cross posted at eteraz.org
Disclosure: I am on social terms with a lot of people who work at the DNC, and particularly the technology, political and internet divisions. I also do not know Matt Stoller personally, although we’ve been in the same rooms together several times. All opinions in this piece are my own, freely offered with no encouragement or prodding, and in no way reflect those of my friends, acquaintances and employers.
One of the great things that I love about the internet is that over a sufficiently long discussion, the relative maturity of everyone participating approaches BRAT. Moreover, the kinds of people who get involved in political discussions on the internet tend to be the kind who are given to grandiose and prolix pronouncements, and the amount of temper tantrums that they throw online is pretty amazing. In all of my years of using a computer to communicate, starting back with the days of the 2400 baud modem, I have never seen a group of people more likely to throw temper tantrums than either the various people in #stormfront on efnet or the various bl0gg3rz..
So the other day, while doing my morning blog reading, I came across one of the best examples of a Democratic blogger temper tantrum I’ve ever seen in my life. And, to no one’s surprise, the by-line read “Matt Stoller”. Read on. [..]
I suppose that I should have expected such things from The Grand Panjandrum of Teh OMFG Netr00tz. There’s way too much out there about how ridiculous the political expectations of the nutroots actually are, so there’s no point in linking it here, but let’s clear away the snot and tears and see what Stoller’s actually weeping about: Governor Howard Dean.
He offers up four criticisms, and to my surprise, “The governor gave me the smallest goody-bag at the birthday party!” was not one of them.
One, Dean simply did not operationalize his tenure. Much, though not all, of the technology work the DNC did will probably be ripped out by Catalist when the next Chair comes in, and the 50 state strategy was until recently simply a slogan rather than a coherent strategy. That’s changing slightly with new political and research directors, but the initial staffing decisions in the research, internet, and political hindered any long-term stake driving. The DNC could have been transformed into a data-driven progressive force through its very relationships with party officials, but that’s not what happened.
1. Yes, a lot of the technology infrastructure that the DNC built will be gutted and ripped to pieces if the nominee is a certain former First lady with ties to Catalist. Stoller is making two mistakes here. The first is that he’s assuming that in 2004, when he was planning the run for DNC chair, and from 2005, when he assumed the chairmanship, Dean should have known that when he began to create an actually operational national voter file programme, a former Clinton aide would come to the rescue of his ousted comrades and form a privately held company. This company would then supplant the DNC’s tech operations and badmouth them all over the press. All the money that Dean would have invested would be for naught. The second is that he’s blaming the wrong people. If the nominee chooses to eviscerate the DNC’s tech profile, how is that the fault of the Chairman, and not the nominee? Oh, wait, computing, computing, thinking, thinking, it’s not. What would Stoller have wanted instead? Let me guess. He would have wanted Dean to spend all that money on buying every MyDD, OpenLeft and DailyKos user a new laptop and digital camera, as citizen journalism and citizen punditry are so important to the Democratic Party, and obviously more so than having a national voter file.
2. With respect to the 50 State Strategy, I see that all the initial detractors, who were busy giving quotes to the press and writing concern troll diaries about spending in Idaho and Alaska have now shut their fat mouths because we built up the state parties there to pick up the ball when the GOP dropped it. Oh, Larry Craig? Ted Stevens? Where are the detractors now? Something like this obviously takes time to set up and implement. And, you know, it’s been two and a half years. Our teams are being placed wherever we need them. The fifty state strategy doesn’t say that we actively compete in every state equally. It says that we should be ready to bring our A Game when necessary at the drop of a hat in all fifty states, and that when we go dark, it’s because we choose to, and not because we have to.
3. Pardon me if I’m incorrect, but the DNC is the data driven force changing politics all over the country. Dean’s DNC has a higher degree of cooperation with state parties than ever before, and the hard working men and women in the DNC’s basement who put together VoteBuilder are pretty much the unsung heroes of 2006. Perhaps when Matt Stoller sits and cuts universes for campaigns for hours on end instead of typing up prolix criticisms of the actual efforts of others, I’ll be more sympathetic.
Two, Dean has failed to fundraise. Some of that energy has moved to the DCCC and DSCC, but there’s a large and inexcusably conspicuous gap in Dean’s money take. I criticized Emily’s List for losing in 2006 when everyone else was winning, so it’s not fair to let Dean off the hook for being destroyed in fundraising by the RNC when everyone else is doing quite well, and the RNC is melting down. I can’t remember the last compelling online ask I got from the DNC, which is weird, considering it’s Howard Dean’s institution. Objectively speaking, he’s done a very bad job raising money and this has made the DNC nearly irrelevant, or maybe was a symbol of its irrelevance in the first place.
1. Stoller and I must be reading reports from two different FEC’s. Mine is The Federal Election Commission and his must be FREAKIN’ ENTIRELY CRAZY. In a post BCRA environment, Dean has not only raised money in similar amounts to Mac, but also surpassed him. Moreover, Dean doesn’t have the luxury of going after massive soft money donations. There will be no massive room at the DNC named for Lew Wasserman under Dean’s tenure. Instead, we’ll get money in states like Alabama and Wyoming that haven’t been sympathetic to Democrats since Southern Democrats talked like secessionist bigots. So, we’re raising massive money under worse circumstances and from more donors. Real failure.
Three, Dean has failed to control the primary calendar. This was a complicated task, but Dean allowed Donald Fowler Sr. to sabotage and undermine the process from within, which he should have dealt with up front. The Chair must deal with the primary calendar, a bit with the convention, and fundraising. He’s fallen down on two of those three tasks.
1. He most certainly hasn’t fallen down on fundraising. Strike that.
2. To my knowledge, he hasn’t failed on the convention. Oh, maybe Stoller’s not happy because there wasn’t enough swag in his Privileged Blogger Who Is A Journalist When He Wants To Be And An Activist When He Wants To Be And Don’t You Dare Get Them ConfusedTM bag. We’ll see.
3. The primary calendar: there was a revolt a long time coming. Iowa and New Hampshire are just unfairly privileged in the nominating process, and people have been threatening revolt on this for years. The fact that this crisis came to a head during a period of time when Dean happened to be chairman was entirely contingent, and had nothing to do with him. Moreover, he’s handling it in the best way possible: hard negotiation. I’d imagine that Stoller would prefer it if Chairman Dean were to pull Senator Nelson over his knee and give him a good spanking, saying, “No, Iowa gets to be line leader.”
My real criticism, though, is that Dean’s tenure at the DNC has been marked mostly by irrelevance. There are many things that you can do as the central hub of the party; think about Actblue as simply one of many possibilities, or Run Against Bush as another. These are party activities that the DNC should have ‘bought’ and scaled. It didn’t. Think about all the Bush pioneers we could have worked to frustrate, sites like criminalgopdonors.com that would have been fun to launch on a regular basis. Instead, the DNC continued to fly Dean around the country to make speeches and encourage people to buy Democracy Bonds, a program that didn’t work. The DNC chose to invest in ‘party builder’, an irrelevant social networking site, instead of going out and using social networking platforms people liked and used. Finally, the DNC has done very little with blogs, despite tremendous hunger to hit back against the media or GOP funding sources. Howard Dean, despite his original mandate, hasn’t even posted on a Dailykos diary.
1. The DNC is more relevant in the lives of Democratic voters than ever. We have a chairman who communicates with us regularly, and not just for money. We have a chairman who puts people in our states to help. We have a chairman who built a technology department and shared data with the state parties, and took on the job of actually telling them how to administer data.
2. Stoller’s complaint about not buying and scaling applications sounds suspiciously to me like, “Wah, teh guvnor dint buy yout my buddeeez! it rnt k’rupshin if u has bl0gz. lollercoaster.” Why on earth would the DNC need to acquire and integrate things that already exist and flourish in the status quo? I’ll bet fifty that if they had done that, and Stoller’s buddies had made some cash of the DNC, he’d writing his little blog about how the governor is threatened by the decentralised political apparati of the internet, and that the DNC shouldn’t have to own everything.
3. PartyBuilder is kind of stupid, but it seems to be working.
4. Flying around the country to sell Democracy Bonds sounds suspiciously to me like a Chairman going and seeing people, urging them in person to support the party, rather than calling connected donation bundlers from the comfort of his Ivy St. office. Is that what you want instead, Stoller?
5. Complaining that the governor doesn’t post on Daily Kos is pretty much the equivalent of saying “wah y do we has to play kikkball on ur street cum to my haus i has nintendo!!” Grow the hell up.
Okay, I think that the larger point here was not to eviscerate a moron like Stoller, although that was a lot of fun, but to both point out how amazing Governor Dean’s tenure at the DNC has been. It’ll only get better, I’d imagine. Also, I’m sick to death of these bloggers with a political consciousness that began no earlier than 1998 and the patience of a drunken fratboy waiting to piss at a bar.
I realise that all discussions -> brat over a sufficiently long period of time, but is it too much to ask that they begin somewhere closer to “reasonable”?