If, as President-elect Obama has promised, his administration will end the "continuing campaign" directed from the White House, the selection of the right Chairman of the Democratic National Committee to succeed Governor Howard Dean is critical to the success of the Obama Presidency.
The Obama administration's power to effect change will be determined in no small part by how well the legions of people who emerged to support his campaign remain engaged. Barack Obama has said so himself.
There is no one better suited to take the ball and run with it than Simon Rosenberg. The founder of the New Democratic Network, Rosenberg combines managerial and political skills with policy-wonkishness including, very critically, a keen understanding of the fastest growing demographic, the Hispanic community, and he is highly new media savvy.
Within a few months, the Obama legions who do not get DC jobs--i.e., most of them--will be determining what they will be doing for the next 4 years in their political lives. They have learned they can succeed, and they want to be engaged. There is no one like Simon Rosenberg to recruit and inspire them, and help them help President Obama effect the policy changes we all crave.
Rosenberg ran for the position in 2005 and lost to Howard Dean. Dean did a remarkable job, often against great criticism, of making the Democratic Party a permanent fixture in every state. There is now the opportunity to grow that with the Obama legions, and to accelerate the incorporation of cutting edge new media strategies. No one would do that more effectively than Simon Rosenberg.
In considering how President Obama's ability to effect change may be impacted by an organized citizenry, it is instructive to reflect back to the original Earth Day in the early 1970s. To everyone's surprise, 20 million people came out to protect the Earth on one day. One of the outcomes was to target the first "Dirty Dozen" members of Congress in the subsequent election.
Seven lost. Subsequently, Congress passed the first environmental legislation including the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act, the Marine Mammal Protection Act, the Endangered Species Act, and the Environmental Protection Act that set up the Agency.
And, Richard Nixon signed them all.
That's power. And, that is what making Simon Rosenberg DNC Chair will enable President Obama to call upon as he will inevitably need strong citizen engagement to overcome the sloth and sleaze that has prevented needed action in Washington DC.
Although even mentioning the next election is likely to elicit psychic groans right now, the fact is that Obama will need a strong, intelligent effort to build the party further while he, quite correctly, focuses on governance. If the age of the "continuing campaign" directed by the White House is over, a person of Rosenberg's savvy, energy and commitment to grassroots party-building is needed, so that resting on the laurels of this last election is not even a fleeting thought.
Simon Rosenberg's appointment as DNC Chair will be viewed with as much praise as some of his best Cabinet appointments.