Dean and the DNC

DEAN AND THE DNC….The Washington Post reports today on the continuing war between Howard Dean and everyone else. Basically, Dean has raised lots of money and wants to spend it rebuilding the Democratic Party apparatus in all 50 states, while everyone else wants to save the money and spend it on advertising blitzes in close races later this year.

Over at Tapped, Ezra Klein and Garance Franke-Ruta both seem to take the anti-Dean side of this. Garance in particular argues that “Should Democrats fail to regain power, it?s likely they won?t get as favorable an electoral environment again any time soon, regardless of what’s built out on the ground.”

But I’m not sure that’s true. Here’s the problem: no one ever thinks there’s a good time to spend money on long-term organizing. If it’s a bad year, the last thing you can do is spend your precious dollars on anything other than fighting this year’s fights. If it’s a good year, you need to take advantage of momentum and spend all your money fighting this year’s fights. But if that’s the case, when is it a good time to build long-term infrastructure?

Now, it’s possible that Dean is going too far. For one thing, if you build infrastructure you need to do it at a pace that can be sustained. There’s no point in spending $50 million this year if the whole thing is going to collapse because you can’t spend $50 million every year. Still, you have to take the plunge sometime, and frankly, this seems like a pretty good year to me. There’s enough momentum that Dem candidates are probably going to do pretty well regardless, and it’s worth remembering that 2008 is the real prize anyway. I’d rather make good progress this year, even at the risk of losing a couple of close seats we could otherwise have won, if the payoff is a stronger organization in 2008.

In any case, shouldn’t the real question be about the quality of Dean’s infrastructure project? After all, you can spend money both wisely and poorly, and I’d be a lot more interested in hearing whether the money is being put to good use, not whether it ought to be spent on ads in October. Maybe somebody needs to write that story instead.