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January 12, 2004

Such valuable advice. Also according to the Washington Post, Howard Dean’s staffers are hyper-competitive obsessives who don’t know when to “leave it at the office,” and who don’t hang out in bars after hours with folks from rival Democratic camps. This prompted the observation by Zizka, commenting in Matthew Yglesias’s blog, that clearly the Deanies “still haven’t mastered the sophisticated political methods which ended up handing all three branches of government over to the Republicans.” Yeah, darn those Dean staffers.

Zizka goes on:

No, I’m not a Dean partisan. I’m Dean/Clark neutral, not necessarily in that order. It does seem to me that the Democratic Party should get a new political establishment while it is still a viable national party. The combative spirit and vigor the Dem establishment shows when swatting down challenges from within the party must have been held in reserve from the 2000 Presidential campaign, when it was not in evidence.
Pretty much right on, if you ask me. There’s plenty to criticize about Dean (and Clark), but the fact that the biggest paper in the nation’s capital is running a feature story devoted to complaints that (actual quote from an alleged grownup) “the Dean people don’t party with us” tells you pretty much what you need to know about modern political journalism. I mean, next thing you know, the New York Times will be expending space on its op-ed page analyzing General Clark’s choice of sweater. Oh, wait [12:46 PM]
Welcome to Electrolite's comments section.
Hard-Hitting Moderator: Teresa Nielsen Hayden.

Comments on Such valuable advice.:

Claude Muncey ::: (view all by) ::: January 12, 2004, 01:27 PM:

hyper-competitive obsessives who don't know when to "leave it at the office," and who don't hang out in bars after hours with folks from rival Democratic camps

Based on my own experience, that is a good description of most campaign staffs -- at least the sucessful ones. If you are a political activist this is The Show, and next year doesn't exist.

David Moles ::: (view all by) ::: January 12, 2004, 01:30 PM:

It does seem to me that the Democratic Party should get a new political establishment while it is still a viable national party.

I thought the article on that subject pointed out in the sidebar was encouraging. (And depressing, too, of course.)

kip m. ::: (view all by) ::: January 12, 2004, 02:08 PM:

Favorite comment on the Times piece, which I can't remember where I saw it, but: "The Times isn't covering the horse race. They're covering the horse blanket."

Elizabeth ::: (view all by) ::: January 12, 2004, 02:25 PM:

Dean has his problems, but I think what annoys some of the other dems is how much he compares himself to the American big guys, like FDR and Jefferson, rather than worrying about the Gephards.

Dean has a wonderful set of links on his website to some of the great writings and speeches of America, like MLK's Birmingham jail letter, and FDR's four freedoms, and the Constitution. I find it quite heartening, but I imagine the rest of the dem leadership is frothing. When was the last time they used the Gettysburg Address in campaigning?

Anonymous ::: (view all by) ::: January 12, 2004, 02:35 PM:

It's stuff like this, and the anti-Clark flyers at the Dean meeting that Dean "didn't know about," that makes me think the Clark staffers are unprofessional. There's passionate, and there's out-of-control - not just the campaign's control (since they are empowered and communitarian rather than hierarchical), but out of the control of their own best natures.

julia ::: (view all by) ::: January 12, 2004, 02:48 PM:

I don't suppose that it occurred to any of the naifs at the Washington Post that if the famously work-obsessive Bush staff is buying them drinks, it might be for a reason?

Kathryn Cramer ::: (view all by) ::: January 12, 2004, 03:34 PM:

The WP is a really astonishingly bad piece of jounalism. Nevermind that most of the the other candidates sound like they would prefer Bush to Dean, but how did the reporter miss that the Dean Campaign had a major night of fundraising parties Dec 30th, the night before New Year's Eve?

Anyway, the party-habits of the campaign volunteers are noninformation.

Jesse ::: (view all by) ::: January 12, 2004, 04:15 PM:

There is politics, and there is power. While it is unfortunate that the first is the road to the second, I suppose it's better than some of the alternatives. Still, it's not a very good way of putting power in the hands of those responsible enough to do useful things with it.

I'm a reasonably well-informed citizen of the United States, who votes and pays attention to the news and worries about the country and the world we live in. But I can't stand politics any more. To those who tell me that we need to engage in politics because that's how we make good things happen, you're right, absolutely right. I just don't have the stomach for it. Wake me up a week before it's time to vote.

Alison ::: (view all by) ::: January 12, 2004, 05:06 PM:

Campaign people are work hard, play hard people. In general, if you're out on a campaign, you just don't sleep. It's like permanent college, complete with the dramas and intrigues, romantic and otherwise, even across party lines. Going out and playing with others is what gets campaign operatives jobs in the future. For the people the Washington Post serves (Hill staffers and campaign people, current or former), not looking after yourself, when campaigns last about three months on average, would strike them as nuts. Because when November rolls around and Dean loses, they're out in the cold in a bad economy.

Playing hard is just as important as working hard if you want to do campaign work permanently, full-time, but if the Dean people don't care, that's their business.

Jo Walton ::: (view all by) ::: January 12, 2004, 05:16 PM:

It's very hard to pin down the way something smells in such a way that it withstands analysis, but that article combined with Alison's comment above smells to me as if the professional campaigners and journalists don't like the Dean people because they are not professional campaigners and aren't doing things that way.

This sounds most encouraging.

Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: January 12, 2004, 05:36 PM:

You know, I suspect from context that "Anonymous" a few messages above this one meant to type "the Dean staffers are unprofessional," rather than "the Clark staffers are unprofessional."

But since he or she chose to use a nonexistent email address, my email asking if he or she would like me to quietly fix it bounced. Thus wasting my time, my good will, and wear and tear on the (actually real) server for the fake address he or she provided.

Just one of many reasons I'm going to be very tempted to go with comment-system registration when MT 3.0 comes out.

Melanie ::: (view all by) ::: January 12, 2004, 05:41 PM:

The Deanies are not your ordinary batch of campaign operatives and doubt that they have given much thought to what will happen after the election. They are in a movement, not a career path.

Alex Steffen ::: (view all by) ::: January 12, 2004, 08:19 PM:

At the risk of getting jumped up and down on, I actually thought it was a pretty good article, highlighting precisely the differences in feel between the Dean campaign and those of his more orthodox rivals, the differences between a volunteer-driven crusade and campaigns staffed by lifers and wanna-be lifers.

Plus, professional politics in the real world is a catty, nasty, small-minded little town run by people who thought student government was important for their college applications. What was the Zappa quote? Politics is high school with more money? Something like that. At least this writer was honest about the dynamics.

Nancy ::: (view all by) ::: January 12, 2004, 11:35 PM:

Given that locally (Manchester, NH), the Dean campaigns Democratic rivals are pulling such camraderie-building tactics as sending volunteers and interns to harrass people trying to come to hear Dean speak (physically confront them in parking lots, shout nasties at them, wave the Confederate flag and call them names)-- yeah, well, gosh, the Deanites don't really feel like buying them beer at the local bar. I wouldn't feel too kindly, either.

It's gettin' nasty around here. And it's the Dems fighting each other, I'm sad to report.

Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: January 12, 2004, 11:41 PM:

Don't get too bent out of shape. If Democratic fratricide killed Democratic chances in November, they'd never have elected a single President.

It's good to keep one's eye on the ball, but Democrats will be Democrats. Arguably, the candidate who survives all this will have the hide to face the real enemy.

Epacris ::: (view all by) ::: January 13, 2004, 03:19 AM:

Elizabeth: Eventually - not using the page's own 'search', but by probing sideways through an outside search engine into several websites set up by the Dean campaign, I was able to find what I think you were describing at this address:


I can't find a way to get there using the links within the site, but maybe that's just me. Thanks for the pointer, I'm always on the lookout for access to such material.

There is a similar disgust & impatience with the standardized usual way of doing things politically among many here in Oz, with more & more people voting for non-mainstream parties (in other places this might lead you to just not bother voting, here we legally have to attend a polling place & put a ballot into a ballotbox - it's up to you what you put on the paper & some just write rude words), and others actually going & working for the non-mainstream groups.
BTW, since there is a preferential count (what totalizators were invented for originally in Australia - see members.ozemail.com.au/~bconlon/) you can vote first for a minor party, then second for your most-preferred larger party so that those votes aren't "wasted", and the person who wins a seat usually does get a majority. In a "first past the post" system you can get, say a 25%, 35%, 40% split and the person who 60% of the voters were against actually winning. If the preferences are distributed with the lowest candidate's voters splitting between the other two, you can get a better representation of what the voters would prefer.

Elric ::: (view all by) ::: January 13, 2004, 09:03 AM:

Another point in that complaint is that the Dean campaign has been doing so well at getting young people into the political process that many of the campaign volunteers aren't old enough to drink yet. That's one of the things I like about his campaign--bringing a younger face back to the game of politics.

Zizka ::: (view all by) ::: January 13, 2004, 09:57 AM:

I was amazed at the response to my comment. As far as I'm concerned, every word that comes out of my mouth is both true and wise, but I've gotten used to the fact that not everyone agrees, and it discombobulates me when I get a predominantly positive response the way I did on that thread. Unique in my experience.

Zizka ::: (view all by) ::: January 13, 2004, 10:04 AM:

I might say that my comment can be generalized: be careful about taking advice from mediocre, unsuccessful insiders in any field.

Of course, when the big shots give you advice, you have to ask yourself what their angle is. But usually they're successful because they know things other people don't, and probably also because they were willing to take more chances.

Chuck Divine ::: (view all by) ::: January 13, 2004, 05:06 PM:

A couple of comments:

With regard to Australian style voting:

Back in the 1970s in New Jersey there was a Democratic governor by the name of Brendan Byrne who became so unpopular that not only did seven serious Republicans run in their primary, but also six serious Democratic opponents of the governor showed up for their primary.

The Democratic governor won his primary with only 30% of the vote. Up against a Republican with less than universal appeal (to put it mildly), he won a second term.

A happy result for the Democrats? Not really -- four years later a very good Republican by the name of Thomas Kean won an extremely close race and ushered in two decades of Republican dominance in state government.

Australian style voting would, I think, have clearly helped the Democrats by getting rid of a poorly regarded governor.

A comment on campaigns today:

I'm more than a bit depressed when I read about contemporary political campaigns. Clinton was accused, I believe with some fairness, of practicing a perpetual campaign. This burns out staff quickly and leads to ill thought out debacles like the Clinton health care reform.

In the past few days there was also an article in WaPo about Grover Norquist. That man also seems obsessive -- and more than a little nuts. One indicator -- he claims to work 18 hour days. If he does, he's nuts.

I can respect people who commit themselves totally to a campaign for a few months. Although even then people should make allowances for normal human needs -- like sleep. Believe it or not, going full bore for even 3 or 4 months will take a real toll in your ability to actually achieve your goals.

I wonder how much the perpetual campaigns by obsessives are turning the broader public off to politics. Turnout in 2000 was low -- I suspect because campaigns are too much anymore about connecting to a base rather than reaching out to everyone. Doing the latter requires skills that over the top obsessives seem to lack.

Chuck Olsen ::: (view all by) ::: January 13, 2004, 10:04 PM:

On a lighter note, I visited Dean HQ to film interviews for "Blogumentary" and found them to be funny, dedicated, sociable and energetic folks. I put up a little video clip of one Dean staffer doing very amusing imitations of Clinton, Bush, Clark and Howard Dean:


Mary Kay ::: (view all by) ::: January 14, 2004, 03:12 AM:

I leave tomorrow for Des Moines to work on the Dean campaign there until the caucuses are over. I shall Report Back as whether the Deaniacs know how to party or not.


Anonymous ::: (view all by) ::: January 14, 2004, 01:59 PM:

My apologies, Patrick. I just really don't want what I'm saying to get tracked back to me. Yes, I did mean "the Dean staffers."