Spreading the message
"Keep it simple" is the key to the White House, failed Democratic presidential candidate Howard Dean told members of his party from around the world last night.
One major reason his party lost the 2004 race to the "brain-dead" Republicans is that it has a "tendency to explain every issue in half an hour of detail," Dean told the semi-annual meeting of Democrats Abroad, which brought about 150 members from Canada and 30 other countries to the Toronto for two days.
"I'm going to be very disciplined about how we deliver messages. We can have policy deliberations in rooms like this. On TV, we have to be very focused."
The Democrats, in fact, will try to copy the Republicans, who are masters at making their message stick, he said. "The Democrats will have three things, maybe four, that we're going to talk about."
Dean's party is struggling to recover from the Nov. 2 American election, in which George W. Bush's team not only won the White House but also took firm control of the Senate and House of Representatives.
Last month, Dean, 56, was elected chairman of the Democratic National Committee, a powerful 440-member group that plans presidential nominating conventions, takes in most donations, and promotes the party and its candidates.
John McQueen, the Democrats' international campaign chair, has called that result "the most significant change in party leadership in more than a generation."
Dean won the job by acclamation, even though the party establishment, its congressional wing and many big donors and unions initially opposed him.
It was, said delegates to yesterday's meeting, a triumph of the grassroots. Dean built up enough support that party insiders had to bow to the inevitable.
Dean's presidential campaign was propelled by Web communications. And he's promoting a "bottom-up" Internet-connected party, run by state organizations rather than the centre. He has called for an end to the "consultant culture" — the legions of paid advisers employed by defeated candidate John Kerry that, critics complain, confused the candidate's thinking and messages.
Dean was the early front-runner in the race for the Democratic presidential nomination but bowed out after losing several primaries.
`The majority is on our side. We need to figure out how to talk differently about these issues.'
Howard Dean, Democrat
A major blow was coverage of his so-called "I have a scream" speech, after he finished a poor third in the Iowa caucuses on Jan. 19, 2004.
In an effort to rally disappointed but noisy supporters in Des Moines, he rattled off the names of the next 13 battleground states. Followed by: "And then we're going to Washington, D.C. To take back the White House." Followed by: "YEAHHHH!!!" — a shout that was amplified by his hand-held microphone, replayed by the media hundreds of times, and became the butt of jokes, both unkind and kind.
The shrill was gone in yesterday's speech, but Dean appeared relaxed and enthusiastic. Party members treated him like a star and gave him three long standing ovations.
An example of the party's new discipline is its current focus on Bush's plan to privatize Social Security, said Dean, who was governor of Vermont for 10 years before quitting in 2002 to run for president.
The Democrats won't be distracted by other issues, "as long as we're kicking the living daylights out of them on Social Security."
"The Democratic Party will not win elections or build a lasting majority solely by changing its rhetoric, nor will we win by adopting the other side's positions," he said when he announced his bid to become party chair. "We must say what we mean — and mean real change when we say it."
While Dean wants focused policies, he acknowledged some issues aren't clear-cut and his party must work hard to come up with effective messages.
It will be difficult to win over the many Americans who appear to disagree with Democratic policies on social and moral issues, such as abortion, he said.
"The majority is on our side. We need to figure out how to talk differently about these issues."
And he said he hasn't made a lot of noise about Iraq, even though he opposed the U.S. invasion that was launched two years ago yesterday, because "we're there" and "the price of not succeeding is going to be enormous for America and for Iraq's neighbours."
Democrats Abroad, founded in 1964, has about 20,000 members in 45 countries, including 5,000 in Canada.
It was established to encourage the 7 million American citizens living outside the United States to register to vote as Democrats.
It claims to have registered more than 250,000 voters worldwide, including 35,000 in Canada, in 2004. Its goal is 1 million registrations next year and 2 million for the 2008 U.S. presidential election.
So "The majority is on our side.", even though you lost the White House by a larger margin than you did in 2000 and both houses of Congress are more Republican than they've been in over 40 years. Sweet. I want some of what you're taking.
Still, Captain Delusional understands that it's certainly not the message the brain-dead supporters of Bush rejected, but the presentation. What, you mean, like, calling 'em brain-dead? Oh yeah, Binky, you gotta point there. Now if we can only get half of Europe to vote in the next US election, we're in like Flint.
So let me get this straight - our opposition is complete morons, but we lost to them because we didn't talk slowly and use small words that wouldn't cause the electorate petit mal seizures. Oooh, Howard, I like it. 2nd and 8 on your own 28 yard line, fall back 8 yards to the left and try to set up the winning field goal. You've got my vote.