05/22/2006 10:47 pm ET Updated May 25, 2011

Former DNC Chair Fowler to Dean: Keep it Up!

This letter went last week from former DNC Chair Don Fowler (1995-96) to Democratic Party leaders around the country and was picked up today by a Clinton Alumni listserve. It is a reaction to a series of harsh attacks that many in the DC establishment are making on Governor Dean because he is taking both a long-term view (party building) as well as the short-term view (Election 2006).

To: Democratic Party Leaders
From: Don Fowler


Recent complaints by some Washington pundits with limited agendas that the Democratic National Committee should withdraw support from state Democratic parties are short-sighted and misplaced.

One of the long-time shortcomings of the Democratic National Committee has been its control by Washington people whose visions dim south of the Potomac, west of Chevy Chase, and north of RFK stadium. This lack of understanding of anything much about American politics other than the fees of Washington campaign consultants is what has given our party defeats in 2000, 2002, and 2004. We Democrats shouldn't be led down that same bumpy road in 2006 and 2008.

I did not support Howard Dean in his campaign for Chair of the DNC. I supported my son, who also ran. But one thing Governor Dean has done that is absolutely right is his support -- financial, organizational, and technological -- for state parties. Many of our Party's difficulties during the last three elections have been due to weak state parties. Governor Dean, to his great credit, pledged during his campaign for Chair to change this sad state of affairs. He has kept his word and deserves our appreciation -- he certainly has mine.

Republicans learned this lesson decades ago, and strong RNC support for their state parties has paid off. One could make a valid case that their state party strength compared to Democrats' state party weakness is the principal reason for their growth and victories in the 1980s, 1990s, and the first three elections of this new century.

Investment in state parties is the functional equivalent of research and development expenditures by corporations. To be successful in the future, you must invest resources now. Without strong organization, state parties lose their ability to build farm teams in state legislatures, in city halls and in county court houses. From these strengths come candidates for Congress, Governor, and the Senate. Weak Democratic farm teams in the states are a major reason that there are not more genuinely competitive seats for the United States House of Representatives this year.

And of course, without competitive state and local organizations to elect state legislators, our party loses out at reapportionment time.

That alone should be reason for Democratic members of Congress to support, not attack, a program that has the potential to give us back some of the legislative majorities we have lost.

Vast majorities of Democrats outside the Beltway support GovernorDean's policy of reinvigorating state parties. Our message to the DNC: Keep it up. We're on the road to victory.


Donald L. Fowler, Member
Democratic National Committee
P.O. Box 50627 - 2725 Devine Street
Columbia, SC 29250