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Mr. Vice Chairman


Well, Donnie Fowler came back to town and Big Media, in the shape of the AP’s capable Beth Fouhy, took notice.
“Two Tech-Savvy Young Men Join Fray to Lead DNC,” reads the wire service headline on the story she wrote over the weekend about the tussle – now a real live honest-to-God campaign – to run the Democratic National Committee. Nothing you didn’t already know if you come by here regularly, of course.

Fouhy says Fowler and the other Democratic study in youth, Simon Rosenberg, head of the New Democratic Network, may end up duking it out with former presidential candidate Howard Dean. Unlikely. Rosenberg has lots of support from the on-line community and some of those featured in Matt Bai’s NYTimes magazine piece. But his reputation in the real world of Democratic Party politics is not one of universal respect and credibility. He and his staff at NDN are not well-liked.
The sheer number of candidates in this race – they come and go, like a T.S. Eliot poem – is an indication of just how unsettled things are with Democrats. So, one clear winner might not be at hand. Instead, look for a split chairmanship that tries to get the best of both worlds.
Dean will get the chairmanship so he can do the public rabble-rousing; he’s got the good sense to dislike most Big Media folks, he’s got an enormous following and he’s been doing interview where he’s both charming, self-deprecating and really, really funny. That’s what you need in a party chairman particularly when the party is in such trouble. That leaves Donnie – who is 37, not yet a name brand and probably willing to play second fiddleto a personality like Dean – to do nuts ‘n’ bolts. He seems to have been everywhere and having a Daddy who worked for Bill Clinton can’t hurt at this point. It puts Fowler in an comfortable position: He is a known quantity to the Corporate Democrats who backed Harold “Who Knew?” Ickes and who don’t want Dean. Or if they concede that Dean has some votes, they want some way to keep an eye on him.
Fowler is no fool. So he seems to be positioning himself for a joint chairmanship. His audience here in San Francisco Thursday asked – of course – about Dean.
“Howard Dean is fantastic,” Fowler said. “He has taught this party more about what it needs to do to change than anybody else in the past 18 months.” But, Fowler politely observed – he’s good at that, with the Southern accent and all – that while Democrats outside Washington are frustrated by the party’s leadership, he’s not sure they’re willing to vote Dean in as chairman. “They love Dean’s message. I don’t know if they’re going to accept the messenger.”
The rest of what Fowler said is pretty much in keeping with what you’ve read here. His frustration is palpable. His solutions obvious but intelligent.
“I may be young but I’m too old for this bullshit,” he said Thursday, neatly stealing a line he’d been handed the evening before in L.A. by a supporter. That wasn’t his first line – another good sign – it was deployed near the end of his talk. But the rest of what Fowler says about the party being held hostage to an “aristocracy of consultants,” about the Democratic Party leadership’s refusal to realize that the electorate has changed and about the party’s willingness to conceded strategy, points and arguments to the Republicans is persuasive and smartly packaged.
“The Democrat’s philosophy is to go back in to a corner and complain ‘It’s not fair.’” If ever there were a rebuke to the ideas of election and media reform, this is certainly it. And he followed up with a warning, one you’ve read here: California is easily in danger of leaving the Democratic Party.
“If we’re not careful, California is going to be a swing state ins 4, 6, 8 years,” he predicts. “If we turn California into a swing state, we’re done.”

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