The truth came out this week in Washington, DC. Howard Dean is not only keeping his commitment to organize the Democratic Party outside the DC Beltway, he has broken all DNC fundraising records during a non-election year.
Despite a Washington Post article two months ago where the usual anonymous "critics," "aides," and "sources" trashed Governor Dean's fundraising record, the DNC raised $51 million dollars in 2005, a record for a so-called off-year. This is twenty percent higher than what past DNC Chair Terry McAuliffe raised in 2003, a comparable non-election year. Though the RNC has raised twice as much money, not surprising when one looks at their historical advantage and the fact that they control the White House and Congress, the Republicans saw much smaller growth rates in 2005 compared to 2003.
What's even more important is what Governor Dean is doing with the money. The DNC has helped hire talented, experienced, diverse political professionals in 43 states rather than paying for top-down consultants in Washington. He has traveled to every corner of the country, red and blue. And he understands that local folks know best when it comes to determining strategy and tactics. The Governor's commitment to building the party from the bottom up is real.
Many believed he would be a disaster for the Party when he ran for Chair. Lots of those same folks continue to fight him every step of the way. As the saying goes, though, you can sometimes judge a person best by his enemies rather than his friends. In spite of this, the Governor has kept his focus on rebuilding a Party that has functioned effectively in only a small handful of states the past few elections.
You know who knows this? The state Democratic Party chairs, executive directors, and the leader-activists toiling in the field to build local organizations. Ask them. As someone who ran for DNC chair last year, finishing second to the Governor while advocating a very similar new approach, I still talk to many of those folks. Their answer is almost always the same, "Governor Dean is keeping his promise to provide us the flexibility, expertise, and resources we need to do the job we know how to do." Praise the Lord.
Why, then, is Governor Dean still getting those nasty comments and misleading news articles about fundraising? Well, look at who is saying these things. Most of them are the Democrats who have made the same political and electoral mistakes over and over and over in the last ten to twenty years. Of course, there are many who take issue with Governor Dean's occasional controversial statements that make the Republicans happy and some Democrats fearful. Nonetheless, change is hard to face, so it is understandable that those who now have a smaller voice, less of a decisionmaking role, and lower consulting fees are fighting back.
The public relations problem Governor Dean faces is that his progress is not getting to the ears and pens of the national political press corps in Washington. Why hasn't the Washington Post, for example, written a front page story correcting it's originally incorrect piece in November? That's OK, though. If the Party can make electoral progress in 2006 and 2008, Washington might just embrace the new politics that Dean is helping create.