg:...We must view the people in the party as participants.  The old model was to think of you out there as an ATM. [props to tim tagaris]

Question for all 7: Specifically what role do you envision doing with the state parties, both structurally and financially, and what role do you envision for the state parties in helping you.

Dean: I want to see the state parties everywhere empowered with grass roots support to be able to go out and knock on doors.  Chair in Kansas expressed his gratitude for all these new people.  And we need not just people in the party, but we need people running for office.  I want the state parties to get those people to run.  This can't come from Washington: even if I were twice as smart and twice as rich, I'm not the right one to do it.  

Leland:  I've been doing this since 1995.  A lot of what you're hearing up here are ideas that've been around.  Grass roots.  365 days a year.

Frost: The key is partnership.  The state chairs have asked that we put at least $200,000 into each state, and I will do that.  I have worked with my state party for 35 years....We will win Govs, Reps, Senate seats in 2006.

Rosenberg: We begin by listening to all of you.  There are people who know how to win here, and the foolks [typo retained] in DC need to listen to all of you. [Throughout the afternoon Simon repeatedly made it obvious that he was addressing the larger audience, rather than the DNC audience in the front that I would think it is really his job to persuade.  I don't know why this is]  4 points: (1) Message, fight fiercely, take ideas directly to them in all 50 states every day every year (2) infrastructure, got to start by building the state parties. (3) Grass roots, nurture the passion that has exploded in the last couple of years (4) Got to feel like we're on the same team again.  Our coalition has got to stand together despite our differences in position.

Roemer: [doesn't answer the question] I ran six times in red IA and I made it blue, winning against a Repub incumbent and then getting reelected as an incumbent.  In rural CA we want to lose by 10 points, not 20.  We need to go door-to-door

[Moderator Art Torres repeats the question.]

Fowler: I love being in the states.  I love being a Colonel in the field more than being a general.  Shout out to grass roots.  Here's what I'd do about national/state antagonism.  Dems: New Sen in CO.  Atty Genl in GA.  Montana.  We have a lot to learn from the states.  We need a ballot initiative strategy.

Webb: I was mayor for 12 years, and mayors think local.   First of all, after this election, the 7 of us need to all work together.  Money back to states. Talks about reaching out to women and minorites.  As chair I'll visit every state, and I'll let you know before I show up.  [laughter] Western primary earlier in the process.  Young people on the party payroll.

If I was to be hanged, there would be 10 times as many people waiting to see

Final summations.

WebbGeorge Bush said he wants to fight freedom and liberty abroad.  I think we should fight for freedom and liberty at home.  Unions, Roe, Education, SS -- which demonstrates that Bush is neither compassionate nor conservative, environmentalism -- need to deal with the problem that ranchers dislike environmentalism.  We need to stand up for our values.

Fowler As Democrats, we share so many core values and issues, we fight for the same things.  Once we remember that we're more than a collection of issues and interests and we talk to the American people about our hearts and souls and not just our minds, we've going to take our country back for a progressive agenda: economic justice, diversity, etc.  We are a party that believes in access: health care, education, jobs.  We are a party that likes to stand up and fight, when we're lead the right way -- ask Barbara Boxer.  Ask Christine Gregoire, who did not succumb.  Ask Carol Migden, Eugen McCarthy, ask Napolitano.  We need leadership that's going to get us back to the top. [The end was rousing in tone, but every bit as incoherent as my transcription makes it seem.]

Rosenberg Repubs have more power today than since the 20s.  We have to have the courage in the next 4 years to do the things that are going to put us back in power.  This is about the future of our country.  We have to be better than the Republicans at: grass roots, modern party, internet arena, everything that's now different.

Leland.  Strong Dems means building strong America.  Dems led us to victory in 2 world wars.  ....Dems put a man on the moon.  Dems gave us longest period of prosperity in our history.  We carry the aspirations of people who are voiceless without us.  [More vacuous stuff given in a rousing and climactic tone.]

Roemer.  Thanks all -- and thank you for not putting me after Howard Dean.  Churchill was once asked "Aren't you going to go outside?  There are 10,000 people waiting to hear you speak."  He replied, "If I was to be hanged, there would be 10 times as many".  There are people here wanting to see me hang.  If I believed everything I read, I might be out there watching.  My mother is a staunch pro-choicer, and I hear from her every day.  As DNC I would not overturn Roe v. Wade.  Let's talk about ways to achieve what we did in the Clinton years -- a redux in the number of abortions: they went up under Reagan and down under Clinton.  Let's fight and win. [BTW, conchis agrees with him on this point: the Clintonian safe/legal/rare rhetoric is the one we should be pushing.  That aside, Roemer is in no way qualified to be DNC Chair.]

Frost.  Thanks moderator and Cal State Party Chair Art Torres, thanks opponents.  If I win I will ask each one of them to play a major role in taking our message to our country.  One of the DNC Members asked me during a break to say more about myself.  I was elected 13 times in the reddest of red states and I maintained a committment to core Dem values that entire time.  I supported civil rights, human rights, choice, union organizers.  You need a leader who can articulate the values of our party.  I can go anywhere in the country and do that.  We are the majority party in this country.....If I am Chairman I will wake up every day asking how I can beat Karl Rove.

Dean.  [I only got bits of this.]  Last week I was endorsed by Murtha, right winger.  Last week, I was endorsed by a bunch of Oklahomans.  Job: raise money: in Pres campaign we raised money, independent of corporate money.  Job is to excite our base.  In any of your states I can come and raise money, I can come and energize your base.  I am working on a red-state special speech.  I'll make sure you have the money 365/every year.  But most important I stand for our values: [lists -- ending with balancing budget and moral foriegn policy]

And then we wrapped it up.  All in all a very satisfying day.  I'd be delighted to hear comments from people who weren't there (or were).  My analysis: Dean is an ace, Rosenberg is a strong B+, and everyone else falls far behind.


At 7:43 AM, Blogger Tim said...

When you give me props above, are you saying that Simon gave me props in his speech when it comes to using the netroots as an ATM machine? Or just because I have written about that concept before?

It should be known, that term was around well before I started using it.

Great write-up!



At 8:14 PM, Blogger conchis said...

Everything in [] is a thought from me, I was just giving you credit for having codified the ATM bit so strongly. He didn't mention you by name, but at the time it was quite clear to me that he had read your post -- though it's one thing for something to be clear to me, and another for it to be true.

At 5:01 PM, Blogger Tim said...


I think the original reference to the "ATM Machine" was in the New York Times, referencing John Kerry's online fundraising ability -- or so I was told today.

I don't know if Simon has read anything I have written, but after reading that Martin Frost interview on MyDD, I think he has. Either him or the person that answered the questions emailed to him.

Who knows.



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