The SanityPrompt

This blog represents some small and occasional efforts to add a note of sanity to discussions of politics and policy. This blog best viewed with Internet Explorer @ 1024x768

Thursday, November 11, 2004

Where Do We Go From Here? Pt II (via a guest correspondent)

Dan Carol over at Kumbayadammit has a piece in Salon today that takes up (along with about 1000 other bloggers including myself) the question of what comes next for those concerned about the election results and the future of the Democratic Party: Memo to sore losermen. I urge you to read it.

Dan has a number of great points I think should be stressed. First, to make genuine progress on progressive policy we need to remember to focus our actions on the state level. Even were we to win a national election, the structural arrangements of governance in Washington are designed to slow progress, reform and change. While this will hopefully work to our advantage now, it also means that there are lots of ways to bog down a progressive agenda in Washington. It's why we never get national health care reform. The reason we are all so disappointed now, however, is because we have to muster all our energy to slow the Right-wing juggernaut down, and winning the election would have been a much easier way to do this. (Of course issues of foreign affairs are another key factor here that we could affect directly and immediately :-(.

Second, forget the debates over who will run the DNC. Dan and I were both there and the person's key role is getting us ready for the next national election and marshalling resources while also keeping some kind of profile. I suppose the Chairman is seen as some kind of national spokesman, but a better use of time would be to give attention to the Senators and Congressmen who form the Battle of the Marne, last-line of defense for progressive values in Washington. Help them stiffen their spines so we can avoid a repeat of 2001-2002 where everyone was tripping over themselves trying to up the ante on the tax cuts. Remember, even though we lost narrowly in 2000, Democrats acted like we lost in a landslide for 3 years until Howard Dean reminded them what a verterbrate animal is supposed to look like.

Finally (although Dan has a whole bunch more points to make in his article), we need to stop whining about values. We are never as a party going to 'out-values' the GOP in the South because it's not a question of who has values but which values you stress. Speaking in the language of faith is a completely different issue altogether. There are certain principles of liberalism and progressivism that are not negotiable and we shouldn't wring our hands about this. There is so much to say (and so many who are saying it) about the values debate in this country. It deserves a post in and of itself. But the values question is a packaging question and we need to think more about the contents of the box than the packaging at this point. As Dan says, hope beats values everytime and we need to give people hope again.

There are all kinds of pressures coming down on people in the rural areas, the South, the red states as well as in the urban areas and blue states. We have these in common as Americans -- from the threats from terrorists, to the pace of technological and social change, to the impacts from globalization. Right now, Democrats don't offer much except two conflicting messages - change is great or change is bad. One view embraces free trade, the other rejects it. One view embraces the market, the other rejects it. There is a very real tension in the Democratic Party over the host of policy issues in this nexus. And it exposes cleavages between those seen as the educated elites and the policy wonks and those seen as the liberal groundswell. Until now, we have relied on people's antipathetic reaction to the GOP and GWB to unite the Party and gloss over this cleavage. But this ignored the problem; it did not solve it. The big fear now is that retrospection and recrimination will tear us asunder again as a Party (God I love that word). We need to see this as an opportunity. How can we as a Party come up with policies that embrace the future, that establish us as the clear, progressive alternative in favor of progress, and that also communicates our understanding of how change threatens and disrupts people's lives? How do we propose to minimize negative impacts, help with adjustment, and ease the pain caused? Those are the questions we need to be asking of ourselves and of our Party.


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