When Dean took over the D.N.C. last year, he sent assessment teams, made up of veteran field organizers and former state party officials, to every state. A typical assessment report on one rural state — I was allowed to see the report only on the condition that I not name the state involved — bluntly stated that its local activists were “aging” and that its central committee was “dysfunctional.” In most states, there were hardly any county or precinct organizations to speak of. More than half the states lacked any communications staff, meaning that no one was there to counter the Republican talking points that passed from Washington to the state parties to the local media with a kind of automated precision.E&P Summary article. Extremely interesting article even with giving the critics their say. Read about Dean and the "Colored Girls" to see how Dean gets it and the critics don't.
For the Democrats, winning presidential elections came to mean doing so without any help from the South or West, and that, in turn, meant cobbling together a relatively small number of so-called battleground states rather than running a truly national campaign. The D.N.C. quit doing much of anything in conservative rural states, and the party’s presidential candidates didn’t bother stopping by on their way to more promising terrain. Every four years, the national party became obsessed with “targeting” — that is, focusing all its efforts on 15 or 20 winnable urban states and pounding them with expensive TV ads. The D.N.C.’s defining purpose was to raise the money for those ads. The national party became, essentially, a service organization for a few hundred wealthy donors, who treated it like their private political club.
None of this was much on Howard Dean’s mind when he set about running for president in 2003 with drab notions of health-care reform and a balanced budget; by the time he made his infamous “scream” speech in Des Moines a year later, however, Dean had become a folk hero for marginalized liberals. How this happened has been largely misunderstood. Dean has been credited with inciting an Internet-driven rebellion against his own party, but, in fact, he was more the accidental vehicle of a movement that was already emerging. The rise of Moveon.org, blogs and “meet-ups” was powered to some extent by the young, tech-savvy activists on both coasts who were so closely associated in the public mind with Dean’s campaign. But the fast-growing Internet community was also a phenomenon of liberal enclaves in more conservative states, where disenchanted Democrats, mostly baby boomers, had long felt outnumbered and abandoned. Meet-ups for Dean drew overflow crowds in Austin, Tex., and Birmingham, Ala.; what the Web did was to connect disparate groups of Democratic voters who didn’t live in targeted states and who had watched helplessly as Republicans overran their communities. These Democrats opposed the war in Iraq, but they were also against a party that seemed to care more about big donors and swing states than it did about them. Attracted to Dean’s fiery defiance of the Washington establishment, these voters adopted him as their cause before he had ever heard of a blog.