FDL Book Salon Welcomes Ari Berman, Herding Donkeys: The Fight to Rebuild the Democratic Party and Reshape American Politics
Welcome Ari Berman, and Host Joe Trippi.
[As a courtesy to our guests, please keep comments to the book. Please take other conversations to a previous thread. – bev]
Herding Donkeys: The Fight to Rebuild the Democratic Party and Reshape American Politics
Joe Trippi, Host:
At the beginning of 2003 – when I was packing my bags to head up to Burlington – you would have been hard pressed to find many people outside Vermont who had ever heard of Howard Dean…and even fewer who would have believed that our unlikely presidential campaign would ignite a movement that would turn the political world on its head and re-energize a moribund Democratic party towards a comeback in the White House and both houses of Congress.
In Herding Donkeys Ari Berman tells a compelling story about how the Dean campaign sparked a grassroots resurgence and laid the foundation for the Democrats’ improbable success over the next 4 years. He captures some of the untold stories from the 2004 campaign and Howard Dean’s years at the helm of the DNC where, despite the ire of Rahm Emanual and other establishment Democrats, his 50-state strategy helped lead the Democrats out of the desert and back into the majority.
In his book, Berman brings you back to 2003, before you had ever heard of Facebook, Twitter, or YouTube, to show how the campaign pioneered the use of the Internet in campaign fundraising and organizing – bringing new people and energy to the party:
“On August 23, 2003, Howard Dean’s campaign had just embarked on the frenetic Sleepless Summer Tour—ten cities in four days across 6,147 miles, raising a quick million via its campaign blog in the process. You could watch the dollar amount inch upward in real time on a giant baseball bat posted on the website.… The campaign was going to deplane for an hour in Boise and was expecting “fifty people or so,” [press aide Matt Vogel] said. When Dean landed on the tarmac, 450 people were waiting to greet him, holding blue DEAN FOR AMERICA signs. A social worker named Delmar Stone could barely contain his exuberance. “The last time I was this excited about someone who could change the world,” Stone said, “was when I heard about Jesus!”
Dean was not quite the Messiah, but he had been on quite a roll. He’d just graced the covers of Time and Newsweek and would soon shatter Bill Clinton’s three-month fund-raising record by amassing an army of small donors over the Internet, using that money to air TV ads in six states a full five months before voters in Iowa went to their first-in-the-nation caucus. [read more]
Though the grassroots movement our campaign built didn’t ultimately send him to the White House, Dean knew that he had tapped into something powerful that could transform politics as we knew it. His 50-state strategy at the DNC – which was ridiculed by many at the time – led to huge gains in 2006 and set the table for Obama’s success in 2008.
The progressive grassroots of the party re-energized by the Dean campaign and the Dean Chairmanship of the Democratic Party rose up and embraced Obama’s campaign — worked their hearts out and helped deliver him to victory. But even while Obama’s campaign honed the grassroots tactics that won him the White House, some in Obama’s inner circle – most notably Rahm Emanual – treated the progressive grassroots with contempt. With Rahm at Obama’s side in the White House, Berman tells how the Obama administration lost a major opportunity to rally them in support of the President’s agenda.
With Democrats now facing the possibility of another few years in the desert, Berman leaves us asking whether the grassroots energy that the Dean campaign sparked can be re-ignited – from the ground up – across the country.
For more about the book before our live chat at 5pm ET, check out the website where you’ll find excerpts and reviews.