The Fifty State Strategy

Ed Kilgore:

In a small but significant development that virtually no one would notice without the blogosphere, Chris Bowers is drawing attention to impending layoffs by the Democratic National Committee of 200 state-embedded field operatives. These operatives are the beating heart of Howard Dean’s famous 50-state-strategy. You can read Chris’ post yourself, but it seems the DNC assumed all along that the field staff would be terminated immediately after the election. And ironically, Chris’ contact at the DNC hastened to reassure him that they were trying to get the embeds jobs in Washington, as though the whole program were nothing more than a DC internship network.

That’s a distressing throwback to the past habit of thinking of state party organizations as nothing more than adjuncts to campaign organizations. Anyone who’s worked with state parties over the years, especially in smaller and/or “red” states, probably shares my impression that they were largely either completely moribund, or served as dumping-grounds for incompetent castoffs from specific campaigns or even from state governments. The idea of the 50-state-strategy, or so I thought, was to encourage steadier year-in-year-out state party infrastructures, staffed by professionals with a particular expertise in field organizing. You’d think this program should have represented a small down payment on a bigger investment in state parties, not a temporary experiment to be terminated the minute the votes were counted in this particular cycle.

Now, I obviously don’t know what’s going on here, so I’m going to avoid making any specific contentions about the DNC’s plans. But, that said, I very much doubt that Obama, who won the election (and especially the primary) largely on the back of his incredible, widespread organization and efforts on the ground in states like Iowa and Kansas is going to just come in, shut down the 50 state strategy, and go back to the 1996-2004 business model. So my guess is that there’s some sort of restructuring planned.