Dems contract case of self-delusion — or not

by Jon Margolis

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The D Triple C is not targeting Wyoming, but the netroots are agog over Gary Trauner. What’s that? You need a translation? OK, for those not fluent in politicalese, here goes:

The D Triple C, or DCCC, is the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, an official arm of the Democratic Party whose raison d’être is to pick up the 15 seats the Democrats need to take control of the House of Representatives.

You probably know what Wyoming is.

Gary Trauner is the Democrat running for that state’s lone seat in the House, against Republican incumbent Barbara Cubin, who was first elected in 1994 and who would appear to be the prohibitive favorite. Wyoming has not sent a Democrat to Congress in 30 years.

And the netroots? Well, that’s not yet in the standard dictionaries, so let’s — fittingly — use the definition from Wikipedia, the online encyclopedia: "a recent term describing a particular form of grassroots activist organized primarily over the internet. ..."

Shouldn’t that say grassroots activism?" Anything "organized primarily over the internet" could use a good editor.

In this case, the netroots are anti-establishment Democrats who proclaim firm opinions, often accompanied by personal diatribes against those who don’t share said opinions, through those online diaries known as Web logs, or blogs. They scorn Republicans, along with much of the Democratic leadership and political journalists of the mainstream media — MSM in blogspeak, where the term is something of an insult. Unedited, the bloggers appear oblivious to the charms of understatement, or, in some cases, the value of factual accuracy.


So how does all this fit together? Well, to start, the netroots are much more bullish about Trauner’s chances than is the establishment, at least as represented by the DCCC and its pragmatic supporters.

"It’s important to have a realistic view," said one of those pragmatic Democrats, who pointed out that Democrats should spend their limited money and manpower where they have a real chance to win. In the Rocky Mountain West, that means Colorado’s 7th Congressional District, which John Kerry carried in 2004 and which Rep. Bob Beauprez is abandoning to run for governor, or against Marilyn Musgrave in the Colorado district centered around Fort Collins, or against the always-embattled Heather Wilson in New Mexico’s 1st Congressional District, where Kerry also beat President George W. Bush.

It does not mean going against Tom Tancredo in Colorado’s 6th Congressional District, or doing anything in Idaho. And it probably doesn’t mean the at-large seats in Wyoming or Montana, either.

But there are dissenters, and the irony is that they come from within the establishment. The netroots have no less an ally than the Democratic National Committee, chaired by former Vermont governor and one-time presidential candidate Howard Dean.

Dean is spending a lot of the Democrats’ money on his "50-state strategy," subsidizing staff positions in all the states, including places like Wyoming and Idaho where Democratic chances appear dim. This makes some Democrats unhappy. At a meeting in May, the discussion of where and how to allocate resources ended when Rep. Rahm Emanuel of Illinois, the head of the DCCC, "stormed out of Dean’s office … leaving a trail of expletives," according to the Washington Post.

Even Dean’s supporters concede that some of this activity is unlikely to bear fruit this year. "The job is to build the party infrastructure at the state level," said one of them, who did not want to be identified lest he exacerbate the intra-party squabbling. "This includes races we might not win in ’06 or ’08. But we’re not going to be competitive in 2010 or 2012 unless we start building state parties. We have to build a bench."

So at the DNC they are talking up Monica Lindeen against Dennis Rehberg in Montana — and Gary Trauner in Wyoming.


The netroots bloggers are even more optimistic. They urge support for Bill Winter against Tancredo, and they even think Democrats Larry Grant and Jim Hansen in Idaho have a shot. Idaho? Is self-delusion a netroots peculiarity?

So it seems. Many of them were convinced that Dean, with their help, would become president in 2004. Last year, they believed Democrat Paul Hackett would win a special election in a Republican district in Ohio. He didn’t. In June, they convinced themselves that Francine Busby would do the same in San Diego. She didn’t. And when she didn’t, one of the leading liberal bloggers called the results "a huge, seismic shift in our favor that bodes extremely well for November."

Self-delusion writ large.

And yet … and yet … the liberal bloggers were right when they opposed the Iraq war from the very start, weren’t they? And they are turning out to be more right than wrong about MSM political journalism, a universe in which inanity, never absent, threatens to become dominant. So they might be right about some of these races, too.

Not surprisingly, Dean’s 50 state approach has support in … the 50 states, where the party chairmen think he’s helping them win.

"We’re rebuilding the party from the grassroots up, running a 64-county campaign and not a Denver metro campaign," said Colorado Democratic Chair Patricia Waak, who added that she did not consider talk of taking the Colorado Springs seat or beating Tancredo to be foolish optimism. She thinks many Republicans there are concerned that their party has moved "too far to the right."

That does sound like the triumph of hope over experience. But Colorado Democrats won both houses of their state Legislature in 2004, and sent the Salazar brothers to Congress, so perhaps they can be forgiven their cheerfulness.

And in yet another sign that the optimists and the realists can cooperate, the liberal netroots held a non-virtual — that is to say, actual, on-site, personal — gathering not long ago, and most of the likely 2008 Democratic presidential candidates showed up.

The biggest impression seems to have been made by former Virginia Gov. Mark Warner, who said of the get-together, "This is the new public square. This is the new form of democracy."

Who knew that hyperbole was contagious?

 

Jon Margolis co-authored the book Howard Dean: A Citizen’s Guide To The Man Who Would Be President.

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