WASHINGTON – As the battle for the future of the Democratic Party (search) continues, another front is opening — young versus old. Two young Democrats vying for support among state party leaders describe the party's old guard as stodgy, out of touch and nostalgic.
These young Democrats say the party must break shopworn habits and tactics peddled every election by the same old clan of consultants who rely on the Vietnam War, feminism and civil rights to define their values.
"What's in front of Democrats right now is a stark choice: Do we keep doing what we're doing and lose or do we adopt a new direction, a modern path forward, one that allows us to meet the challenges of this century and build a winning party again," said Simon Rosenberg (search), 41, founder of the New Democrat Network (search).
Rosenberg is vying to succeed outgoing party Chairman Terry McAuliffe, but he's not the only Young Turk.
"The Democratic national party has become a party that runs a suburb operation for six months, every four years, if you're lucky enough to be a presidential battleground state. That, by any measure, is not the definition of a national party," said Donnie Fowler, son of the party's former chairman.
Former Clinton Deputy Chief of Staff Harold Ickes and former Texas Rep. Martin Frost are also running to young Democrats. Ickes and Frost both come from the old school.
"The Republicans are doing a better job today of embracing the future than the Democrats. I think we are occasionally a nostalgic party," said Rosenberg.
Former Democratic presidential front-runner Howard Dean is also running for McAuliffe's seat, but from the left side of the party. Rosenberg and Fowler strike a more centrist tone.
"The national party is conceding too much of this country to the Republicans — conceding religious voters, conceding rural voters, conceding the South, conceding the Rocky Mountain west. Meanwhile, the Republicans are following General Patton's philosophy — always attack," Fowler said.
Younger Democrats say John Kerry's top advisers don't understand how Republicans were able to mobilize voters and beat the Democratic senator from Massachusetts. They also complain that party veterans talk down to candidates and grassroots activists.
"In a DNC run by an aristocracy of consultants, you have someone from Washington going to Tennessee and saying, 'You don't get it. This is the way to talk to voters in your state,'" Fowler said.
The young Democrats say the old guard also has a vision problem, not only do they fail to produce new ideas for the party, but they keep arguing that recent defeats were so narrow that they really weren't defeats at all. They say the party will continue to lose until the old guard is thrown out and new leaders take over — a change that should begin with them.
Click in the box near the top of the story to watch a report by FOX News' Major Garrett.