Wednesday, January 12, 2005

The DNC Chair's Race

I am going to step away from legislative matters for a moment to offer my take on the ongoing race for chairman of the Democratic National Committee.

The conventional wisdom is that the race is between former Vermont governor Howard Dean, New Democratic Network president Simon Rosenberg, former Indiana congressman/9-11 Commission member Tim Roemer, and Democratic operative Donny Fowler. Others in the running include former Michigan governor Jim Blanchard, former Denver mayor Wellington Webb, and former Texas congressman Martin Frost.

Dean strikes me as an unsuitable choice for party chair. The job of the DNC chair is to unify the assorted factions within the party, to fund areas of common ground and to craft a message that Democrats can unite behind. While Dean does a good job of firing up the liberal wing of the party, he has been remarkably antagonistic and patronizing towards Democrats who disagree with his ideology. He continues to paint members of the Democratic Leadership Council as "Republican Lite" or "the Republican wing of the Democratic Party". Such characterizations are not only inaccurate, they are childish. The last thing the party needs is a self-righteous, ideologically-driven boss who wants to marginalize Democrats whose views are actually closer to those of the rank and file.

I admire Tim Roemer. He is smart and principled, and has demonstrated an ability to win in a "red state". My only concern is that Roemer would have enormous difficulties dealing with party activists. The qualities that I find appealing (a realistic approach to national security, a moderate approach to abortion issues) could be toxic for many in the party. He could end up antagonizing Deaniacs just as Dean annoys centrist Dems such as myself.

Simon Rosenberg is probably the best option. Rosenberg served as a staffer at the DLC during Joe Lieberman's chairmanship of the group, and later worked with Lieberman to found the New Democrat Network. His New Democrat Network has performed valuable work for the Democratic Party by helping candidates craft an appealing, mainstream message and by launching a smart Hispanic outreach program. He has "street cred" with much of the liberal blogosphere, despite his New Democrat pedigree. He might be the only man in America who can both oe Lieberman and Howard Dean to return his calls. Rosenberg couples a solid New Dem approach to policy with a willingness to utilize creative new approaches to grassroots organizing and fundraising. His skill set is the best match for the job of leading a 21st century political party.