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Saturday, December 20, 2003
More on Party Organization

By Steven Taylor @ 3:12 pm

To add to my post of yesterday on party organization: part of what I am getting at when speaking of voters and candidates, is that the “party” comes to be defined by their presidential candidate, not just in terms of media image, but in terms of actual organization and personnel. Once a candidate is chosen, they have control over who the party chair will be, and hence a great deal of control over the actual institutional party itself. Right now the establishment Democratic Party is represented by Terry McAuliffe, basically because the last Democratic president put him there. (Yes, Gore was the most recent candidate, but since he was running while a Dem was in office, he wasn’t afforded the control he otherwise would have had). So, for example, I would expect Dean to replace McAuliffe if (when) he wins the nomination.

Further, once Dean is clearly the nominee his “people” will be the face and structure of the national Democratic Party, since the Dean structure will really be the only national structure of note. Think back to 1992: that was when Stephanopoulos, Carville, Begala and company became “the” Democrats. A similar thing will happen with Dean (especially if he wins).

So, to liken Dean to a third party candidate running within the Democratic structure, as Erhlich did, misses fundamentally important elements of political parties.

In short: whoever wins the nomination by convincing enough rank-and-file Democratic voters to vote for him or her gets the chance to recast the Democratic (or, for that matter, Republican) Party in their image. This is what I meant when I called the parties malleable in my post yesterday.

Also noteworthy: Chris Lawrence joined into the conversation on this topic in response to my post and also has a good post on the whole Kaus-generated: what if Dean went third party meme.

Filed under: 2004 Campaign

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