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Zephyr Teachout to Howard Dean | The Nation

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Katrina vanden Heuvel

Katrina vanden Heuvel

Politics, current affairs and riffs and reflections on the news.

Zephyr Teachout to Howard Dean

The blogopshere is jam-packed with strategic advice for new DNC Chair Howard Dean. One of the most thoughtful pieces was written by Zack Exley--former director for MoveOn.org and former Dean and Kerry "net" mobilizer.

His Letter to the Next DNC Chair describes a new kind of politics emerging and lays out a blueprint for how the party can build a vast, permanent field organization with the "New Grassroots" by leveraging email, the web and a little technology. (Click here to read more about Exley's open letter.)

The latest strategic salvo comes from Zephyr Teachout--director of internet organizing for Dean's presidential campaign. Posted at personaldemocracy forum.com, it's a provocative piece calling on the party to pursue "an Internet-generated aggressive effort to re-establish local structures as vibrant, multi-purpose, cross-class continuous communities."

With references to Harvard sociologist Theda Skocpol's research and Robert Putnam's seminal work on the decline of participation in civic life, Teachout observes that while the "net is disrupting some old channels for political power and offering new kinds of connections as well...without an aggressive effort, I worry that most of this energy will go into fundraising, list-building and maybe some online community building."

Sure, these aren't bad things, Teachout says, "but in the face of the Great American Loneliness and the Great American Powerlessness, I hope that the disruptive power of the internet might serve to create a new form of voluntary association: offline communities based on online connections but rooted in public places."

She also tackles the many reasons why local party poobahs might resist. But, as Teachout argues, "the best thing the DNC can do is be an aggressive hydraulic force outwards, with the net as its power--and all Democrats will be rewarded with a vastly stronger networked community, with deep loyalty and deep engagement of the party membership."

Teachout to Dean. Food for thought.

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Zen on His Mind

"In his first post-election news conference...Dean said Democrats should not be afraid to stand up for what they believe, but he cast the party's core beliefs in mainstream language, avoiding some of the bombast of his presidential campaign. Asked whether there was a new, more subdued Howard Dean on view, he said, 'I'm not a Zen person. It's hard to answer stylistic questions. I am who I am...It's not intentional."(Washington Post, February 13, 2005)

"In order to make good on the new empowerment, we have to genuinely give power to the states and grassroots. That's what we did in our campaign. I believe in order to have power, you have to give up power. I know that sounds Zen-like, but it is true."(From an interview in Start Making Sense: Turning the lessons of Election 2004 into Winning Progressive Politics, by Alternet--available in March from Chelsea Green Publishing.)

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