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I wrote this shortly after the defeat of Howard Dean in the primaries. It was originally published on the American Assembler website. According to their logs it has been downloaded over one million times. I have even recieved it in an email from someone who didn't know I was the author.

Though I believe that it's probable that this election was stolen through technology -based largely on exit polls which, as Dick Morris pointed out, are almost never wrong - I still believe, based on the incredible malperformance of this president, that we should have won in a landslide that would have been impossible to steal.

This essay, I believe, explains why the Democratic party is doomed to fail as is. And what we need to do about it.

Below the fold...

Why the Democrats Will Continue to Lose
by Tocque Deville

What does the Democratic party stand for? I've been hearing that question a lot lately. Republicans, people say, have distilled their belief system down to a few basic ideals that they can recite in short phrases: less government, low taxes, free markets and strong defense. Democrats on the other hand, have positions on issues, but an underlying philosophy eludes.

Are these criticisms justified? Yes and no. On social and civil rights issues, the philophy is as clear as Thomas Jefferson's handwriting: everyone is equal under the law, and religion must be seperate from government . These constitutional principles are manifest in almost every position Democrats take on social and cultural issues and for that they should be applauded.

As for the rest of the American government experience, I would have to say these criticisms are spot on.

For three years we watched the Bush administration sell our country off to corporate special interest. And for three years we waited in frustration for a peep from the leadership on the left.

We watched as numerous bills passed -- including Bush's trickle-down tax cuts and a committee green-light for the recent FCC vote -- with only peripheral opposition from our party's leadership.

And slowly the calls for our party to be more aggressive, more oppositional, rose to a fevered pitch. Then came Howard Dean. Dean did a pretty good job of tapping in to that frustration. "I'm from the Democratic wing of the Democratic party", he would yell, and the crowds grew and grew. And then the folks in Iowa decided he was just too risky to bet the farm on.

So now Dean is gone and Kerry's the man and, as far as I can tell, we're right back where we started. I know, everyone is ready to "take Bush on" now and in large part we have Dean to thank for showing everyone how to fight again.

But the fact is, Dean's message wasn't just about fighting Bush. A very large component was about Democrats acting like Democrats again. And in spite of all the unity at last week's Unity Dinner, the divide between the real Democrats that Dean tapped into and the so-called establishment Democrats has closed very little.

It's hard to see that now because Bush is such a unifying force. But you have to wonder what it says when the primary organizing principle is not the affirmation of an internal positive but the defeat of an external negative. In other words, Democratic unity, and this election in general, is all about George Bush.

And meanwhile, the great grassroots are still out there waiting. Waiting for something positive and real to work for instead of just something to work against. And until we find that positive unifying principle, the divide will continue to grow.

I believe that in order to understand that divide, we must first face a pretty unpleasant reality -- our party leadership doesn't really represent us anymore. If that sounds harsh consider this paragraph from John Nichols article, 'Behind the DLC Takeover':

At the national convention of a major political party, an ideologically rigid sectarian clique secures the ultimate triumph. It inserts two of its own as nominees for the Presidency and the Vice Presidency. Heavily financed by the most powerful corporations in the world, the group's leaders gather in a private club fifty-four floors above the convention hall, apart from the delegates of the party they had infiltrated. There, they carefully monitor the convention's acceptance of a platform the organization had drafted almost in its entirety. Then, with the ticket secured and with the policy course of the party set, they introduce a team of 100 shock troops to deploy across the country to lock up the party's grassroots.

This illuminating article tells the story of a shift in our party's priorities and allegiances. Bill Clinton and the DLC single-handedly turned the Party of the People into a party of corporate special interest.

Of course Bill Clinton worked for the common man. And he did good things for everyday Americans. But always, behind the scenes, big corporate money was changing hands and deals were being made.

The truth is that the corrupting influence of corporate money that has so blatantly infected the Republicans, has infected the Democrats as well. And every piece of legislation that winds its way through congress passes right along with the collection plate -- to both parties.

Of course there's the Machiavellian argument that deals get made and money changes hands and that's the way it works. And if you want to survive the game then you have to play ball. Bill Clinton mastered that rationale.

But are we surviving the game? Considering we've lost all three branches of government, I would argue no. Bill Clinton came into power with a New Democrat message: big government is over, FDR is dead, and personal responsibility would lead us to greater prosperity. And us Democrats, just happy to have the White House, all went along.

But something was lost under Bill Clinton's centrist, New Democrat message that we must get back if we are to ever win the country back: our soul.

The Democratic party is not about personal responsibility. It is about social responsibility. Responsibility to our neighbors. Responsibility to our communities. And responsibility to our fellow Americans.

After the Great Depression Americans developed a deep sense that we are all in it together. The New Deal was more than a set of leglislative initiatives. It was a new compact. Americans came together, using the greatest agent of democracy known to man, the U.S. federal government, and agreed to live together under a covenant of social responsibility.

The free market policies of the 20s and 30s were rejected for progressive, populist policies that drew upon this new sense of cooperation. Monopolies were dissassembled. Workers were protected. The wealthy were taxed. And something new emerged for the first time in the history of civilization: a middle class. Eventually, we even went to the Moon. All under the covenant of social responsibility.

But it would not last. Generations passed and people forgot the Great Depression. And the forces of greed and selfishness chipped away until the covenant was broken. And in the summer of 1992, on the back of a Volkswagon Beetle, a bumper sticker read, 'It's the economy stupid'.

To be fair, after twelve years of Reagan-Bush, who practically invented the age of selfishness, what else could that bumper sticker say? The economy was in shambles. The Republicans had mastered the art of the cultural distraction. White suburbanites were locking themselvews away with their guns while watching blacks rioting in the streets of Los Angeles.

So Bill Clinton felt our pain and the '93 tax hike on the wealthy lowered the debt and Alan Greenspan lowered interest rates and, most importantly, the price of oil became artificially cheap and the economy did well and... the Democrats lost both houses.

Then came the 2000 election and the fact that we had lost our soul and our principles came back and smacked us in the face. Al Gore, a true environmentalist, lost to a rich kid pretending to be a working class stiff because a bunch of liberal progressives voted for the Green party candidate who was never too big on the environment. This schitzophrenia, egged on by an incompetent --or downright malicious-- press, left the Democrats in Washington confused and divided.

If this wasn't bad enough, then came the 2002 election. And again came the soul searching: education, prescription drugs for the elderly, and protecting social security. What went wrong? The focus groups and the polls could not answer. They never will.

You can poll on issues and speak on issues but you have to lead on principles.

But our Democratic leaders have forgotten principles. Some just don't believe anymore. Some have just gotten awashed in the race from one media cycle to the next. But most, I would suggest, are loath to stick their necks out for what they percieve as unpopular populist rhetoric against the corrupt corporate power structure. They saw what happened to Howard Dean and Dennis Kucinich.

But if the leadership has forgotten the principles that made the Democratic party the Party of the People throughout most of the 20th century, everyday Democrats have not.

  • We still understand the most fundamental principle of all: social responsibility. September 11 was one of those rare moments when all Americans recognized that we are all in this together; that the fate of each of us individually depends on the fate of us all. But our leadership failed to reinstate the covenant of social responsibility. George Bush told us to shop and let his secret police handle it. And the Democrats positioned themselves tactically to the side.

  • We understand that government is the agent of democracy. It's how we make collective decisions and solve collective problems. If you say you are anti-government, you are really saying you are anti-democracy and anti-American. In a government of, by, and for the people, to say that government is the problem is saying that We, the People are the problem. Government may be imperfect but the way to improve it is to make it more democratic and more accountable. Not replace it with the least accountable entities of all -- private corporations.

  • We understand that raw unregulated capitalism leads to an unstable economy where a very few have all. We learned this the hard way from the Great Depression. And we still know that monopolies hurt consumers, workers and society whole.

  • We understand the need to protect the weakest among us not just for the sake of altruism, but as a matter of practicality. You simply can't sustain a society where the economic system is rigged against a majority of the citizens. It didn't work in the French monarchy and it sure as hell won't work in a democracy.

  • And we understand that some things, like electricity, are not optional. These things are fundamental to our survival and are not to be capitalized on like widgets. Free markets may work fine on the non-essentials, but mandatory services like water, and electricity are natural monopolies and cannot be trusted to undemocratic, profit-based private corporations.

  • Healthcare, above all else, is a human right. It is essential for life and profiteering on the backs of the sick is immoral. As is allowing 45 million of our citizens to be forced to crowd into emergency rooms just to get medical treatment because they can't afford insurance.

  • The corporatization of America must be stopped. None of the principles of social responsibility and democratic cooperation that were established under FDR and continued on through Kennedy can be reconciled with the Darwinistic laissez-faire agenda of corporate economics. None. The simple fact is that if left to their own devices, the Walmarts of America will just continue to spread like a virus. They will completely wipe out small businesses and real wages and living standards will continue to drop until we're all working three jobs just to break even. This is not a theory but merely an extrapolation from what has already occurred.

All of these principles really stem from the basic idea that has been forgotten in our society: that we are not just responsible for ourselves, but for each other as well. We have let the immoral selfishness of neo-liberal, Darwinsitic capitalism spread like a virus while the leadership and the spokespeople on the left cower.. Social responsibility is not some idealism conjured up by the love generation. It is a fundamental element of survival that even insects seem to comprehend.

The federal government is not some evil force. It is the greatest agent of social change in the history of mankind. Who defends these principles?

We allow our public airwaves to be filled with millionaires who have no other interest than to sell us their corporate sponsered agenda while our democratically elected representatives bow before them just to get some airtime. Do they defend the principles of democracy and social responsibility?

Even the Democrats, our beloved representatives of the Party of the People, are so beholden to the big money interest that they've forgotten to speak for the people.

So while pandering to the Big Hand that feeds may keep us at the dance, we're never gonna go home with the bride. We can't. It's not who we are. And the gap between the leadership and the grassroots is symptomatic of the difference between the will of the people and the will of the corporate donors.

I almost feel sorry for Tom Daschle - trying to walk the line between the power of big business and the power of millions of voters. But I can't.

We see our real America -- not the phony flag waiving facade that the right is selling on Fox and company -- but the real America where real people live out their lives and try to extract what little bit of the American dream they can, send their kids to college, and hopefully retire in the comfort of their savings --being devoured by a corporate machine. And year after year, it gets more and more expensive just to live and the quality of the food and products we buy gets worse and worse until the cycle of corporate consumerism puts us on a treadmill we can never get ahead of. This is the real America.

And meanwhile our Democratic leaders are up to their necks in it. In this respect Nader has a point. The real issues that formally distinguished the right from the left --namely cooperation and social responsibility verses free market Darwinism--have been replace by Darwinism verses Darwinism-lite. And both sides have embraced the corporate trough.

Now I will never vote for Ralph Nader and I will never forgive him for helping Kathryn Harris, Jeb Bush and Antoine Scalia throw the election, but this is what I meant by surviving the game. As long as the Democratic leadership serves two masters, they have Ralph Nader or someone like him to look forward to for the foreseeable future.

Originally posted to TocqueDeville on Tue Nov 09, 2004 at 06:08 PM PST.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Great diary Toque (none)
    I disagree with alot of it, but it is a terrific piece of work.

    It's time to reject a President that says to the American people 'Ignore my record, forget my failures and fear the future.' - Kerry Campaign

    by Armando on Tue Nov 09, 2004 at 06:10:01 PM PST

  •  Yo. (3.80)
    You and I have certainly butted heads - mainly because I am a strong believer in party discipline (has to do with my Trotskyite tendencies and a background in Democratic Centralism)...and do not think that eviscerating the Party's choice during the campaign is kosher.

    Now that the Party's choice has lost the farm, it is open season...

    And you are right on target, my brutha.

    One thing I wonder about many of those registered Democrats are actually Bush Voters? And how many of those registered Democrats registered specifically in order to mess with the Dem Primaries?

    Same goes for Florida...

    Are the choices of candidate our party is making being determined by sleeper cells?

    The only way to ensure a free press is to own one

    by RedDan on Tue Nov 09, 2004 at 06:11:33 PM PST

    •  Iowa (none)
      You realize that anyone could go to the Iowa primary at the time of the primary, state they wanted to register as a Democrat, and vote however they liked.

      In the struggle against evil, there is no shame in defeat -- only in not fighting. -Tolkien

      by Sedge on Tue Nov 09, 2004 at 07:27:59 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Rove & Iowa (none)

        And Rove apparently flooded Iowa with Young Republicans in the week before the caucusues there.

        Its like the media listened to Weird Al's "Dare to be Stupid" and said "Yes! This is how the world should be!"

        by RHunter on Tue Nov 09, 2004 at 08:26:09 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

    •  Iowa (none)
      Iowa doesn't have presidential primaries, it holds caucuses. You have to actually attend the caucus. I only caucused in two places (so small sample size effect applies), but I knew a lot of the people at my caucuses. I went there with friends. There was actual political discussion occuring. Quite a lot of fun, actually.

      How many registered Iowa Democrats are actually Bush voters? Precious few, I would guess.

      I think that this is a greater concern elsewhere. It was probably the case that there was a fair amount of "strategic voting" in Wisconsin primaries several years ago (with Republicans voting for Jesse Jackson).

    •  Yep (none)
      Not only that. In how many primaries can independents vote?

      And it's wise to have Iowa and New Hampshire as the first primaries? Giving that both are at best centrist states.

      Wouldn't it be better to have all the primaries the same date? Or three dates tops East, Central and West.

      I don't think that tons of republicans go to the democratic primaries, but I do believe that as they are set now they're not helpful for the party and they tend to help the centrist (with the almighty help of the freeish press).

    •  Social responsibility=Socialism (4.00)
      It's time to acknowledge that FDR's New Deal was the American version of the socialism that swept through the world in response to the Great Depression. True, our version was the "lite" edition, a compromise hammered out under the duress of an economy in shambles after 1929, but socialism it was, and it created the Great Middle Class and every one of us has prospered under it.  

      Every alpha type who proudly proclaims that s/he has "made it on their own" has forgotten that they have made it by arising from the rich ground of a society that nurtures it's least fortunate. You wouldn't have squat without the programs that helped your parents and grandparents achieve the middle-class base that you started from.  Guess what.  The socialism-lite experiment was a roaring success for the middle class, just like it was supposed to be.

      And yet, we run in fear from being branded "socialists", even here at dKos.  I think it's time we begin to honor our roots, roots that reach back a century or more, and honor the tens of thousands who shed blood to win for us the benefits we are now seeing torn down and trampled.  

      FDR's version of Socialism, the New Deal, was the great compromise that integrated Marx's principles of economic justice with our democratic tradition, avoiding the authoritarian excesses of the Russian dead-end.  It worked pretty well, but, unfortunately, we will only see that in losing it.

      Wish your kids good luck. They're gonna need it while we try to rebuild the very Socialism-lite that saved the Republic, without daring to utter it's name.

      That rumbling sound you hear is Karl Marx, rolling  over in his grave, trying to grasp the nature of a society whose oppressed rise up to defend the system that opresses them. Meanwhile, Joe Goebbels is chuckling in his grave, delighted over the success of his prize student, Karl Rove, and Karl's  well-oiled propaganda machine.

      don't always believe what you think

      by claude on Wed Nov 10, 2004 at 08:36:24 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Well Said, Socialist. We are all socialist here in (none)
        DKos. Man, it takes guts to say what you wrote. And you did it clearly and convincingly.

        I wish we all would talk about this issue and recognize the reality of our ultra-capitalist society and how it appropiates and controls our language, which in turn controls our thinking and set the term of our political debates.

        You deserve mojo.

        •  Well... (none)
          ...I started out as a communist (small 'c') in my wild and excessive youth, but now, being old and grown very conservative, I am merely a democratic socialist.

          don't always believe what you think

          by claude on Wed Nov 10, 2004 at 09:35:35 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

  •  Great piece (none)
    Neither party has the leaders that will take this country toward progress.
    It hurts me to see what conclusions are drawn from the false election results.
  •  This is a really great diary! Thank you. (none)
    •  Just read it a second time. (none)
      This is one of the best essays I've read. Highly recommended.

      We're not the party of personal responsibility. We're the party of social responsibility.

      Yes. That is the VERY core of it.

      And damn does that resonate with my Catholic social justice genes.

      •  How about just the party of (4.00)

        The only way to ensure a free press is to own one

        by RedDan on Tue Nov 09, 2004 at 06:49:13 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  I could certainly live with that! (none)
          If we had a champion to push it hard, making the points above.
          •  I believe in both (none)
            the big (and fair) critique of social responsibility was that it reduced the personal kind, it reduced the moral hazard and created dependency. And sometimes it does.

            Now we have neither. No one gets fired in the Bush administration, not even Bush, for all their catastrophic malfeasance. And no one feels the slightest compunction to give anyone else a fair shake.

            We're the party of responsibility.

        •  Why I would disagree with this (4.00)
          Its important to reintroduce the notion of social responsibility, the notion that there are collective actions that are what democracy is.  That's the progressive piece and it is what the New Democrats purposely gave up. That's also what the republican revolution attacked. It needs to be reinvigorated. It is what has been missing from our public political culture since the 1980's. And until its part of that culture, the culture will always be out of balance and the "out of balance"ness is what keeps the Repubs winning.  That's what this diary is highlighting, even though it didn't identify the particular puzzle piece.

          In a democratic society some are guilty, but all are responsible. -Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel

          by a gilas girl on Wed Nov 10, 2004 at 07:12:06 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

      •  Slightly Amend That (4.00)
        For Democrats, social responsibility IS a form of personal responsibility.  I don't see any contradiction between the two.  Stewardship--taking charge of society--is at one remove a way to take charge of one's own life.

        I never rode shotgun on a hearse before.

        by angry blue planet on Wed Nov 10, 2004 at 07:07:22 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  We still don't know what to do (4.00)
    I have a friend who is a tried and true Democrat, but a conservative one -- more to the side of Lieberman.  He grew up among limousine liberals in Greenwich, CT, and sees the whole democratic party through that lens.  But so do a lot of people. They call us elitist. My democratic experience is by contrast working class -- or rather -- 'working people' as my mother calls us.  We are losing that constituency.  

    Some say we should hold strong to our values; I agree.  But a lot of people don't understand them, and they are easily caricaturized by the press and especially by the Republicans.  Some say we should dilute the message; move to the middle, wherever that is.  I agree.  But I find it hard to do if it means telling outright lies, as opposed to Clintonesque fibs.

    I don't know what the answer is, and I don't think anybody does right now.  I think we will come up with one.  We have to get back to where Roosevelt was.  He spoke to 'working people'.  We need slogans, we need words that identify the ordinary people with us.  It's not rocket science.  There's got to be somebody out there who knows how to market.  The good news is that we are relatively united in our common distress.  If we don't tear each other apart, we have a chance.

    •  How's this for a slogan? (4.00)
      "We're all in this together."

      That's what makes the righties talk of destroying the left so infuriating. They don't understand that we all have to live with each other.

      So if "liberals" are an "elite", how come we aren't in charge?

      by Pam in MA on Tue Nov 09, 2004 at 07:03:55 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  And the flip side (4.00)
        for describing the Republican agenda:

        You're on your own.

        Health insurance? You're on your own.
        Retirement security? You're on your own.
        A quality education? You're on your own.

        Great sig, BTW.

        We have always known that heedless self-interest was bad morals; we now know that it is bad economics. —Franklin Delano Roosevelt

        by Utah for Dean on Tue Nov 09, 2004 at 08:18:40 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

      •  It's good, (none)
        but unfortunately it reminds me of the slogan in Terry Gilliam's dystopic, Kafka-esque movie "Brazil":

        "Happiness:  we're all in it together."

        Nothing requires a greater effort of thought than arguments to justify the rule of nonthought. -- Milan Kundera

        by Dale on Tue Nov 09, 2004 at 09:36:21 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

      •  How about (none)
        I am my brother's keeper? Its biblical so the fundies/Reps can't demean it as is their usual form of argument, its exactly the same thing you're trying to say, and the vast majority of the American  public recognizes the wording even if they can't place exactly where its from. You want a meme, there's your meme. Everyone remembers what happened to Caine.
    •  The Depression helped here: (none)
      "We have to get back to where Roosevelt was.  He spoke to 'working people'."

      I fear we are going to be the minority party 'til the economy collapses, which it eventually will under returd "leadership". I'm astonished Kerry couldn't make hay of the economic situation. I thought it was going to be a slam dunk.

    •  Make them understand. (none)
      Moving to the middle is exactly the wrong thing to do in order to win over the working class.  The working class understands responsibility and social responsibility better than anyone.  We just need to activate that part of their brain and have them associate it with Democrats.  You don't do that by mimicing the other side or copying their ideas.  That actually makes it much worse.

      In 1964, Goldwater was destroyed by LBJ but he started a new seed of conservatism that worked to activate the frames from which conservatives believe.  He emphasized personal responsibility, lower taxes, traditional values, less government and made it sound real nice.  People started to associate Republicans with these things as conservatives worked to repeat that message everywhere.  Reagan took it to new heights and Bush has been riding the coattails of it.  

      Now it is time to turn the tide and reactivate what Democrats know to be right: Global cooperation, broad prosperity, effective government, healthy community, and above all mutual responsibility.  Being good neighbors is our theme.  We help each other out in order to live in a better U.S.  Working class people get that.  They love their neighbors.  They want them to have health care.  They want them to not have to drink poisoned water or breath pollutants.  They don't want them to send their kids to war.  They don't want them to have to worry about losing their house if they lose their job.  This can only be accomplished through the greatest government in the world.  People can believe in this.  We just need to repeat it enough and they will.

      And the best thing about it.  It is 100% the soul of our party.

  •  Recommend, highly (4.00)
    You make so many good points.

    The only one that stands out that I disagree with is that personal responsibility has been a killer for us.  Sure, we need to articulate why we are about "social responsibility" too, but Bill called that "community".

    I have always believed that instead of killing off FDR and big government, that we would do well to see our own failures.  Pretending that we didn't get drunk with power, holding congress for 40 yrs made us fat and happy and wasteful and the people had real reason for resentment.  We did that to our party as much as the New Democrats did it.

    "But your flag decal won't get you into heaven anymore"--Prine

    by Cathy on Tue Nov 09, 2004 at 07:00:29 PM PST

    •  The GOP has moved this country to the right (none)
      It took 30 years, and it was absolutely NO accident. It was very pre-meditated. And the New Democrats thing is a symptom as well as a cure -- if you call putting a band-aid on a bullet wound a cure.

      The Goldwater-Reagan project of the right wing has put a lot of memes into our everyday thinking. "Less Government", "Tax Relief", and "Economic Freedom" are all things that sound REALLY GOOD, and they're spread by GOP thinktanks. On the other hand "Liberal Media", "Tax and Spend", "More Government", and even "Elitist" have been slapped onto us in the worst way possible.

      Some of the thinktanks responsible:

      The Media Research Center

      The Heritage Foundation

      Ultimately, the problem is deeper than any candidate. I'm impressed John Kerry did as well as he did -- it means that we're not nearly as crushed as when the GOP was crushed by Lyndon Johnson. We have years to pick who that candidate is, but we shouldn't have to sell our souls and move further to the right, nor should we try to move further to the left.

      The key is to move the country, not necessarily our party.

  •  My initial reaction to the loss by Kerry (4.00)
    was that the party was leaning too far from the center, but my thinking has changed over the past couple of days.

    You're right, we do have to stand for something.  And standing for something involves risk.

    We have to be more bold and accept the risk that people won't buy our initiatives.  But at least we will have stood for something.

    Universal health care?  The fraidy-cat in me tells me it's a loser of an issue, they will nail us with the socialized medicine argument, we'll go down in flames.  But the better part of me thinks it is time we started taking on some big issues in a meaningful way and started to stand for something again.

    •  It's time we stopped giving up (none)
      on issues just because we lost the first time.

      Take health care. A terrible idea (I thought Hillary was nuts) going down in flames didn't solve the problem. We have to keep trying until we get a nice, simple single-payer system. Even if it's our children implementing it.

      So if "liberals" are an "elite", how come we aren't in charge?

      by Pam in MA on Tue Nov 09, 2004 at 07:09:53 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  Socialized health care (none)
      Americans don't want Canadian style health care, and when they hear "universal health care" that's what they think.

      Kerry's ideas for health care were good, but nobody ever really understood them.  They should have been explained with metaphors about the way the government reinsures for diasters. For example, if a hurricane or earthquake hits somewhere, the government comes in with emergency funds. We've also got things like national flood insurance. If the government acts as a re-insurer for catastrophic health care costs, it saves some hair on the heads of actuaries. They'll be able to drastically lower premiums and take on higher-risk groups.

      Add some tax deductions for insurance premiums and you've got a system that protects a lot more people and actually work politically.

      -- Want to make a difference? Join the taskforce! --

      by fwiffo on Tue Nov 09, 2004 at 08:01:58 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  asdf (4.00)
        You are going to have to show me a credible poll before I believe this:

        "Americans don't want Canadian style health care, and when they hear "universal health care" that's what they think."

        I simply don't buy it. The turds say Americans don't want health care, but I've never seen a credible poll showing that.

      •  Canadian style health care (4.00)
        Americans don't want "socialized" medicine because they think they don't want socialized anything.

        If you can actually manage to explain to them what a single payer system means, you might be able to sell the issue.

        Calling a single payer system socialized medicine is simply ignorant. People should be called on it every time they suggest it.

        •  Socialized whatever (none)
          One day, the Republicans will be able to convince Americans of the evil of socialized libraries and socialized schools and socialized security -- NOT! Democrats must be smart about how they play the health care card, of course, but with the right effort and enough time we can bring the rest of America on board with universal health care, or something resembling it.

          On this note, I'd argue that shock therapy never works, as Russia in the 90s proved. So for economic reasons and PR reasons, we should work toward full coverage step by step.

      •  Make them want it. (4.00)
        Who cares if they don't want it now.  We make them want it.  That's the point.  You believe in it, talk about why it is so great, rinse, repeat ... and soon people believe in it.  It will work because the current health care system is nearing disaster.

        Let's start by talking about health insurance and how much beuracratic waste is involved in it.  Keep pounding that point home and it will stick.  Talk about Susie's mom fighting with insurance companies or Doctor Smith trying to get HMO to pay for an X-Ray.  Private Insurance = Waste of our money and our time.  It is as obvious as can be but the frame doesn't exist for too many.

        The fact behind the frame:  Canada spends 1.3 cents of every dollar on Administrative health care costs.  The U.S. Private insurer spends 11.2.  That's waste.  Kind of like $500 for a toilet seat.

      •  Do Americans want dead infants? (4.00)
        Because the infant mortality rate in the US is twice that of Sweden and some of the Nordic countries and way higher than anywhere in Europe.  The US spends almost 50% more per GDP on health care than European do and the US is far behind in all statistical measures of health.

        Universal health care does not have to be single-payer.  Look at the Belgian system.  Single-payer like in Britian and Canada can have problems, although it is certainly better than what exists in the US now.

      •  It's The Frame, Stupid ... (none)
        The GOP has managed to frame the Health Care debate in their terms. Whenever the words "Government" and "Health Care" are spoken in the same sentence it invokes a negative frame of some draconian world where government officals will be deciding your health care needs. Much like the word "Liberal" - "Socialize" is negative to the core.

        Of course, we could all go on at length about how wrong that argument is (Lord knows I've tried more than a few times) - but, as we do it we reinforce their frame.

        Perfect case of the GOP getting people to vote against their own self-interests because they own the frame and whatever goes it.

        "Without deviation from the norm, progress is not possible" - Frank Zappa
    •  Healthcare as Economic Development (4.00)
      I've never understood why universally available, affordable healthcare has never been marketed as a part of economic development.  Can you imagine the creativity that would be unleashed if people with good ideas are able to take the risk(s) of developing a business without jeopardizing the health of their family?
    •  Health Care is a program, not a principle (none)
      Now equality, that's a principle.  And equal access to healthcare for all is a program that flows from the principle of equality.

      Only those who dare to fail greatly can ever achieve greatly. -- Robert F. Kennedy

      by LionelEHutz on Wed Nov 10, 2004 at 08:35:55 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  to the contrary (none)
      i work for a membership organization made up of the areas CEOs, university presidents, labor leaders and such.

      the issue that everyone agrees on is healthcare. it's costing business too much money. the sytem's disfuction is driving down productivity, etc.

      healthcare is not just a moral imperative, it is a business imperative. just as we should not make people chose between medicine and food, we should not make a business chose between providing health care benefits or expanding/creating more jobs.

      we had an event on healthcare costs, etc. the discussion amongst our members--made up largely of bush voteres/contributors--sounded like a howard dean stump speech.

      our members we're talking about how universal healthcare is 1) an inevitability, and 2) integral to private sector survival.

      healthcare is not a pie-in-the-sky dream. it's the key to a dem revival... we just need to package it better.
      •  You have to frame it as an economic issue (none)
        not a moral issue. The Repubs can scream 'socialism' all damn day long when you try to make it sound like the right thing to do. But its a lot harder to argue with common sense numbers.

        One example: what's cheaper:  paying 20 dollars a month for insulin pills or tens of thousands of dollars for the obesity, amputations, heart problems, life-threatening infections, and other problems that come from untreated diabetes? Its a no-brainer. People don't realize we already HAVE nationalized health care -- hospitals can't turn gravely ill people away to die in the street. Its illegal. That just means that you, the American taxpayer, doesn't pay for healthcare for everyone until they've progressed to the point that ONLY THE MOST EXPENSIVE CRITICAL CARE WILL SAVE THEIR LIVES. So you're ALREADY paying for it, like it or not, and I would LOVE to see the Repub that suggests we legally allow hospitals to turn away people without insurance to die in the street. That's real Christian.

        So the fact remains, we're already paying for it. Do we want to pay through the nose, or do we want to sit down and realize its a hell of a lot cheaper to pay for a bandaid and an antibiotic shot than an amputation?

  •  Excellent piece! (none)
    I think you nailed so much of what I've been thinking.

    Would you mind if I pulled quotes from your piece?

    At any rate, thanks for a very incisive dairy!

    "Recent developments indicate that the current Republican Party leadership has confused confident leadership with hubris and arrogance." John Eisenhower

    by wiseguyeh on Tue Nov 09, 2004 at 07:05:31 PM PST

  •  Stop trying to find where the votes are! (3.50)

    Instead of continued analyses on what issues that voters will find most appealing in this state or that state, etc. - just come to a consensus as to what the Democratic Party stands For...And let the voters find it.

    I think these issues may lie in recent history.

    Consider this.  Was the height of the Democratic Party during the period of FDR, when the country was UNITED against a clear and threatening enemy, when labor injustices were high as well as racial inequalities?

    Perhaps the remaining core of this party represents a reality that really no longer exists and hence is trying to establish cohesion with a number of disparate and oftentimes conflicting collection of interests.  

    Is it possible that this party has become an excessive patchwork job that has no real core?

    I believe the Party needs to recognize this change of reality, relish in the successes of bringing about a lot of positive changes in history vis-a-vis these its time to move on.

    Sure, I am certain there still exists some forms of racism (institutional or otherwise), gendor inequalities, etc.  However, this country has come along so far that these issues are no longer defining one as they have already been defined.

    These ideals, however, are no less relevant or important than they were at the height of Democratic supremacy.

    Times have long changed now.  I believe, its time to apply these same ideals to the developing issues of today.

    The fact is that the US is a leading member of the growing community of global economic states.

    Members already on board are US, EU, China, Japan, among many others.

    If we can think "outside" of ourselves and our own self-nationalistic-interests there is a much bigger world out there that needs these same Democratic Ideals instilled into the newly participating or soon to be participating country/states.

    I have historically looked at the Democratic Party of one of a moral conscience.  There is a no better time to project these ideals onto the world stage.

    Think.  Sudan.  Serbia.  Iraq.  Interior China, etc.

    Here we have the same issues that we have faced in our own history - gendor inequality, racism (individual and institutionalized), labor inequalities, education inequalities, health inequities... The list goes on and on.

    Perhaps the solution to the Partisan Divide is for  BOTH parties to each recognize their counterpart's strengths (and weaknesses) and then unifying to promoting A JUST and FAIR policy in uniting the remaining parts of the world that have yet to join the global marketplace.

    Typically, this part has been looked at a being the stronger for guiding domestic policy.

    However, the reality is, that, despite lingering problems, this country is overall pretty darn prosperous.  And that prosperity is being derived from its connectivity to the outside world.

    Maybe a refocusing of the Democratic ideals should be directed to shaping our foreign policy as it pertains to assisting country/states that are experiencing connectivity problems to the global marketplace.

    As connectivity continues worldwide, the US's overpowering role must diminish vis-a-vis the rest of the world.

    At some point, we, ourselves, will be forced to ratify some form of a Kyoto-like treaty, acknowledge the legitemacy of a World Court, defer some of our national sovreignty to a higher world order...Remember, globalization is always a two-way street.  At some point in the future our country will have to face these new realities or we will find ourselves left disconnected!  That's the ultimate beauty of globalization - making countries MORE EQUAL.

    Perhaps this is a good and positive starting point for a party searching for a role in the 21st century.

    Honestly, I can't think of a better and more noble place to start.



    •  Good policy, (none)
      but not helpful for winning elections. We're not yet to the point in history where people are willing to accept grand visions about a globalized world that trumps our beloved nation, despite the fact that, you're right, we're already in that world.

      That's my comment.

      •  I am sorry, but... (3.66)
        Is that what's its all about?  Winning elections?

        OK, Once the elections are won, then what.  What do we do?

        Aren't we looking at this 180 degrees out of phase?

        Let's define what we are going to do first; what we stand for and then win elections by convincing others that our way represents of good vision of the future?

        As much as I agree to your point about resistence to global pressures versus our own nationalistic ones, I do believe, at some point, we will have no choice but to accept the dictates of say a G12.

        Our country's debt is actually being financed by other countries.  At some point, we'll have to defer to their conditions.  Currency valuations, interest rates, etc. - these are all part of the "checks and balances" that will require to play by the very same rules that we once imposed ourselves.

        Just remember, very recently, a large Chinese bank 's management was turned over to a extra-sovreign authority - not because they wanted to, but because they had to.

        That's the power of globalization...there is "no us versus them" mentality...We are all one and we will all play by the same rules!  

        I am looking forward to that future world.

        Connected countries will mean the end to pandemics, famine, gendor/racial/education inequalities.

        I really don't think the future is too far away.
        Perhaps only a generation or so.

        That's the future I pray for.  For me, its no longer, just about the US - its all of us (and I am including the environment too!)

        Call me a dreamer - out of touch, maybe, but that's a future worth dreaming for and aspiring to.

        We must first think our future before realizing it!


      •  We aren't winning elections (none)
        but that's not quite the point.

        You can't win unless you stand for something.  In the beginning, if we are to shift the dem paradigm, we have to be willing to lose with a candidate we believe in rather than lose with a candidate we think the republican thinking American will vote for.

        We have to stop second guessing at what it is that people want to hear.  Instead we have to stick our necks out and say what we mean.  Even if we lose, at least we have made inroads.

        Please, we need messages that ring true.  Our current agenda is as bad as watered down whisky.

  •  I tend to disagree. (4.00)
    I think that you are probably right on the money about the party machine. The DLC and DNC have problems.

    However, I think that there is a paradox in your talk about "accountability" and being the "party of the people."

    Many of our elected officials are very good people, I think, who care about their constituents (I like both of Senators from Oregon), but because of the very transparency of our government, they're often beholden to corporate interests.

    Fareed Zakaria (I know, I know) makes a really persuasive case about this in The Future of Freedom. Transparency and direct accountability to the people creates problems. When you could make budget decision behind closed doors, it was possible to make pragmatic decisions about how to cut programs. We did it in the 80s for a short while. Now our elected officials can't cut anything, because there's always a lobbyist looking over their shoulder and keeping them in line.

    The thing is that these lobbyists are often working on behalf of the people, albeit indirectly, whether we like to admit or not. Many of us work in industries that have lobbies. But it's not economically effective to fight lobbies. If 10 people get together to hire a lobbyist to get them a million bucks, they each can afford to pour $100,000 into it. But you can't expect people to group together to stop something that costs them literally less than a penny each.

    And the problem with being directly accountable to the public is that the public is moronic. Look at the problems with referendums in California, and now elsewhere -- if you give people the choice, they always vote for MORE services and LOWER taxes. The result is debt to make up the difference.

    As Democrats, we are the party of social responsibility. But our officials need to run on one value, and one value alone: INTEGRITY. It's the thing that separates good public officials from the bad. We need integrity in order to have the kind of government that's we can trust to just shut the doors and make decisions for all of us. That's what we elect public officials before: to make good decisions for us, because we don't have the time to do it ourselves. That's the basis of republican government.

    •  transparency? (none)
      So, let me get this straight, because we can see what they're doing, politicians can't do the right things? Only by going back to smoke filled rooms wherein no-one knows who makes what decisions will we return to government of the people, by the people?

      And all this time I thought Karl Rove was Orwellian.

      •  Actually yes (none)
        It used to be a Congressman could do something for the greater good behind closed door and plausibly fib to his affected constituents: "I tried to protect your subsidy / tax break / whatever, but I was voted down." Today, they can't get away with it.  Even transparency has its unfortunate, unintended consequences.

        "No President has ever done more for human rights than I have." --George W. Bush (quoted in The New Yorker, January 19, 2004)

        by Jim in Chicago on Tue Nov 09, 2004 at 08:27:32 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Um ... (none)
          You're really from Chicago, huh? And you think they closed the doors to do greater good?

          Read much Royko?

          (my head is spinning ...)

          vote early - vote often

          by wystler on Tue Nov 09, 2004 at 10:45:57 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  Everything in moderation (none)
            Chicago in the Richard J. Daley era is probably the ultimate point of American corruption.  But that doesn't mean a little secrecy is always a bad thing.  The Constitution has a bunch of undemocratic institutions in it for a reason.  And frankly, often when we try to make those institutions more democratic we severely weaken their power to reflect the public good.  Think ballot initiatives in California or direct election of judges.
            •  No (none)
              Plenty of deeper corruption in this nation. But folks who don't pay much attention don't know about it. All around the country during prohibition, and in other big cities during other periods too. Boss Tweed & Tammany Hall, anybody? Warren G. Harding presidency? All big cities have done business that way.

              vote early - vote often

              by wystler on Wed Nov 10, 2004 at 06:54:52 AM PST

              [ Parent ]

      •  No. (none)
        (1) The issue is limited to spending bills. Taxes, subsidies, budgets.

        (2) You can still see how people voted on the bill. What shouldn't be public are the committee meetings where the bills are refined.

        (3) Despite your use of the "Orwellian" strawman, there is a kernel of truth to the argument you're ridiculing. Krugman made a very persuasive case in an article last year about how our CEO culture has changed -- from an attitude of stewardship to one of greed. This shift is what you should be scrutinizing. Remember, the common people have only recently had the information resources available to watch politics closely. Yet prior to that availability, all did not come crashing down into 1984. On the contrary, it was around the time that information became available that the system began to act the way it does now.

        The problem is that you are committed to the idea of "politicians" being evil beasts who, left to themselves, will steal every last penny of the public's money for their rich friends. I respectfully submit that this was not always the case, and that it's not necessarily the politicians who changed -- they worked fine for 200 years -- but an increase in the amount of information available about what they did and the creation of an infrastructure that leveraged that information to influence otherwise public-minded officals and subvert the democratic process.

    •  Please (4.00)
      Reconsider what you're saying. Your argument precedes the signing of the Declaration of Independence. Many, if not most of our founders feared what they were doing. They saw democracy as an experiment and therefore tempered the model in the form of a republic. They essentially feared the "morons".

      Look at what happened though. America is the oldest existing state in the world. By quite a long shot. Over two centuries. It turned out the morons, if given the chance and enough information, will, on average make pretty good decisions. Exeptions are noted.

      The modern day morons, the ones who voted republican, are victims of the most powerful mass manipulation tool in the history of humankind: Television.

      A good 30 plus percent of our population is NOT suffering from stupidity or cognative dissonance. They are literally brainwashed.

      When the 1938 Telecommunications act was made law, it had the Fairness Clause. Equal time for all sides. This was because they saw something really scarey and immediatly took action to prevent it happening here. The scarey thing? Hitler.

      "I know the human being and fish can coexist peacefully." George Bush

      by TocqueDeville on Tue Nov 09, 2004 at 08:37:37 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Yeah, but... (none)
        The case can be made that the country has lasted so long so profitably precisely because of the things that limit the power of unchecked democracy.  I mean as a country we just hit mostly universal sufferage less than 50 years ago.  And in the end, the institutions that guaranteed even that expansion of rights were the most undemocratic in the nation: the courts and executive order.
        •  Quite true (none)
          I used to support ballot initiatives much more than I do now. But seeing them in action forced me to recognise the dangers of the masses making policy directly.

          But what made me appreciate the wisdom of democracy was on the local level. I noticed that even the dumbest hick would fight tooth and nail to keep a hazerdous waste dump away from their children's school. Often they would even win.

          I suspect that, if we continue to grow as a civilization, despite recent setbacks, there will be no time, however long into the future, where we won't be able to look back to the near past and say, "fuck, I cant believe we used to do that."

          "I know the human being and fish can coexist peacefully." George Bush

          by TocqueDeville on Tue Nov 09, 2004 at 10:17:44 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

      •  A Republic means (none)
        that you have electors to represent the will of the people and then the people are able to go about their business without having to meddle in politics all the time. This could, arguably, leave the people with more time to deal with the local issues that concern them (hazardous waste dumps by schools, etc.)

        If people are really brainwashed, then that is an argument for not letting them make policy.

        But I think you're wrong. It seems to me that both problems (lobbies and referendums) stem from the fact that our electors are being interfered with in their decisionmaking process. The point is that we elect people so that we don't have to worry about politics all the time. It's not economically feasible to fight lobbies since the marginal cost to average Americans is so low compared to the massive benefits accrued by participants in the lobby. The only thing we can do is close our electoral processes.

    •  We may work in industries that (none)
      have lobbies, but the things the lobbyists are lobbying for are not things that help those who WORK in those industries, they help those who INVEST in those industries.

      That connection was broken in the 1980's when the route to profit was identified as "downsize" workers, break up industries into their resellable parts, stop with production and simply hold paper. Corporate interests aren't really populist interests anymore and increasingly they aren't even employees of corporations' interests either.

      Plus, think about how often those lobbyists and corporate leaders hold jobs hostage as a way to screw the communities that their employees live in.

      In a democratic society some are guilty, but all are responsible. -Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel

      by a gilas girl on Wed Nov 10, 2004 at 07:18:23 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  That's not what I'm saying (none)
        Ignore the part about the industries for a second. I was just trying to score a rhetorical point about the economic reality of lobbies.

        Let's say me and 9 of my friends get together and lobby Congress to to give us a million dollars to throw parties. We each chip in $10,000 and hire a lobbyist. Soon, The spending bills turn around and we each get $100,000 back.

        The marginal cost to each American to pay me and my friends our beer money is ($1 Million / 300 million people) = 1/3 of a cent per person. It's not worth anyone's time to fight me! Time for another beer bong!

        Multiple this problem by ten thousand and you have the central dilemma of modern American politics. The scales of economic interest are profoundly tipped towards the thieves. "Most importantly*, note that nothing lobbyists do is illegal. They are essentially in the business of making threats. Hence, the best solution to this problem is to remove their ability to make credible threats by preserving the privacy of the electoral decisionmaking process. We can limit this to budget deliberations if you're freaked out about this, but I assure you that there is no other way to competently deal with the problem.

    •  Here's a thought (none)
      I have no evidence to back this up, so I'll ask a question rhetorically and see if that works, you can  judge for yourself:

      Of the people who voted for Bush and Kerry, which camp has greater numbers answering "yes" to this question:  "I don't agree with everything he stands for, but I like that he stands for something?"

      I have my opinions about what the answer is.  And, that question and answer kind of blows a hole in the idea that knowing what elected officials do is a bad thing.

      If what you mean is that people like Kerry's decisions can be spun into something that they aren't, then that's a differnt issue (IMHO).

  •  We need to (4.00)
    take some of the time we spend reading, blogging and worrying about Bushco and use it to monitor and influence our own party leadership.

    My fear is that what's left of Democratic leadership will do what they usually do-try to be Republican Lite and ape their methods. For instance, Nancy Pelosi's recent appearance on Lou Dobbs where she overplayed the religion card.

    We keep waiting in anticipation for the Right Wing Wacko Fundies to overreach so that mainstream America will see their true Theocratic insanity. But if there is no secular, sane looking adult Democrats, to whom will they turn? Women will find out they can't buy birth control pills anymore, then turn on the TV to see the Democratic Minority leader talking about how America has changed and we must all adapt to the new Bush-Jesus mandate. Give me a break!

    •  Yes (4.00)
      I thought to myself just now.. is there a tautology explaining why I'm here?  In other words, if I'm interested in politics because I want Democrats to win elections, why do I want Democrats to win elections?  Because they're Democrats?  That's not good enough.

      Maybe a useful exercise is.. forget George W Bush, as much as possible.  (Would that it were..!)  Seriously, forget Bush.  Pretend he's not president.  Pretend he's still running a baseball team in Texas.  So, why are we here?  What do we stand for?

      We must cultivate our garden.

      by daria g on Tue Nov 09, 2004 at 07:51:41 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  that is indeed the question of the hour (4.00)
        Why do we want a dem to be President?  Power.  Power to make the rules and give us a voice.  we have no voice now -- none.  Not this administration, not the dem party, not one single dem leader is speaking out.  The only leaders I have heard -- Pelosi, Panetta etc. -- have voiced some concerns and where the dem party should go, like speaking about religion.  That is not enough.

        Why am I a dem? Social fairness and "all men are created equal."  that is why.

        I was excited about Obama, but when he talks about working with George Bush about a better America, he is aligning himself with the man who most wants to take him down.  Watch Bush pull Obama in, lure him to the White House, give him a nickname, ask for his help in getting a certain bill through, then underfund and undermine it.  Obama will be left in the dirt.  If he stands up against Bush right from the get go, then I will reassess.

        We need to start at the county level to work for social fairness and equality.  

        I expect we are in for 10-20 years of this crud.  Sorry but I am really not feeling good about our chances.  Even Howard Dean sees the struggle as long and hard and at the county level.

        •  You're Selling Barack Obama Short (4.00)
          I wouldn't want to get into a game of Texas Hold'Em with Mr. Obama. GWB would be wise to play straight with him. If he doesn't, Barack'll chew him up & spit him out in time for the 2006 midterms. Illinois' new junior senator will get a pretty fair amount of face time on the cable & sunday pundit shows, and will hold his own like few have done before.

          vote early - vote often

          by wystler on Tue Nov 09, 2004 at 10:50:46 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

  •  Great Diary (none)
    Very nice.  I really believe that many of the leaders of our party have forgotten what make us different than the Republicans, and I think you captured that extremely well.

    All dressed up, but can't find the party

    by Troth on Tue Nov 09, 2004 at 07:18:28 PM PST

  •  Bravo (none)
    Damn, that didn't seem all that hard.  But sometimes it takes great insight to see the obvious.  Thanks - your self-imposed nickname is well deserved.

    I don't agree with everything you wrote, and I'm sure I don't agree with everything that my peers applauding your Diary believe.  But while we can bicker and fight over the details, you have articulated core values in a way that makes sense to all of us because its simple and its what we believe.

    Let's roll!

  •  Why we lose (none)
    I think 10% of the voters vote Republican and not Democratic for one basic reason:

    They perceive the GOP as rock-steady and ready to fight for what it believes in, all the way---and hence they figure, gee, if they believe that strongly, then those ideas must have something going for them; and at the same time they see the Dems as spineless and weak, and hence as supporting ideas that probably are not all that worth supporting.

    These voters don't know how to assess the respective merits of political and policy ideas except by the strength and vociferousness with which they are put forward by their proponents.

    Btw, if the Republicans get to 60-40 in the Senate in 2006, maybe we should look at the voting machines.  Then again, maybe we'd be seen as sore losers, and it would be unwise to get labelled as conspiracy theorists, and if we only just GOTV better, and frame the issues better, we'll have a chance in 2008, and.....

    Four more years of peace and prosperity---not

    by stunster on Tue Nov 09, 2004 at 07:32:03 PM PST

  •  I agree with you on the broad strokes (4.00)
    but I hope we can ratchet down some of the self-flagellation. For instance, you write:

    "What does the Democratic party stand for? I've been hearing that question a lot lately. Republicans, people say, have distilled their belief system down to a few basic ideals that they can recite in short phrases: less government, low taxes, free markets and strong defense. Democrats on the other hand, have positions on issues, but an underlying philosophy eludes."

    Now, this is practically a mantra in the media today. But, why does the grouping of "less gov't, less taxes, strong defense, free markets" constitute a message? While "multilateralism, better health care, better schools, some protection for jobs, social welfare, a decent minimum wage, COMPETENCE, and especially civil rights" constitute simply a hodge-podge of issues?

    Is it because we would be better off if we condensed our issues and said, "We're for a beneficent government, social programs, a strong and healthy community?"

    It seems to me that we've distilled our message as much as the GOP has. Both of our planks are completely reductive. They don't capture much "nuance." So, why do Democrats perceive the GOP message's strength, it's potency, while we see our message as a hodge-podge of diffuse issues?

    There's only one reason why: we tend to believe that their message resonates more with the American people. No matter how you dress it, the people don't like what we're selling. We'll beat our brains out trying to figure out a way. This is what we secretly fear.

    The GOP message doesn't do anything more than our message does. Like I said, it's a hodge-podge that reduces complexity into simplicity, and the message is, "Let's have less." We say, "Let's have more" or "We can do better."

    The only difference is that Americans may believe the GOP message resonates more with them.

    So then, the problem isn't tailoring our message. It is literally getting through and convincing a majority of Americans over to our side.

    I believe we have convinced quite a few of them. We haven't convinced enough of them. And, I absolutely do not believe we can do it with a simple reductive message. It can't be done that way. Kid Oakland is talking about bringing issues to the kitchen table. That makes sense if you want to convince people over to your side. You can't do it through the media or advertising.

    We simply can't sculpt something for the mass media, and expect it to resonate. First of all, our message always contains a virus. The media deride it as stale and tired. The media tells us, No one wants to hear about class politics anymore, and yet class politics is precisely what the moment calls for.

    John Edwards had the best message in the campaign, if you ask me. But the filters that prevented it from being heard are formidable. How can we cut through the media crap and bring it home? We can't do it by putting our poets and ad-copy people to work. We can't talk plainly. Instead, we have to "communicate," something that can't be done through the media.

    Guerrilla tactics are called for.

    I'm pessimistic because the GOP has 4 years to screw us over and do serious damage to our country.

    I'm optimistic because the battlelines are being drawn clearer than ever, and soon people who have been ignoring party differences on economic issues, those who have voted on the basis of bogus wedge issues, on war, on security, or just because they hate liberals, will realize what it means to have your social security taken away, to lose your job to India, to lose civil rights.

    I firmly believe there are Bush voters out there who will come around. Those voters are NOT the Fundamentalists, they are NOT the greedheads, they are NOT the bigots. They are the union guys and the high school grad. How do we talk to them?

    "Ironic points of light Flash out wherever the Just Exchange their messages." W.H. Auden

    by upstate NY on Tue Nov 09, 2004 at 07:35:17 PM PST

    •  We have to KISS (none)
      But, why does the grouping of "less gov't, less taxes, strong defense, free markets" constitute a message? While "multilateralism, better health care, better schools, some protection for jobs, social welfare, a decent minimum wage, COMPETENCE, and especially civil rights" constitute simply a hodge-podge of issues?
      Because the list is too long.

      Is it because we would be better off if we condensed our issues and said, "We're for a beneficent government, social programs, a strong and healthy community?"
      Yes. Three points is all you need.

      I would even argue that your statement boils down to "Building a stronger community". Which is good. You should say only one thing at a time. You can riff off it in variations all you like, but always come back to that core idea.

      And when you're done saying it--stop.

      So if "liberals" are an "elite", how come we aren't in charge?

      by Pam in MA on Tue Nov 09, 2004 at 07:48:19 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Obviously I'm a horrible writer because (none)
        it's clear my point isn't coming through.

        "Ironic points of light Flash out wherever the Just Exchange their messages." W.H. Auden

        by upstate NY on Tue Nov 09, 2004 at 08:16:25 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

      •  KISS (none)
        How simply can it get? This may not make a good slogan, but it's an interesting koan: Goverment is good.

        If you could convince people of that, you'd be on to something. In fact, if you can cut through the framing and make it begin to make sense to yourself, then you're really on to something.

    •  zzzzzzzzzzzzzz (none)
      Your list of our issues put me to sleep, and I more or less missed everything else you said.  That list is too long and doesn't have a coherent theme.  It is a hodge podge when put in those terms.  It is easily forgettable.

      Rhetoric matters.  That's why "social responsibility" is simple and captures our ideals.  Note how well it matches up with the specifics in your hodge podge.

      People will undoubtedly ask "what does social responsibility mean?"  Then we tell them.  Better schools.  Protections for workers.  A clean environment.  Strong health care.  A social contract whereas an individual can achieve anything they want so long as they are willing to make small sacrifices for the greater good of all.

      It will take time.  But soon people will equate "social responsibility" with these principles the same way they equate "limited government" with low taxes and less regulation.

      It will also take courage.  "Social responsibility" will be open to charges of socialism and interest group favoritism.  Don't back down.  This is what our party was built on - nay, what our country was built on - and it will carry the day.  Only when we have run away from these core ideals in the face of opposition did we begin to lose the support of the public.  

      Get back to basics.  Be proud, be bold, be strong.

      •  You seem to have missed my entire point. (none)
        I labeled what I was doing as a hodge-podge. It was intentional. Simply because that's also what the GOP does. My post argues against what you're espousing. A distilled message, one that captures our issues, isn't going to do it. It's just meaningless words. Social responsibility is going to get the blue-collar Dems moving back over to our side? Uh-uh. Don't buy it. If Kerry had said anything like that, he'd be laughed at.

        I'll say it again. The GOP is doing exactly what we are doing, except their message resonates. Not because it's a better message, but because most voters believe it. They have been sold on it. You're not going to convince them by figuring out the best slogan to tag onto your hodge-podge of issues.

        No, they need to be convinced that their interests do not lie in less taxes, less government, no social security, etc.

        We have to figure out how to convince them. Not how to boil down our message until it's meaningless.

        "Ironic points of light Flash out wherever the Just Exchange their messages." W.H. Auden

        by upstate NY on Tue Nov 09, 2004 at 08:13:52 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  I read you as asking (none)
          "why is this coming across as hodge-podge when we've distilled our message as much as they have?"

          I'm not going to criticize your writing except to observe that like many other posters on this board you are prolix. I myself am usually critized for being too terse.

          As to the issue of message: their message resonates because they are doing a better job at putting it simply. And repeating it. Simply. Their message sucks, but people understand it because it's simple.

          We need not slogan, but a theme. A theme is a simple statement which may sound stupid and obvious said out loud, but you can hang novels off it. "Family is important", "Love conquers all", "We're all bozos on this bus". Oh wait, the last one's an album. Well, you get the idea.

          So if "liberals" are an "elite", how come we aren't in charge?

          by Pam in MA on Tue Nov 09, 2004 at 08:53:03 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  I dunno... (none)
            Wouldn't you say we need both?  It seems like neither one alone is sufficient to propel us to victory.  We need a coherent message, and a theme that succinctly captures that message.
            •  Exactly (4.00)
              The theme is the heart of the message. It's what gives your message meaning. Without a theme to hold it together, you can go on and on, and never get your meaning across. Your audience will think you have nothing to say.

              The price of a theme is that its very simplicity means you can only say one thing. It could be a very big thing, but for the message to succeed, you have to discard statements that don't fit the theme.

              So if "liberals" are an "elite", how come we aren't in charge?

              by Pam in MA on Tue Nov 09, 2004 at 09:17:30 PM PST

              [ Parent ]

          •  Aha! Now we've come to the heart of the (none)

            We simply disagree. I don't think they're message is better because it's simpler than ours. I think people simply prefer their message.

            Slogans, themes, frames. These things are all advertising words and advertising gimmicks. I know they can be powerful, but not in each and every case.

            We need to do groundwork. kid oakland's thread made more sense to me.

            As for my prolixity, that sentence you cited would have made more sense my pronoun "this" was more clearly attached to a referent. I was talking about my two-phrase condensation of the long list, not the actual long list itself.

            When we reduce our values, it comes close to seeming meaningless.

            Less taxes, less government makes sense because it's a minimalist message. You can reduce that even more into this: "Less!" But if you actually have more than nothing to offer, you can't reduce what you stand for into something so concise.

            "Ironic points of light Flash out wherever the Just Exchange their messages." W.H. Auden

            by upstate NY on Tue Nov 09, 2004 at 09:24:58 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

        •  The message (4.00)
          They're a thousand times better organized then us.  They publish a manual every year on what language to use.  They have a 1800 number to call before appearing on TV or Radio.  They meet each week to decide which point to push, compromising behind closed doors, and coming out organized in public.  

          Social responsibility will get the blue collar vote.  It did in the 1930s, 40s, 50s, 60s, and some of the 70s.  It does in certain areas of the country today.  Why?  Because the message is coherantly and strongly pushed by compenant local people.  Labor Unions are full of blue collar types who vote democratic.  Why?  Because the unions push their social responsibility message.  If those guys need to strike then we don't cross their picket line and maybe we strike too.  Their healthcare benefits have been cut, then I'm mad cause that could be me next.  That's social responsibility.  If we activate it in more people we win.  In fact we win easily because it is a clearly superior way of running a society.  But there is nothing more powerful than language.  It is how we all make meaning.  If we don't use it properly, we'll lose every time no matter how right we are.

          •  They have to be (none)
            because their underlying philosophy is bad for America. So they have to use psyops to win. And perhaps some vote-rigging.

            This is why it's perplexing that Democrats haven't redicovered their core principles yet. Their beliefs clearly work better. For everyone. Even the millionaires.

            "I know the human being and fish can coexist peacefully." George Bush

            by TocqueDeville on Tue Nov 09, 2004 at 10:06:15 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

      •  The original term (none)
        for social responsibility was commonwealth.

        I like that term but it sounds antiquated.

        "I know the human being and fish can coexist peacefully." George Bush

        by TocqueDeville on Tue Nov 09, 2004 at 08:45:30 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

    •  Somehow you transcribed philosophy to message. (none)
      I never said anything about message.

      I'm talking about an underlying philosophy. This is what the conservatives have. Those aren't just messages. They're also deeply held, albeit misguided, beliefs.

      What do democrats believe in? More government? Higher taxes? Weaker military?

      You see the framing problem. We've been on the defensive so long we've lost who we are. Lakoff has some great ideas about reframing and message. But without an underlying principle or philosophy, our fancy reframing wont beat Luntz's fancy reframing.

      I can think up different ways to say social responsibility. Teamwork comes to mind. It's one of my favorites.

      I just watch the frightening Frontline about the psychology of marketing products and ideas. They, of course had Luntz on.

      But no matter how well you market SPAM, it'll always be spam. People can only be fooled so much before they realize they're eating dirt in a siver plated jar.

      The reason I believe in the principles of social responsibility, teamwork, commonwealth, cooperation, or whatever you want to call it, is because it is the best for our people. It is absolutely essential to soving big problems like oil dependency, climate warming, healthcare crisis, crime and poverty. Education.

      Luntz and Lakoff aside, the real message is and will always be results.

      "I know the human being and fish can coexist peacefully." George Bush

      by TocqueDeville on Tue Nov 09, 2004 at 09:23:24 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  I am very tired tonight and am pretty bad (none)
        at expressing myself, and believe it or not I make my living as a writer.

        I like the broad strokes, but I guess I am a skeptic when it comes to the possibility of framing our issues into these neat packages.

        I actually am partial to "Teamwork." That might work, especially as a sports metaphor.

        But when these things are repeated ad nauseum, they begin to sound like code, and then the other team steps in and says, "Teamwork is just a euphemism for liberal social programs."

        At some point, we have to convince a majority that government can be good.

        It could be that I'm too young (36 years old) to remember a time when people didn't hate taxes, government and social programs. I simply have no experience living with such a sentiment. Even clinton was known for reducing the welfare system.

        Maybe I should be more optimistic? Regardless, I just don't want us to beat ourselves over the head finding an identity when in fact, we might better spend our time organizing.

        "Ironic points of light Flash out wherever the Just Exchange their messages." W.H. Auden

        by upstate NY on Tue Nov 09, 2004 at 09:32:52 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

    •  GOP/Dems (none)
      The conservative message resonates more because the Republicans have been selling it longer. The New Right has been pursuing its aims since shortly after John Kennedy was elected. The New Right built a political movement. They had ideology, organization, infrastructure, and patience. They slowly disseminated their message. First by taking over a listless, ineffective Republican party. Then by running for local offices. They slowly built up to statewide and national offices. The Republicans raised two generations of political cadres before they hit paydirt with Reagan and the GOP Senate of 1980. It took fourteen more years to gain control over both houses of Congress, and a further six years to attain the White House and congressional dominance. Today's Republican dominance is the result of nearly half a century  of GOP preparation, frustration, and trial and error. The Democrats will not need to wander in the wilderness for forty-years, but it might have to get worse before it gets better.

      The Civil War made the Republicans the majority party for nearly seventy-years. The Great Depression ushered in a new era of political dominance for the Democrats. It took stagflation and the Iranian hostage crisis to give the New Right its opportunity. Periods of political dominance always begin with the majority party being dislodged by a crisis of some sort. The United States faces a dual crisis in the very near term: A military disaster in Iraq, and an economic debacle at home. The GOP's reign might be short.

  •  RIGHT ON! (4.00)
    Finally, a clear voice of sense.

    Is nobody at dKos reading "What's the Matter with Kansas?" by Thomas Frank?  It's there, man, caus I lived it - he's spot on.

    As for the message, it's easy.

    We are the party of fairness:
     - a Fair Wage
     - a Fair Health Care system
     - a Fair Judiciary
     - Fair law enforcement
     - Fair access to education

    Repugs are the party of unfairness:
     - unfair advantages for business
     - unfair social policies
     - unfair economic decisions

    It's what we used to be .. we let the Repugs, and ourselves, morph "Fair" into "Whimpy" ... we need to take it back.

    •  Right on (none)
      I think you should write a diary on this because it seems to be getting lost. I like social responsibility and all, but it gets torn to shreds among those who believe that that means you working hard and the government taking your stuff. I like the idea of building a great society, maybe even with capital letters, but that's a ways off. Fairness is simple and it works. We have mountains of evidence for it. It fits well with honesty and accountability, something the republican party is very short on these days. I think it works. Run with it.
    •  I like what you're saying (none)
      about "fairness".  I like this in contrast with Republican "unfairness" or "Darwinism".  After all, what is noble about being a human being is the fact that we can conceive of values like "fairness" and then seek, through our deeds - fairness.

      Isn't that what law is about?  Isn't that what democracy is about? (That and a few other more noble human concepts like "integrity, freedom and liberty"?)

      This is the discussion I believe we need to have.  It is basically a philosophical one and a moral one. Oops, there's another one of those more noble human concepts - moral.  What is truly moral? I agree with those that are willing to have the patience to have this discussion because, without it, we will continue to lose.  We have to stand for these principles and to define these principles - Issues alone water down the message.  Process versus content.

      •  The trouble with "fairness" (none)
        It implies picking up slack for those who won't do it for themselves. Republicans win on this.

        Clinton used the right phrase: "playing by the rules."

        Republicans aren't unfair because they let some win and some lose. They are unfair because under them, those who win and lose don't deserve it.

        Do CEOs deserve a 500% salary increase when they set their own pay? Do hardworking Americans deserve to lose jobs to Indians? Does Halliburton deserve fat cat, no-bid contracts?

        I think playing by the rules is the core of the Democratic philosophy. Remember the New Deal? FDR didn't promise to divide up the pot; he only promised to get rid of a stacked deck.

  •  Bravo (none)
    That's a fantastic essay--far better than anything in the media soup.

    Darwin taught that the fittest survive.  But he was very precise. We can only know who has been the fittest by virtue of one fact:  they did not die.  So we can fight all we wants, and never really know if we have been the fittest.  

    It was the Victorian sociologist and aristocratic apologist, Herbert Spencer, who advanced the principle commonly called "survival of the fittest."   Democrats do not adhere to this principle of struggle, Republicans do.  This is a major difference.

    The GOP has in recent years reached back beyond the boundaries of the 20th Century to breathe new life into Victorian conceptions of nation, government, religion, family, and now empire.  

    Democrats, as you point out,  are struggling for something different: to translate the principles of the New Deal, the Great Society and the Civil Rights movement into a socio-economic terrain that makes it increasingly difficult.  

    But I'll take that second kind of struggle over the GOP alternative any day of the week and twice on Sunday.  

    In Democracy in America, your namesake marvelled at the unique ability of Americans to join together in small voluntary societies to advance goals both in their interests and in the interests of the greater good.  Despite the grotesque accumulations of capital whose hunger now threatens vast segments of this planet--I still believe we Democrats retain those essential characteristics that Tocqueville saw during his travels.   We are surviving.  

    And thoughtwe just lost, it is the GOP, and not us, that is lost.

  •  What we're for (none)
    We're for democracy.

    We for opportunity and participation for all.

    We for freedom from the overweening and unaccountable power of large corporations

    We're for spreading the wealth our workforce creates.

    We're for conserving national security and social security and job security and health security.

    We're for conserving our natural heritage and natural resources.

    We're for enhancing the wealth-creation of the market through education, through investment in our infrastructure and in scientific and technological research, and through ensuring business operates to the highest standards in the world.

    We're for the civil rights and freedoms of all citizens.

    We're for human rights around the world.

    Four more years of peace and prosperity---not

    by stunster on Tue Nov 09, 2004 at 08:14:22 PM PST

  •  We need to regain people's trust first (4.00)
    The thing is, today nobody is going to believe us if we lay out some new plan for Democratic success.  Regardless of the quality, it'll go right over people's heads.

    The party has spent thirty years reinventing itself.  Every loss sends us scurrying back to our core beliefs to see what we can throw overboard.  We can't expect the American people to trust that we'll fight for any coherent ideology when we've constantly proven so willing to betray things we've previously fought for.  Just look at trade policy for an example: we're protectionists, then we're skeptical on trade, then we're full-scale free-traders, then we're fair traders.  And every new position comes with blistering insults for people who disagree.  "Latte-sipping, Volvo-driving freakshow" is just the latest in a long line of slurs that establishment Dems have hurled at activists who don't toe the party line-- whatever it happens to be in a given year.

    We need to figure out what we stand for, and start fighting for it.  Not just for a year or two.  Not just until the next election.  But consistently.  We've destroyed the trustworthiness of our party, and it's going to take committed effort with a strong grasp of our own ideology to regain that trust.

    •  Correct (none)
      Rome in a day and all that. But then there's the Dean thing. I always said the Dean movement was bigger than Howard Dean. But Dean reignited, at least partially, the old flame of Democratic spirit. While he never explibly stated our core principles really, maybe a bit, they were inherent in his message.

      I don't believe his or his followers credibility is shot. But the estab dems sure is.

      I belive the path to retaking our party and eventually the country is the path we were on in the Dean campaign. It is from us, the people, that that credibility will arise. And not just on the internet. It is from an upset, a little revolution that will not only make people believe, but will inspire. The way Dean almost did. He was the tremor.

      But more than the messenger, it's the underlying idea that must have credibility. Is helping your neighbor, your community, your fellow Americans a credible idea? Is believeing in our government of, by and for the people a credible idea? Is believing that us collectively chipping in to help the sick who've lost everything credible?

      If our ideas are credible then all we have to do is not betray them.

      "I know the human being and fish can coexist peacefully." George Bush

      by TocqueDeville on Tue Nov 09, 2004 at 09:43:20 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Cultural identity (none)
    At this point, I think that defining a cultural identity has to be the party's main goal. I personally suspect--and some pundits agree--that people vote based on culture, rather than policy.

    We know the culture the Republicans are trying to promote. Their public face represents it. And while moderate Republicans may not buy into the whole thing, they agree/identity with enough of it to vote for them.

    I think our cultural identity is too scattershot and vague. I'm not trying to downplay policy, I just think that culture is greatly overlooked as a factor in elections. (With the recent hype about the fundy vote being an exception to the rule.)

    Whether he's genuine about it or not, Bush acts like a representative of his culture--religious fundamentalists who think they have a monopoly on morality. Kerry had a lot of great ideas and policies, but I can't say that he ever represented my culture, not even in part. I know that some think that that's an unrealistic expectation, but, I think that people who aren't political junkies expect a candidate that's like them, in some way, shape, or form.

    •  Nothing is more cultural than the American dream (none)
      When we start representing that again, as we did for most of the 20th century, people will care a lot less about flag burners and gay couples.

      "I know the human being and fish can coexist peacefully." George Bush

      by TocqueDeville on Tue Nov 09, 2004 at 09:57:57 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Time to get back to a Dem staple (none)
    Good, old-fashioned economic populism.

    Or, as the Republicans like to call it, "class warfare."

    Bush's policies are all aimed at handing out gifts to the their friend, the wealthy.  The consequences of those policies are the shrinking of the middle class and the expanion of the low income/lower class.

    That's what we need to talk about.  The oldest arguments are sometimes the best arguments.

    These guys are not your friends.  They reward their rich buddies by taking from the middle class, taking from our shared environmental resources, taking from others in the world (Iraq).

    Look at our soldiers.  Halliburton gets their $3 billion in Iraq contracts and all of our soldiers can't even get armored vehicles and the latest body armor.

    And who fights our wars? The lower and middle classes.

    The Republicans are NOT your friends.

  •  Wrong, wrong, wrong (none)
    Notice how this diary focuses largely on economic and social issues, which ranked well below terrorism and gay marriage as the decisive issues in this election.

    FDR firebombed Tokyo, interned Japanese-Americans, bombed Dresden, and his successor used nuclear weapons.  I have a sinking feeling that Americans won't accept another New Deal without a similar hard line on military issues.

    •  Gay marriage isn't a social issue? n/t (none)
    •  Not wrong. Just a different subject. (none)
      I have a collection of essays on the Bush doctrine and American empire. But they fall under the category of foreign policy as opposed to domestic.

      One is titled, Why We Will Never Win the War On Terror. But I won't post them here. Nor do I believe that foreign policy trumps domestic.

      Why? Because in the long run Americans are traditionally isolationist. It took Pearl Harbor for FDR to get us into WWII. It took 9/11 for Bush to get us into Iraq. But unlike WWII, Bush will have no hero's return from Iraq. It will continue to be a seething boil on his record and will eventually make us lose our tast for empire.

      Then we'll be back to domestic policy. What American really care about. Their own lives.

      History is a valuable tool.

      "I know the human being and fish can coexist peacefully." George Bush

      by TocqueDeville on Tue Nov 09, 2004 at 09:53:55 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  LOL (none)
      Yeah, we shouldn't talk about economic or social issues.  Oh, and our foreign policy should be "trust the Republicans."  I'm sorry but this is asinine, and it's lost us three elections now.
    •  NO, it IS the Economy, stupid! (none)
      But not in the James C. way.

      Of course the election was lost on social issues - because we articulated almost IDENTICAL positions on economkic issues, most military issues, etc as the Republicans.

      If we make ourselves "Rep Lite" ... ALL THAT'S LEFT IS THE SOCIAL ISSUES!  So of course that's what people vote on.

      Move back to populist economics [class warfare ... I LOVE it!] Go heay after outsourcing {"All coporations will have 90 days to return at least 80% of their workforce to the USA or face stiff tax pentalties"]  restructure a legit tax code, cap CEO salaries and benefits at no more that 400% what the least paid employee at the company makes. etc ... call it "Enlightened Protectionism" ... remove the xenophobia by passing progressive immigration reform - TADA!  We would actually have a POSITION for once, and the "cultural values" crap will be of less importance.  We will have to aggressively de-brainwash a lot of people be affirming that we are not going to take their Bibles away, etc.  Tying progressive Christian tradition into the mix would be the icing. Watch how fast the mid-west turns blue.

    •  That is just what the Repubs want (none)
      They are trying to lure us to believe that we lost because we don't understand the Nation as they do. It ain't true, they don't understand the Nation they shape it, and they've moved efficiently America to the right by pure demagoguery.

      We need some of that powder to move it to the left; social and economical inequality is the way.

  •  Excellent. Spot on. (none)

    We have seen OUTFOXED, so why are Democrats still appearing on Fox? The Republican house organ.

    by Lords on Tue Nov 09, 2004 at 09:29:58 PM PST

  •  give it time (none)
    I don't know what everyone is worrying about.  The democratic party doesn't have to do anything but get a spine and speak out against a war which has no positive outcome and has turned the world against us.  The end of the american century spurred on by this administration's idiotic foreign policy.  
  •  As always (none)
    it's The Onion which says it best.

    Four more years of peace and prosperity---not

    by stunster on Tue Nov 09, 2004 at 09:54:30 PM PST

  •  Generally agree (none)
    I'll admit upfront that I didn't read the whole essay.  But I agree with the general gist, which seems to be that many prominent Democrats don't exactly exude leadership.  In general, I think we're fine on the issues - i.e., I don't think we necessarily need to move left or right.  But our "leaders" generally seem to:

    1.  lack charisma and energy, and
    2.  talk in very nuanced, overly-philosophical and intellectual ways.

    This is a bad combo, folks.  I think most people line up on the "liberal" side of the issues, but they're uninspired and perhaps confused by democrats.  Point #2 I think is especially important, because if a politician can't speak clearly about where they stand ON A LEVEL THAT MOST "COMMON" FOLKS CAN UNDERSTAND - well, I think this breeds confusion and, maybe more importantly, mistrust.  I got very frustrated with Kerry when he did this.  He seemed to have ample opportunities to speak "straight" but instead used language and syntax that was maybe a little too nuanced and intellectual.

    The media didn't help, but that's another whole discussion.

    Leaders inspire, and they do this by connecting with people on important issues, which requires a ertain degree of charisma and simplicity in message.  Sadly, many of our "leaders" lack both.

    •  Maybe I should have read the whole thing first (none)
      One thing that doesn't make sense is this:  if democrats are losing because they are beholden to corporate power and aren't representing "the people", then why are republicans winning?  They really ain't representing the people either! And don't tell me Nader - Nader wasn't much of a factor in this election, and I don't think there were many "Naders" running for the Senate.  Besides, our "Naders" seem more or less balanced by their Libertarians and such.

      For anyone who is interested, I think our biggest problems are:

      1. leadership (as I briefly described above)
      2. hostile media
      3. lack of voting integrity
      •  Great question (none)
        One which was aptly addressed in Thomas Franks' book, What's the Matter with Kansas?.

        But before I answer that, the actual "gist" is that the Dems have lost the principles that made them the majority party for most of the 20th century. The primary one being the principle of social responsibility. As in we're all in this together. Responsibility to our neighbors, our communities, and our country.

        Instead we've bought into the lite version of every man for himself that Ronald Reagan represented so well.

        What then followed, and this answers your question, is millions of working people, seeing no longer any benifit of a Democratic populist, socially responsible agenda, were left with no choice but a choice on culture issues.

        With both parties being virtually equal on economic issues, they opted for value issues. And being simple folk who don't shop at Sax Fifth Avenue, it was an easy choice.

        It also didn't help that the Public Opinion Complex sold the nation on the George is an everyman meme. Nausea ensues. But people bought it.

        "I know the human being and fish can coexist peacefully." George Bush

        by TocqueDeville on Tue Nov 09, 2004 at 11:32:31 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Its an interesting thesis (none)
          and one which I have to digest a little more thoroughly.  I've heard many references to the "Kansas" book - sounds like I might have to read it.

          I wasn't "in tune" as much 4 years ago, but didn't Gore run somewhat of a populist campaign?  I know that technically Gore won, but it was very close and Gore should have blown Bush out of the water.

          I can't argue with you that money and big corporations have way too much influence.  But I'm not sure if that's what is really crippling the Dems.  Unless of course you bring the media element into it - i.e., the media being large corporations that get more favors from the right.

          Would you then argue that if we ran more populist campaigns w/o worrying about the big corps & rich folk, that we could win those millions back?

          BTW, totally with you on the nauseum experienced by the "George the common man" thing.

      •  We can win this way, if... (none)
        we mean it, sell it, and believe it.

        I think there has been a little too much made of "Red State" voters voting against their econimic interest. Though this is the gist of the "Kansas" book, there is another element.

        People in areas that are economically hurting will vote for a candidate based on economic interest, if they believe the candidate can deliver.  Kerry's economic message was blurry, and we failed to sell it.  Lacking any candidate that could deliver in that way, they voted with what they could get... someone who pandered to thier cultural eliteism.

  •  This is a banner night on dKos (none)
    Between this and Pericles' diary, some of the most thoughtful writing I've seen here.

    Global warming is Bush & Cheney's long-term strategy for dealing with the problem of the "blue states".

    by Malacandra on Tue Nov 09, 2004 at 10:19:49 PM PST

  •  I've been around these parts... (none)
    for many a moon.  And I have to say this is probably in the top 5 posts in the last 2 years, in my opinion.  Lots to chew on.  

    Thank you very much.  Excellent stuff.

  •  I see that the Democratic wing of the party (none)
    still has one or two adherents :)

    Wonderful - perhaps the best diary I have read on Kos, thank you.

    Perhaps the next election ( should we continue to bother holding them) our nominee might read it.

    "First they came for the gays, but I wasn't gay and said nothing..."

    by tiponeill on Tue Nov 09, 2004 at 11:51:27 PM PST

  •  At least (none)
    Ralph Nader's doing something about this stolen election.

    Why is it that so many of you supposed liberal democrats feel the need to write essays about what's wrong with the Democratic Party when the Kerry/Edwards ticket got more votes than any prior Dem ticket?

    Most of the same people complain that the people who are doing something to contest this rotten election are wasting our time...

    Are we?

    I'm also writing about George Bush and Fallujah on my website.

    You people are just attacking my party and trying to carve it up....I'm sick of it.

  •  DLC (none)
      I have given a name to our pain and it is the DLC. Yes, the Democratic Party has been dying from a lack of principals. The DLC successfully argued to sell off our "Old Democrat" principals to the highest bidder, and replaced them with well-financed sound bites and commercials. Their main item up for bid is the suppression the liberal wing. They force us to choose how fast we want social safety net dismantled. The party will continue to wither as long as it follows their prescription.

      We will have to create our own principals, and find our own direction. Having done that our "leaders" will follow.

    Suppression of a political opinion leads to it's violent expression.

    by Bryce in Seattle on Wed Nov 10, 2004 at 01:25:55 AM PST

  •  I really don't understand (none)
    what all this carping about the Democratic leadership is about.  I think there is a clear difference between the parties on a lot of issues.  I think you could make an equally valid argument that Republicans are winning, not so much because their leadership is better, but because their they have better followers.
  •  Or are the Thuggie in their... (none)
    ...death throws?  Their philosophy of government will be finished off once a couple of things happen internationally. Conservative military spending indulgences are funded by debts payable to the Chinese and Japanese,  buoyed by the higher status of USD vs the Euro.  Remember what happened to the british Empire after Suez and Ike's threats?  It is only a matter of time before the same thing happens to the US Imperium.  The effort is too expensive and destructive to maintain in the 21st century.  Then American conservatives will be finished by events far outside their control and they will start to modify accordingly.  Bush is  the first symptom of the painful transformation process of denial.  Once the world finds its voice the thuggie are done for.
  •  Thuggie death rattle (none)
    Then a liberal coalition will be the natural party of government for generations.
    •  After Suez (none)
      The Conservatives in Britain governed for 29 of the following 40 years. If afraid McAdder your determinism sounds like wishful thinking. Conservatives, by their very nature, are very good at capitalising on post-empire insecurity.
      •  29 years? (none)
        Even though the Tory Party held power  with MacMillan for a while British political culture and behaviour internationally changed dramatically during the 60s.  

        What is this 'determinism' you speak of? how do I manifest it in my argument?  

        •  I'm sorry... (none)
          .. I'm probably using the word determinism incorrectly, but you seem to be suggesting that the American 'empire' WILL decline and this WILL result in the fall of conservatism. I just think one doesn't necessarily follow the other given the nature of the conservative beast.

          From 1951 to 1997 there were just 4 years (66-70) where the Labour Party had an effective governing majority. Yet still the tories manage to blame all of society's ills on those 4 years. When America's power declines, conservatives may well be successful blaming this on 'liberal values'.

          •  Foreign policy and internal politics (none)
            A very interesting argument. Thank you very much.  However the Tory party is a virtually spent force.  Unilateral  British adventurism  has virtually disapeared. The class that directed it has also virtually disapeared.  Admittedly Iraq II is adventurism but it's been been done under the umbrella of US leadership.  When Russia, Germany and France get it together they will be able to modify such US leadership very effectively.  For their own sakes they will need to act independently and very few Third World nations will object if it prevents US bombs from raining down on their cities. Anyway thank you for taking me to task on my point.
  •  Something wrong? (none)
    Nicely done essay.

    However, I believe it is really quite simple.

    In most places, you can add up all the Republicans and all the Democrats and they still will not equal the unenrolled, centrist, middle of the road moderates, who have no choice but to, time after time, election after election, choose one or the other parties at either edge of the spectrum.

    Which one?  Oh, it all depends.

    The party that offers a varying range of security and comfort and promise more than the other will get these moderates to come to them.

    And that happens time after time.

    Health care?  Too many people are healthy and that is not one of their main issues.

    The war in Iraq?  Not enough body bags.

    Moral leadership?  I was going to say:  don't make me laugh, but that is exactly the problem:  the moderates weren't laughing!

    They found that concept of morality combined with all of the above as the appeal of the Republican party.


    What appeals to moderates will change slightly one way or the other, but in general it centers on security, a certain degree of comfort, and most important, believable promises.

    Did I say attainable promises?  No I did not.  I said 'believable'.  

    And that is what I hold won this election for the Republicans.

    They convinced more of those moderates that they, the Republicans, were more believable than the Democrats.

  •  It's true but.......Watch frontline the Persuaders (none)
    Even if we have the winning issues, this game is not played anymore by a debate of issues.  

    Political debate is also now using the laws of advertising and psyops appealing to our reptilian brain.  Watch Frontline...The Persuaders.

    What more blatant than this election when the debate was turned into a debate about abortion and gay marriage.  How can you win when the Church hierarchy, and Pastors got very involved. How can you fight GOD?  

    How can people listen to the issues when our reptilian brain Fears God and damnation and Evil and Pastors, Church and priests took it home for us.  

    And of course the Terror issue.

    My solution.  Democrats should be more savvy about these new style of campaigning and should effectively counteract it.  One way is to have a religious coordinator who will frame the abortion, gay marriage issues for  religious people.  ie, Dems are the party to decrease abortion rates.

    •  I see merit in your overall point but... (none)
      ..your abortion "frame" misses this: frames aren't about data, and the abortion issue isn't about baby killing, so stats about abortion rates don't matter. It's about controlling women, just as the birth control issue is. Dems will never be able to frame themselves as the party that controls women better.

      OK, we need +6 in the Senate and +20 in the House in 2006. Put your game face on and get to work!

      by uffdalib on Wed Nov 10, 2004 at 08:07:10 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  All this talk avoids the real problem we have (none)
    Islamic terrorism and the fear of a nuclear detonation is a wet dream gift for the Republicans.

    They now have an utterly pliant, scared media that gives them a lot of wind behind their backs.

    They now have a new military-industrial nexus of "anti-terror" funding, which gives them a strong foothold in universities (which should really scare us).

    But above all, Islamic terrorism is an energizer we can't even imagine - and we need to understand its effects on the religious right. My sense is that "Cold War 2: this time it's religious" is like crack cocaine to a good number of their voters. And that sentiment bleeds into those who don't identify themselves as evangelical or born again.

    I really hope people on this board will understand the sub-rational nature of our problem. I don't think the number crunchers (a la Emerging Democratic Majority) quite get what we're really facing.

    George Bush prancing on the aircraft carrier: one of America's worst moments

    by grushka on Wed Nov 10, 2004 at 06:54:06 AM PST

    •  Islam? Yurpeens. (none)
      No, the real problem or solution  (depending on your point of view) is an alliance between France, Germany and Russia.   Why do you think the right wing lashed out so hard at France and Germany for baulking at Iraq?  
  •  Some good points but a bit idealistic (none)
    from William Gibson blog
    Nov 5, 2004

    'The United States has become a country spoiled by unmerited privilege and its own profound sense of superiority. Most of the "brightest and the best" have chosen to pursue their own personal wealth and power rather than engaging in true service to the community or to the country at large. As a people, we no longer live up to our former billing. In fact, the entire concept of "a people" has been lost, along with the ideology that supports it. All that remains is the shred of this improbable idea that we all, somehow, can be rich and beautiful. The degree to which we participate in that dream is the degree of our culpability. It determines the character of the American people, it determines our domestic inequities and it determines our foreign policy.

    On both sides of the political fence, the participants are convinced that they are right and the other side is wrong. Even my liberal friends make no effort to question how they may have contributed to this disaster, how their own intellectual smugness may have alienated those less able to understand the implications of the current political direction. We question the moral majority, but we do not question our own cloistered vantage point. In my opinion, the dream is what divides us, because it is the dream that draws the dividing line between the bad and the beautiful, the rich and the poor.'

    -- Michael St. John Smith

  •  Was excellent before, and is still excellent (none)
    Democratic vision.

    How hard can it be to articulate a few words?  

    Sustainable Economy

    Mutual Benefit Partnership (Labor/business agreements)

    Goal-oriented agenda-(progress)

    Economic Accessibility (Equality-oriented intitiatives)

    Fair Trade (global business initiative)

    Efficiency Oriented (alternative energy-based business)

    Public Trust (Land Stewardship)

    Productive Partnerships (In social programs)

    Cooperative Initiatives (Locally based programs)

    Educational Extensions (education-based improvements)

    Multilateral Democratic Development

    Multi-Phased Exit Strategy

    Security-Oriented Diplomacy

    Diplomatic Development (ongoing efforts to maintain Democracy in foreign lands)

    Mutual Peace Initiative

    Global Anti-Terror Initiative/Network

    Family Resources-(family planning education, as opposed to "sex education")

    •  Concision (none)
      I think we need something shorter. How about this?

      We work for the greater good by advocating economic justice, the freedom to pursue happiness, and global cooperation.

      Suppression of a political opinion leads to it's violent expression.

      by Bryce in Seattle on Wed Nov 10, 2004 at 03:16:00 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  What's changed since FDR (none)
    Is globalization.   I am amazed that there is little discussion of this - and it's the single driving force in our lives.  Unions were the foundation of the New Deal.  Why have the weakened?  In large part due to globalization.

    Here is what is interesting: there is little consensus in the party on how to deal with it.  For example: should we protect American jobs, or should the party be for free trade?  Kos has said he leans toward free trade.  Push the thread of the disagreement and you will unearth a real gap in the party - in large measure dictated by class.

    In many ways, the great irony of Bush is that he is for Globalization in economics, yet remains almost zenophobic in his  foriegn policy.  Simply put, the very economic trends he favors undermine the ability for him to pursue his damn the world foriegn policy.

    In any event, the key to getting an agenda that touches on peoples lives is to understand government's role in the new world.  People know globalization is coming, what the want to hear is an agenda that shows an understanding of the issues it causes and a plan to deal with it.

    •  Yes, Democrats must responsibly approach it (none)
      Globalization is coming, there is no escape (unless civilzation globally collapses and puts us back into the dark ages).  I can only see having a global economy and an erosion of borders as a good thing, the liberal thing to want.  Outright protectionism will only slow down globalization and hurt America in the end.

      I think Kerry/Edwards started down the right road when they talked about having not just free trade but fair trade.  The problem is you can't really enforce fair trade practices diplomatically without threatening your trade partners or losing something yourself in trade.  It'll be best for Americans when the rest of the world isn't so poor that corporations flock to the cheap labor.

      The weak link is really the uncontrollable corporations.  Their limitations have all but disappeared over the decades, and we can't keep our own from going overseas.  Something has to be done about the laws that define corporations.

      Globalization is not bad in and of itself; corporate globalization is.

  •  The Problem is (none)
    That the Establishment Dems have total contempt for real grass roots democracy.

    They are, fundamentally, just as much elitists as the Republicans are, in spite of their membership in the Democratic Party.

    Thus, they worked to undermine Dean.  

    My problem with this wasn't so much that in doing so--along with the help of the corporate media--they took out this individual that I liked and thought was the best candidate, but that they in essence also took the populist, grass-roots, democratic movement that was coalescing behind himm and which was giving him massive amounts of money that did not come from the usual corporate sources.  They basically saw this movement as something that needed to be stopped, and in taking out Dean, they cut it off at the knees.

    What the estlishment Dems in the Dem party did to Dean, they did to the 600,000 or so motivated, committed, principled, populist, concerned, and excited people that had assembled to back him.  The Democratic Party killed that democratic (with a small "d") movement within its own ranks.

    They basically said, "No.  Can't have the 'little people' actually running the party.  We know what's best.  And even if we don't know what's best, we'll be damned if we're gonna give up our cushy positions inside the D.C. beltway."

    So long as the Dem Party is primarily run by millionaires, by people who  have made careers out of maintaining inside-the-beltway existences, and by elitist snobs, they are going to continue to shove pompous and unprincipled idiots like John Kerry down our throats . . . precisely because such idiots won't shake up the status quo too much if elected.

    My suggestion is that you folks stop giving money to the Democratic Party from now on.  Instead, send your money to progressive groups like DFA and others that can funnel money to truly  progressive candidates.

    The establishment Dems need to be stopped, or yanked from their positions of power and influence.

    Don't have any comments for now.

    by PhillipG on Wed Nov 10, 2004 at 08:22:39 AM PST

  •  There is hope - "The Elite Eight" (none)
    I have read many, many, many articles, diaries and posts about "Why America hates Democrats", "How the Red States Have Taken Over", "I guess there's just more of them than us", "How do we remake ourselves now?" blah, blah, blah.

    Consider this for 1 minute.  If not for "The Elite Eight", Bush would not have won the presidency.

    The Elite Eight are:

    *North Dakota

    These 8 states favored Bush by a 3,572,401 vote margin.

    How much to Bush win the popular vote by?  3,554,414 votes

    How many electoral votes did they give him? 71

    How many electoral vote did Bush win by? 34

    Without The Elite Eight, Bush was behind in the popular vote by 17,987 votes and the electoral by 37.

    Finally, what percentage of the popular vote do these 8 states represent? 11.9%

    What does all of this mean?  This is very much a divided country and these 8 states are controlling the national political conversation even though they represent not much more than 10% of those who voted in our last election.

    Why don't we (and the media) take a look at The Elite Eight and question why they are the way they are instead of making all of the vast, sweeping generalizations about the country at large.

    Bush did not win an overwhelming majority of the votes in the last election.  He by no means received any kind of mandate from the country at large.

    Why do 8 states with a combined voting population of under 14 million people have the right to control our whole country?

    Let's not forget the ringleader of the group is Texas with over half of those voters.  So is Texas really controlling our country while the rest of us fight it out?

  •  Change the title of this thread! (none)
    I'm sick of looking at "Why the Dems ... etc. etc." It really harshes my mellow.

    he's not the kind of wheel you fall asleep at

    by bopes on Wed Nov 10, 2004 at 10:56:23 AM PST

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