The cover story of this weekend's Washington Post Magazine was a profile of DNC Chairman Howard Dean. It's a fascinating piece, and the latter section contains great personal details about Dean that most media profiles have completely ignored.
I think this exchange, which occurred with a group of students at Vanderbilt University in Tennessee, is most emblematic of what Dean hopes to achieve as DNC chair as well as what inspires many of us working with Democracy for Virginia:
Also, Democrats must contest races in all states, at all levels, in all years, not just presidential ones. "It is disrespectful not to come to Tennessee and Mississippi and Alabama as well as California and Michigan and Ohio . . . We need to come to Tennessee because what you could think of Democrats by watching [Republican] ads is all you're going to think of us unless we show up and make our case in person."
A young man stood up and asked what he could do to help the party, other than give money, which he didn't have. Dean bobbed on his feet, delighted with the question, because it allowed him to show off his best side -- the side that grew a presidential candidacy from a small Vermont operation with seven employees into a national campaign with 600,000 supporters.
"The number one thing you can do is run for office."
"I'm absolutely serious. I am not kidding."
The class grew quiet. Here was Dean as a Johnny Appleseed, sowing civics in the young. While Democrats have conceded parts of the country considered hostile, Republicans have left no office untested, he pointed out. The result is that Dems have no farm system, no ability to find young political talent in red states and groom it.
Run, he urged the students. Run for county road commissioner. Run for city council. "If you don't have people running for offices like county commissioner, who do you think is going to run for Congress a generation from now?
Dean has said that if you can't run for office yourself, the next best thing is to be a leader on someone else's campaign. Or be an occasional volunteer. Or give money. But just voting is the bare minimum of what is required in a democracy.
Democracy for Virginia is working to help train and support a new "farm team" of candidates and campaign leaders in Virginia. Over 100 grassroots activists were trained in May in Charlottesville. We've teamed up with Latinos for America, DC for Democracy, and Democracy for America to host another DFA Campaign Training, this time in Falls Church. Over 150 people have already signed up for this weekend's training. We hope you'll join us!