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Interview With Jim Dean of Democracy for America

Interview With Jim Dean of Democracy for America

By Matt Renner
t r u t h o u t | Report

"Democracy is not a spectator sport and politics is too important to be left up to the professionals."
-Jim Dean

In our interview, Jim Dean, chair of Democracy for America (DFA), shared his thoughts about the Democratic primary election, the strategies of past Democratic campaigns and the rise of a new locally based progressive movement.

DFA formed after Jim Dean's brother, former Gov. Howard Dean, failed to become the Democratic nominee for president in 2004.

According to their web site, DFA works on the local level to build a progressive infrastructure by training candidates for office, coordinating a network of grassroots activists and helping to connect Internet activists with various campaigns across the country.

The group recently backed Donna Edwards in her primary contest against incumbent Maryland Congressman Al Wynn. Wynn was targeted by progressive groups because he voted with the Bush administration on sensitive issues like the invasion of Iraq, energy policies and the 2005 bankruptcy bill. Edwards defeated the eight-term incumbent and will most likely be elected to represent Maryland's heavily Democratic Fourth District in November.

Right now DFA is encouraging its members to contact Congress and voice their opinions on the controversial attempt to give retroactive immunity to companies who may have broken laws by cooperating with the Bush administration in various surveillance programs.

On Saturday, March 1, I met up with Dean on the University of California Berkeley campus where he and DFA Executive Director Arshad Hasan were hosting a "Training Academy," a two day workshop for citizens who are interested in running for office or working on political campaigns at the local, state and national levels. Roughly 50 participants filled four classrooms, where they were given handbooks and were walked through the finer points of political organizing.

When combined with the funding from the national party, these activists are the manifestation of the so-called "50-state strategy," an effort spearheaded by Democratic National Committee (DNC) Chairman Howard Dean to create a more localized Democratic Party. Dean has been quick to point out DFA is not affiliated with the DNC, but it is clear they are working along parallel lines.

Critics have called the 50-state strategy a waste of money because it spreads resources out across the country instead of targeting specific "swing states" where Democrats would be more likely to win in the short term.

For more information on DFA visit their web site: For more information on DFA visit their web site:


Matt Renner is an assistant editor and Washington reporter for Truthout.

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