Joe Trippi, Howard Dean’s campaign manager, has an editorial in the WSJ Opinion Journal that makes a strong case for a change in Democratic Party leadership. Despite his use of Kerry-bashing to make his case, a subject on which he and I disagree (I grew to like Kerry when my candidate—Howard Dean—didn’t end up as the party’s nominee), I don’t want to throw the baby out with the bathwater. There’s lots of other good stuff in his article:
[T]he problem for Democrats is not Mr. Rove; it's that they're doing the same thing over and over again, expecting a different result. That's the definition of insanity.

Since the Democratic Leadership Council, with its mantra of "moderate, moderate, moderate," took hold in D.C., the party has been in decline at just about every level of government. Forget the Kerry loss. Today the number of Democrats in the House is the lowest it's been since 1948. Democrats are on the brink of becoming a permanent minority party. Can the oldest democratic institution on earth wake from its stupor? Here are some steps to pull out of the nose-dive:

• Democrats can't keep ignoring their base. Running to the middle and then asking our base to make sure to vote isn't a plan. And to those who say talking to your base doesn't work--Read the Rove 2004 playbook!
I would add that Democrats can’t keep trying to dumb down their message, either. I believe one of the Kerry’s campaigns worst mistakes was not loudly and continuously trumpeting Kerry’s success at taking down BCCI. This was a strike against terrorism that should have been at the center of his campaign, and an omission from the national campaign discourse that should leave Bob Schrum without a job for the rest of his useless life. It was Schrum who believed the story would be too difficult for voters to grasp, among other Kerry successes such as the Iran-Contra scandal. Democrats shouldn’t pander, whether it’s to moderate voters or a perceived ignorance among the electorate.
• Democrats must reconnect with the energy of our grass roots. One of the failures of the DLC was that its ideas never helped us build a grass-roots donor base. As a result, Democrats held a lead over Republicans in only one fundraising category before this election cycle: contributions over one million dollars. That shows how far the party had strayed from grassroots fundraising before the Dean campaign. We must build a base of at least seven million small donors by 2006. With the Internet it's possible. But it can't just be about the money, it also has to be about ideas.

• The one thing we learned in the Dean campaign was that the 30 people in Burlington weren't as smart as the 650,000 Americans who were part of our campaign. Instead of a DLC in D.C., Democrats should be holding Democratic Grassroots Councils in every county. Democratic National Committee members in each state, along with the state party, should host and moderate these meetings to develop ideas that come from the people, instead of the experts in D.C.

• A party that ignores the needs of state and local parties is doomed. We must begin to invest aggressively in states we continually write off in national elections. If we don't, the decline of the party in these states will continue until we're non-existent. Look at the south.

• In a world in which companies like Wal-Mart pay substandard wages with no real benefits, our party has got to find innovative ways to support organized labor's growth. A declining union membership is not good for the country, it's not good for working people, and it certainly isn't good for the Democratic Party.

• The Democratic Party has to be the vehicle that empowers the American people to change our failed political system. We all know the damn thing is broken. Democrats should lead the way by placing stricter money restrictions on candidates than the toothless Federal Election Commission does. A party funded by contributions from the people can do this. A corrupted and corroded party cannot. The Democratic Party shouldn't wait for campaign-finance reform--it should be campaign-finance reform.

• Finally, what is the purpose the party strives for today? What are our goals for the nation? You couldn't tell from the election. Very few good ideas come from the middle, and they tend to be mediocre. Consultants have become adept at keeping candidates in that safe zone. But the time has come to develop bold ideas and challenge people to sacrifice for the common good. Experts will tell you that you can't ask the American people to sacrifice individually for the common good. Those experts are wrong--it's just been so long since anyone has asked them.
Good stuff. What else have we got? Give me your ideas, complains, solutions. What else does this Party need to do?

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