Can boring Democrats save the soul of the party?

Lifelong professional Democrat Donna Brazile was on fire.

Last week at San Francisco's African American Art & Culture Complex, Brazile cranked up her Southern-fried Baptist preacher mode and had 150 rapturous, cheering women right in the palm of her hand.

"God," she said, the word taking wing like a bird, "speaks directly to Rush Limbaugh, and Rush passes it down." It was one of many laugh lines, part of a thunderous speech to people otherwise at risk of losing faith in their party and the religion of politics.

This appearance, arranged by Emerge California, a group that trains Democratic women to run for public office, was one of many stops Brazile makes to try to save the party from itself.

The problem for her is that, other than at gatherings like this of the already converted, God does not seem to be speaking to Democrats these days. Or certainly not through them.

Watch Brazile as CNN commentator, that same afternoon, and she's measured, monotonic, defending Mitt Romney. She was channeling Harry Reid, not a higher being.

Where's that infectious flame? The high-volume, wicked wit? Did someone slip her a Quaalude, or is she just ignoring her powers in front of a broader media pulpit because, well, Democrats are supposed to be boring and overly earnest?

Even Barack Obama's soaring rhetoric has become a parody in the bog of policy stalemate. Righteous passion has passed to the Tea Party.

"The Tea Party decided they're willing to go (all the way) for their bottom line," Brazile said Wednesday. "They're disrupted, fed-up Americans who took over the political discourse."

Who isn't disrupted and fed up?

"I wouldn't advise any of my girls to get into politics," the Complex's director, London Breed, told me at the Brazile event, referring to the young people she works with. Activist Saudia Lawrence also was there and has been urged to consider running. "I'm not willing to put myself through that," she said.

But after Brazile's speech, Lawrence grabbed me: "Forget everything I said. She just inspired me." She paused. "But ask me how I feel next week."

That's the challenge: A public trained by mobile devices and endless scandal to be stimulated 24/7 already has forgotten the inspiration and promise some felt when Obama was elected.

"Obama is not the messiah," Detroit teen Breeana Blackmon shouted in a piece she performed at a Youth Speaks Poetry Slam a few weeks ago. "Yes we can. The crowd goes wild. I'm wishing I had a megaphone so loud people ... can hear me say, "No we can't!"

Breeana and her Slam peers, most from challenging backgrounds and neighborhoods, are an important future constituency, one both Obama and Donna Brazile might take for granted. They shouldn't.

Why isn't Brazil doing the hard religious conversion work, taking her show to doubters?

The political right at large has plenty of entertainment along with its politics and religion - Limbaugh, O'Reilly, Sarah Palin, characters who wrap their message in captivating spectacle. No wonder the listless John Boehner has trouble rallying his troops.

If Democrats want to play for real, they have to capture that passion and grab that attention, not once but every day. Jon Stewart can't do it for them.

They have to truly, as Brazile said, "wanna stir it up."

Phil Bronstein's column appears on Mondays. E-mail him at, and read his blog at

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