The Nation has a profile on Howard Dean that's well worth reading.
A few months later the state chairs asked Dean and the other contenders for DNC chair to give $200,000 a year to each state party. Dean enthusiastically embraced and enlarged the plan en route to easily winning the DNC race and gave every state the resources to hire at least three or four organizers and access to a high-tech database of voters, which became the twin cornerstones of the fifty-state strategy. Under Dean, battlegrounds like Ohio still took priority, but every state got something. That might not sound like much, but it was practically a revolution within the Democratic Party, which tended to view the DNC as a PR agency and ATM for Congress and/or the White House. "We had a great building and no debt," Dean says, referring to the work of his predecessor, the high-flying Clintonite Terry McAuliffe. "But there was essentially no technological infrastructure and no political infrastructure of any worth." The states, by and large, had been left to fend for themselves.
As someone who was skeptical about Dean, I'm surprised how successful he's been. That said, there are certain lessons I think we need to learn from this moving forward:
1) COMPETE EVERYWHERE - This is the most important lesson we need to internalize. That's why I wrote my controversial blog post about San Francisco. Woody Allen says 80% of success is showing up and he's largely right. Where Dean dispatched organizers (sidenote: I still HATE that term; any alternatives?) to Indiana and Alaska, we should dispatch organizers to Maine and Wisconsin with the goal of electing Republicans at the state and local level while hoping to pick up the occasional House or Senate seat.
It's important to physically show up and ask people for their vote. I have a family member who is a VERY Conservative Republican Redneck Bitter Clinger who lives in John Murtha's district. This guy votes the straight Republican ticket EXCEPT for John Murtha. Why does he vote for Murtha? He votes for Murtha because every 6-8 months Murtha shows up at the bar he hangs out at and talks to him about the state of world affairs and the guy just likes Murtha personally. If John Murtha can do this, why can't we pick off some Dems doing roughly the same thing?
In 2009, there will be a Governor's race in New Jersey. With the economy tanking, Governor John Corzine wil eventually raise taxes. Unfortunately for him, New Jersey has a history of tax revolts. This gives us an opportunity, but we have to start organizing for it now.
I live in Austin, TX. We have a House seat here I'm convinced is winnable. I'll address this in more detail later.
2) Nuts can still do Nuts and Bolts - It wasn't just The Scream. As anyone who remembers his 2004 Presidential campaign can attest, Dean frequently made colorful remarks. As DNC chair, that didn't matter. Dean's responsiblity was strictly electoral, he didn't have any role in shaping public policy.
On our side, that means reaching out to the Ron Paul crowd. They've shown that they have a knack for online politics and they've been successful. While I find their views on Foreign Policy masochistic, I still agree with them on more issues than not. Why not bring them aboard in a more systematic way?
3) Apostates are OK; Grandstanding RINO's are not - While the article doesn't touch on this, another major factor in the Democrat rise was that they nominated much more conservative candidates. Democrats were willing to tolerate a few ideological apostates in order to win; they just won't tolereate those members grandstanding against their own party. We should take the same approach.