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Monday, January 17, 2005

Live-Blogging Fowler for DNC Conference Call

Posted by Tim Tagaris

BlogPAC is sponsoring their latest in conference calls with candidates for DNC Chair. Today, the call is with candidate Donnie Fowler.

The call starts at 4 PM EsT and I have the honor of being on it along with Bob. I have also decided to follow in the footsteps of anna (of annatopia) and live-blog the conference call. So click back and forth between the two of us. Together we make up the most powerful tandem of poor spelling and grammar in the blogosphere. It should get interesting...

Once again, this conference call is brought to you by BlogPAC. Take a minute, sign up on their website, and join leaders of the Democratic Party in "waging politics online." (That sounded like a commercial)

The live-blog begins in the extended entry in 5, 4, 3, (2), (1)...

I am going to give it to you raw, just like the Ol' Dirty Bastard, R.I.P.

Update 1: I am in the conference call room right now. There is some terrible music playing, and its loud. Who prefers this music to silence anyway?

You can check out Donnie's first "firewire chat," podcasted message.

Update 2: I must be on the watch-list. Someone just came on to verify what "company" I was with. Call should start any second now.

Update 3: Donnie's opening remarks (paraphrased unless in quotes).

Thanks us for "hopping on" especially since its Dr. Kings birthday, "an important day." Dr. King represents values of progressive/liberal movement.

Founding fathers who might be considered conservative today; were radicals back then because they believed government should be representative.

"We are not a group of issues." "Cannot be run by an artistocracy of consultants who forget to talk about what is in our soul."

"I was grassroots before grassroots was cool."

“I enjoy grassroots, that’s the pleasure, the benefit I get out of doing campaigns.”

"National message talking about our heart, talking about our soul." Tearing down national barriers. Access. Access to health care, jobs, decent education. The heart of the Democratic Party is about getting a fair shake. We have to talk about core values first.

Ask the strong state parties, what works?

DNC should be asking the netroots, how do we get to reach new voters? How do we understand and embrace the potential of this new movement?

He is talking a lot. An awful lot. Gonna wait for the questions for another update.

Jerome Armstrong from MyDD: Sumarize what he thinks the actual state of the field operation in the DNC is:

Donnie: "An easy question." DNC is a superb org. for electing a president that lasts six months every four years.

The DNC should not just be for the top of the ticket or a part-time presidential campaign committee. The DNC has been oriented at president.

The DNC has regional political organizing staff and press secretaries should not live in Washington as they always have. The DNC needs to be a full-time political message delivering organization.

DNC needs to strengthn parties and grassroots leaders in all 50 states. Alot of DNC candidates think we are going to run a presidential campaign as if there are 50 battleground states, there aren't. We cant have a 50 state strategy.

Activists need to say, "how can we help you get there?"

My question: You talked about the fact that we are on even footing with Reps in fundraising because of the netroots. How much of netroots fundraising was because of real DNC outreach and do you really believe that if the DNC continues as is, that funding will always be there?

Donnie: When he went to the clark campaign in fall of 2003 – netroots got senior staff seat. When Clark raised a lot of money from the netroots, conventionalists began to jump on the bandwagon and wheels broke.

Response was that they are just a bunch of kids and cooks, why do they have a seat at the table. Netroots started because people outside of the traditional means of organizing got involved.

To keep the netroots engaged… Financially, ideas, and boots on the ground.

1. Give them something to believe in. A message they can understand.
2. Provide them strength at the national level. “we will stand up with you.
3. Give the netroots the respect it deserves. Don’t ever say the only thing they are good for is raising money. Democratic national party will include the netroots in the movement.
4. If Democratic party fails to understand the power of the new movement, we will never win elections again.

Eric from ? There is a problem getting the message from the top down. Noticed Donnie wants to broaden the DNC, but letting local people lead because they know better. What do you mean by that and how can you ensure the locals get national message across?

Donnie: Its not an easy task. Its a tough exercise to take a national strategy and themes and apply them locally.

In Michigan, they couldn't look to Washington for a national message. The issue of trash in the water forced Michigan to look toward the national party.

"Local people know better." Local people know accents, dialect, and style to use.

I am kind of lost right now. I feel like Fowler is fillibustering the phone call. We have been on for 33 minutes and he has answered 2 and a 1/4 questions.

He is talking about Dean and Clark right now. "The river that was the Dean movement, was wild and raging." Wild and raging river flooded Dean in Iowa.

The Draft Clark Movement: Created a candidate but when the conventionalists came on, there answer was the damn up the river.

The moral: A Fowler DNC doesn't want to dam up the river, but wants us to take lead from DNC. "Its not easy daming a river.

Question from Bob:
Why did you go and work for technet? Something to do with a firm run by a Republican Congressman.

There is an exchange that I wish I was doing a better job of following between Bob and Donnie. Bob talked about Donnie helping take away Dem. advantage in silicon valley.

Donnie: His job in Silicon Valley. TechNet founded in 1997 and 1998 by a bi-partisan group of Democrats and Republicans. Founded by a moderate Republican named John Chambers.

Technet was never intended to be a partisan organization. It is explicitly in its chater, non-partisan. Donnie was hired because of his political background. His title was vice-president for Democratic outreach. There was only a Republican CEO at TechNet because Republicans control power in Washington.

"If you want to call some of those Republicans, they'll tell you how partisan I was." Raised several million dollars for Democrats only. Still has alot of good friends back there. Going back home again this week. He would not have gone there if he had to work for Republicans.

Bob follow-up: Why did you choose to focus on leveling the playing field.

Donnie: It wasn't. He got in trouble for fighting back. There was no leveling of the playing field. I didn't do anything for Republicans. TechNet, in some ways, would have been a completely partisan company had I not been there.

DNC does not stand for do not concede. Actually, it should stand for do not concede, it cannot stand for do not change.

I missed the questioner: We all admire your field work. Another job of the chair is communicating the message. What experience do you have in communicating on TV and proposals for message delivery system

Donnie: (pause)

First campaign he manged was 1995. One of his mentors is a media producer named Bill Kerik out of LA. His media comm. experience includes appearances over the years on national TV and talk radio. Includes work on the sort of state versions of these national sunday morning programs. Whether its a cable political forum, or the equivalent of meet the press in Michigan.

I am not a talking head national pundit, and I have better things to do than that. "I am not concerned at all about my ability." We need a face that can speak to the new movement. Ken Mehlman the new RNC chair is my age.

If you live in Washington long enough, you think the only thing that matters is whats in the washington post and what Tim Russert says. The DNC needs to get its head out of Washington. It needs to get its head out of the web of conventional wisdom it is stuck in.

DNC needs to hold forums and meetings, and take cues from people who live in states. DNC needs to dramatically improve its technological prowess.

If you go to DNC website, you cant even click on the link to Florida, its broken.

Question from Stirling Newberry: Alot of interal fights within Dem. party, how can you solve that?

Donnie: Rahm Emmanuel is an operative, he is a take no prisoners, kick your ass congressman. The DSCCC chair has worked in Washington, but also been out in the field which is a plus.

If you get a true agent of change into the DNC we can eliminate some of the historical question. There also needs to be better communication.

Alot of the fighting has to do with money and sharing lists.

The worst tension is between the Dem. National Party and the folks that made their careers in Washington. The state party doesn't trust the DNC, and the DNC doesn't trust the state parties.

Many of the state parties first reaction is "screw you" "go away and leave us alone." That antagonstic relationship exists because the folks in Washington think they know better than the voters, netroots activists, and state parties about how to get votes.

Because I have been in the states, with alot of the chairs, I have already had to be an arbitor between the DNC and the state parties. That is the kind of DNC Chair that we need. That's how we are going to eliminate alot of this tension.

Question for Jerilyn from Talk Left: She has seen Donnie say, "Im a Democrat because Im a Christian not inspite," Are you going to craft a religous message as a DNC Chair. How much will you emphasize religion.

Donnie Answer:Need to emphasize values and that doesnt always meen in a religious sense. We need to talk about our heart and soul, whether that is religious or not.

We need to go straight to the issues.

The reason Bush won is because people would be more comfortable inviting Bush to dinner rather than Kerry. The budweiser test? I'd love to see Bush with a beer in his hand.

We cannot concede. We do not have to change who we are as progressives. Talk to voters first about our core principles. Everyone should have an equal opportunity to do their best. Education is an opportunity issue, jobs are opportunity issues, college is as well.

When I talk about not giving up the values fight, when I say we cant concede religious voters. Not everyone thats religious supports Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell. Most of the worlds religions teach tolerance, fairness, and taking care of the least among us.

Republicans using religion as a weapon. Patriotism as a weapon. The flag does not belong to the Republican party, and we just let it go. How dare you use religion and patriotism as weaponse. In the grassroots, among the netroots, there is a real hue and cry for Democrats that will fight back.

I am taking one question off, sorry. It's a question about MSNBC trying to beat Fox News by being more Republican. What is the strategy to deal with cable networks.

(Looks like Im not taking one off)

Donnie Answer: We cannot choose between talking to base Democrats or swing voters. It comes down to creating a circular firing squad when we do that. It is a tired old argument. It is a false choice. If you have been in the states on the ground where you have to collect votes you have to appeal to all kinds of voters to end up with a majority.

Another problem with left/right, is fighting over values and issues that we dont believe in. Democrats believe in 80% of core principles and issues. But we fight over free trade, abortion, and quibble over medicare benefits. Democratic Party cannot afford to have this debate.

Now to the question, media and cable.

Networks are driven by the bottom line and profit. We need to develop the kind of punditry/spokespeople that can make these companies money. Ed Schultz for example. FCC has now been taken over by Colin Powell's son. They have relaxed ownership rules so much that we are getting media concentration. We end up with Rupert Murdoch and Clear Channel choking off communication.

De-regulation is a good thing because it created jobs, but it chokes us off with communication in mainstream media.

I am lost again. Bob is IMing me and I have no idea where he is with this question. Something about MoveOn stopping CBS. I need a cigarette so bad.

Donnie's closing remarks:

DNC has to change. Among the 7 candidates who are the candidates who know how to bring the change we need right now. We lost the election, because we are not learning the lessons of the past.

Aristocracy of consultants, again. National party needs someone that understands state parties. I have worked on ground for 20 years, it's what I love to do.

State parties need to embrace the new electorate, like the netroots. And someone ready to do it on day one.

He's done.

Posted at 03:40 PM in DNC Chair | Technorati


Wow this was great.

Posted by: DavidNYC at January 17, 2005 07:38 PM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment

frigging excellent, tim! thanks so much for doing this. you caught several things i missed (although you did seem to zone out during the same time as i did, heh).

i'll link this when i get around to updating again.

Posted by: annatopia [TypeKey Profile Page] at January 17, 2005 09:37 PM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment