No, national parties aren’t dead

Earlier today, I wrote a piece on how national party committees are facing unprecedented challenges to retain their relevance.  It drew lots of reaction and I wanted to make sure the other side -- that the Democratic National Committee and the Republican National Committee remain decidedly relevant -- got a chance to make its case.


Chair of the Democratic National Committee Debbie Wasserman Schultz and Los Angeles Mayor and Democratic Convention Chair Antonio Villaraigosa greet each other following the gaveling open of the 2012 Democratic National Convention on September 4, 2012 in Charlotte, North Carolina.(Photo by Bonnie Jo Mount/The Washington Post)

An email from one senior Democrat stood out.  I asked him if I could publish it. He agreed though asked that I keep his name out of it.  That seemed reasonable. It's below.

It seems like every decade or two this conversation happens and the role changes. But here’s the thing. The national party is still here.  It may change, but it is the constant.

A couple of generations ago, national party bosses used to pick our nominees. Then we moved to a primary system, and that didn’t happen anymore.  Some people said that would kill the party.  It didn’t.  It just changed its role.

In 2004, everyone said the DNC was dead.  Remember America Coming Together?  That was supposed to be an alternate infrastructure put in place because the party was “weak.” Within two years, they were  gone. The DNC is still here.

So yeah, the national party needs to constantly adapt.  It needs to constantly adjust.  It DEFINITELY needs to retire the debt.  (That’s a problem, but not a debilitating one.) But the national party is still the only one who can actually provide the data infrastructure that all campaigns use, regardless of size.  (Seriously.  It’s why the Obama campaign handed all of its data over to the DNC after the election.  If the national party wasn’t around year in and year out to provide this service directly to campaigns and state parties, we’d be in a bad place right now.  Look at the infighting among GOP vendors trying to provide the voter file to campaigns.  We don’t have that problem.)

The national party is the only ones working with state parties, candidates, and allied groups to coordinate voter protection efforts.

But, maybe most importantly, the national party is focused on the Democratic brand.  That’s not the primary role of the White House.  That’s definitely not the primary role of Ready for Hillary, Priorities, or any of these other SuperPACs.  But that’s OK.  They have an important role to play.   So does the DNC — to help defend, promote, and service all Democrats.  And that won’t ever change.

In this era of Twitter, and super PACs, and everything else new, it’s easy to fall into a trap of personality-driven politics.  National parties help ensure that doesn’t totally happen.

I’m not naive enough to think that national parties are the biggest kids on the block anymore.  That’s OK.  We’re in an era where NO ONE can be.  The same can be said about the Washington Post and the New York Times in the journalism world.  There are a lot more players out there pushing out information.  You have more competitors that have created a lot more parity.  You’re not nearly what you once were even a generation ago.  Not everyone is chasing you the way they once did.  But that doesn’t make you any less important.  You still have a great brand and can do some things that no one else can.

But most importantly, you’ve had to change in order to keep up with a changing world. So have the parties.  And they’re still here.

Chris Cillizza writes “The Fix,” a politics blog for the Washington Post. He also covers the White House.
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