I'm  Running  -  Howard Dean -  Chair of the DNC

As I have traveled across our country, I have talked to thousands of people who are working for change in their own communities about the power of politics to make a difference in their own lives and in the lives of others.  Every group I have spoken to, I encouraged them to stand up for what they believe and to get involved in the electoral process—because the only sure way to make difference is to step up and run for office yourself.

Today, I'm announcing my candidacy for the Chairmanship of the Democratic National Committee.

The Democratic Party needs a vibrant, forward-thinking, long-term presence in every single state and we must be willing to contest every race at every level. We will only win when we show up and fight for the issues important to all of us.

Another integral part of our strategy must be cultivating the party's grassroots. Our long term success depends on all of us taking an active role in our party and in the political process, by volunteering, going door to door and taking the Democratic message into every community, and by organizing at the local level. After all, new ideas and new leaders don't come from consultants; they come from communities.

As important as organization is, it alone can no longer win us elections. Offering a new choice means making Democrats the party of reform—reforming America's financial situation, reforming our electoral process, reforming health care, reforming education and putting morality back in our foreign policy. The Democratic Party will not win elections or build a lasting majority solely by changing its rhetoric, nor will we win by adopting the other side's positions. We must say what we mean—and mean real change when we say it.

But most of all, together, we have to rebuild the American community. We will never succeed by treating our nation as a collection of separate regions or separate groups. There are no red states or blues states, only American states. And we must talk to the people in all of these states as members of one community.

That word—'values'—has lately become a codeword for appeasement of the right-wing fringe. But when political calculations make us soften our opposition to bigotry, or sign on to policies that add to the burden of ordinary Americans, we have abandoned our true values.

We cannot let that happen. And we cannot just mouth the words. Our party must speak plainly and our agenda must clearly reflect the socially progressive, fiscally responsible values that bring our party—and the vast majority of Americans—together.

All of this will require both national perspective and local experience. I know what it's like to lead hands-on at the state level and I know what it's like to run for national office.

With your help, this past election season, Democracy for
America, already started creating the kind of organization the Democratic Party can be. This past election cycle, we endorsed over 100 candidates at all levels of government—from school board to U.S. Senate. We contributed almost a million dollars to nearly 750 candidates around the country and raised millions of dollars for many more candidates.

Together, we helped elect a Democratic governor in Montana, a Democratic mayor of Salt Lake County, Utah and an African American woman to the bench in Alabama. Fifteen of the candidates we endorsed had never run for office before—and won.

I also have experience building and managing a local party organization. My career started as Democratic Party chair in Chittenden County, Vermont. I then ran successful campaigns: for state legislature, lieutenant governor and then governor. In my 11-year tenure as governor, I balanced the state's budget every year.

I served as chair of both the National Governors' Association and the Democratic Governors' Association (DGA). And as chair of the DGA, I helped recruit nearly 20 governors that won—even in states like Alabama, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina and Mississippi.

All of these experiences have only reaffirmed what I know to be true. There is only one party that speaks to the hopes and dreams of all Americans. It is the party you have already given so much to. It is the Democratic Party.

We can win elections only by standing up for what we believe.  Thank you and I look forward to listening to your concerns in the weeks ahead

Citing Need for Party-Building, Dean to Seek DNC Post

By Dan Balz
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, January 12, 2005; Page A09

Former Vermont governor Howard Dean formally entered the race for chairman of the Democratic National Committee yesterday, putting his 2008 presidential ambitions on ice and plunging Democrats into a debate about how to rejuvenate a party that has steadily lost power in the past decade.

Dean was the front-runner for the 2004 Democratic presidential nomination until his campaign imploded in Iowa a year ago. He is both the most prominent candidate to succeed Terence R. McAuliffe and the one whose presence in the race creates the most controversy.

In a letter to DNC members and to his followers, Dean promised a reform-oriented  chairmanship with an emphasis on grass-roots organizing and party-building.

"The Democratic Party needs a vibrant, forward-thinking, long-term presence in every single state and we must be willing to contest every race at every level," he wrote. "We will only win when we show up and fight for the issues important to all of us."

Critics say his election next month would compromise the party's efforts to win voters in the South and in conservative areas of the Midwest, exposing Democrats to the charge that they are weak on defense and terrorism, and have been captured by their left wing.

The DNC race remains a jumbled contest, although Dean's entry gives the contest a focal point it lacked, with others jockeying to present themselves as the alternative to the former governor.

Former representative Martin Frost (Tex.), who lost his reelection bid in November in part because of the new Texas redistricting plan, is stressing his experience as chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and his red-state roots.

Former representative Timothy J. Roemer (Ind.), who was on the independent commission that investigated the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, has offered himself as a chairman who would be strong on defense and who would help overcome the values gap with the Republicans.

Former Denver mayor Wellington E. Webb; Simon Rosenberg, founder of the New Democrat Network; Donnie Fowler, a veteran party strategist; and David J. Leland, former Ohio Democratic Party chairman, complete the field of announced candidates. Among those supporting Rosenberg is Joe Trippi, who was Dean's campaign manager but had a falling-out with Dean after he left the campaign.

Dean said earlier he would become a candidate for the DNC post only if he were confident of winning the job. In an interview yesterday, he said, "We don't have a majority, but we're making very strong progress. . . . We do think we have some momentum."

He also ruled out using the DNC post as a steppingstone to a second presidential campaign, saying he would commit to serving four years if elected. Dean said no Democrat can win in 2008 unless state parties are rebuilt and the national party overcomes what he said is a Republican advantage on organizing and delivering a consistent message.

Some Democrats had hoped Dean, who made opposition to the Iraq war the centerpiece of his presidential campaign, would not become a candidate for the DNC post. They were outspoken yesterday in their criticism of his candidacy.

"I think Dean did a tremendous job in the primaries -- energizing people, making statements of principle -- and that he has a lot to contribute to the debate," said Dan Gerstein, former press secretary to Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman (D-Conn.). "That said, I think he would be a disastrous choice to head the party because of the image he projects on national security."

Dean, who was making calls and conducting interviews from what was labeled the "Kerry Suite" of a local hotel, dismissed that criticism, saying he is less liberal than critics suggest, particularly on fiscal issues. "The Democratic Party is a centrist party, and I'm in the center of the party," he said.

But he signaled no desire to shift the party to the right to do anything other than battle President Bush, saying the problem is not the Democrats' positions. "The problem is that the Republican propaganda machine is better than ours," he said.

Dean's is not the only candidacy to provoke debate and division within the party. Abortion rights supporters are riled by the recent entry of Roemer, who opposes abortion. Roemer, in an interview, said he would not try to change the party platform language on abortion, but said that Democrats should be "inclusive and tolerant" and reflect both sides of the abortion debate.

"The Republican Party, with [California Gov.] Arnold Schwarzenegger and [former New York mayor] Rudy Giuliani, reflects both views," he said.

Kate Michelman, former president of NARAL Pro-Choice America, said Roemer's election would threaten the party's commitment to abortion rights. She said she is weighing whether to run for the job and would, at a minimum, urge the DNC to restate its commitment to abortion rights. "The chair of the Democratic Party should be one whose record and views reflect the core values of the party, including for women's fundamental rights," she said.

Roemer said he was urged to run by Senate Minority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.). Spokesmen for both leaders said the two had encouraged Roemer but have not endorsed his candidacy.

© 2005 The Washington Post Company




Scrooge's nightmare

Despite Bush's election, the cranky old conservatives' days are numbered. The future belongs to middle-aged boomers and their kids, who embrace the tolerant values of the '60s.


By Leonard Steinhorn


Nov. 25, 2004   Cowed by exit polls showing that "moral values" motivated one in five American voters on Election Day, chastened journalists have begun to spin a new narrative about our national political culture: that "ordinary Americans" can be found only in

socially conservative red-state pews. "Ordinary people, the people in the red states" is how conservative media critic Bernard Goldberg puts it, and many in the press seem to be saying amen.


But once again the media have it wrong. Missing in this discussion is that most Americans -- even many Bush supporters -- would recoil and rebel if the evangelical right ever got its way and began to limit the personal freedoms most of us now take for granted.  All the claims about mandates and values notwithstanding, the very fact that one-fifth of voters cited moral values means that four-fifths didn't. In fact, we heard much the same talk about the rise of

conservative social values in the Reagan '80s, yet scholars who have studied attitudes in that period have found little evidence to suggest any reversal of the social liberalism that began in the '60s, particularly on issues involving family, women, morality, sexuality and overall tolerance. We must be careful not to confuse election results with cultural trends.


As survey after survey of contemporary social attitudes demonstrates, social conservatives no more represent the mainstream or the future than Prohibitionists did in the 1920s. If anything, it's the baby-boom sensibility spawned in the 1960s that has become mainstream in America

today. As conservative columnist George Will lamented a few years back, politics "seems peripheral to, and largely impotent against, cultural forces and institutions permeated with what conservatives consider the sixties sensibility."


How little the "moral values" voter represents the future is evident in surveys of today's youth, who may be the most inclusive, tolerant and socially liberal generation in our nation's history. From the media we hear all about the controversies of the so-called culture war, such as the occasional school superintendent who shuts down all school clubs to keep gay and straight high school students from forming "gay-straight"   clubs. But what we don't hear is that these clubs have quietly formed in about 2,800 schools nationwide. In fact, research on young people confirms that they have little patience for intolerance, that they have no problem accepting homosexuality, that most even support the right of gay people to marry.


Indeed, today's youth reject many of the social rigidities, prejudices and orthodoxies of old. As many as half of all teens say they've dated across racial or ethnic lines, including more than a third of white teens, and most of these are "serious" relationships. On race, homosexuality, premarital sex, gender roles, the environment and issues involving personal choice and freedom, younger Americans consistently fall on the liberal and more tolerant side of the spectrum.


If younger voters were the only ones with these attitudes, social conservatives might be able to lay claim to a "moral values" mandate for a very long time. But younger voters represent the mainstream much more than the initial exit polling would indicate. The illusion of a

predominant "moral values" voting bloc has much to do with the fact that the most traditional and socially conservative Americans, pre-baby boomers, are living much longer lives and voting in very large numbers -- skewing exit polls and thus our image of the mainstream. Once

younger voters begin to replace them, the socially conservative vote will return to the margins of American life.


There's a good reason why young people feel the way they do, and that's because their baby boomer parents overwhelmingly agree with them. So forget any talk of a generation gap between boomers and their children.  On a wide range of social and cultural issues, they are united in their attitudes of tolerance and inclusiveness. The only generation gap that remains is the same one that began in the '60s, between pre-boomers and the rest of us. What we have today is a pre-baby boom cohort that's steadfastly conservative, with the vast majority of everyone younger leaning the opposite way.


Take race, for example. Young whites who date across racial lines feel  comfortable doing so because their boomer parents say they have no problem with it. Yet for older white Americans, who in surveys continue to oppose the idea of a close relative marrying a black, interracial

dating remains a taboo. Should blacks push themselves where they're not wanted? Two-thirds of pre-boomers in one survey said no, a view rejected by a vast majority of everyone younger.


It's the same with the hot-button issue of gay and lesbian rights.  Pre-boomers are the only group that believes society should not  recognize homosexuality as an acceptable way of life, according to a 2002 poll by the Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement. Those who still oppose the idea of gay teachers may recall the glory days when Anita Bryant's antigay crusade to "Save Our Children" seemed to represent a broad national consensus, but today they are a minority.


So powerful is the new norm of tolerance and inclusiveness that more than 200 cities and counties now have laws protecting gays and lesbians from discrimination, and among Fortune 500 companies, 227 now offer domestic-partner benefits. Straight job seekers have been known to ask whether companies offer same-sex-partner benefits not because they're

secretly gay but because they prefer a company that promotes diversity and tolerance. Even in this supposedly conservative political year, exit polls found three in five voters supporting marriage or civil unions for gays.


Nor is it any different in the way we view the family: The socially conservative attitudes held by many evangelicals and older Americans are simply out of step with what most Americans believe.   According to my cohort analysis of surveys conducted by the University of Chicago's highly regarded National Opinion Research Center, large majorities of Americans born from 1943 onward strongly reject the traditional view that families and children suffer if Mom works full time or if Mom works and Dad takes care of the kids. When asked during the 1990s whether it was better for men to work and women to tend to the home, 60 percent of those born before 1943 said yes, while nearly three-fourths of those born afterward said no. Young and old are united in support of families, but from boomers on down it's equality in a family that is believed to make it strong.


Many conservatives, of course, continue to resist the realities of the modern family, arguing that working mothers don't really want to work but have been hoodwinked by liberal elites who want to impose their feminist views. But when women are asked if they would continue working even if they didn't need the money, as many as two-thirds say yes. And when NORC asked in 2002 whether "both the husband and wife should contribute to the household income," fewer than 10 percent said no. The egalitarian model -- not the Donna Reed stereotype of 1950s sitcoms -- represents mainstream America today.


This mainstream liberalism also reaches into the most intimate of decisions. On cohabitation and sex before marriage, few in the older group call it acceptable, while most in the younger cohorts seem unfazed. The younger groups tend to be more pro-choice than their elders. And while no one wants teenagers engaging in sexual activity, only the pre-boomer group would deny birth control to sexually active teens. Two-thirds of the younger cohort would support it.


Does all this mean that boomers and younger Americans reject the traditional family and all restraints on personal behavior? Of course not. They simply accept that people are different and have a right to make their own choices and lead their own lives, and that the moral

imperative is not to condemn those who are different but to include and support them. Diversity is not just a slogan -- it's a moral value for these generations.


Much has been made of the Roman Catholic hierarchy's opposition to John Kerry's pro-choice stance, and by inference the press has bought the stereotype of the socially conservative Catholic.  But again the stereotype misleads. Among boomer and younger Catholics, NORC finds, only 27 percent label themselves traditional, compared with 44 percent among pre-boomers. And religious liberals now exceed traditionalists in this younger cohort. Most Catholics now reject, if not resent, church dogma restricting social tolerance and personal freedom. Recent surveys by the New York Times and Newsweek show large majorities favoring married priests, female priests, gay adoptions and birth control.  And barely a third want abortion outlawed, no different from the proportion in the rest of America.


Nor are these mere attitudes. Most estimates suggest that Catholics obtain abortions at the same rate as other Americans, and despite the church's ban on divorce, the percentage of Catholics separated or divorced is right at the national average. Growing numbers of boomer

and younger Catholics also believe you can marry outside the church and still be a good Catholic, and about a third of younger Catholics do just that. If the church required adherence to its traditional teachings, one Jesuit writer observed, "I'm afraid we're going to have nobody taking Communion."  


What we see among Catholics is happening with Americans of all faiths.  Indeed, the traditionally religious American -- what the press has anointed the faith or moral values voter -- may well be in decline.   According to NORC's 2000 General Social Survey, only two in 10

Americans born from 1943 onward attend religious services once a week or more, while six in 10 attend infrequently -- at most a few times a year -- if at all. That's almost the opposite of older Americans, 55 percent of whom attend once a month or more and 36 percent of whom

attend once a week or more.   


In fact, the fastest-growing group of religious Americans are those who claim no religious identity at all; their number now almost equals the number of people who call themselves Baptists, according to the 2001 American Religious Identification Survey. These numbers track with findings by Independent Sector, a group that studies nonprofit trends, which show that the share of Americans giving their time to religious organizations declined from 28.6 percent in 1989 to 22.8 percent in 1998.   It's not that Americans aren't seeking spiritual guidance -- they are, and in large numbers. But they're finding it in nontraditional ways.  Much has been written about the number of baby boomers who have returned to the religious fold after the turbulence of the '60s and '70s, but as religious scholar Wade Clark Roof has reported in his various books on boomers and religion, many of them are "re-traditionalizing" their faith, elevating individual worship over deference to authority and embracing modern values over outmoded rules.


This yearning for spirituality over religiosity can be seen in the estimated 20 percent of Americans who show interest in New Age ideas, and in the 20 million who take yoga classes, which approaches the number of boomers and younger adults who attend church at least once a week. A generation ago, most Americans believed in moral absolutes, biblical truth and the authority of their religious leaders, but today, the vast majority say that religious morality is a personal matter. And the trend is increasingly in that direction; only the social conservatives think otherwise.


Nervous Democrats who counsel their party to offer a me-too religious moralism fail to grasp that mainstream morality has changed over the last generation. What's different is that most Americans no longer feel comfortable imposing their personal morality on another's private

behavior. But that doesn't mean this new majority is any less moral.  For baby boomers and younger people, there's nothing equivocal about their views of right and wrong. These Americans condemn bigotry, intolerance and discrimination. They reject constraints on personal freedom and don't like it when women are not treated as equals. They find pollution objectionable and see nothing moral in imposing religious beliefs on others. They believe a moral upbringing is teaching kids to think for themselves, not to follow another's rules.


What they embrace are pluralism, privacy, freedom of choice, diversity and respect for people with different traditions. Perhaps the only thing missing from this new morality is a politician capable of articulating it.


Why isn't this new mainstream more vocal in our politics today? To borrow a phrase from Richard Nixon, they've become a new "silent majority" -- not the socially conservative silent majority of old, but a silent majority that's fairly content with the new morality and unwilling to believe that America will turn back the clock on their rights and freedoms.


Yet if anyone crosses this silent majority, by passing laws to restrict personal freedoms, they will be silent no more. When the trustees at James Madison University in rural Virginia voted to ban the morning-after pill from the student health center in 2003, the largely conservative student body rose up within 36 hours and demanded change.


Consider that a microcosm of what would happen nationwide.  And why do social conservatives loom so large in our politics today?  The best historical parallel for them may be the Luddites who terrorized Britain two centuries ago, the workers who traveled around the country smashing machines for fear that the Industrial Revolution would destroy their jobs and way of life. They were loud, and their tenacity gave the impression that they represented more Britons than they actually did, when in fact they were merely acting out their despair and outrage at a world that was passing them by. Today's social conservatives are our cultural Luddites.



In the aftermath of the 2004 election, religious and social conservatives have begun to demand their spoils and due. Evangelical leader Bob Jones III, head of the eponymous Bob Jones University in South Carolina that until 2000 banned interracial dating, has called upon President Bush to appoint conservative judges and pass legislation "defined by biblical norm." Pro-choice Republicans like Sen. Arlen Specter have been threatened with loss of power if they refuse to rubber-stamp anti-Roe judges. The president himself has said he's ready to spend his "political capital" to enact his moral values.


It was a gleeful Karl Rove who let the evangelical genie out of the bottle to win this election, but what worked this year may come back to haunt the GOP in the decades to come. For as much as Rove needed these religious voters to get his guy over the top, let us not forget that

the primary reason President Bush won is that he quite successfully turned the election into a referendum on leadership qualities for the war on terror, and in the process subsumed all other issues.


Perhaps Rove should have sat in on my undergraduate course on this year's presidential campaign, which I've been teaching this fall at American University in Washington. About two weeks before the election, I asked the students, "Would you be more or less likely to support

George W. Bush if you knew he would appoint Supreme Court justices who would erode the right to an abortion, the right to sexual privacy, gay rights, church-state separation, federal environmental regulation, family leave laws, and both affirmative action and diversity programs?"


And before I let them answer, I added that these were not mere abstractions, that Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas had both voted or vowed to erode these rights and protections, and that these were the two justices Bush has cited as his model nominees.


Predictably, the Kerry partisans shuddered at the idea of a Supreme Court stacked with Bush appointees. But more interesting was the reaction from the Bush supporters. With clear discomfort, most wanted to wish the question away, saying they don't vote on hypotheticals, and anyway, they couldn't imagine the Court reversing such settled law. But when I pressed them and asked them to take the president and his favorite justices at their word, one finally conceded that his perspective was based on "wishful thinking."


The "wishful thinking" student intrigued me most because he was a hard-nosed thinker, a strong Bush supporter from the heartland, and he spent much of the semester critiquing the Kerry supporters for "wishful thinking" about terrorism, saying that we needed to stand tough against Islamic fascists regardless of what the rest of the world says. So after the election I asked him about his "wishful thinking" on the Supreme Court, and after a few moments of cognitive dissonance, he admitted that a rightward Court that overruled Roe vs. Wade and other rights might eventually force him to rethink his political loyalties.


So be careful what you wish for, Mr. Rove. The moment the courts start reversing our personal freedoms -- or the religious right overreaches and tries to impose its will -- millions of Americans who voted for President Bush might regret their decision to let wishful thinking

uide their choice back in 2004.  The new silent majority will rise again.



About the writer  Leonard Steinhorn teaches politics and media at American University and is the author of the forthcoming book "The Greater Generation: In Defense of the Baby Boom Legacy," to be published by St. Martin's Press in 2005.  Read more Salon stories about the baby boom generation.


It's the incompetence, stupid


Forget MoveOn and ACT -- the real downfall of the Democrats was the Kerry campaign itself. A volunteer speaks out.  By James Verini


Dec. 16, 2004    In his Dec. 15 Salon article, "The Revolution Failed -- for Now," Farhad Manjoo spotlights the "lack of coordination" between the Kerry campaign and the celebrated liberal third-party groups, MoveOn.org and America Coming Together. Lack of coordination? Let me tell you about the disorder and complacency inside the Kerry-Edwards campaign itself. Look no further for why Democrats lost the election.


I put in 300 volunteer hours in the campaign, making phone calls and knocking on doors in tightly contested swing states in the Southwest, both of which Bush took, and in a Los Angeles call center that aided the state campaigns in Ohio, Florida and Iowa. In an attempt to recruit Democratic volunteers, I made hundreds of phone calls; all but a handful of people claimed to be too busy to do even a few hours work for Kerry. This, despite many of them admitting to being scared as hell for the future of our country (not to mention that they were answering their home phones at, say, 2 p.m. on a Wednesday).


Most of the Kerry supporters I met on the campaign trail, meanwhile, were really just Bush-haters. The lack of knowledge or even curiosity about Kerry, his career and his proposals, was astonishing. Almost no one working alongside me had the slightest inkling of Kerry's policy initiatives (clearly laid out on his Web site). No one knew what he'd done in the Senate. Many volunteers, even some paid staffers, didn't know how long he'd been a senator. In the Bush offices I visited, posters of the president and vice president were plastered all over the walls, as were posters of Ronald Reagan (strangely, or maybe not so strangely, in one office the Reagan posters outnumbered the Bush posters). But in the four Kerry-Edwards offices there was not so much as a snapshot of either man on public display.


The one thing everyone did know? Kerry was not Bush. For most, that was enough.


In the big Southwestern city operation where I spent the most time, a city that was the main population center of its state, and where Kerry's future would hinge on making direct contact with a few thousand urban and suburban swing voters, the campaign was haphazard and impotent. While the operations and press staff sat at their computers, tracking metrics and trying to spin reporters, no one seemed to want to take responsibility for the hundreds of callers and door-to-door canvassers who, like myself, were actually talking to those crucial voters.


The precinct captains, whose job it was to decide which precincts to target, and to divvy those precincts up and shuttle canvassers to them, were for the most part poorly paid kids in their early 20s, just out of high school or still in college. They, too, seemed to have only the vaguest idea of who Kerry was or why they working for him, outside of a nameless dread of the future. They were committed but left largely unguided and, it appeared to me, uninspired by their superiors, and they had none of the unshakable confidence I saw among the Bush team.

The result was that they goofed off a lot. And who could blame them? After spending half the night putting together address lists, they were met the next morning by bands of mostly untrained, uninformed canvassers.


No one bothered to brief the ground troops on how to be persuasive or to even get sufficient fact-sheets into their hands. And they didn't take it upon themselves to get educated. I routinely toured neighborhoods with canvassers who were struck dumb when a door opened and an undecided voter asked for specifics.


"But what does Kerry want to do about unemployment, exactly?"  "Um, ah, um..."


"How many people have lost their jobs in the last four years?"  "Ah, um, oh..."


Of course, there were answers to those questions. Kerry proposed tax credits for new jobs created by manufacturers. He wanted to introduce Buy American guidelines in the defense industry and penalize American companies outsourcing jobs overseas. Bush oversaw the loss of about 1.2 million private-sector jobs and allowed 4 million Americans to descend below the poverty line. These facts, which took about two minutes to find out, had the power to sway undecided voters -- I know, because I swayed many with them.


Perplexed, I approached a volunteer coordinator and expressed my concern. The party doesn't have the time or money to train callers or canvassers, is what I was told. But this clearly wasn't true. This particular office was awash in paid staffers who seemed to have nothing to do.


The problem was just as bad in the phone banks. It's over the phone that a campaign finds wings, it's where you begin polling undecided voters who will later be deluged by "persuasion" calls, mailings and front-door visits. Only weeks before the elections, the state campaign in Ohio, for example, had not finished the task of identifying where potential support lay. Worse, the persuasion callers were, like the canvassers, often clueless. I spent many hours next to men and women whose idea of an appeal was a factually questionable five-minute harangue about Bush's "oil-garchy" or Dick Cheney's stock portfolio. Kerry was rarely mentioned.


Meanwhile, "constituency outreach" didn't seem to be designed to exploit Kerry's advantages. Democrats have traditionally relied on organized labor for the base of their volunteer efforts, and this year was no different. But in a country where unions are becoming increasingly irrelevant -- less than 10 percent of the private sector workforce is any longer unionized -- this seems a losing strategy.


Despite all signs pointing to a massive left-leaning youth turnout, the campaign's presence at the three major Southwestern state universities I visited was nil. Perhaps the Kerry people figured that the 18-24 vote was in the bag. But you should never rely on such assumptions, as the Democrats' increasingly poor showings among minority voters showed. At one major state school, a few volunteers and I were hastily enlisted to counter a Bush rally. While the Republicans had arrived early and set up tents on a lawn and attracted crowds with hot dogs and carnival games -- Toss a cream pie at Kerry! -- we taped Kerry signs to a folding table and handed out lapel stickers.




At the University of New Mexico, I went to help fill out the crowd at a Chris Heinz rally on a grassy knoll by the dorms. Heinz was a popular "surrogate" on the campaign, crisscrossing the country to plug his stepfather. (He was especially popular among young women; his nickname among them in one of the offices was "Crazy Hot Chris Heinz.") But little advance work had been done and at a school with almost 25,000 students, about 50 people showed up to hear him speak. The whole thing was nearly upstaged when a group of undergraduates, carrying a Bush banner and smacking flip-flops, came and protested.


While certain offices seemed to have more resources and people than they knew what to do with, other crucial areas were inexplicably undercut. In Las Cruces, N.M., one of largest cities in the state and a key to Kerry's chances there (he ended up losing New Mexico by a superable 6,000 votes), there was only a skeleton crew, and key staff were arriving just weeks before the election.


The Bush campaign was far better choreographed. First in Ohio and then in other swing states, Karl Rove and Ken Mehlman raised a highly organized, direct-marketing-style ground army, much of it volunteer, with strict accountability and clearly defined tiers right down to the people getting coffee. Rather than bring in precinct captains, they endeavored to find natives with ties to the community. They did it in large part by studying Al Gore's 2000 campaign.


Still, the Kerry staffers I spoke with -- from the operations chiefs to the press crew to the precinct captains -- were possessed of a kind of wishful confidence, based not on any particular allegiance to the senator but on what E.M. Forster would have called panic and emptiness. No one could imagine a Bush win. The prospect was unthinkable. How could America reelect him? It couldn't. So it would elect Kerry. It must. Such went the tortured logic.


"It's going to be a landslide!" people said. I'd ask why and be met with a well-worn refrain about unprecedented numbers of voters and slipping approval ratings in Iraq.


"Why do you think he's going to win?" I asked a staffer with whom I shared a hotel room. To this day I have no idea what his job was.   "Bush's numbers are terrible," he said.


This may have been true, but the Bush campaign seemed suffused with an unflappable drive and couldn't have cared less about their candidate's numbers or, for that matter, policy record. Theirs was a "faith-based" campaign in more ways than one.


Probably the best characterization of the Democrats' bungling came from the only truly dedicated precinct captain I worked with. (He spent his downtime in the phone banks or going door-to-door.) At a Bill Clinton rally just days before the election, we had been waiting nearly two hours and the Comeback Kid still hadn't shown up. There were interminable pauses during which no one came to the podium. Soft jazz crackled out of the speakers. The crowd was tired and antsy.


"I don't think you'd see the Republicans doing this," I said. The precinct leader shook his head in disgust and laughed the laugh of the damned. "Evil or incompetence -- those are your choices," he said.