Have had a nice Thai meal, some nice red wine, and I am still irritated at James Carville, and in the mood for storytelling. But first some Sociology.
How is the Democratic Party actually organized? It is interesting to keep in mind that because the Constitution gives running elections to the states, but the judgment of the validity of an election certificate to the bodies of congress -- or the electorial college as counted by congress -- what we have is a system that requires political parties to be incorporated under state laws -- not federal law. Thus the Democratic Party is 50 incorporated bodies, that receive a franchise to use the title (or a variation there of, for instance the Minnesota Democratic Farmer-Labor Party), which then use bylaws and a constitution to construct the national party, The DNC or the Democratic National Committee, which actually is a committee made up of about 500 persons, selected by the state parties. The Governing Body is the state chairs, co-chairs (which must be of opposite gender) and delegates selected according to rules requiring some version of election, with the number based on population and a formula for performance in recent elections. It is this body which hires and fires the National Chair -- the seat Howard Dean currently occupies. The DNC can appoint a relatively small number of additional members from constitutant groups, for instance, we normally appoint Labor, Feminists, and Civil Rights delegates to the DNC.
Now to my knowledge Mr. Carville is not a delegate from Virginia (where he lives and votes), and he does not represent any constitutant group. He is, simply put, not part of the DNC and is irrelevant as to whom they should select as their National Chair. Nor has he participated in any deliberations of the committees or commissions of the DNC over the past two years where the program of the DNC was authorized.
Two years ago I spent a good deal of time on local blogs organizing meetings with our DNC delegates when Dean and his program were the core of the vote the DNC was about to take in the wake of the 2004 Election Disaster. This was not to be simply a mid-winter social gathering in DC -- it was serious business. We eventually got all our votes for Dean and his program. I was in a good position to argue for the program because in the 1980's while chairing Alan Cranston's campaign here, I had discovered how pathetic many of our state parties actually were. Many were literally bankrupt, the office supplies and machines (typewriters) had been taken for unpaid debt, and padlocks were on the door. The State Committees that had the franchise were held in one or another lawyer's file cabinet, (In Georgia it had been Bert Lance's for about 20 years), and the reason for this condition was frankly racism. The Southern States would not allow the release of the franchise to a newly elected Central Committee or Board, because it would be Black. They could do this because the parties were in bankruptcy, and whatever lawyer had the letterhead in his files was also the court appointed trustee.
When Dean took over the DNC -- this was the condition of about twelve of our State Parties. He actually had to find lawyers to go into court and get the parties out of this kind of "Trusteeship" before he could even begin to reorganize. In fact, one of the reasons some of the Field Organizers Dean appointed are on the staff of the DNC rather than state parties is because it avoids dealing with old trustees and old court judgments.
The really sad thing is that Democrats all around the country don't know about all this -- about how the party structure was sabotaged essentially over the matter of race over a long stretch of years. By not actually dealing with the matter -- and it should have been argued out and dealt with in at least the 1970's -- it has festered, and now we have this assumption by James Carville that he is the great white master, who can dictate the structure of the DNC, including which African American should head it as opposed to Dean, or whom ever else the properly constituted DNC should elect.
Yes, given what Dean has done, in 2008 the DNC will be still supporting state parties and field organizations that might elect a Congresscritter or two in the really red states, but may also progress in electing state legislators, county commissioners and all the rest. But he has also created the model for the "voter file" -- the microtargeting that the Republicans call their Voter Vault -- and it was rolled out in a number of states this year, and is ready for National roll out next year. Every state now has the technical ability to use it, access it, and apply it to all sorts of requirements. In 2004, using old fashioned methods, we came within two seats of controlling our State House. Using these new methods we picked up 19 seats, nearly a veto proof House. Of course it has maintence costs -- but it is worth it. Dean also introduced the idea of putting field offices in every Congressional District, not just in the State Capitol. Off years, the staff will do organization, election seasons they will coordinate all activity in each district. It is so simple minded it boggles the mind. But yes, it does mean that a Washington DC operative cannot actually control how local parties operate. And with Carville, that is the crux of the problem.
One essential difference between Democrats and Republicans, I think, is that we actually conduct elections for Party Chair. How Mehlman morphed to Steel and then on to Martinez, I don't really know, but I do know that kind of "top down" was not how Dean got his job. He got it because he understood that in many places the party was sick -- and he had a plan to bring it back to health.
According to reporting on KO, Hillary Clinton's office is saying they did not "sign off" on the Carville attack on Dean. As Keith said, that is a bit nuanced, and it needs follow up. The language of "sign off" bothers.
Indeed the ultimate question is whether local party organizations can select their own representatives or whether that power will be taken away from the state parties by the DSCC and the DCCC who substitute themselves (as elected officials) for the party organization or the DNC and what creates it. That is what is at stake.
The sad thing is that so many do not understand that now is the time to deal with this matter -- before the contest for nomination begins. Wait till you have a presidential candidate or a president, and that is too late. It has to be part of the early bargin.