- The Washington Times - Sunday, December 12, 2004

Coming clean

Facing a mutiny by party progressives and activists, and preparing to elect a new party chairman in two months’ time, the Democratic National Committee (DNC) is trying to put its best face forward after arguably four years of failure.

“Under chairman Terry McAuliffe‘sleadership, the DNC has spent the past four years making the power of grass-roots activism a top priority,” says the DNC, adding that the Democratic Party has never been so strong.

Yes, only one Democrat has made it to the White House since Jimmy Carter, but there has been a “remarkable” increase in donations, the small donor base expanded sevenfold, from 400,000 in 2000 to 2.7 million in 2004; the party has invested $80 million in grass-roots field organizing in 2004, 166 percent more than in 2000; and mobilized 233,000 volunteers in 2004, knocking on 11 million doors, and making 38 million volunteer phone calls.

None of which is terribly relevant if you can’t win (besides not capturing the White House, Democrats lost seats in both the House and Senate in November), Democratic strategist James Carville noted last month. He says to win again the party has “to be born again.”

“We can deny this crap, but I’m out of the denial. I’m about reality here,” Mr. Carville said. “We are an opposition party, and as of right now, not a particularly effective one.”

“We can’t be the pussycat opposition,” agrees former Michigan Gov. Jim Blanchard, who huddled just this past weekend with top Democrats in Florida. “We’ve got to be the hard-hitting loyal opposition.”

In February, some 450 party committee members will choose a successor to Mr. McAuliffe, who was all but handpicked by former President Bill Clinton and Hillary Rodham Clinton after he personally bailed the embattled couple out of their financial woes.

Among the possible replacements: former VermontGov. Howard Dean, former DenverMayor Wellington Webb, recently defeated Texas Rep. Martin Frost, former Clinton adviser Harold Ickes, New Democrat Network founder Simon Rosenberg and presidential campaign guru Donnie Fowler.

War couch

Hats off to the former John Kerry campaign staffer (or so he claims) who created the hilarious Web site, unemployedkerrystaffer.com.

Here’s the site’s latest “pool report”: “At 7:15 this morning your pooler, dressed in blue pajamas, called roll for the new war room in the living room. Attendance was sparse. Attendance was zero. Your pooler called roll again at 10. Attendance was slightly improved. Our numbers now sit at one.

“Your pooler is ready to rapidly respond to emails/phone calls. So far, this has not been an issue. At all. Pooler begins to think that this war room gig is going to be about as interesting as some of the other war rooms pooler has been around. Pooler panics at thought of boring readers that much. Pooler resolves to get better material by afternoon. For your sake and mine …

“And I will be enlisting other unemployed people to help me out. Everybody knows a war room definitely isn’t a war room without people … . We will be efficient, if not productive. We will sit on the war couch, in the war living room, and we will claw our way back to paychecks.”

Brothers behind bars

The “alarming overrepresentation” of black men in the U.S. penal system concerns Rep. Charles B. Rangel, outspoken New York Democrat and member of the Congressional Black Caucus.

The congressman from Harlem notes that two-thirds of the U.S. prison population is made up of racial and ethnic minorities — and for black men in their 20s “one in every eight is in prison or jail on any given day.”

“Even more upsetting is that African-American males born today have a one-in-three chance of going to prison during their lifetime, compared to a one-in-17 chance for white males,” Mr. Rangel notes. “At year-end 2003, African-American inmates represented an estimated 44 percent of all inmates with sentences of more than one year.”

That causes Mr. Rangel to wonder if the sentencing system is truly colorblind.

“Despite the notion that the scales of justice is blind, it is no secret that racial bias plays a deplorable role in the disproportionate conviction and sentencing of African-American men, compared to their racial counterparts, who are charged with the same or a similar offense,” he notes.

In fact, the United States is experiencing a decrease in crime rates, yet the overall prison population — federal, state and local — is increasing, particularly among blacks. This is said to be because of “truth-in-sentencing” laws that limit early releases, impose mandatory sentences for drug offenses, and set “three strikes and you’re out” laws for repeat offenders.

More than 2 million Americans are behind bars.

John McCaslin, whose column is nationally syndicated, can be reached at 202/636-3284 or jmccaslin@washingtontimes.com.

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