Monday, April 04, 2005

Ghost of Charisma Past*

Bill Bradley's recent op-ed in the NYT is worth reading. He says that Democrats have it exectly wrong; that we look for a charismatic leader and pin everything on that hero:
A party based on charisma has no long-term impact. Think of our last charismatic leader, Bill Clinton. He was president for eight years. He was the first Democrat to be re-elected since Franklin Roosevelt. He was smart, skilled and possessed great energy. But what happened? At the end of his tenure in the most powerful office in the world, there were fewer Democratic governors, fewer Democratic senators, members of Congress and state legislators and a national party that was deep in debt. The president did well. The party did not. Charisma didn't translate into structure.
Instead, Bradley counsels that Democrats should focus on building the Party, policies, think tanks, fund raising and strategies to support political candidates before campaign season begins:
There is no clearly identifiable funding base for Democratic policy organizations, and in the frantic campaign rush there is no time for patient, long-term development of new ideas or of new ways to sell old ideas. Campaigns don't start thinking about a Democratic brand until halfway through the election year, by which time winning the daily news cycle takes precedence over building a consistent message. The closest that Democrats get to a brand is a catchy slogan.
Thanks to
Beverly at Blog for Delaware for highlighting this piece.
*This headline was first used in Esquire magazine in 1973 for a piece on who might pick up the Kennedy mantle of leadership--a story that mentioned John Kerry as among the contenders.

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