Democratic Underground

Billy Beane for DNC Chairman!
August 31, 2001
by Jay Robison

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If the Democratic Party had any sense, it would get rid of Terry McAuliffe and hire Billy Beane as chairman of the Democratic National Committee. It would be a bold, visionary move because Beane is not an up and coming political consultant and beltway guru. Billy Beane is currently the general manager of the Oakland Athletics baseball team.

Baseball and politics have a lot in common, more than just the fact that the current White House occupant is a former owner. In major league baseball, conventional wisdom holds that the bigger the payroll a team has, the better season they will have. Likewise in politics, we constantly hear stories about how the Republicans are better funded than the Democrats, and therefore able to get the word out more effectively. The GOP is "large market;" the Democrats are a scrappy, "small market" team by comparison.

In baseball, the Oakland A's prove the exception to the rule. Last year, with the lowest payroll in the majors, they made the playoffs and came within an eyelash of beating the big-market, big-budget New York Yankees. This year, with the second-lowest payroll, they may well make the playoffs again.

Democratic Party strategists and activists should take heed. There is a lot they can learn from Billy Beane and the Oakland Athletics. Especially in the following areas:

1) Use limited resources wisely. The Democratic Party has to be shrewder in its use of media, and has to look for ways to "get more bang for the buck." It's not enough to complain about a biased media, even though those complaints are well-grounded. The Democrats must be sneaky, imaginative, and thrifty.

2) Cultivate young talent and hold onto it. The Oakland A's compete against better-funded teams because the franchise locks in young talent while they can. Similarly, the Democratic Party and the left generally need to mentor leftist activists while they're young, and school them in the practicalities of mainstream politics. We need an army of smart young liberals who bring passion to the process. John McCain, a Republican, understood this better than either of the Democrats running in 2000 (not to mention the opponents in his own party), and as a result McCain nearly upset a much better funded opponent.

3) Don't be afraid to take a risk and go for it. The A's and Billy Beane impressed baseball fans by taking a chance on winning instead of packing it in this season. The Democratic Party is in desperate need of that go-for-broke attitude. The Florida mess proved that beyond doubt. The Republicans are successful in part because they want to win and will stop at very little to do so; they choose to worry about what the majority thinks after they're firmly in power.

It's time for those of us in the "left-center" coalition to think of new ways to sell liberal ideas. It is possible to win, now, with the resources we have at hand. We just need to use them better than we have been.