The Note: Pumpin' Up the Volume, Breakin' Down to the Beat

WASHINGTON, Feb. 11 --

NEWS SUMMARY

America's two leading political parties have much in common -- animal mascots; annoyance with cumbersome campaign finance laws; 2004 presidential candidates who like to clear brush LINK; a mixture of fear and envy of Karl Rove; and, of course, grassroots supporters who appear to be buoyed by the selection of Howard Dean as the next DNC chair.

And/but yet there ARE some real differences between the parties.

With the Democrats gathered in Washington for Dean's coronation and in the wake of Bill Clinton's delivery of a Delphic roadmap at the Terry McAuliffe send-off last night, let's examine what separates the Republicans from the Democrats (with apologies to Ralph Nader):

One party has political elites who revere and respect its recent presidential candidates; one party can't even be bothered to stop chatting and, err, partying to listen to its candidates speak.

One party has a clear programmatic agenda that has been relentlessly pursued in a well-organized fashion for five years; one party is still trying to build a credible war room (both materially and culturally).

One party never apologizes and never shows weakness; one party is on its fourth day of cry-babyish "defense" of its Senate Leader, after a run-of-the-mill GOP "attack."

One party is already organizing for 2005/6/7/8; one party is still trying to figure out what changes a yet-to-be-elected chair will make on the Wisteria Lane of politics -- Ivy Street, SE.

One party would know that electing a national chair with a net negative approval rating is at a minimum problematic; one party thinks it's a virtue.

One party can whenever it wishes take off-the-shelf opposition research (video and text) and turn it into talking points that drive the friendly and (sometimes) mainstream media; one party considers 36 hours to be "rapid response."

One party will air its dirty laundry to whatever lowest-common-denominator media outlet comes a-sniffin'; one party engages in cock-fight-style drag-'em-outs in their headquarters' basement.

One party is on offense; one party is on . . . something else.

On party learned the lessons of the '90s; one party unlearned them.

One party knows the press is its "enemy"; one party mistakenly thinks the press is its "friend."

One party is expending resources to expand the base and broaden the tent; one party says it is planning to do those things, but is distracted defending demographic and geographic turf.

One party owns national security; one party can't figure out how to own health care or the environment in a way that would help win elections.

One party figured out how to keep its "extreme" party platform on abortion and still make electoral gains; one party hasn't.

One party is trying to use its general unity to hold together and pass Social Security reform; one party is trying to figure out how to extend and build on its unity over opposing personal accounts to a general strategy.

One party has been taking the long view for a long time; one party can't see past yesterday.

One party has members who will take these words to be gospel; one party is dominated by people will quickly dismiss it as mean-spirited.

One party would agree with what we wrote above; so would the other one.

This is the landscape as the DNC winter meeting continues today at the Reagan Hilton.

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