Howard Dean Calls On Democrats To Bring Back 50-State Strategy

Dean crowd 2004Highlights from the Salon.com must-read interview with America’s #1 patriot and most loyal Democrat, Howard Dean.

by David Dayen

Howard Dean will forever be associated with one unguarded moment on a microphone in Iowa. But his real contribution to politics over the past decade was during his time at the Democratic National Committee from 2005 to 2008, when he implemented the 50-state strategy…And it bore fruit: Democrats gained by virtually every metric in deep-red states during this period, from presidential vote share to state legislatures.

After President Obama’s election in 2008, the 50-state strategy was effectively jettisoned. Large swaths of the country have been ceded to Republicans, with predictably terrible results. I talked to Gov. Dean about what the 50-state strategy accomplished and why he prefers empowering bottom-up organizing to making decisions exclusively out of Washington.

“My experience from having campaigned and from being governor is that there are Democrats everywhere, and if you want to nurture the party you have to nurture all of them. If you focus only on the states that are mostly Democratic, it’s demoralizing to the other states.

“The problem was that people in Washington are always moving people in and out of races and telling them who can and can’t run. And they don’t do as good a job, they’re not as in touch with what’s happening on the ground.

“Underlying all of it was this idea that the Internet was wonderful, but it’s not a substitute for personal contact.

“I believe in the South the Democrats will come back, but you can’t do it if you don’t pay attention.

“The point is that if you give up before you start, then you give up. The 50-state strategy was about giving everybody a base, and some competence level to work off, and then they were on their own. And it’s amazing what people will do if you give them a chance. Especially people who have been beaten down for years by the national party, who feel that nobody cares about them. The DCCC and DSCC wouldn’t put any money into these places for years, they didn’t care. And anybody who could self-fund, they became the candidate. That’s no way to run a party.”

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