Howard Dean was in NYC this weekend for the last of the candidate forums for DNC chair before the party's final meeting from February 10 to 12th. On Saturday he spoke to New York's DNC members; and on Sunday, he met with the state party chairmen. (About fifty of the DNC's 447 voting members have already announced support for Dean, far more than any other candidate.)
On Saturday night, I saw Dean at a small gathering where he spoke passionately about his vision for the Democrats. His smart and pungent comments about how the party needs to give genuine power to the grassroots and build the new politics at the "netroots"; support and build state parties; develop a fifty-state strategy; mobilize the young; change the way we talk about issues, without changing our core principles, makes me pretty certain that Dean has checked out Zack Exley's must-read "Letter to the Next DNC Chair."
Exley--former director of organizing for MoveOn.org, and former Dean and Kerry net mobilizer--describes a new kind of politics emerging and lays out a fascinating scenario for how the Democratic Party can build a vast, permanent field organization with the "New Grassroots" by leveraging email, the web and a little technology.
I particularly like this former, grassroots labor organizer's grounded enthusiasm about what can be done to reshape the party--and build a winning infrastructure for 2006 and 2008. "Using the online assets that Democrats built in 2004, we should be able to jump light years ahead of the Republican field organization. If we do, it will not be thanks to Internet Magic, but rather thanks to mixing new online tools and resources with good old-fashioned grassroots organizing, focusing on results."
Dean gets what Exley is talking about. As he said about one of the central jobs facing the DNC, "In order to make good on the new empowerment, we have to genuinely give power to the states and grassroots. I believe in order to have power, you have to give up power." Power needs to come from the grassroots." Dean gets it. Exley gets it. Do the DNC's 447 delegates get it? We'll soon find out.