The campaign for state Democratic Party chairman is really too inside politics for me… I’ve never fully understood what the party does, let alone it’s chair. But in case you’re curious, a party insider tells me “the fix is in” and the powers that be have already settled on Dwight Pelz.
I wasn’t about to endorse a candidate because a) I don’t feel particularly qualified to weigh in on the matter, b) I don’t want to back the wrong horse, miffing the eventual winner, and c) my endorsements aren’t worth shit.
However, I do want something from the new chair: innovation and access. Paul Berendt and the Dems did a great job fighting the legal battle in last year’s election contest, but they and the Gregoire campaign/administration did an absolutely disastrous job fighting the PR war. This time last year I was often beside myself with frustration at the lack of cooperation (and effort) coming from the party and the campaign, as they got their asses kicked by the relentless media war launched by the BIAW and the Republicans through paid media, talk radio, the right-wing blogs, and the rest of their media infrastructure. To this day, I’d bet a majority of WA voters still wrongly believe that Dino Rossi really won the election.
Why is Gov. Gregoire’s approval rating still languishing in the mid-forty’s instead of pushing toward sixty where it belongs? You need only read the headlines from last December to learn the answer. That Gov. Gregoire’s first year in office has been remarkably successful means little to those voters who still question her legitimacy.
Last January, after snagging a free ticket to the inauguration, I finally got a chance to confront a top Dem communications staffer, and used the opportunity to plead with them to find some money to spend on radio ads and direct mail to combat the GOP misinformation campaign. The response? The staffer turned towards the surrounding throng and incredulously asked, “Is he telling me how to do my job?”
Yes I was. I’m a blogger. That’s what we do.
Things have gotten a helluva lot better since then. Last year I couldn’t even get on the party’s press list; this year, I not only get press releases, but prompt responses when I follow up with a question or comment. Staffers are now even asking us bloggers for advice on how to exploit this new media to their advantage. But I’m not sure any of this new found respect is coming from the top.
What I want from the new chair is the understanding that the party’s success depends at least as much on communications as it does on money and lawyers, and that the media doesn’t quite work the same way it used to. I want a chair who embraces innovation, and who is able to see beyond the next election towards the media and political landscape of a decade from now. I want a chair who will support the efforts by the current communications staff as they explore new media ventures.
But mostly, I want a party chair who is willing to at least listen to bloggers like me tell him how to do his job, without incredulously dismissing us out of hand.