Former Obama communications director Anita Dunn delivered a tough-love message to the College Democrats Wednesday night as she looked ahead to the midterm elections.
“It’s your country too, you gotta fight for it, because the other side, they’re suited up, they’re on the field, and they’re playing for keeps,” Dunn said of the Republican Party and the tea party movement.
Dunn said the tea party is trying to capitalize on the same approach Obama’s campaign used in the 2008 election.
“Politics, it’s not a stationary sport, it’s not static, it’s moving,” she said. “And the other side took a look at 2008 and said, ‘Hmm, we can do that too.’ And they are, OK? They have a lot of energy under them.”
Dunn also used the sentiment to galvanize the CDs into action.
“The energy on our side needs to be there, and I think it will be there if Democrats go out there and they really make their case about how different the country is going to be because of the tough decisions that we have made,” she said.
Dunn joined the administration after serving as the communications director on Obama’s 2008 campaign.
“The quality of the campaign matters. Take, for example, we have some Democratic incumbents in very tough districts who are going to be re-elected and on paper they have no business being re-elected, but they are going to be re-elected because they ran a great campaign,” Dunn said.
Dunn’s talk focused heavily on shaping campaign messages through the use of social networking and new media – movements previously ignored by politicians – which Dunn said now pull in the elusive youth vote. She criticized the “classic dinosaur campaigns” and the “top-down” approaches of the 2000 Bush and Gore campaigns.
“The 2008 Obama campaign, it did revolutionize politics, because it took it back to a time when people were important, as opposed to just television and spending money,” Dunn said.
Dunn also spoke about the Democrats’ tendency to miss the bigger picture of their message in favor of highlighting talking points.
“Democrats tend to define their accomplishments like they’re writing them on a blackboard – ‘We did this, check; we did this, check; we did this, check,'” Dunn said. “Our default language, it’s bad, and it’s especially bad this year.”
This comment sparked some nervous laughter from the CDs when they presented her with their organization’s T-shirt, the back of which prominently features a checklist of Obama administration accomplishments.
Dunn laughed off the coincidence.
“Anita Dunn is one of the original advancers of the agenda,” CD President Josh Altman said. “She really personifies the commitment and energy we’re seeking to promote in our membership.”
“We hope she’ll encourage people to go out there and fight for the ideas that really make our party and this administration something worth fighting for,” Altman added.
Kelsi Browning, assistant communications director for the CDs, emphasized the role Dunn played in the early Obama administration.
“She was his communications director for the first year of his presidency, she was key in the first hundred days, for major reform for health care and financial reform,” Browning said.