Sunday, January 30, 2005

With Apologies to Martin Frost

I've written two posts recently on the DNC Chair election that focused on Martin Frost. The posts were written in large part out of a reaction toward his statements, and those made on his behalf, regarding his belief that Howard Dean would be a bad choice for DNC chair for the Party. My anger here was not directed so much at this opinion, as it was toward the way this opinion was made: through behind the scenes meetings and spokesman, and by spreading false fears and personal attacks directed toward Dean. I've seen this personal attack style before in Iowa, and find it really repulsive. To me, attacking someone by trying to invoke fear of their success is a GOP tactic. It also seems to me to be an attack on the grassroots and Blogosphere that arose out of Dean's campaign, and further through DFA.

I started the first post with this sentiment:
You know, I'm getting really fed up with these status quo Democrats always trying to bring Dean down by spreading fear and rumor behind the scenes. That's a GOP tactic, and shows cowardice in my book. If you want to go after Dean, show some spine and do it publicly.
Rather than staying on topic at this point, I went off on Frost's representative speaking on his behalf. In hindsight I'm not sure this was the right approach to make my argument, as in the end it turned out as though I was strictly going after Frost. In fact, the rant was directed toward all the status quo Democrats who, just as in Iowa, were sniping at Dean behinds the scenes and spreading fear of doom for the Party should Dean win the DNC Chair. If they could have found a McGovern annology to use in the DNC Chair race, I'm sure they would have used it rather than taking on Dean's positions directly. The title "The Cowardly Democrat" was too specific, and should have been plural, but instead I focused on the material at hand, which happened to be from the Frost camp.

In my second post, I took issue specifically with the claim that Frost stood up to DeLay by running for re-election rather than retiring. I still stand by the basic premise that running for re-election when one is already and incumbent is something anyone should do. But my use of Chet Edwards as a comparison to prove a point came across looking as though I was trying to compare Frost to Edwards directly. To clarify, I was trying to show that others in Frost's situation had also been redistricted, had also been targeted by the GOP, and also had the GOP noise machine working against them. In this post I even noted Frost's greater difficulties:
I'm sure Frost had the harder to the two roads here. I'm sure he was the victim of political dirty tricks that may yet still be ruled illegal. I'm sure what happened to him was a travesty and removed from congress a Democrat with an excellent voting record for our side.
My point was not that Frost should have run as Edwards did. In many ways he did. My point was that Frost was not alone in this situation. Others faced similar conditions and also ran for re-election. Edwards won.

Bubba at Southpaw has some excellent background on Edwards' race, and points to his use of similar tactics Frost used to cozy up to Bush to be more palatable to conservative Texas voters. To quote Bubba:
First, it should be noted Chet Edwards ran a similar campaign to Frost (as did Max Sandlin, who lost): 1) They each painted themselves able to work across party lines; 2) They both noted their independent streaks; 3) They depicted their opponents as far right extremists. And finally they both noted issues on which they supported Bush.

Edwards's commercials stated, "Chet Edwards is a respected national leader on Homeland Security who has strongly supported President Bush's war on terrorism" and "Chet Edwards voted with President Bush on his education bill and to end the marriage penalty and death tax" and "Arlene Wohlgemuth stated she would slash the budget President Bush wanted for veterans by over a billion dollars." I can quote more examples of Edwards supporting Bush, if needed. As Frost said in the BOR interview, lots of Democrats have supported Bush on particular issues, talked up that bipartisanship, and still worked hard for the Democratic, including Dean himself.
But here is where I will again try to clarify the difference. Disappointingly, Edwards used the GOP frames just as Frost did, and ran as a conservative Democrat who was bi-partisan and supported Bush on certain issues. But Edwards is not running for the DNC Chair. Edwards' representatives are not touting his campaign as a model for a fifty state strategy. Edwards is not spreading doom and gloom about a Dean DNC Chairmanship. Frost is.

So I find myself writing this because, as Jason Goojar writes at MyDD, we have to find some way to heal the divides in our own party. One of these divides that resonates with me is the feelings left over from Iowa due to the opposition of the status quo from within our own party. Many in the Blogosphere, myself included, feel this was an not just an attack on Dean, but an attack on those in the grassroots. The feeling that the status quo was more interested in Iowa in keeping the party status quo, than supporting Dean, a man who would have truly shook things up in the party still remain. The feelings are being played out again as if elected DNC Chair, Dean stands for reformation of the party and a change the power structure.

Does this mean that Dean is the savior and Frost the devil? Hardly. But often these feeling surface in ways that make partisan blogs even more partisan with regard to inter-party loyalties. For all the candidates there is baggage. In my mind, Frost's campaign for re-election crossed lines that I feel will hurt the party at a fundamental level should he lead it. His concern voiced about being attacked by anonymous emails regarding completely authored blog posts shows his lack of understanding of the Blogosphere and the huge advantages for participation presented by it. I've also written about the pitfalls Dean may present. By now all the candidates have baggage the GOP could use against anyone of them.

For me, it comes down to a true desire for reform of the Party structure from the bottom up. Frost does not represent that to me based on his statements and those of people in Texas who know the man's history better than I do.

But regardless of my feelings for Frost as Chair, the reason for this post is that I regret that my writing may be seen as the same type of attack on Frost that I am accusing him of doing to Dean. For this I offer an apology. As I noted in my second post, Frost does have an excellent voting record in congress, standing up for traditional democratic values. His touting in his latest campaign ads that he "broke ranks" and was proud to stand with Bush trouble me deeply and disqualify him in my mind for the leadership of the party. But they should be taken with the perspective provided by Bubba, and not used to disqualify the man in the future. As a future senator from Texas, he might be again an asset within congress for our side again.

The divides within the party are great. Losing breeds division. All the more reason in my mind to try a new direction. This will not be easy. I feel who ever wins there will be resentment. The question is, will the next DNC chair be able to hold the party together in the way Bush has done for us up until now.