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I've been giving a lot of thought about how I would council the Federal Democratic Minority. Here's what I've come up with so far: Return to the first principles of politics.

If politics is the way a society distributes resources then political contest is all about who takes from whom. The Democrats' goal in the next four years, then, is to return as much tax money as possible to its core states and set the GOP up for a fall in the next elections.

They can best do this not by running left, but by pushing the GOP right off a cliff.

State's Rights
The Federal GOP will spend the next four years trying to push a ban on gay marriage, overturning Roe v Wade, mandating creationism in education, forcing school vouchers and so on. To do this, they'll have to throw out one of their most effective ideological tenents: State's Rights.

There is a huge opportunity now for Democrats to seize this banner for themselves. Gay Marriage? Let the states decide. Education policy? State perogative. Health Care? State policy.

Liberal states will follow policies to protect our traditional values, but only if they are protected from Federal intervention. The goal of the Federal Democrats must be to provide that cover for liberal social policies. ...and to eliminate as many federal agencies as possible.

[Pot Notation: Fifteen states have passed propositions authorizing the use of medical marijuana. This is a no-lose issue in those states: the people decided, the DEA should get off their case. Bring back Douglas' "Popular Sovereignty" arguments.]

Fiscal Responsibility
For as long as I can remember Republicans have labled Democrats "Tax & Spenders". We know it's not true, and we remember Clinton's surplus. But if there was ever a time when reversing the line was so possible and risk-free, I don't know when it was.

By adopting a hardline that every budget must create a SURPLUS we do three things: (1) change the story to "Democrats are penny pinchers"; (2) restrain Republican pet projects; and, (3) set up a fiscal environment conducive to social spending down the road.

Every child born in the United States is given as his birthright over $30,000 in debt. If Democrats can't work up a convincing moral outrage about that, we're sunk.

Free Market/No Intervention
It's well known that Democratic states are Giver states; Republican States are Taker states. There is no good reason for Federal Democrats to allow the pillaging of their core states to continue.

Consider: In 2003 California recieved $0.78 for every dollar it paid in taxes; Alabama recieved $1.69 for every dollar it paid in taxes. New York $0.80, North Dakota $1.75. Washington $0.90, West Virginia $1.82. Wisconsin $0.84, Wyoming $1.13. Democratic states are paying Republican states... for what?

Federal Democrats should fight for a flat tax across all industries and a complete elimination of all federal subsidies, tax breaks, etc. Farm subsidies are an abominable perversion of the free market, and the welfare farmers vote Republican.

Small Government
The only thing worse than tearing down the social welfare system built in the early part of the last century is letting the Federal GOP corrupt it from top to bottom. Liberals know that there is a need for the public provision of these public goods. They know that in their absence, there will be a demand they be provided. And they know that they are the party to fullfill that demand. Well, now's the time to cut supply.

When the Republican set out to privatize Medicare, Democrats should counter: "if the free market does it better, eliminate Medicare." When Republicans set out to privatize Social Security, Democrats should counter: "if individuals do it better, sent them their share and eliminate Social Security." When Republicans move to cut funding for Section 8 and Welfare, Democrats should counter: "if it's corrupting and evil, eliminate it."

The outcome in four years is predictable, inevitable and, for liberals, glorious: An angry impoverished people demanding the government do something to help. (Except in those liberal states which decided to offset federal cuts.)

In Conclusion
You have to collect the card before you can have a New Deal. The goal for the next four years is to set it up by depriving the system of Roosevelt's legacy. Then we get to remind middle America why they used to vote Democratic.

As usual, open to suggestions...

Originally posted to opendna on Tue Nov 09, 2004 at 02:53 AM PST.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Word of Caution (none)
    Be careful what you give away - it's never easy to get it back.

    Plus, you may see this as a brilliant strategy - but millions of Democrats and their supporters would see this as the party caving in or falling apart.

    It is time to STAND UP for our principles - not concede them.

    •  I think its brilliant (none)
      Look, the goal isnt to look good to the base right now, its to survive as a party. There will not be a democratic party if democrats don't fight for survival. Without a democratic party the base doesnt matter.

      Rageaholics are unfit for command. Rage as an addiction

      by Lucian on Tue Nov 09, 2004 at 04:10:03 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Hammer, meet nail (none)
        The "base" should at some point start figuring out (1) that the Democratic Party has lost five of the last seven and seven of the last 10 presidential elections and (2) that since the Clinton election in 1992 the have lost 57 House seats and 12 Senate seats.  It is time for the National Democratic Party to go back to the drawing board.

        Democrats in Colorado and Montana have given us a blueprint for national success.  Out of necessity, those state parties turned from the increasing radicalization of the National Party and ran on fiscal responsibility and common sense solutions to local problems to win in the fact of Bush victories in those same states.  

        Maybe national Democrats should stop talking for just a minute or two and see what Colorado and Montana Democrats have to say. I believe what they say might be instructive.

        •  Definitely something to that. (none)
          If the national party can learn to appeal to the West (which seems to me a good fit at least on issues of environmentalism vs. corporate interests), then that can be a winning coalition of states.

          I'm not sure, though, what was especially radical about the national ticket this year. Preservation of the New Deal? Creating allies in the war on terror? Fiscal responsibility? Lowering middle class taxes? Or is it all about gay marriage and abortion?

    •  It all depends on where you look (none)
      It might look like the Dems are loosing everything in DC, but what do you expect when they're the minority?

      You can overcome this back home with public support from your State Democrats. When the Democratic governor announces tax cuts, increases in social spending AND a surplus for the year, he says "This budget would not be possible without the efforts of our Democratic friends in DC, Senators Bumbledink and Clusterwhat." We media bundle state-level successes with the activity of the Federal Democrats.

      Nobody really cares what happens in other states, they only care that things are looking up in their own. If Michigan is having boomtimes under a Democratic government, Ohio will notice.

      As for not being able to get it back, Roosevelt did it once, we can do it again. But next time, we go ALL the way (Canadian-style health care, universal free education, etc).

      You can never solve a problem on the level on which it was created. (Albert Einstein)

      by opendna on Tue Nov 09, 2004 at 04:05:13 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Meh. (none)
    First off, you're playing politics with people's lives and livelihoods. Yes, I know "they" do it too. I don't think it's necessary to follow in those footsteps to get the job done, one that isn't quite so machiavellan.

    Second, it's hard to vote for all these things (yes, all these things will have to come to a vote at some point along the lines)... if the demos vote for them, then next election it gets spun that dems are either wishy-washy for not standing up against the changes, or complicit and virtually indistinguishable from the pugs as a result. Backfire.

    The best answer I've seen so far is just a policy of outright obstinance. Voting party line, every time. No 'country unity' votes or any crap like that. If a bill looks like its decent and worth it, it gets yes. If it looks anything less than decent and has some mechanism in which it'll benefit the pugs, fight it. Filibuster, stonewall, obfuscate, sit-in, whatever. Don't give a single fucking inch.

    Oh, and it's time to engage in the politics of personal destruction. Whichever target would best serve us as an emasculated joker, find out what he's done and skewer him. Make shit up if you want. Pugs do it all the time. Take the bricks from the high road every dem's been trying to walk and stuff one brick in their mouth, another up their ass and a third to beat them senseless with.

    IMHO. :D

    •  Kerry lost (none)
      Kerry lost because he was thinking just like you. "We are better than this, we don't have to cheat, we can win fair and square"

      That kind of thinking is why people never thought to check the voting machines. Expect the republicans to play dirty. So what are the options? do you play politics on their level or try to win on this level?

      Rageaholics are unfit for command. Rage as an addiction

      by Lucian on Tue Nov 09, 2004 at 04:11:21 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Read carefully (none)
        I said "Play dirty". You just gotta be careful with the kind of dirt you play in. I think there's a variety of grit that is very useful for demolishing opposition without having to completely and, possibly, irrevocably alienating an entire portion of the population.

        You don't HAVE to play a sleezeball in order to play hardball... although it does help. ;)

    •  the point is not for us to vote for them. (none)
      the point is to dare the republicans to take their positions to their logical conclusions.  believe me, if their party line is to pass it, it'll pass even if every Dem votes against it.

      THEN we point out what the republicans did for the last 4 years and the Dems voted against.  And get our guys elected and re-elected.

      •  The little congresscritter who voted wolf? (none)
        I can't help but think the game would be revealed pretty quickly, and spun. Don't get me wrong, I love the "give 'em enough rope to hang themselves" concept but I think such betrayals have to be done in a more sneaky fashion IMO.
    •  The Amendment vs The Bill (none)
      We always play politics with people's lives and livelyhoods. You think it's too "machiavellan", I think we're just giving the people what they voted for. But we're making the national election irrelevant to social policy. If the South doesn't want unemployment insurrance, then let's not force it upon them with our tax dollars.

      You write that "it's hard to vote for all these things... if the demos vote for them, then next election it gets spun that dems are either wishy-washy for not standing up against the changes, or complicit and virtually indistinguishable from the pugs as a result. Backfire."

      I have a solution to that: go one way when the bill's in committee and during amendments, and the other during the floor votes. When it comes to the floor the Democrats can fight like hell and denounce the GOP for gutting the safety net, but still make sure it passes by having just enough votes cross over to overcome GOP defections. The worst that happens? The GOP can't get their own bills to pass because we've made them too extreme for their people back home.

      In the end it's not about looking strong or weak, it's about being able to go back home with the bacon. You want to be able to say "Four years ago a quarter of every dollar you paid in taxes was spent in another state. This year it was only five cents. Please send me to Washington so I can get that nickle back."

      Look, I'm in California. We send over $40 billion to other states every year. We have an $18B state deficit. If we could get that $40B back we'd eliminate the deficit, and still have $22B left over to increase social spending, lower the debt and cut taxes. With a record like that we could win Orange County.

      You can never solve a problem on the level on which it was created. (Albert Einstein)

      by opendna on Tue Nov 09, 2004 at 03:47:44 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  For once someone agrees with me (none)
    I said the same stuff in my diary. I praised the idea of federal tax cuts. I think this is the best direction to go. We should give red states exactly what they want and let republicans jump off a cliff. The only thing it can do is boost turnout for Democrats.

    Rageaholics are unfit for command. Rage as an addiction

    by Lucian on Tue Nov 09, 2004 at 04:06:35 AM PST

  •  Take it Away (none)
    Couldn't agree more.  Let's take away their rhetorical devices, and more importantly, show the country what Republican policy looks like in practice.  The GOP won't be able to blame Democrats.  They'll have to stand on the outcome of their policies.

    For those worried about dismantling Federal programs, you do realize that the Federal government is now an arm of the Christian Coalition, don't you?  

    Scortched earth.  When retreating, you don't leave anything behind the enemy can use to hurt you.

  •  Nice Diary (none)
    As we know, the Federal government transfers money from wealthy liberals in the Northeast to poor conservatives in the south and corporations.  

    What do we get in return? "Liberals are evil."

    I'm increasingly of the mind that we should fight to cut back our subsidy of the people who apparently hate us and subsidizing corporations to hire uneducated conservatives.  Instead, of focusing on social justice, we should focus on environmental issues.

    I'm not sure, however, the states we live in will take up liberal programs.  And if they do, I'm not sure if they're sustainable.

    •  Race to the bottom? (none)
      I'm not sure, however, the states we live in will take up liberal programs.  And if they do, I'm not sure if they're sustainable.
      In general I agree with the above comments.  However, if all the states end up competing against each other, the ones with lowest taxes, lowest environmental regulations, etc will attract business, and ones with higher "social welfare" costs will attract those who need assistance.  That's one benefit of trying to even things out over the entire country at the national level (when it actually happens).
      •  Businesses we dont want (none)
        I don't want oil companies. I'd take an environmental and socially friendly business vs the next Enron, Tabacco company or whatever.

        Rageaholics are unfit for command. Rage as an addiction

        by Lucian on Tue Nov 09, 2004 at 06:13:33 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

      •  On State Competion for Business (none)
        Sure, if you're looking for the lowest cost of production, you'll go where labor is cheap and taxes are low. But don't think Blue States will win that battle, nor should they want to.

        Let the Red states compete with Mexico and China for low-cost production, CA and NY and MA will never compete (without automation) in that realm.

        High-value economic activity follows the availability of labor. High-value workers require a high standard of living. High-value workers like good weather, nice environments, good public services, quality schools, livable cities, high culture levels and a sense of social tranquility (ref above re civil rights regression because of States' Rights: So our high-skilled immigrant workers leave Atlanta for San Diego, what's wrong with that?)

        The relative cost of labor in our core states is so much higher than the Red States it makes business taxes irrelevant. So why do we still see Boston, New York and Los Angeles as the engines of economic growth? Because what gets done there cannot be done in Crawford, TX.

        We're not looking for Nike factories, we're looking for start-ups and research centers. Think Silicon Valley, not Flint, MI. The spill-over into lower-value activity comes when your high-value workers spend their money. Boomtimes are good for waiters and gas station attendants too. (e.g. I remember seeing banners advertising gas station attendant jobs at $20/hr during the Dot-Com Boom.)

        You can never solve a problem on the level on which it was created. (Albert Einstein)

        by opendna on Tue Nov 09, 2004 at 04:23:41 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  Many of us are thinking along the same lines (none)
    See my Diary here for similar thoughts.

    I do think that we need to realize that the country has gone through a realignment these last 40 years. The Democratic majority coalition has been split first by race and now by religion. The Republicans now are a coalition of (principally southern and midwestern) religious conservatives and (suburban northern and coastal) economic conservatives.

    The proposal you are making is to essentially cede the religious vote to Bush and to instead try to peel off the economic conservatives with promises of smaller government and lower taxes at the federal level. I think the strategy is going to have to be more nuanced than that because liberal values also call for equity. But a principle of progressivity in taxes at all levels but with low taxes at the federal level may be a good one.

  •  Delusional (none)
    Sorry, but you're acting as if both sides were rational.  Remember how crazy they are.  If we dared them to blow up the world, they'd respond, "Yippee, it's the Rapture."  With that in mind, let's remember the enemy:

    States' Rights- hello school segregation, anti-miscegination laws, state religions, exclusion from public jobs, public contracts, public schools, after-school activities, public office, etc., of blacks, Jews, "furriners," etc.

    Fiscal Responsibility- the pork keeps flowing, but SS, Medicare and Medicaid are gone, along with after school care, day care, work training, unemployment insurance, and everything else that constitutes the safety net.  Remember how crazy they are.  They think Roosevelt was a communist.

    Small Government- don't dare them, they'll do it. Do you really think people will rebel?  You haven't been paying attention.  As long as the bad guys can persuade the sick impovershed unemployed southerner that he has it better than the blacks and the immigrants, and that if he doesn't vote rethug they'll take his next job, his trailer, and his daughters, they'll vote red every time.  For Christ's sake, Ohio lost 250,000 jobs, and a lot more for people with lesser jobs, and they still voted Bush.  

    Conclusion- they're ALWAYS crazier than you think they are.  

    •  They will do it anyway (none)
      Don't fool yourself into thinking we can stop them.

      Rageaholics are unfit for command. Rage as an addiction

      by Lucian on Tue Nov 09, 2004 at 04:35:11 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  So you're sugggesting we do it for them? (none)
        That's nuts.  Too many of my people carried their own shovels to their graves.  I refuse.  We need, instead, to figure out how to break the unholy alliance- wealthy + crazy.  We either need to persuade the crazy the wealthy wouldn't piss on them if they were on fire, or persuade the wealthy the crazy will eat their young, too.  I suggest the latter, for the former are, need I say it, bug-fucking crazy.
        •  We can do a better job (none)
          We can be more responsible conservatives than they can. At least if we control the agenda they won't completely be allowed to go insane with it. Trust me they have a lot more radicial ideas than cutting federal taxes. I'm sure they want to get rid of all taxes period, so we can choose which ones they get rid of in 4 years.

          Also the other half of the republican party which wants big government could fight with the part of the party who wants small government, Maybe they'll not pass anything due to internal fighting. But at least if they pass something if its something we can live with its better than what they'd choose without our influence.

          Rageaholics are unfit for command. Rage as an addiction

          by Lucian on Tue Nov 09, 2004 at 05:34:30 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

    •  They're Not As Crazy As They Pretend (none)
      And that's the problem, imho. If we let them act as they like they'll keep things just together enough to avoid a melt-down. Our goal should be to force them to behave consistent to their rhetoric. If government can do nothing but evil, they should be forced to remove government from all activities.

      Responding to your issue list:
      States' Rights

      hello school segregation, anti-miscegination laws, state religions, exclusion from public jobs, public contracts, public schools, after-school activities, public office, etc., of blacks, Jews, "furriners," etc.

      Only in states which value such things, which is to say, not our own centers of power. And let's not pretend the civil rights movement eliminated defacto discrimination. I don't like these things as much as the next liberal, but that's why I don't live in states which would do such things.
      Remember what these policies would cause a backlash. Social unrest and economic recession go hand-in-hand. If a new civil rights movement doesn't spawn, emigration and economic inefficiency will crush the reactionary states.

      Fiscal Responsibility

      the pork keeps flowing, but SS, Medicare and Medicaid are gone, along with after school care, day care, work training, unemployment insurance, and everything else that constitutes the safety net.  Remember how crazy they are.  They think Roosevelt was a communist.

      Why should the federal government be providing after school care, day care, work training, unemployment insurance or the safety net? The states can do so themselves. If we leave after school care in the hands of the Christian GOP, they'll turn into afternoon sunday school. No, deprive the Red States of the burden of Federal work training and unemployment insurance. The Blue States will provide for their own.

      Small Government

      don't dare them, they'll do it. Do you really think people will rebel?  You haven't been paying attention.  As long as the bad guys can persuade the sick impovershed unemployed southerner that he has it better than the blacks and the immigrants, and that if he doesn't vote rethug they'll take his next job, his trailer, and his daughters, they'll vote red every time.  For Christ's sake, Ohio lost 250,000 jobs, and a lot more for people with lesser jobs, and they still voted Bush.

      If they don't rebel, that's their business. At least we'll have protected the progressive potential of our core states. Though you make a good point about persuading the poor white southerner that he's not better off. After the first wave we can start running ads to smash that illusion, ads which equate Heratio Alger stories with voting Democrat and living in a liberal state.

      Look, I recognize that 58% of Americans believe in Creationism over Evolution. To my mind, that makes 58% of Americans anti-Science and utterly unreachable. Fuggem. Let them try to build a high-tech sector based on Christian dogma, but create the space for growth in our own cores. California voted to publicly fund stem cell research, MA is thinking about it. We must protect these state's rights to do that, against a Federal GOP which wants to ban the research entirely.

      You can never solve a problem on the level on which it was created. (Albert Einstein)

      by opendna on Tue Nov 09, 2004 at 03:29:26 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Great tactic, bad strategy (none)
    I like the idea. It really appeals to me. And it will work, but will destroy what our party has stood for since the days of FDR. If winning for the sake of winning means abandoning that legacy, we need to think long and hard.

    On the other hand, there is no problem with ending corporate welfare, farm subsidies, and to embrace fiscal responsibility. Check out George Lakoff for some awesome ways to frame the debate over taxes it term of patriotism.

  •  Great (none)
    This is exactly the strategy we need to follow.  I have run into many conservative friends who do not worry about the religious right because they know the Dems will fight against most of their terrible ideas.  It is time to give the people what they voted for.  When republicans go into the voting booth in 2008, they must understand they are pulling the lever for government in the bedroom, the repeal of the New Deal, etc.
    •  That drives me nuts. (none)
      There's an online acquaintance I have who insists that none of this will happen because the courts will throw out the laws against gay marriage and Roe can't be overturned. He's a libertarian (and an asshole). He is so batshit crazy himself that he fails to acknowledge the national GOP is bathshit crazier and now can potentially place four Supreme Court justices, thus making it not a great outlet to defend civil liberties. But it's all about some pipe dream of Iraqi democracy at the expense of our own to him.

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