July 29, 2004
If the party leaders had had their way, not only would Obama not have been delivering the keynote address at the convention, he wouldn't be the party's candidate for U.S. Senate at all. Plan A was to hand the nomination to Blair Hull, a millionaire who could have self-financed the race. That's a recruiting tactic the party's increasingly relied on since the early 1990s; as we saw last night, it can deprive the country of some of the most dynamic and committed public servants out there in exchange for bland nonentities like Herb Kohl. Money matters in politics and I wouldn't suggest the Democrats try to ignroe [sic] it, but this just brings home the need to expand the sort of fundraising success Howard Dean and John Kerry have had at the presidential level further down the ballot.Thinking about the Daily Kos' dKos 8, it seems like the effort is there. I don't know if any of the 8 were written off or challenged by the national party, but I believe the criteria for selection included that they were enthusiastically supported by the grass roots. Visitors to the site have raised several hundred thousand dollars - not much more than a drop in something like a U.S. Senate race, but they're getting hundreds of new donors.
The point is that voters get engaged early and send the party a message to ensure they get the candidate they want. Problem is, it's hard to get people to care about general elections, let alone the period well before a primary. And once the main force focusing people's attention on politics goes away - W - it may be hard to sustain the grassroots netactivism that has sprung up in the past few years. The national party might default to self-financers in the "lean" years when interest is down.