Post-Election Strategy Memo, Part One

As many books as we write about them, our enemy is not Bill O'Reilly, or Rush Limbaugh, or even George Bush. Further, as much griping as we may do about them over the next few months, our problem is not Terry McAuliffe, or Bob Shrum, or any of our candidates. Individuals are neither our enemy, nor our problem. Instead, our enemy and our problem is conservatism itself. Yesterday, John Kerry won among self-described Independents and "moderates" by greater margins than George Bush won among the nation as a whole. Yesterday, we improved on our 2000 vote by 10%, more than twice the 4.7% increase in the national population since 2000. Our activism kicked ass. Our ability to appeal to the center kicked ass. Our problem is that we are in the minority. Our mistake would be to start blaming individuals and creating scapegoats.

Instead of either individuals or the way we run campaigns, our problem is conservatism itself. Yesterday, John Kerry and our Congressional candidates, including my beloved Ginny, lost because a far greater percentage of the electorate identified themselves as conservative (33%) than as liberal (21%). Had the numbers of liberals and conservatives been equal, then John Kerry would have won with 54%+ of the national vote, and well over 379 electoral votes (Bill Clinton's highest total). Ginny would have won in a landslide. Our problem is that there are more conservatives than there are liberals.

This is not always about campaigns. This is not always about how much money we raise for candidates, how many volunteers we provide for candidates, how many news stories we manage to break, how good our media is, and how well we do in picking the most electable candidate as our nominee. Instead, this also must be about defeating conservatism itself, something conservatives long ago realized about defeating liberalism. For nearly forty years now, the national electorate has been decidedly tilted in favor of conservatives, who at any given moment have outnumbered us by anywhere from 50-80%. It has been proven time and time again that liberals can win among moderates. In fact, 1984 and 1972 were probably the only two elections over the past forty years when Democrats did not win among self-described moderates. John Kerry is a liberal, and he won convincingly among moderates. Not only does our ground game kick ass, we sell ourselves to moderates just fine. These are not our problems.

When conservatives are 33% of the electorate, and liberals are only 21%, we start twelve points down in every campaign. The solution to this problem is not to move to the center and take the left for granted. The solution to this problem is not to simply energize the base so completely that our activism and energy alone carry us over the top. Unfortunately, the debate we will see over the next few weeks and months will probably be framed by these two positions. In the end, both are unfortunately temporary and purely tactical. Also, both ignore the fact that we do an excellent job at both. However, even if one or the other occasionally works, they both fail to take account the difficulties of governing a country where we start twelve points down in every approval rating poll, and twelve points down in every legislative proposal we wish to pass.

The solution to our problems, the only solution that actually addresses our problems rather than criticizes us for not doing well at tasks where we actually excel, is to increase the number of liberals in this country at a more rapid pace than the number of conservatives are increasing. We must grow liberalism. Personally, I do not even like the term "liberal", as it has a connection to laissez-fare economic and trade policies that I find abhorrent. However, if that is the term we are stuck with, then so be it. It is a large and empty word anyway, but maybe it is something George Lakoff can work on over the next few years.

Our activism and ground game crushed Republicans this time around, even more than it did four years ago. We brought millions more to the polls than we did four years ago, largely because we had so many people on the ground. We did six points better among independents than we did four years ago. We had much more airplay than we had four years ago, due significantly to our massively increased small-donor database. According to exit polls, we sold ourselves to moderates and Independents much better than we did four years ago. However, because we decreased in size, because the Democratic advantage in name ID dropped from 4% to zero, and because the deficit of liberals to conservatives at the polls increased from 9% to 12%, we got beat. We worked much harder and much better than ever before. We sold ourselves much better than before too, but we lost because we decreased in size.

We have to define liberalism according to positive semiotic frames. We have to be willing to take these frames to every corner of the nation, and run candidates in every single race in every single district (preparation for which begins today). We have to be willing to spend tens of millions of dollars not to win elections, not to help "worthy causes," but simply to sell liberalism. We cannot be reconciliatory, since the conservative reactionaries never have been, and never will be. This has worked to their advantage. Being conservative must become a dirty word. We must become willing to insult people for being conservative. We must recognize that this struggle is permanent, and does not only happen in campaign years, and must not only be waged against specific individuals or policies. It is a permanent ideological war.

Our growing activism and ability to sell ourselves, when combined with equivalence in ideological self-identification, would make us nearly invincible against the current reactionaries in the Republican Party. If we had a 12% advantage in ideology at the polls, then Republicans would be forced to scrap their reactionary ways altogether. If 33% of the electorate had been liberal, and 21% of the electorate had been conservative, then John Kerry would have won by 20 points. He would have won not only the Dakotas, but also every southern state except Alabama and Texas (which would have been very close). That is the America I would like to see--an American where reactionary politics have no chance of national victory.

Our growing activist strength was a sight to behold this time around, and I will write more about it in part two of this "memo." However, in 2008, we could become even more active and do even better on the ground, but still lose because we have kept shrinking. We have to grow the left wing. We have to sell liberalism. We must crush conservatism itself. This will be accomplished by activism alone. This will not be accomplished by "moving to the center." In fact, this will not even be accomplished by the combination of the two. Instead, we can only win by moving the country itself to the left.

I am not sure how we do this, but our task begins now. The reactionaries have finally achieved what they have fought decades to achieve: a government that will completely destroy every last remnant of the New Deal, make us a worldwide colonial power, and be able to institute to most frightening aspects of the "culture war." Despite our best efforts, the reactionaries have achieved total victory. Prepare for hell. While I believe that selling liberalism and clawing our way out of the minority is the only way to reverse this trend, I am not sure how we go about doing that. However, I do know it is time that we at least start talking about it. We are in the minority, and that must end. It is time for us to grow.

Tags: Ideology (all tags)



What to do
I think that commercials must be used on television and other media to explain to people what liberalism is today and what it has meant throughout history.  These commercials should be gentle and informative.  They should not be sensationalist.  Most importantly, they need to be aired during an off-year.  That should grab people's attention.

The problem is education.  People have generally liberal positions when polled, but they don't see themselves as liberal.  It must be sold.

by nanoboy 2004-11-03 12:58PM | 0 recs
Moving to the Center is Irrelevant
We do not need to move to the center, since they ceded it to us last night.

Have you ever thought of starting a reading group?  Each month assign a book, like Frank's "What's the Matter with Kansas"? (That one blew my mind wide apart).  Fun, interesting primers and handbooks on what it means to be a progressive/liberal in the 21st century.  Robert Reich's "Reason."  Whatever.  Good books bad books.  But something to keep the ideas flowing and the conversation and narrative and communication as active as its been the last couple of years.

by Christopher 2004-11-03 12:59PM | 0 recs
Re: Moving to the Center is Irrelevant
Your comment about reading raises a good point--we need to reframe the way we talk and the way we think.  George Lakoff's "Don't Think of an Elephant" is a good example of what we need to do to reframe the way we talk.  I recommend this to any one who wants to change the direction our country has moved towards.
by puzzlelvr 2004-11-03 02:17PM | 0 recs
Well then . . .
Based on your excellent analysis, the problem IS Kerry & Mc Cauliff, ant the party leadership. Why should the people define themselves as "Liberal" or follow a Liberal when Liberal politicians run from the appellation?

We have shamelessly allowed conservatives to define us. We have even adopted their language.

When Liberals begin to take pride in who and what they are only they will they sell themselves with pride and the people will be prepared to follow.

Conservatism is not the problem, Liberal fear and weakness is.

by Defiant 2004-11-03 01:04PM | 0 recs
Re: Well then . . .
ok.. time to regroup and move on.. rest assured the repulsives are already mapping plans to attack social security within 6 months

privitization of social security is a clever way to undermine social security. lets review the facts (as i know them) social security was established by liberals to ensure that no american would retire without a minimal income to provide basics.. food and shelter. it was not intended to provide a great dea of comfort or luxury.... if you wanted that .. it was your right to establish a savings account or invest ( and take your chances (again)

as it stands today... social security provides basic income usually enough for food ad shelter.

employees chip in 7.7% and employers chip in 7.7%.

rest assured employers would love to avoid their 7.7% or even a percentage of it.... it would immediatly make them more profitable.

now lets take a look at alternatives ( im sure the think tanks have this all worked out pro and con). there is insurance.. many different kinds of insurance plans that insurance companies would love to sell you. insurance companies are in business to make a profit.. so before you get yours... they get some of yours... do you really have the knowledge and time to read  small print?  there is also las vegas... a smart bettor might be able to win enough to retire, then there is the stock market... this too is a gamble... you have to pick em right... know when  hold em... know when  fold em and hope you dont retire in a downturn... there are investment companies that will be happy to manage your investments... for a price..
then there are the 401Ks where you and your employer chip in and you can decide to some extent what TYPE of stock you want to buy

there is the pension plan of companies that vary in how  contributions are made... and how it is later disbursed.

all of this has a lot of fine print to read... and  elemnt of gambling.

anything you end up with when you retire or die is yours. you are on your own and can make money... or lose itdepending on how good a gambler you are AND your luck about retiring during a prosperous period.

with social security you are covered until you die... if you die prematurely... your payments stay in  piggy bank and help fund someone else (repulsives hate this.. why should they help someone else)

there is a complication here.. thats  piggy bank.. the social security trust fund...   payments coming in are used immediately to pay current retirees... what is not used is set aside for the future (this is what the feds borrow to cover annual deficits)

now social security deposits accumulated (not yet used) by  the treasury are HUGE... it's tempting to want to dip into this huge piggy bank by the govt and BORROW some of it at  times.... and rest assured the federal govt DOES borrow from it... a LOT.

its a huge amount of money... and there are other players that would like a piece of  action... the stock market!

so now comes privitization of social security. a portion (not yet revealed) of each social security payment can (or must?... not yet revealed) be put into a PERSONAL account.. this becomes your responsibility to grow into a wonderfully large amount of money just for you... if you are lucky and if you retire during a period of prosperity. naturally there will be a fee for visits to investment advisors.. and some financial advisors are better than others ( best advisors will not be available to the unwashed masses... and they charge more)

so if this scam comes off.... stock markets everywhere will love you... financial advisors will love you and  government avoids its commitment to your retirement security by some amount...

you can fully expect that while the repulsives are tempting you with great riches of investment... that they will be adding small print .. one such item will be increasing the retirement age...

there you have it... the repulsives will attack social security within 6 months... and rest assured they have best minds in think tanks and madison avenue working on a marketing campaign to answer all your questions and calm your anxieties...

and here we are floundering... rocked by a horrible election... not thinking at all how swiftly they will attack...  

if the repulsives win this battle .. they will be not only  DEFENDERS of american military, good christians everywhere, american VALUES, capitalism, democracy... they will also be DEFENDER of american retirement... and democrats will be demonized .... now we could let this play out... and in 30-40 years... when it has turned abysmally horrible... then provide a way to salvage the damage but thats a lot of pain to endure...

god help us

by bluebudda 2004-11-03 02:17PM | 0 recs
Re: Well then . . .
i believe its time to circle the wagons. dont be misled by obligatory talk of unity. there will be a full frontal assault. and we seem to be helping that with selection of a mealy mouth reid as minority leader from a red/purple state.

when the reds circled the wagons... a firebrand named newt spoke loud and often ... never mind that half of america thought he was a nut... he wasnt speaking to the blues.. he was firing up the reds... and he did it methodically... incessantly.. loudly... daily.

there is one place..   where we can strike in a guerilla war... its the option that can make reds sit up and take notice.... and make corporations re-think their partisan self serving arm twisting in washington..... i speak of hitting the reds in their pocketbook... yes. economic warfare.... red companies and blue companies...

i would gladly lay myself at  altar of sacrifice and start eating dunkin donuts instead of krispy kreme if i knew which was red and which was blue.

but where is our firebrand?.... i can assure you that the reds practice economic warfare... where is our list of red companies and blue companies...

the marketplace would shudder at such a thing. we would see eier a full blown red america and blue america... or the red partisan companies would slowly cease their intervention in washington

where are you bluefirebrand?

you can fool all the people some of the time..some of the people all the time.. but you cant fool all the people all the time

by bluebudda 2004-11-04 06:27AM | 0 recs
Re-Frame the Debate
They won because they framed the debate on issues where the majority of Americans support their positions: gay rights, guns, abortion restrictions, to name a few.

I am far less thrilled than you Chris with the ground game but I am not placing blame anywhere.  We simply have to build a majority party and that involves a range of tactics and strategies.

For me, I need some time to detox and release my pain and hurt so I can regain some serenity in my life.  Otherwise, I will drive my car into the next B/C bumper sticker or yard sign I see.

Thanks for all your great analysis these past few months that I have been reading.  

Today, as a gay American, I feel like the majority of my country hates me and their values are not my values.  As someone who has worked hard to work within the system, I am feeling incredibly disheartened by the majority of Americans who voted for GWB.

by sandiegosteve 2004-11-03 01:04PM | 0 recs
Re: Re-Frame the Debate
The strategy of driving cars into those sporting B/C insignia isn't a bad one, provided every one of ours takes out at least two of theirs. Of any theory offered today, this one seems to be the soundest.

Of course, it will be hard for my beat up '86 K/E Volvo to take out a '04 B/C Hummer. And, damnit, when's the last time you ever saw a Republican carpool? Well, I might yet give it a try tonight as I drive into the Loop to see, can you believe it, Orwell's 1984.

by JHGrimson 2004-11-03 01:13PM | 0 recs
Re: Re-Frame the Debate

I am not gay... but my dad is. Yep, did you hear that Jerry Fallwell? Gay people have kids! But anyway, in regards to realizing that I share nothing in common with the "moral majority" in this country, I hear you brother. It's scary.

by ShatteredMind 2004-11-03 01:53PM | 0 recs
Re: Re-Frame the Debate
steve - i'm straight but not narrow.
if we're truly supposed to be one nation indivisible, that must include all americans, including some segments of the opulation that conservatives like to pretend don't exist.
last night was shameful, speaking with my gay and lesbian friends today was heartbreaking.  basically, a chunk of the country has given in to the bigotry pimped by today's right wing noise machine. what happened last night just wasn't right.  
by annatopia 2004-11-03 02:09PM | 0 recs
Re: Re-Frame the Debate
I'm straight, maybe even a bit narrow too, but I'm willing to fight for everyone's equal rights.  Don't get down.  There is some good news in exit polling on this issue and there's still a path forward to achieve equal rights for gays and to turn this into a winning issue for the Democratic Party.  Exit polling showed that 26% of respondents favored gay marriage and 36% favored civil unions.  Together, that's over 60% of the population that voted that believe or would settle for civil unions.  I live in Vermont and exit polling data showed that the majority now favors civil unions and want to keep it on the books.  This wasn't the case when our legislature passed a civil unions bill.

Substantively, under Vermont's civil union law, gay couples that enter into a civil union enjoy the same substantive rights under Vermont law that married couples enjoy.  In substance, this is equal treatment under the law.  I understand, however, that there is symbolic value in obtaining the right to marry.  Straight people can marry and unless gays can marry, there is no true equality.  Nevertheless, it's the rights that count.  What's in a name?    

My dad's a right-wing nut job, but not a religious fundamentalist.  He told me that he was having a conversation with his other right-wing- nut-job friends and they all agreed that they support equal rights for gays, but not the right to marry.  

So, although 11 states voted against gay marriage, they didn't vote against civil unions and all of those states could still be converted at some point in the future into states that permit civil unions.  We should be pushing equal rights, states rights and civil unions.  That's a winning combination.  

We need to argue that this issue is for each state to decide.  It's a state's rights issue, which is why Bush's constitutional amendment is wrong and will never pass.  Then we need to work the progressive state legislatures to pass civil union laws (or gay marriage if we can get it).  We have two states in the bag already, which is two more than we had 5 years ago.  After we spread the idea of civil unions, we'll have a better shot at gay marriage.  We're making progress.  Like any other progressive civil rights issues, we'll ultimately prevail.

by gunnar 2004-11-03 06:04PM | 0 recs
actually, ohio's gay marriage ban was broad enough to prevent civil unions.
by annatopia 2004-11-04 12:29AM | 0 recs
But ....
Most people who identify themselves as conservative or liberal have absolutely no idea what the terms mean.  If you poll those so-called conservatives on issues many of them are, in fact, liberal. To most Bush supporters their vote was an unsophisticated, knee-jerk reaction inspired by fear and ignorance.  How do we combat that?  Liberals are selling tolerance, pluralism, compassion, multi-lateralism and equality ... and this election demonstrated that most American voters don't want those things.  
by 14days 2004-11-03 01:05PM | 0 recs
Re: But ....
That's because "liberal" and "conservative" should be thought of as brands. The relevant analogy is with the branding literature in marketing. The NRA understands this. Remember, the "I'm the NRA" commercials in the 1980s?
by Lee Scoresby 2004-11-03 01:32PM | 0 recs
Re: But ....
Exactly. This is pure branding. On issue after issue, the public agrees with Democrats and usually that means the "liberal" position. But, since Democrats have done no positive branding of the term, it's still associated with an ossified Congressional majority and the economic chaos of the 70s. I was struck by the NDN's "Preview" ad, both because it was a good ad and because it was the only positive branding message I'd seen in a long time about the Democratic Party.

First, though, we need to figure out the associations we want the term "liberal" to create in people. Fiscal management, equal rights, good jobs? Those don't quite do it. The reason the brand "conservatism" works is that they have clear associations with it, some of them fraudulent (patriotism, individualism, low taxes, moral rectitude, strength on security, etc.). Of all of those, only taxes has any basis in actual policy. It's why the GOP is so addicted to tax cuts. Without them, they cease to have any legislative meaning as a party.

Liberalism: effectiveness, responsiveness, moralism, celebration of our unity, upholders of our nation's highest ideals; also hopefulness, strength and rationalism. I could go on all night, and probably will soon with someone. But, I'll leave it there for now.

What does liberalism mean?

by BriVT 2004-11-03 03:08PM | 0 recs
Re: But ....
Couple of starting points.  

There are literally millions of people in the armed forces.  Some of them self-identify as liberals.  Maybe they could be featured in some ads:  "I'm Sgt. xxxxx in Iraq, and I'm a liberal."
Well, maybe it'd have to be a corporal, I don't know. ;)

Plenty of liberals in community service.  Put some people in habitat or a soup kitchen in adds.  

Be forewarned though.  The Repubs have a big head start.  Rehabiliting "liberal" will take a while.

by Randi 2004-11-03 03:24PM | 0 recs
Re: But ....
Popularizing the word "liberal" is difficult and unnecessary.  Why let the other side define us?  "Liberal" positions on economic and foreign policy are more popular than "conservative" positions, but the word "liberal" has no chance against such a solid, common sense sounding word as "conservative."

And the Bushies are anything but conservative.  What are they conserving? Attacking Iraq was a radical step, reckless and unnecessary.  Nothing conservative about eliminating civil liberties either, or running up a record national debt, and they certainly don't want to conserve the environment.  

Why let them get away with assigning the popular label to themselves? The Democrats are actually the conservative party (or at least "moderate,") the Repubs radical.  And though that may be a hard idea to sell, trying to popularize "liberal" will be even more difficult and would play right into the hands of the enemy.    

by cimoli 2004-11-03 04:42PM | 0 recs
Re: But ....
"but the word "liberal" has no chance against such a solid, common sense sounding word as "conservative." "

Now where did you get this idea?  Liberal hasn't always been a bad word.  It's only been since the end of the Civil Rights movement and Vietnam War that being a liberal has become a social stigma.  Before those times, liberals were the majority and conservatives were the ones off in the wilderness.  It's all in the branding as so many have said before.

by asearchforreason 2004-11-03 05:05PM | 0 recs
Re: But ....
I personally prefer progressive.  Liberal is a term that seemed to flourish when it described fifties anti-left Democrats, whose main agenda was social policy.  I think it is a useless word, implies a kind of reckless amoral high-handedness, and really needs to be replaced.  

Any suggestions?

by mady 2004-11-04 03:15AM | 0 recs
Re: But ....
Yes, I agree.

"Progressive" is inherently positive, as is the word conservative.  Liberal has about as much a chance of coming back as the word feminist.  I see no purpose wasting our time reviving old terms when new ones serve us better, anyway.  We have far more important things to do. . .

by bellarose 2004-11-04 08:18AM | 0 recs
Another issue...
Isn't it possible that they don't really outnumber us by much, but they simply turned out in much greater numbers than us?

Bush spent the entire election season (indeed, much of the last four years) supercharging his base.  To add to that, the Republicans made sure that gay marriage ballot initiatives were on the ballot in many swing states.

On the other hand, many liberals seemed to feel Kerry was less than an "ideal" candidate.  So I guess I'd like to see stats about how many liberals actually turned out last night.

by jonweasel 2004-11-03 03:46PM | 0 recs
Were talking to ourselves not reaching the public
The public is not receiving our message.

The corporate media is not going to be a carrier for our message, ever.

We are spending all of our time talking to ourselves. This will not help us build up our base.

Compromise and timidity and idealism sorry to say not getting us anywhere.

Our political opposition is willing to steal elections and put forward false polling data to build a  persuasive election narrative.

They are willing to lie about substaintive policies and event and challange our voters at the polling place, etc.

We are not ever goiong to win unless we have a means of fighting these tactics, and personally for me I don't think idealism and nice-guyism is going to make the grade.

We have to be willing to call them liars when they lie, even if it means we end up fighting their media shills as well.

We have to devise specific election winning constituency based projects to win elections.

We can't just go around finding the best qualified candidate, play nice during the campain and cross our fingers and hope we get more votes.

We have to use our isssues, those that we care the most about to divide and conquer their voting constituency.

This can only be done with framing and targeting and out of season pre-paritory campaigns.

People are not well informed about the issues, its been shown that Bush supporters do not even have a good idea of where he stands on many importnat issues.

We can't leave the public education campaign for the election season.

We can be afraid of exposing our opposition as what they are, liars, cheaters, elections stealers.

We we are too cowardly to make these points in public then they will win every single time.

by leschwartz 2004-11-03 01:06PM | 0 recs
Conservative actually was a dirty word back in the 1950s, before Goldwater started the modern movement.  Or so the story goes.
by Christopher 2004-11-03 01:07PM | 0 recs
What strategy?
It's time to start looking for another country to live in.

As a history buff who resides in the world's foremost econo-political power, I am intrigued by the question of America's demise.  History tells us that all empires eventually fall...even the most powerful.  But, was there anyone in Rome who saw the writing on the wall, what were the tell tale signs at the ground level?  These questions propel me to ask parallel questions about this country.....  When will it happen?  What will it look like?  What are the clues that foreshadow it?  Who and how will people try to prevent it?  How big of a fall will it be?

I take last night's election as a confirmation that the American empire has peaked and there is only one way to go.  The election results - with the majority dissapproving of Bush on economic policy, split down the middle on foreign policy, but voting for him on "Moral" issues -  demostrated an irrational fundamentalist backlash fueled by fear.  Perhaps, a fear promoted by idiotic preachers echoing the view that "God punished NY liberals through the 9/11 attacks."  Bin Laden's recent video was prophetic when he analyzed the unprecendented effect 20+ mujaheddin had on the econo-political fabric of the country.  However, even he failed to note the effect it had on the socio-cultural front.  I am sure he is very pleased this morning.  

Bin Laden has become our Atila, our Achile's heel, the thorn in the lion's paw.

But how will it go down?  It is useful to recall how other empires have fallen:


*    Success - The Greeks invented Democracy and it fueled an era of unprecedented success.  By sharing the decision making among many people, and deliberating over important matters they created a society of civic minded people who took responsibility for their own destiny and who made better decisions as a group (The Whole > The Sum of Its Parts)
*    Failure - The Direct Democracy that served them so well, also led to their decline.  Direct Democracies can not flourish in large societies, they are best for smaller communities and they prevent growth of the political entity.  As a result, there was no Greece....there was a bunch of related City-States (i.e., Athens, Sparta) that made their own decisions completely independent of each other.  In the end, Greece was defeated by a large Kingdom with centralized power.


*    Success - The Romans were the first Europeans to unite a large area into one kingdom.  Their strength was their size and they were able to overwhelm the poor Greeks in the previous example.
*    Failure - It is telling that the most famous Roman saying is - All roads lead to Rome.  Rome got too big, they were much that a backward tribe was able to march right in and burn Rome.


*    Success - Their cosmology intimately tied mysticism & warfare into an inseperable union.  As a result, their warriors fought with unprecedented motivation, faith & ruthlessness.  Their success in warfare was the foundation of a great civilization.
*    Failure - Warfare & religion were so intimately related that religion took over the socio-political decision making the Aztecs came closer to their prophecized end (The Fifth Sun)...they became increasingly blood thirsty to appease the Gods and they pissed their neighbors off more and that when the Spaniards arrived almost all other tribes were glad to join the Spanish.

As you can see, an empire's virtue also tend to spell their demise.  How can we extrapolate this to the U.S?


*    Success - The Representative Democracy provided many of the same benefits the Greeks experienced, but in a footprint that can be deployed to a much larger country.  Further, the country's best policies result from the balance of power (Consititution / Supreme Court, President, Congress).
*    Failure - The balance of powers means that only Congress can ammend the constitution...a document that is increasingly outdated.  Today, Congress (as representatives of the people) spend more time campaigning than they do legislating....they make decisions based on campaign funding, and not pissing of the party, and this doesn't always line up with the well being of the country.....but they are the only people who can change this.  Further they reinforce a system that dumbs down America, in which people vote against their own economic interests blinded by the superficial "Moral" and "Cultural" ideologies that both parties represent.  What motivation does Congress have if the current system brings them a lot more prosperity & prestige than any other?  This will ultimately spell our decline as other countries are increasingly able to do things more intelligently and effectively.

Specifically you will see:

*    The conflict in Iraq will continue to suck up our tax money, global political clout, consumer & investor confidence, hope & dreams.

*    We will not have the money to make strategic educational investments in the areas that fuel the economy of the 21st century.  We will see other countries continue to specialize in specific advanced information-intensive industries and each of those countries will take a slice of the pie away from America.  

*    India will continue to consolidate its position in IT among English speaking countries
*    China will continue to dominate cheap manufacturing and will move in to higher quality, more complex products such as airplanes & jetliners.
*    European & Latin American countries will continue to eat in to Hollywood's dominance of infotainment
*    After Fidel's death, Cuba will emerge as a superpower in the biochemical field supplying cutting edge vaccines & inexpensive drugs to the entire continent.
*    Europe will consolidate its position as a provider of strategic infrastructure to the emerging economies.

*    As the rest of the world continues to lose respect for the U.S., we can expect to see more Global Trade "Revolutions" like the one we see in Cancun at the most recent WTO round.
*    We will continue to be militarily overextended and our ability to deal with bold maneuveurs by N. Korea, Iran & Israel will be compromised.

*    We will be overly dependant on China to control N. Korea, as a result we can expect China to remain on a Fixed Currency Valuation system for many years to come and thus our Current Account Deficit will grow beyond control.

*    Foreign investors will increasingly find the U.S. economy to be less attractive, which will weaken the U.S. dollar, making imports more expensive and setting the country into another recession.

*    The thorough whipping of the Democrats by the Republicans in 2004 will provide a huge momentum for right-wing reforms:

*    George Jr. will destroy Social Security by privatizing it.
*    The Supreme Court will become increasingly conservative and will deal serious blows to individual rights in favor of pro-religious collective rights.  Many of the country's talented, wise & intellectual people will find the country unliveable and will take their goods to another country.
*    The Trickle-Down Economic Hawks through the Bush-Greenspan dynamic duo will continue to foolishly & inneffectively try to combat the coming recessions with tax cuts & monetary policy.......Keynes will be laughing from his grave.  Their foolish economic decisions will create a downward spiral:  

*    Seniors, the Disabled & the working poor will go increasingly into the red, and will bring down America's consumer credit infrastructure when they go into bankruptcy by the masses.
*    The U.S. economy will be increasingly dependant on cheap foreign goods...take them away and the country is in recession....the countries that provide them will have an increasing amount of power over us.
*    Jobs will be scarce & educated American middle class people will be willing to take jobs for increasingly lower pay.

*    The country will try to compensate by allowing greater illegal immigration to keep the cost of goods & services down
*    The illegal immigrants will continue to send money to their native countries thus fortifying their economies, and growing their middle class...eventually the U.S. middle class will be competing against the Latin American middle class for those people (wages for unskilled labor in those countries will rise enough to convince people to migrate back or not come in the first place)  The middle class will continue to be squeezed.

In summary, the U.S. will not be defeated militarily but it will collapse on the socio-economic front.....9/11/01 was the fateful moment that began the chain reaction....but 11/02/04 was America's frustrated chance to turn the tide.

by moderate1976 2004-11-03 01:08PM | 0 recs
We need to find new ways of liberalism that don't involve the same old "raise taxes and spend it on social programs" type pattern.  It doesn't win elections anymore.
by alhill 2004-11-03 01:10PM | 0 recs
...stamp-of-approval on this post, Chris. Thank you for not saying this election and its long, long-term impact doesn't matter or doesn't exist (that seems to be what many big-traffic lefty bloggers seem to be asserting at the moment...)

I do disagree however that apologists like McAuliffe that helped move the conversation to the right in the first place, are not part of the problem...we compromised ourselves into oblivion. What is retrievable, who knows...but the means through which redemption is availabe to us, has nothing - repeat nothing - to do with how things were done in the's truly a new, new era and paradigm...all I hope is for people to quit operating on their past assumptions asap, so that no more time than necessary is wasted.

It's going to take a revolution as opposed to evolution to get out of here...the Matrix is on lock-down now. Bank on "more-division" taking place, before "less-division" can ever grab hold...the whole thing has it's own momentum you say "prepare for hell"...

Political Physics
by cgilbert01 2004-11-03 01:18PM | 0 recs
The Death Of The Democratic Party?
If there were no massive vote tampering, then I'm not only ashamed at America, I'm ashamed of Democrats as well.  
How in the world could Bush get 4 million more votes than Kerry, when in 2000 Bush lost the popular vote by half a million?  
If there were no massive vote tampering, then we did not win the ground game despite what you claim, we lost it big time.  
The first time I was able to vote was in 2000, I voted for Gore, and lost.  I voted for Kerry last night, and lost, big.  The government is now clearly Republican, and it seems America is too.
Is the Democratic party dead?  I've seen some people suggesting a Wesley Clark/Obamma ticket, and I have no idea why.  Clark is a subpar speaker, and looks even more stiff than Gore.  Obamma is a great speaker, but he's not white, that's not going to work with America, be realistic now.  
Some have suggested Hillary Clinton, but do you really think Red America is going to elect a female President?  I am certain that won't happen.  The female turnout would likely be the largest ever, but the male support would be non-existant, again be realistic.  
The only choice seems to be Edwards/Clark.  Edwards is going to be hit hard for his inexperience.  Clark won't motivate anyone.  This looks like the end of the Democratic Party, unless something big happens.  
by Dionyseus 2004-11-03 01:19PM | 0 recs
Re: The Death Of The Democratic Party?
Marginalized, yes. Destroyed is a bit strong. The GOP was a marginalized party for 35 years until Nixon in '68. They clawed their way back. So can we.

What is a compassionate conservative? Well, you know how a conservative will say: "You're fired"? A compassionate conservative will say: "I'm sorry - but you're fired". Let's get our sense of humor a few days.

by Jacko 2004-11-03 01:45PM | 0 recs
Re: The Death Of The Democratic Party?
I'll agree that we lost the ground war yesterday, something many of us had taken for granted that we'd win.  Certainly that's part of today's story.

I disagree with your formulation of Dem tickets for '08.  I can't see Edwards anywhere near the ticket, he won't even be in public office.  As for Hilary, she might get smoked in the popular vote, but win the electoral college.

But I think we're missing the largest field of potential candidates: governors.  Since Carter, only Bush 41 hasn't been elected without first being a governor.

by jhaas 2004-11-03 03:03PM | 0 recs
Re: The Death Of The Democratic Party?
Gov. Mike Easley (D-NC)

Re-elected in a landslide when the state and the Senate seat went Red.

15 EV's going from Red->Blue would be a big boost.

by wayward 2004-11-03 06:26PM | 0 recs
Re: The Death Of The Democratic Party?
I can't believe we're already handicapping the Democratic primaries for president in 2008.  Forget about it.  It's a massive distraction with no reward attached to it.  We need to focus on issues that are progressive, will resonate with people and will help us win.  The Republican party has had us on the defensive on issues for a long time now.  We need to launch an offensive to at least try to rest some control away from the Republicans on framing the issues that get debated.  
by gunnar 2004-11-03 06:20PM | 0 recs
Re: The Death Of The Democratic Party?
I second that.  Hearts and minds, one voter at a time.
by mady 2004-11-04 03:16AM | 0 recs
The answer is in front of us
It's the environment.

The environment is something we all have a stake in. It's something that even conservative christians can rally around. God created the earth -- conservatives are destroying it.

If we relentlessly push the environment, species extinction, global climate change, pollution, and other similar issues, then I believe we can change America.

Think 4 years out. Global warming will be undeniable and be having real impacts on America. Energy independence and sustainability will be a growing issue with security implications.

One of the first things the new Senate will do is open up the ANWR for oil drilling - which is something most Americans (including conservative christians) oppose.

No parent wants their children to grow up without Gorillas and other endangered species. Killing of species makes every American feel bad. But conservative policies encourage this in a way that can be communicated in a simple and direct way.

It's right under our noses. It's the environment.

In this campaign

by Insighter 2004-11-03 01:23PM | 0 recs
represented, I fear, a fundamental shift in American politics. True, liberals must define who and what they are and make their case much better than in the past. The problem though is fear. Fear and ignorance have driven more people into conservative thought based on its simplicity and into faith. Liberalism isn't simple. IT IS NUANCED and difficult to define. Liberals in general are more willing to break ranks, think for themselves or just punt on the system altogether. The common ground for conservatives is faith. People are joining the Christian "trend" all across this country and conservatives have effectively used wedge issues to unite faith into an almost impenetrable voting bracket. Apathy will generally be higher amongst liberals because of what makes them liberal. They live and learn from reality, conservatives try to discredit reality to fit their view. Until liberals can bridge the faith gap that has formed, and this is way beyond Northeast Catholics, the foreseeable future belongs to the south and midwest politically.
by joeferguson 2004-11-03 01:24PM | 0 recs
Hey, I'm a liberal.  I didn't used to describe myself that way until conservatives made it a dirty word.  Now I use it all the time.  And isn't it nice we actually have souls to search, as opposed to those other guys, not that it's much consolation at the moment.
by bushistheantichrist 2004-11-03 01:28PM | 0 recs
Thanks for this post....
...reading it made me feel better. I think you're right -- even though we didn't win, we did a lot of things right this election, and it's important to build on our successes instead of doing the circular-firing-squad thing. As disappointed as we all are now, we still have a lot to be proud of! I'm in Boston, and I've been relying on memories of the ALCS to get me through the last 24 hours: in spite of early losses (plus 86 years of emotional baggage!) the Red Sox came out and PLAYED HARD every game. They didn't grieve over the past or worry about the future, even though they had every reason to do both. They just focused the next game, and then the next, and then the next.

I agree that what we're really fighting here is a philosophical and ideological war, and we've taken a beating for 40 years and have only just recently started to fight back. Don't give up! We need to keep talking to each other, to come up with new ideas and strategies for taking back our country.   I don't have any ideas off the top of my head, either, but I trust the ideas will come if we stay engaged.

by Pragmatic Idealist 2004-11-03 01:32PM | 0 recs
Everyone is missing the point
It's not "conservatism" it's religious ferver.  We will never ever win in some parts of the country.  Unfortunately, there is no hope.  Even in the inner city religion is beginning to trump all other issues.

When underemployed undereducated vote because of "that's what god wants" instead of what is good for their family, we're doomed.  We are becoming the enemy we are fighting.

The fight is over and we have lost.  This country will now and for the foreseeable future be, effectively, run by the church.  Any candidate that doesn't realize this will lose.

We either become just like them or accept our role as the minority.  I give up.  I am glad I have the skills and financial ability to leave my country and move to Europe to live in a society that shares my values.  This society no longer does.

by marczz1 2004-11-03 01:32PM | 0 recs
Re: Everyone is missing the point
Why do they have a monopoly on religion.  I am a Catholic, Jesuit schooled.  All through my schooling I was taught 'conservative' was just a nice way to say 'greedy.'  Personally I don't see how other catholics can even go to church and stomach voting for Bush.  Look they always have the Pro-Lifers touting morality on their side but I feel the problem is most conservatives view Liberals as relativists, a-moral, anti-religion.  It is true we have our 'nuts' lashing out again 'under God we trust' and whatnot but they certainly have their 'nuts' too.  I believe the problem is twofold. 1. we must be able to present 'pro-choice' in a way that says look we just don't think the government should be dictating morality in this case.  We must allow canidates to express their views, it should be ok to be a democrat and say I disagree on the morality of abortion however I see the value it keeping it legal (how many democrats could win primaries with that?)
2. More important we should play our strengths.  We are the party of social justice, Dorathy Day, MLK these were giants of moral authority compared to Jerry Falwell.
The question is how?
by Gonzaga2000 2004-11-03 02:08PM | 0 recs
Re: Everyone is missing the point
You are so right!  Both points that you make are quite valid.  I'm Catholic and found the thought of voting for Bush totally abhorrent but believe that life is precious.  Your comments are right on for people who can hold differing views in balance.  Thanks!
by puzzlelvr 2004-11-03 02:29PM | 0 recs
Re: Everyone is missing the point
I am Catholic as well. Voted for Kerry despite the fact that he made me cringe when talking about abortion.

You can't win on values when people are debating whether or not you should be excommunicated.

Abortion won it for Bush. Think of all the conservative, rural, working-class, Catholic Democrats in Ohio that voted for Bush because of this one issue.

If my calculations are correct, pro-lifers have a majority in the Senate as well

51 Pro-life: 50 Republicans + Ben Nelson (D-NE)
49 Pro-choice: 43 Dems +
Murkowski (R-AK), Collins (R-ME), Snowe (R-ME) Chafee (R-RI), Specter (R-PA), Jeffords (I-VT)

by wayward 2004-11-03 06:34PM | 0 recs
I believe Reid D-NV is also pro-life - NT
by Andrew Lazarus 2004-11-04 03:44AM | 0 recs
Re: Everyone is missing the point
Not true. . .

I know the media is spinning this whole religion thing like crazy but it's just not true.  Everyone who votes is not a fundamentalist.  Bush and the RNC have a massive propaganda machine backing them.  All their lies and distortions about Kerry and about Bush himself pulled lots of people who share our values their way. Remember how they put on their moderate face come convention time?  Remember when Bush boasted of his enviromental record during the debates?  Remember when Laura bragged about her husband being the first President to fund stem-cell research?

They can't win with evangelicals alone and they know it.  We need to remember that, too. Please, don't move or give up.  That's just what the evil trolls want you to do.

by bellarose 2004-11-04 08:32AM | 0 recs
Your analysis was so off

sorry, dude, but you've lost some credibility. Your analysis was so off of what actually happened.....Limbaugh was more accurate that you....

sometimes, the truth hurts, but we must hear it anyways.

by JohnKerry 2004-11-03 01:34PM | 0 recs
Re: Your analysis was so off
Chris is far from the only person who thought there were more of us than there were. And honestly, the big problem is that there wasn't even any oxygen in Democratic circles for the truth. Anyone who would've said it would have been crushed. Really, imagine someone on one of these communities saying, "even if we turn out our base, increase the youth vote, win independents, and get 120M in turnout, we still won't even be close to winning." NO ONE would have listened.
by tunesmith 2004-11-03 02:11PM | 0 recs
Re: Your analysis was so off
Two states and two percent. I'm an idiot.
by Chris Bowers 2004-11-03 02:38PM | 0 recs
Re: Your analysis was so off
Go fuck yourself "John Kerry"

At least Chris was nice enough to invest his time, energy and money into this site, which I found to be the most informative during this election cycle.

Thanks Chris for all your hard work.  Things didn't work out the way we wanted, or perhaps even predicted, but at least we tried.

by agpc 2004-11-03 02:51PM | 0 recs
"At least Chris was nice enough to invest his time, energy and money into this site, which I found to be the most informative during this election cycle."

It's all about building infrastructure. The right's been doing it for 30+ years.  We're playing catch-up. But we're smarter than them, we're democratic to our bones, and we're right. Chris's work on this site is not just important in and of itself--which it is in spades--but also as an inspiration to others.

Hats off!

by Paul Rosenberg 2004-11-03 02:58PM | 0 recs
First right answer I've seen.
We need the infrastructure - not electoral, ideological.

Ideological infrastructure: foundations and media to build ideas, memes, and policy; educate activists, candidates, legislators, and voters; influence the public discourse; promote liberal and progressive values.

That's what they have, and it's why they win.  Why is the debate in this country about conservative ideas?  They were shouting for 30 years while were were silent in our over-confidence.

by Silent E 2004-11-04 05:37AM | 0 recs
I Agree/Disagree
Let me "flip flop" and say that I agree with you that we, as Democrats, must re-examine and re-assess ourselves.  But I disagree that we must go out and make more people liberal.  I'm sure most of you read Kristof's Op-Ed today in the NY Times.  It was right on the money.  Democrats must meet the citizens needs, not convert people.  Readers might not like to hear it, but we've gotten too Elitist.  We are becoming "Cafeteria Menu" policy-makers.  What I mean is that the Party is picking and choosing our stances indiscriminately, without identifying and considering the policy impactees.  Kristof cites a great and telling example.  In Oregon, Democrats cited with Spotted Owls over blue-collar workers.  For the Democratic Party to become a factor, and I think we will because these things run in cycles (i.e. LBJ Guns & Butter), we've got to start discounting the stances of the "Elite" and start paying attention to these lower/middle class "conservatives".
by playwheniwanttoplay 2004-11-03 01:45PM | 0 recs
Re: I Agree/Disagree
Right. To quote Goldwater: winning beats the hell out of losing. If you don't win, you cannot act. But our problem is that, as Democrats, we have these annoying things called principles. The GOP only exists to trick the poor into voting for them so they can loot the treasury on behalf of their owners, the super-rich.

I wonder if there isn't a southwestern strategy that could work. Take the environmental principles that we all hold and marry them to the folks that work and live on the land in states like AZ, NM, NE, KS, MO, WY, etc. Just avoid the south itself. Become the party of the independent cowboy, the home on the range, Woody Guthrie, all that stuff. There is a populist strain throughout the Western states that Democrats could take on with not too much adjustment. With a less coastal, more rural image, we could take advantage of the sunbelt demographics. I think we saw something of that in this election but it takes a while. We need our own kind of cowboys to saddle up for the next round.

by Jacko 2004-11-03 01:56PM | 0 recs
I Disagree/Agree
"We are becoming 'Cafeteria Menu' policy-makers."

That's precisely Lakoff's criticism. And he's not talking about making people more liberal. He's talking about ACTIVATING the liberalism that's already latent in them.  Big difference.

For example, if you look at the 30+ years of public opinion research at the General Social Survey, you'll see that self-defined conservatives are broadly supportive of the welfare state.  So it's not a matter of changing their beliefs--it's a matter of activating the beliefs they already have.

by Paul Rosenberg 2004-11-03 02:32PM | 0 recs
Re: I Agree/Disagree
Um "What I mean is that the Party is picking and choosing our stances indiscriminately, without identifying and considering the policy impactees"?
"The Party" is a pretty nebulous thing, but as for individuals, I can speak for myself and many liberals I know that we have certain beliefs, ideas, and values. What are we if we "choose" to push something other than what we believe?
If we are wrong in our beliefs we should lose. I don't think we are though.
If we are right in our beliefs we should try to persuade a plurality of the country for good and compassionate ideas. If we cannot or do not wish to spend our lives trying to change beliefs we find destructive, we can and should leave this society.
Most of us who are throwing around leaving for Europe or Canada may not be serious yet (perhaps more will mean it for real within the next four years). Many, many times and places in history, indeed, the first European immigrants to America, people have left their homeland to find a place to live with people who share their values.


by Ryvr 2004-11-03 04:45PM | 0 recs
Please define the terms.
True, when people have to choose a label, more may choose "conservative" than "liberal"--but it doesn't seem like those words themselves are what shape peoples' positions.  A conservative hold a collection of beliefs and positions, and a liberal holds a different collection.  What are those collections?  When you try to change someone from "conservative" to "liberal" (or from moderate to liberal), you're not just changing the name they call themselves, but presumably a whole interconnected set of beliefs, right?  Which are the core beliefs?  And once you think of it as a huge set of positions, it seems a bit harder to budge the whole thing.  I'm not against it--it's really the only way--but it seems like we need a clearer idea of what it means in detail to be a "conservative" or "liberal."  Any ideas?
by brackdurf 2004-11-03 01:50PM | 0 recs
Re: Please define the terms.
"Any Ideas?"

Read Lakoff. Don't Think of an Elephant first, then Moral Politics.

Please understand, Lakoff is not offering his ideas. He is presenting his analysis of the ideas that are already there. He asked himself, what makes this one set of positions--against taxes and abortion, for the death penalty, etc--hang together over here? And this other set of positions--environmental protection, affirmative action, arms controk, etc.--hang together over there?   Understanding this is the key to doing anything effective.

by Paul Rosenberg 2004-11-03 02:02PM | 0 recs
Re: Please define the terms.
Yes, I found this book to be quite informative; I plan to read Moral Politics next.
by puzzlelvr 2004-11-03 02:30PM | 0 recs
change is hard
Losing the election is not anyone's fault.
When the nation is ready to change, it will buy the package we wrap up to sell them.  
They aren't tired of the economy yet, or the body bags.  Nursing resentments and bigotry still feels better than the thought of risking change.
by hawkseye 2004-11-03 01:50PM | 0 recs
We Should Have Listened To Lakoff
There was a brief period in early Summer, when Kerry was growing his (unacknowledged-by-the-SCLM) lead, when he was talking somewhat consistently about values.  He wasn't quite there with Lakoff, since he insisted on claiming that he shared people's conservative values, but it was an acceptable half-way house, if only he had stuck with it.

Especially effective was the line that values aren't defined by the words you use in a speech, they're defined by how you live your life.  And I can't for the life of me figure out why the Kerry campaign abandoned this line of campaigning---just like I can't for the life of me figure out why they failed to blow the Swift Boat Vets out of the water and go after Bush like a pair of MPs after a deserter.

So, this is to say that, yes, I agree 100% that we need to rehabilitate the liberal label, and Lakoff has an excellent handle on how to do that. But it's also to say that the Kerry campaign sucked at getting this through their heads, even in a minimal way.  So getting "our own guys" to get it is going to be a major part of this struggle.

I also agree that it would be good to make "conservative" a dirty word again.  But I don't think we can do that immediately and directly. Too many people have their identities wrapped up in saying they are conservatives--even if they don't really know what that means. Just as PIPA's recent reports showed that Bush supporters had no idea of his positions on a number of prominent issues.  

I think we first have to soften up that target--as Kerry did when he questioned how conservative Bush was. This is effective because Bush isn't really a conservative in any sense of the word--he's a reactionary, as are MOST of the conservative leadership.  I think we first have to get the conservative base to begin seeing their leaders as something different than them.  I don't imagine for a minute that we can get them all, but we can get a good chunk of them, IMHO.

However, accentuating the positive comes first and foremost. Re-defining liberalism ala Lakoff is job one.

p.s. Barbara Boxer, one of the most liberal senators we've got, just cruised to any easy victory her in California. She's always been seen as vulnerable, because she's supposedly "too liberal" for California, but this time out she just cruised--there is no other word for it--to victory.

by Paul Rosenberg 2004-11-03 01:51PM | 0 recs
Re: We Should Have Listened To Lakoff
Paul -- the same process happened in Minnesota Tuesday.  Kerry did about 52%, but in the same election we won 13, (maybe 14) seats in the State House, bringing the DFL up to a tie (67-67) or just down one (66-68).  We lost our shirt in 2002 because of the uproar over Paul Wellstone's memorial service (largely a Republican Ploy), but the seats we won this time were largely in Suburban Districts that trended to Bush.  

We won on the argument that Republicans had let ideology get in the way of decent government -- so the focus was school funding, Higher Ed tuition costs, Ideological rejection of publicly owned mass transit systems on the part of Republicans, cuts in Health Care, Unsound Fiscal practices, -- just the plain basics of State Government.  Most of our new representatives are moderate women, and many of them recruited their Campaign Managers from the Dean Campaign when it folded last spring.  Assuming these representatives seem to "get things done" next session, I think we will be well positioned for the 2006 election when Constitutional Offices and the State Senate along with the House stand for re-election.  I know state legislative races seem small change in the shadow of the Presidency -- but if Liberals are identified with "Government that Works and Serves Needs" -- we will be on our way.  

by Sara 2004-11-04 12:32AM | 0 recs
Forget the liberalism / conservatism BS.

They are willing to do whatever it takes to win, we are not.

Their dishonest tactics and lies beat our pristine philosophy every time.

We are not fighting a bunch of priests, we are up against a crime organization that is in league with the corporate media which owns the the four elements of government.

Think of them like the mafia, who conducts sham elections to placate the public who are easily mislead.


by leschwartz 2004-11-03 01:55PM | 0 recs
Yup. this is what happened. The first step to winning is being able to see clearly who the enemy is. If the enemy is throwing rhetorical bombs, all the pretty language in the world is helpless.

Liars, smear artists, con men and thugs need to be neutralized before any process of rehabiliting liberalism or whatever even makes sense.

by Roy 2004-11-03 02:08PM | 0 recs
It's Not Either/Or, My Friend, Pt II
I would have preferred to nuetralize the Liars, smear artists, con men and thugs first. But we just lost our opportunity to do that until 2006.  So now its time to rehabilite liberalism.
by Paul Rosenberg 2004-11-03 02:26PM | 0 recs
Re: It's Not Either/Or, My Friend, Pt II
You said it's not either/or then you said we lost our chance to neutralize until 2006. I don't believe that and I won't adopt that "strategy".

There is an anti-war anti-agression and civil-liberties defense needed starting now. It puzzles me that so many folks around here act as if they can triumph by following the most heart-warming and engaging strategy. This is wrong. The strategy needs to be one that is effective not one that sounds nice and cudly. Think BushCo and his fundmentalists cohorts are going to take a year off while we rehabilitate liberalism. NO, they are just going to get more entrenched.

Further, the only way to know if we're being effective is through repeated engagement. What I see on this diary seems to be a retreat to an intellectual distance that has more to do with wishfull thinking than effectiveness.

by Roy 2004-11-03 02:42PM | 0 recs
Re: It's Not Either/Or, My Friend, Pt II
I'm not talking about retreating to anything.  You are shadow-boxing with your own preconceptions. You can't do any form of effective organizing if you can't even listen to what others in the same room are saying to you.

"You said it's not either/or then you said we lost our chance to neutralize until 2006."

Right.  We can't neutralize them until them.  It doesn't mean we roll over and do nothing in between. But fighting them on this or that front will not nuetralize them. That's why rehabilitating liberalism moves to the front burner now. It will move to the back burner as the 2006 elections heat up.

by Paul Rosenberg 2004-11-03 02:52PM | 0 recs
Re: It's Not Either/Or, My Friend, Pt II
I listened and I disagree. To say I am shadow boxing is to insult me. I don't know if you meant to do that but certainly we're all wound up today...
by Roy 2004-11-03 03:09PM | 0 recs
It's Not Either/Or, My Friend
Hitler was willing to do whatever it took, too. But the uber-liberal FDR still beat his pants off.

I agree that the GOP now is basically a criminal organization. So part of our job is to make that frame stick.

by Paul Rosenberg 2004-11-03 02:24PM | 0 recs
People are saying that if we just communicate our message well, just re-frame it better, then we will win. I think that misses the point - the whole problem is that that alone still might not be enough. What if that's not enough? It's not about convincing more of THEM of the way we believe. We either need more of US (start having babies, colonize a european country), or we need to actually change our beliefs. I think it'll be the latter. We let go of gun control compared to four years ago. What do we let go of now? I frankly think we just need to recruit liberal christians to get more active in running for office.
by tunesmith 2004-11-03 02:00PM | 0 recs
so basically...
....if i want to get downright cynical about this, we liberals need to start breeding a whole lot faster.  think about it.  it's not a stereotype to say that the red state conservatives multiply a lot faster than we do and this is in large part to their tendency to overbreed.  hell, blue state conservatives breed a lot quicker than us, too.  why?  tendency to be less educated, have less access to sex education, less access to healthcare, less access to education.  and to think that the red states suck off the government teat much more than the blue states.

so while we're all waiting for our newly bred children to turn 18 and get to vote, how about we cut off the red states?  if the gop wants to starve the federal government, fine, starve them.  cut off farm subsidies, federal school aid, road money - see what happens in the red states then. will it wake them up?  who knows, but we've got 18 years to kill.


by annatopia 2004-11-03 02:00PM | 0 recs
Not So Fast
We do not have the following: 1) Vision, 2) Strateguc Plan, 3)Strategy, 4)Business Plan, 5) Measures, 6) etc. Before we start selecting people we need to develop these thus allowing us to match people strengths with objectives.  
by Sabe Penn 2004-11-03 02:08PM | 0 recs
A Ray of Hope
Colorado voted for Clinton in 1992, and has been a "Red State" before and since.

Yet in 2004, we Coloradoans sent two Salazars to Washington, replacing Republicans that stepped down. And for the first time in over 30 years, both of our state legislative houses came into the control of the Democrats.

The State House and State Senate was won because "It's the Economy, Stupid" and it appears a lot of folks were tired of waiting for a Republican legislature with a Republican governor to figure out how to fix things.  With the specter of drastically underfunded universities on the horizon, they decided that it was time for a change.

The change is small, perhaps, but from small acorns mighty oaks grow.

by adjamemnon 2004-11-03 02:14PM | 0 recs
Make Conservative a Dirty Word
I think we all should reflect on how the word liberal, everywhere south of the mason-dixon and west of the mississippi, is a dirty word.  Really, it is!  Conservative isn't though, it basically is a synonym for "adult".  Adults vs potty-mouths.  That's pretty much how a lot of the electorate thinks.  We can turn conservative into a dirty word though.  In fact, the word "liberal" isn't even our word, it's their word for us.  Conservative is their word for them.  Shall we stop that then and call them "corporatists"?  As in, "they aren't conservatives, like john mccain, they're a bunch of corporatists!"  and you could say it with a southern twang: "corp-ra-tists"  Kinda like: "liburul".  Then we could say: "we're the party of the fiscal restraint and keeping the government for the people."  "They are the party of corporatism, fiscal mismanagement, and keeping the government for private, corporate interests."  Damn corporatists!
by flavorflav12 2004-11-03 02:19PM | 0 recs
Re: Make Conservative a Dirty Word
Some things are there before our noses.  Think people like "outsourcing?"  We need to link "conservative" with words like "outsource" Think an ad along the lines of "...just another Texas conservative who wants to outsource your job" might resonate in Ohio?  Of course, it is demagogic but hey, that's the devil's bargin we make with political ads, isn't it?
by Randi 2004-11-03 03:04PM | 0 recs
What we need...
We need better talking points, a better candidate(one that can appeal to the south) and we need to be as agressive as the righties in attacking weakness.

The Righties are much better than the democrats at getting their message or talking points out. You can see and hear the discipline of their message of the day/week on CNN/MSNBC and especially FOXNews..."The Swift Boat Vets are angry and they should be heard" (Who cares if they are liars)...The Republicans have been dictating the national conversation for years with their misleading and divisive talking points: Protecting the Sanctity of Marriage (Constitutional Discrimination), The Culture of Life (Anti-abortion...yet it is ok to lie about a war and kill over 100,000 people??,), Honor the Troops (Unless they are opponents in an election..McCain/Kerry)

Why can't the Democrats frame issues so that the Republicans have to respond and get off their talking points. There are plenty of mistakes in Bush's last 4 years...

         The Iraq War, (Bush lied)
         record deficits
         Job Loss
         The Environment

We need a new face to lead the Democratic Party...Hillary will not be able to capture any red states. Barack Obama...perhaps Henry Ford. Is there a southern democrat governor?  

I think that Kerry lost by letting Bush's attack adds define who he is. By fighting fire with fire we could have reduce the damage.

Discontent is the first step in the progress of a man or a nation.
      - Oscar Wilde

We must regroup and redefine who we are as democrats and who our next leaders will be.

by hectorblue 2004-11-03 02:19PM | 0 recs
Re: What we need...

Amen, Brother Hectorblue!
by bellarose 2004-11-04 08:51AM | 0 recs
Not a good day to make life-changing decisions...
...but it is a good day to start thinking about what to do next, and how to do it.  Thanks, Chris, for your thoughtful analysis.  I think I disagree with some of your premises -- and maybe even your conclusion, in a way (say, this is a backhanded compliment, isn't it?)-- but what you're doing right now is what we have to do.
  We have to think about why and how we lost, analytically, with our analysis not framed by our idealogy or our emotional reaction to this absolute disaster for our country. (Not that I'm feeling very cool and collected at the moment.  I'm so pissed at people who can't see beyond their over-stuffed pockets AND beyond today that I can't be civil to friends.  I trust this will pass.)
  We lost in the Big Empty.  Look at the very well-done state maps on, showing results by county.  You can pick out the cities in blue in all the key states and most (at least) of the others.  You can even see the suburbs, where the counties turn red.
  We lost in the South, where in MY memory elections were decided exclusively in the Democratic primaries.  Not that that was a good thing, but there was no Republican Party in the South until after 1964 -- beginning in 1964.  "Conservative" was an unelectable word after Barry Goldwater's implosion, but the South started sending Republicans to Washington and to the state houses, because the Democratic Party had begun to overtly demand integration and the Republican Party was willing to provide code-word-cover for rednecks.  I'm not suggesting that the Democratic Party should condone heinous immorality in return for votes - although it did work for the Republicans - but we should look at how they re-defined themselves and survived for 16 years after Goldwater, until Ronald Reagan came along and SOLD it as a good thing.  If "conservative" could return to even bare acceptability after Mr. Conservative suffered a 65%/35% defeat, then "liberal" could be rehabilitated, as well.
  We lost to people who thought that in 2004 the most important issue in this election was "morals", per CNN(?).  I'm not certain what "morals" means, but a friend suggested it meant "values."  That didn't help me much, but he seemed to think it was pretty obvious and he voted for Bush on that basis.  I don't get it, even remotely, but I know that we have to figure iit out and be able to talk about it and sell it if we're ever to put a Democrat into the White House.  And yes, I understand that for some it's code for gay-bashing or Christianity or Catholicism or anti-Catholicism, but I truly believe there is more to many voters' knee-jerk reaction to the terms "moral" and "value" than merely code.
  We lost to people who want easy answers and clear choices between good guys and bad guys, to people who want a list of what to do to be good, a list that's not too hard and plays to their strengths, but a LIST, Dammit!  Do these three or ten things and be virtuous.  Violate the rules and be anathema.  That one who doesn't look like us is bad so nothing he does can be anything but evil or because of anything other than the prompting of the Devil; that one is good so his good ends justify the unfortunate means.  I don't know how you get that sort of person to look up and see how far away the horizon really is, but there are enough of them to swing any election so we have to figure it out.
  We have to reach the communities that vote their fears first, because the Republicans have been too successful in telling them that WE are one of the things they should fear.  We must define ourselves to those voters, rather than trying to win while carrying the enormous burden of the Republican definition of us.
  How?  Beats me.  Maybe tomorrow.
Best to you all, and keep the faith!


by HLDinTN 2004-11-03 02:30PM | 0 recs
What you need
Why not consider that the your views are not realistic and try and move a little toward reality.  Kerry lost because the majority of Americans didn't buy into all the hate and venom cast at it for the last 2 years by Michael Moore, MTV and the Hollywood crowd.  They don't represent middle America. Acceptance is the answer to all your problems.  Why not change the one thing you do have control over?  Your perception and outlook on things. Instead of trying to outsmart or trick the "dirty conservative".  The majority of America spoke loud and clear yesterday, you need only to listen to what they said.
by Bobby0112 2004-11-03 02:34PM | 0 recs
Re: What you need
Hate? The same people who hate gays? The same people who hate Muslims? The same people who hate Kerry for receiving medals? The same poeple who like to challenge registrations and suppress minority turnout? Those are the people who hate. 49% of America spoke pretty damn clearly as well. This is the first time since 1988 that you beat us in the popular vote. It will be the last tiem for several more cycles.
by Chris Bowers 2004-11-03 02:45PM | 0 recs
Re: What you need
Man I'm at a loss for words. I don't know how we bridge the gap between the two ideaologies. I was honestly telling you that all the negative shots at Bush over the last few years really rallied his base.  It got a lot of people who wouldn't have voted, very involved in doing everything they could to support the way they view what was important.  I not going to lie to you, I believed Kerry had a great chance to win this election.  Kerry was an easy target for the Republicans to aim at. Right or wrong he carried a lot of luggage. I know you guys are feeling really down right now.  These things tend to cycle. The way to penetrate the south and Mississippi valley is to find a moderate dem like Clinton. Whether or not you like us conservatives, you have to realize the Kerry/Edwards ticket scared the crap out of us. Made us call everyone we knew and asked them to vote.  Michael Moore pissed us off with his work of fiction.  I would have walked thru fire to vote for Bush, thats how fired up we were.  I don't know what you need to do to create that passion. But I know there are plenty of issues that can rally your troops next time out.  Til then keep on fighting the good fight.  And remember we are all Americans and want a lot of the same things.
by Bobby0112 2004-11-03 04:25PM | 0 recs
Re: What you need
not to troll or anything but I really hate it when people, especially repiblicans, blast  In a time when the biggest problem with american politics is that people just aren't involved enough organization like actually get people into politics.  Obviously they have an agenda, it wouldn't be politics if they didn't.  Same thing when people, especially the centrist dems, started making fun of the 'deanie babies.'  What is wrong with people?  They complain that there is not enough involvement especially with the youth and then in the next breath blast groups which are doing something about it.
by Gonzaga2000 2004-11-03 10:59PM | 0 recs
Under moderate Clinton we lost the Congress
Even while Clinton was flying high, our position was eroding (badly) in Congress and in the statehouses. So electing a moderate is no panacea: and our defeated senatorial candidates this run were moderates or conservatives. Even if Kerry had found 140K magic ballots in Ohio, the election would have been a failure for the Democrats.

Now, our attacks on Bush rallied his base? Well, yes—but they also rallied our base. The problem is, they either rallied his base more, or for other reasons (e.g., fear of terrorism or fear of gay marriages), his base grew. But there would have been little chance and less honor going quietly in a low-turnout election.

by Andrew Lazarus 2004-11-04 03:42AM | 0 recs
Re: What you need
Swift Boat Veterans for Bush,  purple heart band-aids, pamphets claiming liberals will ban the bible, Ann Coulter and the whole-bile producing right wing machine calling anyone who dares to disagree with them traitors, gay baiting, Massachusetts bashing, the Vice-President telling the Senate's most mild mannered member to go fuck himself, etc.  

And you say OUR attacks fire up YOUR base?  You ain't seen nothing yet, Bobby.

by bellarose 2004-11-04 08:12AM | 0 recs
Don't panic.
IMO, given all the excellent soul searching going on, the answer is NOT TO PANIC.

There is an organization created that is a fund raising powerhouse. the left wing and the grassroots of the party is energized and with a few 100,000 votes here or there the white house would have been democrat.(this is not wishful thinking, this is the truth). If I were to speculate, the problem arose because the people down at the church have been doing this for the republicans for MUCH LONGER than those that were in OHIO for the democrats.

I say, 1. Learn from the debacle of your voters not turning out. 2. Try to win one battle at a time in the marketplace of Ideas. in uncertain times ideology is very seductive as "protector" but times are not likely to remain uncertain forever. When life changes for the security moms, are we ready? 3. Why were we not in control of city councils in florida and ohio this time around? 4. Try to understand what a post bush scenerio is likely to be.How is the Ass going to leave the country? what is the likely succession (jeb? rudy? aahnold?) try to make the world for them difficult.IMO, most reasons why GWB had it so easy was that he had no personal nemasis following/ anticipating his every move, and counteracting it. we ALL didn't take the election as personally as karl rove seems to have taken it(and taken John kerry).

In sum I suggest no major changes. If howard dean wants his job (as candidate) back we should be ready to give it to him in four years. Goodness knows our organization can use the passion.

by skatch 2004-11-03 02:38PM | 0 recs
Good Idea
Even though we're energized, our side is still very reactive.  Part of developing a better progressive political infrastructure (or whatever you want to call it) is going to be having war plans ready for any forseeable scenario, so we're ready to jump on opportunities as events unfold, block the other side's moves pre-emptively, etc.
by Pragmatic Idealist 2004-11-03 04:26PM | 0 recs
Wedge issues rule
Bush won Ohio based more on the gay marriage issue than war on terror. I really think the wedge issue that will be ripe by 2008 is national healthcare. Sell it as Medicare for everyone. Don't like government in healthcare? Then you hate Medicare. Talk to your mommy: she loves her Medicare. It would help our businesses be more competitive.

Democrats have been scared of healthcare since Hillary. Propose no plan: details to be negotiated with the loyal opposition. Its time has come.

by epistemology 2004-11-03 02:42PM | 0 recs
Hey Tories bastards get the fuck ooot!!
And so say all of us!

"Conservative" became a dirty word in the UK (and still is!) awhile back and it was thanks to Margaret Thatcher, actually not until 15 years of Thatcherism was ended...

For instance, in the UK elecion of 1997 in Scotland we threw out every sitting Tory including 3 or 4 high profile cabinet members, quite a party that night!!

In time, you really want a Repub party like the UK Tories where moderates rule and they are sorta electable, well to an extent, BUT a party where the real loonies and nuts are maginalised to back benches and where preferable padded cells, rather than them being the major influence behind the party as is now here... It says alot when the UK Tories have no relationship whatsoever with the Repubs these days.. remember Ronnie & Maggie? GHWB & John Major?

Searching for an analogy from home here and it's not always easy... but the US may well be in a rotten Thatcherist period just now, ie. a bad arrogant incumbent winning elections on a record of stubborness, fake patriotism, petty moralistic issues and a pointless war rather than on jobs, healthcare, education and economy..

by iain170 2004-11-03 02:50PM | 0 recs
Re: Hey Tories bastards get the fuck ooot!!
Who gives a shit how you do it Scotland???
by Bobby0112 2004-11-03 02:56PM | 0 recs
Re: Hey Tories bastards get the fuck ooot!!
IIRC, Thatcher's great downfall was the poll tax, no?  Perhaps Dubya's tax reform package will spark the same outrage.
by Randi 2004-11-03 03:05PM | 0 recs
Yeah, no more home mortgage deduction
if they replace the income tax with a national sales tax.
by Pragmatic Idealist 2004-11-03 04:31PM | 0 recs
You first need to know you are at war with fascism
Its true that the right is defining the left right now.  I'm somewhere in the middle of the spectrum (pro-gun, pro-choice, progressive taxation).  I understand "liberal" isn't a bad word.   I don't think conservativism as a word is bad either.  But I do think that the current people in charge of that word are bad.  In fact I think they are fascists. Its a volatile word and hard to use it without backup.  But I believe its what we are facing.  If you disagree, a good argument can be found with a google of "define fascism" and the first link that pops up summed up my opinion of this adminsitration perfectly.  Fascism is, among other things, an overcharged capitalism and conservatism.  I know of an airline pilot that is on the terror watchlist because he refused to go along with a government policy.  He quit his job and now gets searched to the nth degree everytime he gets on an airplane.  He was apparently told hes on the list.  And he isn't alone.  There is a new black list and we all know of the tactics this administration uses to silence critics.  The thing about fascism is that people don't think it can happen here.  I mean, we've supposedly learned from McCarthyism.  We defeated Hitler.  This is America, it simply can't happen here.  But the thing is it can happen here.  We also supposedly learned our lessons from Vietnam.  You know, keep politics out of warfare, give the soldiers what they need to get the job done, define the mission, follow through, and first and foremost avoid war.  Here we are in Iraq for reasons we all know are dubious and its doomed.  At best we end up with an Islamic state that is friendly with Iran.  Woohoo!, success.  The only way to defeat fascism is to start calling it like it is.  When they use propoganda techniques call them on it.  When they use two unrelated things in separate sentences and expect you to put the two together, call them on it.  Educate people on the tactics, how they work, and why they would be used.  I honestly think Karl Rove studied George Orwell, Hitler, and others to get where he is today. I don't think its an accident. I wonder if our children are taught this stuff in school.  I remember watching Animal Farm as a kid and anit communist films when I was real young.  But nothing when I got into highschool.  I do believe they will lose their power if they are forced out of the shadows sooner rather than later. I think there is a lot that Democrats have to do to take back the majority.  The first is to realize that you are at war.

Its obviously too late to stop the next 4 years of what we all know is going to be a disaster.  But I need to do something.  I stood by and hoped that 2000 would get corrected in 2004.  I'm an average citizen.  The most I've ever done politically is vote in every election since I turned 18 (I'm 34).  Is there anything I can do between now and the next midterm election?

by jrflorida 2004-11-03 02:57PM | 0 recs
What To Do
"Is there anything I can do between now and the next midterm election?"

There is plenty you can do. First, I'd suggest investing in yourself. Put together a reading list to educate yourself on things you feel you don't understand well enough.

This could include books on poltical activism. MoveOn put one out recently, but there are a number of different ones with different kinds of focus. (I also tell everyone to read Lakoff, but I've done that already on this thread.)
But I can't stress too much how important I think it is to invest in your own understanding.  Enrich yourself, and you can enrich others.

by Paul Rosenberg 2004-11-03 03:09PM | 0 recs
Sorta Kinda
Thanks Chris, for the great post. You've touched on some issues I mean to write about soon on my own blog.

To begin with, Marczz1 is partially right. My gut instinct is that when the data has been crunched and analyzed, Karl Rove's strategy will have been vindicated. For two elections in a row, and with increasing skill, the Republicans have turned out conservative evangelicals. They have used "values" as a wedge issue. What they have succeeded in doing is creating a sense of "moral crisis" among a large segment of the American electorate - a moral crisis involving gay marriage, abortion, and so forth, one supposedly generated by American liberals - that the Republicans hold out the promise of solving. They had help though; the left handed them these issues and they ran with them.

But this is not, per se, an issue of religious fervor. American political discourse has always been profoundly religious in character. Sometimes the religious nature of our discourse has been more focused on civic institutions, sometimes it has been more overt. The last successful Democratic candidate, Bill Clinton, understood this, and wove religious themes throughout his speeches.

This is where the issue of the "liberal brand" intersects with the question of religion. The right has successfully defined liberalism as an ideology that seeks the expansion of the <b?secular</b> state, literally (tax and spend) and figuratively. At the same time they have associated liberalism (once again, if you know your Filmer-Locke debate) with "license."

Our position is not as bad as it seems, however. The basic tenants of American political discourse are religious, but they are also philosophically liberal: premised on equality and liberty, the fear of majoritarian tyranny, and so on.

We also have some pretty major potential problems down the road. Our fiscal position is not sustainable, and the Republicans have no real plan for doing anything but making it worse. The situation in Iraq is unlikely to have a "good ending." I hope I'm wrong, but I think we need to be ready to take advantage of Republican incompetence and mismanagement.

This is, in essence, what the current conservative movement did in the 1970s. If we want to succeed, we need to develop an intellectually coherent program for liberalism pretty quickly. I think a good place to starts is a variation on the "Mad Monk's" conversion to Hayekian conservativism: "I thought I was a liberal, but I didn't know what that meant" (for a good, if somewhat scholarly, interpretation of the political triumph of 'conservative' economics see Mark Blyth's <u>Great Transformtions</u>).

I'm not sure yet where we should head. We need to focus on developing brain trusts (a la AEI and Heritage) for this very purpose. My gut instinct is that our model should be Teddy Roosevelt's "New Nationalism." We've seen elements of this kind of liberalism in Barak Obama's speeches ('we are not hyphenated Americans, we are Americans') and some of Howard Dean's more insightful claims (the role of government is to facilitate capitalism, to ensure fairness in competition and to provide for basic equality of opportunity).

(There is another advantage to "New Nationalism": it is a popular idea among neoconservatives. Before I get hammered, let me say this: we have more in common with the neoconservatives than we do with the paleoconservatives. The neocons represent a kind of international liberalism on sterioids, married uncomfortably to the right-wing. They don't like the cut taxes and spend policies of the current administration, and despite their bravado on Fox, the fact is that they have a lot of gay friends.)

A new liberalism, based on the "new nationalism" would be a stripped down version of contemporary liberalism, one that borrowed from the best "market-oriented" reforms of the conservatives but without engaging corporate welfarism of the current Republicans. But I'm getting too caught up in issues. The real concern is the brand. How would we sum up liberalism?

For now, read Roosevelt's "New Nationalism" speech here. And weep at how little has changed.

by Lee Scoresby 2004-11-03 03:00PM | 0 recs
defining liberalism

I agree with Chris's assessment - but I want to take it a step further in the direction of suggesting how we might try to accomplish spreading the "gospel" of liberalism. As a start, we can adopt some of the imagery and language of the right that they so liberally use in their discussions of the issues and their disparagement liberal positions. So thinking of this as an alternative position in the culture wars, as a gospel to pass along, as a message of hope and moral virtue might at least move us toward a language in which to package our liberal values.

But that's packaging, and quite frankly talking like that gives me the willies. What we need to do is co-opt Bill Clinton's and the DLC's method - define liberal positions based on where voters are. Being a liberal with respect to the issues is fine, but it potentially puts a huge chasm between the party's positions and the average voter. So think about a moderate, independent voter. Anything to the left of her is liberal. As an illustration, pushing for full-scale gun control is, to that voter, quite foreign and distant as an ideological position. On the other hand, consider a more moderate policy that is still to the left of that median voter. It has the potential to be much more attractive.

I am not advocating moving to the middle though, certainly not in the long-haul. The left's positions are the correct positions; they are the positions that most completely represent the situations in which real, working Americans live. (Taxing work instead of wealth is criminal - better yet, maybe it's a sin.) But Rome wasn't built in a day - nor will George Bush destroy it in a day and in fact, the left has not been destroyed, only set back, and this is where Chris is absolutely right that recrimination will not be productive. Our loss yesterday was not the product of deficiencies in personnel - it is the result of a deficiency in selling our ideas not just as marginal alternatives to conservatism, but as "right" opposing wrong-headed, destructive ideas peddled by Republicans. The DLC moved to the middle, but if you think about who those folks were, they were liberals redefining the left in terms of where the audience, the voter, was following 8 years of Reagan and 4 of Bush the Elder - the voter was a long way away from the old left. They redefined the left with respect to where the voter was ideologically in 1991 and 1992, and they undertook hand-to-hand combat with the right - this is not just a metaphor - they got within close ideological proximity of the right where they could most damage it. They managed this in part by co-opting Republican issues, issues the Democratic party could never tangle with successfully otherwise and redefining the issues in such a way that Republicans seemed like distant ideologues.

In many ways, this is exactly what Newt did in 1994. A combination of packaging and close-in combat allowed him to take over Democratic issues and turn the tables in Congress on the Clinton White House - Clinton in some respects got taken in the whole welfare reform debacle by his very own strategy. But he got them back - he gave in, went along with the reform, and took credit for the whole thing.

It's easy to say, "well, that was Clinton, and he was freakishly gifted at politics" - one of my colleagues said this today; hence the quotation marks. But he was also right in his approach. Get close to the enemy; his strategies are all based on your distance from him. Get close to your enemy and steal his strategies. When your enemy succeeds, take credit for his success. And that's easy to do when you're closer to him. Redefining the issues closer to the median voter will force us toward the middle in the short run. In the medium run, this strategy moves the median voter to the left, and then allows us to move back to the left as well. This is a strategy of patience, but I think Clinton showed exactly how this can work.

I realize talk is cheap, but I think Chris's post is really the beginning of the necessary conversation about how we can undo the damage of what will be 8 years. This administration breaks the heart of a parent and liberal. But thinking back at some of the nuts who've sat in the White House, I can only think this too shall pass. But we have to be unified, activist, and strategic in making sure it passes sooner rather than later.

by winin08 2004-11-03 03:08PM | 0 recs
Re: defining liberalism
"The DLC moved to the middle, but if you think about who those folks were, they were liberals redefining the left in terms of where the audience, the voter, was the voter, was following 8 years of Reagan and 4 of Bush the Elder..."

This is utterly mistaken on two counts (1) The DLC was and is a bunch of business-oriented elites, with no organized base.

(2) They were formalized out of an earlier coterie of party higher-ups who rather disastrously advised Walter Mondale to abandon his liberal past, and run against Regan by promising to raise people's taxes. They then used that fiasco to argue that Mondale-style liberalism was dead.

They repeated this trick with Clinton, after his abandonment of the "putting people first" agenda he ran on opened up the door for Gingrich & Co in 1994. That's when Clinton announced that "the era of big government is over."

At the risk of sounding like a broken record, please, please, please read George Lakoff. Expose yourself to some new ideas. Stop just recycling the same old stuff, some of which isn't even true. I'm not saying forget everything you've ever learned. But I am saying there are whole new outlooks to explore.

by Paul Rosenberg 2004-11-03 03:22PM | 0 recs
Re: defining liberalism
You know, you're exactly right - "The DLC was and is a bunch of business-oriented elites, with no organized base." And that's exactly the point. Clinton was able to use them to generate a base by recognizing where the voter was instead of being fixated with where the party was/is.

Strategy aside, that's all history and living the past. Lakoff's framing argument is not exactly new - psychologists have talked about this in politics for decades. It is, however, exactly the sort of thing I'm advocating. But framing based on our values does nothing for those to whom our values are either foreign or antithetical because of their foreignness.

Clinton was not a messiah - but he did win. And that's an outcome we lack now. That's why I'm thinking of his broader strategery. Don't miunderestimate that bigger picture.

by winin08 2004-11-03 03:52PM | 0 recs
Re: defining liberalism
Except that Clinton ran a populist campaign, before governing as a corporatist. That's what lost the party just enough votes to give the House to the GOP. He then continued to talk like a populist, which bouyed his own personal popularity. This, plus the corporate money he got for his corporate governance allowed him to bury Dole in '96. But we've been paying for that ever since.

Winning a battle to lose the war isn't winning.

And please stop with this Lakoff-isn't-saying-anything-new line. It's bullshit. He's not just talking in general terms about framing issues. He's talking very specifically about framing issues in terms of the underlying moral metaphoric foundations.  This is a whole new ballgame.  If you ignoring what's new in it, you're missing the whole point.

by Paul Rosenberg 2004-11-03 09:18PM | 0 recs
Misunderestimating is what cost us
The loss of Congress (and many statehouses) under Clinton was a diaster whose magnitude I am only starting to recognize, but to blame it on his alleged corporate governance isn't really fair. The number one problem is that we totally underestimated the ferocity with which the Gingrich Revolution was going  to be fought, and the resources that were made available for that purpose. (How about starting Air America in 1994?) I don't think Clinton and the Dem leadership could believe that the GOP would pursue Bill Kristol's policy of stalling all health care legislation (and then caricaturing it in the campaign) for partisan advantage. They did, with great discipline (discipline that we lacked under Gephardt and Daschle, but now have with Pelosi and can hope for with Reid/Durbin/X). The number two problem was corrupt and flaccid Democratic leaders like Rostenkowski and Jim Wright who were walking bullseyes. We have the mirror image of that now, if we know how to frame it. Actually, the GOP did better in hiding Trent Lott than we did with our embarrassments and we might take note.

Back in the mid-1990s the right overreached and we made partial recovery. Unfortunately, the country has shifted to the right—the Massachussetts Supreme Court awoke a terrible sleeping giant. We got crushed by the audience for "The Passion of the Christ". I wouldn't count on the same feeling of "That's too far." We have a president and a base to whom audacity (Rape the environment! Repeal Social Security! Ban oral sex! Colonize and Imperialize the Middle East! If all else fails, bring on the Rapture!) to the point of recklessness is a virtue in se. We're in deep Bush now.

by Andrew Lazarus 2004-11-04 03:59AM | 0 recs
Re: defining liberalism
Actually, the reason Newt was able to take over the House in 1994 was the result of a 20 + year long plan to do precisely that.  Many tactics were involved, but they included packing minorities into minority/majority districts making the election of Right Wing Conservatives possible -- it included funding campaigns for state legislatures all over the country so as to have a hand in redistricting.  It included the "Term Limits" campaign and much more than we understand clearly.  It included funding many of the think-tanks, building Republican Survey Research firms, developing teams of campaign management that took candidate selection and campaigning out of local hands.  It was intended to succeed in 1992, but due to Clinton's success it was postponed by two years.  To eventually win at this game, we have to study and comprehend this history, and then figure how to counter it.  

In the South the effort really began with what Nixon called the "Southern Strategy" -- and his author of it was Harry Dent.  One fundamental of it is the "permenant campaign" for which they have a whole theory -- one we hear every day when our radio tuner hits a station with Rush.  Until we comprehend how all inclusive this is, and how it is in fact a master plan for holding power, we are essentially incapable of countering it.  Pea shooting is not particularly effective.  

by Sara 2004-11-04 01:04AM | 0 recs
Own it
When Bush trotted out the "Massachusetts Liberal" line in the debate, I cringed.  That's b/c it has such an effect on the electorate.  

But we must own it and explain what it is.  For too long, we've let the other side define us, and that's our damn fault.  We must own this concept and explain it.  We must share our story, our perspective, and make it so simple that all but the most hard-core R's will begin to see it.

I saw the suggestion about soft ads during off years.  Great idea and a good start.  

In the original post, Chris said individuals are not to blame.  Certainly they aren't for the large, over-arching problems with our party.  But they are problems in defining it's direction, vision and tactics.  

Just as I think we've let the GOP define liberalism, the Kerry campaign let Bush define Kerry.  R's seem to think that's their divine right, to label us and have a lap dog electorate eat it up.  And so long as we act like Kerry/Shrum and allow that to happen without swinging back, the electorate will continue to drift away from us.

by jhaas 2004-11-03 03:13PM | 0 recs
It's time to unite....
We must reach out to the REPS and they must reach out to us.  

Are you willing to do it?  

It needs to be done.

Can't we all just get along and stop blaming the other side?

Bush loves America as much as you do.

Let's stop the name calling and unite for the sake of our country's future.

And let's face it -- the division started with Clinton and got worse under Bush.

by JohnKerry 2004-11-03 03:33PM | 0 recs
to be or not to be a &quot;liberal&quot;
i have recently began reading this site and i was struck by the earnestness of this last posting. i am slowly swallowing back the despair myself.

you are right that a "liberal" connotes "laissez-fare economics and trade policies". it also connotes "white" and "middle class" for most of the immigrant and low-income people of color communities who are the most disenfranchized in this country.

if you also dont like "liberalism", the term these communities use is "progressive". what this stands for is basic social justice for all.

this means including analysis and dialogues about race, class, and gender into all the work we do. it means sitting down with people very different from yourself and hearing their everyday concerns, their hopes and aspirations- and including these into the agenda.

it means establishing relationships and broad-based alliances. in the bay area, groups who are fighting police brutality in low-income neighborhoods are working with environmental groups.

this august i was in ohio and i called the democratic party to volunteer to register spanish speaking voters, since i am a native speaker. they sounded surprised like they had never thought of it. i finally left before they could figure out where to send me.

americans are finally leaving their cul-de-sacs in the suburbs and speaking to their neighbors. if they will only now go to the "brown" communities and talk about how to build a social justice agenda for everyone, then they will realize that they dont need to debate being a "liberal" or not. that will be left well behind.

by intl415 2004-11-03 03:35PM | 0 recs
Foot in the mouth disease
Adlai Stevenson said "An intellectual is a man who takes more words than necessary to tell more than he knows"! Bush folks talked in simple, direct words to a fixed topic...mention 9/11 and terrorism at least ten times in each speech
While John K was torpeoding himself at every opportunity...87$billion with a lengthy explanation, Global Test, Mary Cheney and Edwards with the classic about Chris Reed walking and nothing in response to the Swift Boat guys for several weeks. The explanations were great for our well educated voters, but, like another old saying in marketing, "No one ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of his market!
We should define Conservatism as bad because conservatives are against basic values that most of the country hold dear, environment, education, health care, social security, and all the rest.  "Here's why Liberalism is a respected term....Liberals believe in...........(the litany of our beliefs)  It's like baseball, hotdogs,and chevrolets (instead of tennis, croissants and brie, and Jaguars)or "here's why you should be a liberal....if you believe in these basic American beliefs, you really are a liberal...or If you're for smokestack pollution, higher prices for drugs, jump-before-you-look wars and millions of children living in poverty while the super rich have their taxes reduced...then you really are a conservative.
I can't stand the way our campaign seemed bent on snatching defeat out of the mouths of victory with their stupid, ill thought off the cuff remarks...and I wanted to throw up almost every time Kerry said "I have a plan!"  Even after Lenno and Letterman and Sat. nite live had a field day with that, he kept right on using it.  
So,I think Chris is right in the direction he is going...but getting a helluva lot smarter in the campaign itself, fighting fire with fire.
Let's face it...there is no way on God's earth why we should have lost with all of the shit that the Bush administration has foisted on this country in his four years...and if you're looking for reasons...go to the top and look for ineptness...the blogs, ACT, Move on, NDN, etc did heroic work but couldn't overcome an almost obscene lack of any actual creativity in their dierction of the campaign...we grunts in the  trenches were working as part of what we thought was the new politics....but the brass was mired in the Adalai said, " I'm too old to cry and it hurts too much to laugh"
by hambro 2004-11-03 03:39PM | 0 recs
Adlai Stevenson was a wise man
During his 1956 presidential campaign, a woman called out to him, "You have the vote of every thinking person!" Stevenson called back, "That's not enough, madam, we need a majority!"

These words are even more true today.

by Geotpf 2004-11-03 07:21PM | 0 recs
some random thoughts for consideration
We have let ourselves be defined by the conservatives.

We should be defining conservatives in a way that is up-close, personal, and painful for them as individuals. At the same time we need to define a mythological "conservative" to subject to ridicule AND vilification.

It should be a relentless drumbeat. On message. Conservatives are LOOSERS...economic loosers, social loosers, uneducated loosers, grasping/selfish/judgmental loosers, ugly loosers, they drive looser cars, anyway you want to slice it loosers, they don't work loosers, they don't pull their weight loosers, flat out LOOSERS, and, yes, lying/cheating/stealing loosers.  

We've gotta QUIT WHINING about how conservatives have done us wrong.  Instead, focus on how conservatives do those weaker than themselves their policies are a going to hurt in their own language...$187B/#households in america = $2500 per household in taxes ...the deficit is a tax increase...forget the word 'future.' Make them synonomous.

And we REALLY need to quit whining about how they play dirty. Everybody knows they play dirty. THIS DOESN'T MATTER, AND EVEN WORKS IN THEIR FAVOR AS LONG THEY ARE SEEN AS WINNERS.

Finally, the Democratic Party needs to make sure the mainstream media spells/says the name correctly, not the "democrat" party (did Newt coin that?) Don't let them control the language.

We need to slap the CONSERVATIVE label on them and make sure that it sticks AND that it's unpleasant.

by marcic 2004-11-03 03:43PM | 0 recs
Re: some random thoughts for consideration
marcic...right and i are on the same track, now if we can get the message out to the people who claim to be leading our activities, we might just turn this around...I think Howard Dean is just what the party needs as a leader, not some old buddy of Bills.
by hambro 2004-11-03 03:50PM | 0 recs
new directions
We need to face facts. A large percentage of this county lives in another reality. They don't want to see, no matter how often we point out the lies and manipulations of the Bush crooks. It would take Jesus himself to appear and slap some sense into them for us to reach them.

We need to let go of the old models and create new ones. Look at the red and blue map. The Northeast states need to create their own economic union, as do the Great Lakes states and the Pacific states. Let's get ahead of the curve for once. The conservatives will abolish our national safety nets and deep-six our economy. We can't afford to wait for the worst. If we "Bluies" use our considerable econmomic weight to cooperate in health care pools, demand affordable prescription drugs, create business co-ops that trade goods state to state, region to region, we can create our own sustainable ecomomy with real paying jobs. Let's stop carrying these Southern and Dust Bowl leeches and stop pandering to the idiot fringe. They want to be "Left Behind". Fine, let's leave them behind and bring about change with innovation and a cooperative spirit in what's left of the real United States. I hate to say it, but the United States I grew up in(I'm 45) is gone. Let's stop beating a dead horse and start thinking out of the box.

by Royalfred 2004-11-03 03:50PM | 0 recs
..or spread a new perspective on what it means ...
to be an American.

Its interesting to note that the theme of Federalist versus State's Rights has been the core tension of our political parties since the Revolution.  And since the Civil Rights Act, the State's Rights party  is the Republican Party. (They really are LOOSERS!)

Let's figure out what group is allied with Republicans, that really would be better served by the Democratic Party and focus on conversations with them.  Social liberals? Concerned about homeland security? Fiscal conservatives? ...

Our message must be  sharp, crisp, and targeted to be effective. Clearly, we gotta know who we are talking to.

by marcic 2004-11-04 05:22AM | 0 recs
thank you
I was about a quarter of the way to composing this exact article during the three-hour drive to work this morning.

Now I don't have to find the time to finish it. I can just point everyone to yours.

At lunch today some folks were saying 'the problem is that conservatives have more kids.' That's not the problem -- conservatives (and liberals) are made, not born. And they can be unmade.  This is the problem with almost all political strategizing today and you nailed it. It's not about "getting out the base" nor "appealing to the swing voters", nor "broadening (adding new interest groups to) the base".  It's about increasing the number of people who agree with the core convictions of the base.

I have a couple suggestions for how to make the left grow.  I'll do it by examining how they made the right grow, and where they're looking to make it grow more.

There are pretty much three places where you have a captive audience and can preach a message at them (and thereby change their minds): school, church, and media.

Of the three, schools lag effort -- you have to get your people elected to office, after which you can try (subtly) to push their agenda into schools.  It's very long-term.

Second, the media has a problem -- with the profusion of cable channels and even more with the Net, everyone finds their echo chamber and stays there. Hell, all I do is bounce from Kos to Atrios to you, and occasionally listen to NPR.  You can't grow people in an echo chamber. Maybe there's a way to draw them in, but I don't know it. And the existing big media -- which still plays to a cross-section of the nation -- has the agenda of its owners (this is becoming increasingly overt).  So unless we can own more major media, that's not very open to us.

That leaves churches.  This is where the Right has made their huge gain.  Churches have been in the front on almost every significant social change in America, to the left and the right -- abolition, secession, Prohibition, nativism, New Deal, civil rights, and now this anti-gay/anti-abortion whateveritism.

The problem with churches now is that liberalism plays best to educated folks with a sense of history -- and a lot of them don't go to church.

So it's a hard problem, but that's my initial analysis. Feel free to use what you want.

by eyelessgame 2004-11-03 03:51PM | 0 recs
We need a liberal TV News network
Doesn't Al Gore own one?  Turn it into the anti-Fox.
by Geotpf 2004-11-03 07:23PM | 0 recs
For shame
For those of you who consider moving out of the country and abandoning the US, even calling its demise- remember that it takes more than a bad election to tear us apart. It takes more than a civil war, more than segregation, more than terror warnings to remove us from our patriotism. We must remember what the Republicans themselves did after they got whooped by LBJ in 1964. They reformed and have had 40 years of dominance. This is our wake up call- not as liberals, a word which I agree is misapplied- but as progressives. We all believe in the theory of a progressive government, in science, in morality, in taxes, in jobs. Progressiveness has always been a tenet of "liberals" and the modern Democratic Party. We need to realize that half the country isn't necessarily wrong, but perhaps just not yet right. The slip towards regression in this country is all too easy and all too simply sold. The Republicans have been doing a superb job in hawking regressionist ideals using fear, intimidation and sometimes even racism. We know that we are in the right- and we know that we have the hope and the dreams. We now know that we have the power to bring out millions of people. Now all we have to do is launch a massive public shift in direction to expand the party. If we can accomplish this, we can win the White House in 2008 and hold it for several years. We need to make sure that people know that the Democratic Party is the party of PROGRESS. The forward thinking party, the party of the people. We cannot continue to differentiate ourselves from the Republicans minutely on issues and expect a win. We must make sure that the voters know the cultural differences between the parties: the regression of the right and progress on the left. We are the party of security, jobs, smart spending, the rule of law, the economy, health care, welfare, women's rights, education, science, the environment etc... Let's let America know our thoughts, let's let America know our differences, and let's let America know that we believe in progress and hope, the likes of which all of us can only imagine. We cannot give up our cause because we didn't get what we wanted immediately. We now know that our previous approch, which works well for a majority will not work well to bring the type of change we want and need. We need to educate the electorate as to the prospects of progress and change that Democrats have heralded in the spirit of Roosevelt, Kennedy and Clinton. Our worst moments as a party have been when we were knocked off that focus by Republican attackers (Jimmy Carter, Whitewater, Election 2000). We cannot continue to lecture the electorate in the same manner as the Republicans. The Republican bulletpoint style does not work for Democrats. We cannot come up with catch phases and nifty tax cut soundbites at all of our rallies. We need to hold a great national discussion- make sure that we tell the nation- STARTING RIGHT NOW- the tenets and beliefs of Democrats, where we want this country to be in 10, 20, 100 years; our core principles and our progressive beliefs and stances as a party. We cannot lecture on issues, but discuss in generalities and democratic values- yes, values- which most Americans, and people as a whole do believe in too. Only after we have established our feel and core as a party, just as the Republicans did in the cold war and we took the steps towards doing in election 1960 and 1992, can we debate the issues themselves and win, beyond a shadow of a doubt. We must make America "feel" the Democratic Party and its tenets before we lecture and try to beat the Republicans at their own soundbite, insta-pleasure game. To be a Democrat you have to think, and I think before another moment passes, it is time for us to start teaching.
by NyNhDem 2004-11-03 03:53PM | 0 recs
Two part plan
This is my first posting so I will be brief:

Sure, we need a plan.  Let's figure out that plan.

Beforehand or simultaneously, we need to determine if this election was legit.

No, I am not crazy.  Bush simply sat there on his couch with too big of a grin for me.

Has anyone actually audited the computer poll machines to see if anyone messed with the Diebold machines.  It's the simple equivalent of actually looking to see if the ballots actually exist. is doing the largest ever FOIA request to see if any voting machine computer logs, and thus votes, were messed with yesterday.  It costs money.  They need $50,000 to do this.

Below, is a PR release from that website, notice where I put the " * " bullet point below for a quick understanding of the issue:

Voting without auditing. (Are we insane?)
SEATTLE, WASHINGTON Nov 3 2004 -- Did the voting machines trump exit polls? There's a way to find out.
Black Box Voting (.ORG) is conducting the largest Freedom of Information action in history. At 8:30 p.m. Election Night, Black Box Voting blanketed the U.S. with the first in a series of public records requests, to obtain internal computer logs and other documents from 3,000 individual counties and townships. Networks called the election before anyone bothered to perform even the most rudimentary audit.

America: We have permission to say No to unaudited voting. It is our right.
Among the first requests sent to counties (with all kinds of voting systems -- optical scan, touch-screen, and punch card) is a formal records request for internal audit logs, polling place results slips, modem transmission logs, and computer trouble slips.

An earlier FOIA is more sensitive, and has not been disclosed here. We will notify you as soon as we can go public with it.

    * Such a request filed in King County, Washington on Sept. 15, following the primary election six weeks ago, uncovered an internal audit log containing a three-hour deletion on election night; "trouble slips" revealing suspicious modem activity; and profound problems with security, including accidental disclosure of critically sensitive remote access information to poll workers, office personnel, and even, in a shocking blunder, to Black Box Voting activists.

Black Box Voting is a nonpartisan, nonprofit consumer protection group for elections. You may view the first volley of public records requests here: Freedom of Information requests here

Responses from public officials will be posted in the forum <;, is organized by state and county, so that any news organization or citizens group has access to the information. Black Box Voting will assist in analysis, by providing expertise in evaluating the records. Watch for the records online; Black Box Voting will be posting the results as they come in. And by the way, these are not free. The more donations we get, the more FOIAs we are empowered to do. Time's a'wasting.

We look forward to seeing you participate in this process. Join us in evaluating the previously undisclosed inside information about how our voting system works.

Play a part in reclaiming transparency. It's the only way.

by BeFrank 2004-11-03 04:03PM | 0 recs
Re: Two part plan
I am really glad to learn of this, because it might explain the discrepancy between the exit polls and the "vote." is a highly reputable and admirable group that I've contributed to before, and I guess I will again.  Thanks.
by Stuart Ende 2004-11-03 06:13PM | 0 recs
I am a progressive centrist.
I am new to the blog culture, but I just wanted to put my two cents in.

I think you will get a more positive response from people if you describe yourself as a "progressive."  It essentially means the same thing as "liberal" in the sense that you are open-minded and constantly seek positive social change.  

"Liberal" as the term is used by self-described "conservatives" means someone who is high-tax-and-spend on fiscal policy, blame-America-first on foreign policy and especially lacking moral convictions or character on social policy or personal values.

Progressives seek an America that is engaged in the world is such a way that it brings all of mankind up from the despair of powerlessness. We know from observation that this leads to the kind of radicalization that is happening all throughout the Muslim world.  We believe that America should project and export the hope of making the world a better place.  The conservatives believe in exporting our military might and economic power solely for the purpose of increasing our own wealth and luxury.  

It is not that we always "blame America first."  It is that we believe in order for our country to progress, we must always look introspectively at ourselves.  We must constantly adjust our attitudes and understanding of the world to improve our society.

Progressives primarily believe in using human reason, education, logic and observation to advance our understanding of the world.  While we do not automatically reject values that come from religious faith, it is not our primary -- and certainly not our sole -- point of reference for our moral compass.

The fact is that progressives often have better moral compasses than do the "conservatives."  We are the truly compassionate ones.  We seek to collectively alleviate the pain and suffering of our fellow man.  Do the services that are required to do this cost money?  You bet.  But its like the old proverb: an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.  The "conservatives" are less fiscally responsible because they seek a model based on the pound of cure.  The conservatives believe in a kind of social darwinism where they see themselves on the top of the food chain.  Is their model more efficient?  Perhaps on some level. But it requires mankind to endure more pain, stress and suffering than is necessary.  Our model says "pay me now, thank me later."  The conservative model says "ignore the problem now, let our children inherit the problem later."

There are many ways you can describe the current division of the American electorate.  Religious vs Rational/Scientific.  Confederate vs Union (have you ever noticed how the power base of the two parties have exactly flipped? The Republicans now have control of Southern "Confederate" rural farm states, the Democrats the Northern "Union" urbanized industrial states)  See for instance

I, too, worry about the direction of the country -- on many levels.  I am a political centrist who fundamentally believes that reason is a better foundation for law and social policy than religious zeal and fervor.  Religion, by its nature, is a conservative -- even reactionary -- force on society.  Science, reason and expression through all forms of art are generally progressive forces on society.  There needs to be a balance of these forces for society to function well.  Currently, we are out of balance as the religious forces are exercising too much influence over the public discourse.  With the Republicans so dependent on the Christian Right for its power, the possibility for progressive social change does not look bright.

by OkieLawyer 2004-11-03 04:10PM | 0 recs
A suggestion for how
In Chris Bower's wonderful posting above, he hit the nail on the head with what the Democratic Party needs to do to retake America. However, he wasn't exactly sure how to do this.I'm not sure either, but I do have one suggestion that might point the party in the right direction.

The area I live in (Central IL, a solid Kerry state), many of the Republicans that represented my county ran for re-election unopposed or against candidates who were under-funded (Rep. Raymond Poe's opponent had $198 in campaign money to work with).  I am sure situations like this are common in almost any rural county in America.

It occurs to me that maybe what the Democratic Party needs to do is step back and not focus so much on the macro-national level and more on the micro-local level.

If we do this and run competitive Democratic candidates in local races, we would probably not win many, at least not at first, but at least we would have a candidate who could introduce Democratic ideals into the local debate.

If we do this enough, I feel the ideals will eventually become more familiar and commonplace in these rural communities and ultimately erode away the taboo nature associated with voting Democrat in rural areas.

Just my two cents.

by crowlster 2004-11-03 04:14PM | 0 recs
Evolve or go extinct
This is my first post.  I have lurked around here for a few weeks, and after this loss, it was time to start speaking out.

If we want to win, I think we need to compare the tactics of the Republicans versus the Democrats.  We need to find out where we fail, where they succeed and change our tactics.

The Democrats tend to address the problems of this nation by trying to offer solutions.  Example - "I have a plan.  We're going to address the needs of the American people by offering affordable health care.  We'll pay for this plan in the following ways: One, we'll decrease the tax cut on people...., Two, ..., Three, ...".  The electorate won't listen to that.  The attention span of the average American is rivaled by that of a goldfish.  All they hear is "I have a plan. We're going to blah, blah, blah".  This is, of course, is followed by a nap.

Republicans don't solve problems.   Republicans offer nothing more than bumper stickers.  "I'm a uniter, not a divider", "John Kerry is a flip-flopper", "John Kerry is the most Liberal Senator that America has ever seen", "The American family is threatened by HOMOSEXUALS", "They're going to take away your guns".  Of course, these don't need to be true.  Rile them up before they nap.  Emotion, not thought, rules the simple mind.

I don't suggest that we stop trying to solve problems.  We just need to figure out how to solve problems on a bumper sticker.  We need to speak to the least common denominator of the electorate.  We can only do this through breaking up the problems into little chucks and spoon feed it the electorate.  This takes time.  It works for the conservatives.  Rush Limbaugh has done this every day for the last 15 years.  

We need to take our strength of rationality, and combine it with the dogged persistence of the conservatives.  We need to start this now.  Solving problems in little chucks can't be done in a short election cycle.  It must be funded by people like George Soros.  We could easily grab onto the issues and expose the truth in sound bite after sound bite.  Thousands of 10 and 15 second TV and radio ads per year in every state: "The bible says thou shalt not kill, yet 100,000 innocent women and children have been killed in Iraq by our government's unjust war.   Call your congressperson and tell them that you are ANGRY!", "The President is getting you riled up about the words `Under God' in the Pledge of Allegiance because he doesn't want you to realize that millions of families in this country are without healthcare.  Call your Senator and tell them that you are ANGRY!", "The President thinks that you didn't notice that he is allowing corporations destroy the environment for profit.  We need to protect the environment for our children. Write to your newspaper and tell them that you are ANGRY!", "Your Social Security is in danger.  Your government is squandering your future, for tax cuts to the rich.  Call ... and tell them that you are ANGRY!".  

I hope you get the point.  The Republicans are distracting people with a shiny object.  We need to get the real point across in the same way.  Truth can win, but it must be told by using tiny words over and over and over and over.

by uvajeD Again 2004-11-03 04:16PM | 0 recs
It isnt as bad as people think
I'm quoting Rush limbaugh now, which is scary. This was over at Kos. In 92, when it was apparent that Clinton had won, dems controlled the senate and the house, a commentator turned to Rush and said, "Rush, looks like the party's over" Rush replied, "no the party is just beginning." Think about it. After Clinton's win, Rush was touting the fact that 57% of americans didnt vote for him. That's what we need to be doing.  What we should say: A liberal senator from massachusetts got 55 million ppl to vote for him, second most ever. Keep saying it. The conservatives didnt get bummed, even though they were upset. Forget 2008 for now, focus on the midterm eletions. we need to refine our message. If we do, 2006 can be like 1994 was for them.
by jp2 2004-11-03 04:27PM | 0 recs
We can't do that
Because 51% of America DID vote for Chimpy McFlightsuit.  It doesn't work the same way.
by Geotpf 2004-11-03 07:13PM | 0 recs
What is liberalism?
This is my first comment, so cut me some slack...

Well, liberalism obviously comes from the word "Liberty" and what can be wrong with that I ask you! Isn't it the pillar of your constitution, the notion America was built on and the rallying point for the free world during the cold war? Be proud to be a liberal!

I must admit I'm having a difficult time here as a non-American. I starting disliking America during the first few months of the Bush administration, when he opted out of an international treaty every month and in the build-up to the Iraqi war.

Then, I started watching series like "Sex and the City", "Six feet under" and "Queer as folk" and I heard about the "emerging democratic majority" and opposition to Bush and I thought: "Hey, America isn't that bad!! After all they helped us a lot during and after WW II (I'm from Belgium)"

In spite of this election, I will not give up on my recently acquired positive views of your country just yet. One sentence keeps resonating in my head these days, a quote from Cheney (unfortunately): "Freedom means freedom for everyone". Americans, take back your country and take it back to its core values of liberty and equality. First and foremost for yourself, but also for the world. It needs a fair leader!

by shanghaiboy 2004-11-03 04:51PM | 0 recs
Three pieces of advice
  1. Youse (Americans) need an independent, non-partisan elections administration at all levels. No Republicans. No Democrats. This aspect of your system is baffling to an outsider, and obviously ripe for abuse.

  2. Youse need ONE election law to apply to all elections for the national offices of President, Vice-President, Senators and Congresscritters. No more 13,000 election jurisdictions. This aspect of your system is baffling to an outsider, and obviously ripe for abuse.

  3. You need to get partisan legislatures out of the business of drawing their own congressional and state legislative districts; and again, for the national offices (congressional districts), this must be done on a non-partisan basis. Compactness of districts must be an overarching concern, if congressional and legislative elections are ever going to become competitive again. No more partisan gerrymandering. This aspect of your system is baffling to an outsider, and obviously ripe for abuse.
by Canuckistan 2004-11-03 04:55PM | 0 recs
We do need these things
But we'll never get them.  We need to deep six the electoral college too, but that ain't happening, either.
by Geotpf 2004-11-03 07:26PM | 0 recs
Re: Three pieces of advice
This is a game theory problem, like the Prisoner's Dilemma.  It's all about arms races - who will disarm first?  States that eliminate gerrymandering (like Iowa) risk losing out on Federal pork because their Representatives are insufficiently senior to control committees, etc.  Red states are already net recipients of federal spending; were blue states to unilaterally adopt anti-gerrymandering policies, they would lose even more federal spending.

Also, change would have to be passed by a party that already has control, yet such changes would necessarily reduce that party's control.  So such changes are unlikely.  Were all Blue states to adopt Iowan policies, while Red states remain gerrymandered, GOP control of the U.S. House would be greatly strengthened.

The only solution is a uniform national policy that forces all states to disarm.  But the Constitution leaves election decisions and Congressional boundaries up to states.  So there would need to be a constitutional amendment.  Such an Amendment would have to be passed by two thirds of the Senate (small problem) and two thirds of the House - the ostensible targets of the Amendment!  Passage is highly unlikley.

But I agree - it would be nice.

by Silent E 2004-11-04 05:54AM | 0 recs
Fear and Conservatism
Thank you, Chris, for such a thoughtful essay.
I wonder if the real enemy is fear, for conservatism, for all its posturing, is an ideology based on fear.  The poor will abuse any aid (and, of course, there are examples of this), taxes deplete those who move the economic wheel, gays mustn't be seen as equal:  all are rooted in fear.  Liberalism is a matter of care, which is a form of love.  Most of the time, fear defeats love, because fear is not recognized as such.  Perhaps one way to change some things is to clearly draw the roots of conservatism in fear.
by Stuart Ende 2004-11-03 06:07PM | 0 recs
let's not be to hasty about that scapegoating
I agree with Chris in many respects, but would like to see a certain measure of constructive scapegoating considered.
 Following a loss, particularly a loss like today, I see nothing improper about a sober and measured assessment of leadership figures, their performance, and what they have to offer or possibly detract from party, and a couple of gold watches and pink slips handed out as necessary...
Seriously, we shoulda brought this home. A certain degree of blame for that not happening is ascribable to, uhhh, our lack of familiarity with Lakoff, or the prevailing interpretation of liberalism, or whatever. And we should fix that. But some of it also has to do with the leadership, and we should fix that too. And, if "The Apprentice" has taught me anything, there's nothing a round of arbitrary firings won't fix.
Ok, maybe not arbitrary firings, but for God's sake, can't we at least enact some legislation that makes it a federal crime for Shrum to ever write a speech for any important Democrat candidate again, at any time, ever? And, when he dies, we should consider burying his bones at some unmarked crossroads.
by lowearthorbital 2004-11-03 07:03PM | 0 recs
let's not be to hasty about that scapegoating
I agree with Chris in many respects, but would like to see a certain measure of constructive scapegoating considered.
 Following a loss, particularly a loss like today, I see nothing improper about a sober and measured assessment of leadership figures, their performance, and what they have to offer or possibly detract from party, and a couple of gold watches and pink slips handed out as necessary...
Seriously, we shoulda brought this home. A certain degree of blame for that not happening is ascribable to, uhhh, our lack of familiarity with Lakoff, or the prevailing interpretation of liberalism, or whatever. And we should fix that. But some of it also has to do with the leadership, and we should fix that too. And, if "The Apprentice" has taught me anything, there's nothing a round of arbitrary firings won't fix.
Ok, maybe not arbitrary firings, but for God's sake, can't we at least enact some legislation that makes it a federal crime for Shrum to ever write a speech for any important Democrat candidate again, at any time, ever? And, when he dies, we should consider burying his bones at some unmarked crossroads.
by lowearthorbital 2004-11-03 07:03PM | 0 recs
On &quot;Values&quot;
Bear with me on this, this thought has not quite reached its full fruition...

It seems to me we need to beat the Republicans with their own capitalist rhetoric when it comes to values.

What do Republicans stand for, ideally?  The right of the individual, or the right of the state in the face of a centralized federal government, to make his or her (or its) own decisions based on what is right for him/her/it in one's existence in a competative, capitalist society.

Abortion, in the frame of capitalism, is then a woman's right to make a decision based on what is good for her personally and economically as an INDIVIDUAL, rather than what is good for the community (read socialist factor - read religious pressure!) that might keep her from reaching her full potential in an attempt to maintain  some sort of universal moral or legal code.

In effect, Republicans are using Socialist rhetoric when it comes to talking about how abortion and gay marriage are "ripping the fabric of community."  It's a subtle and sneaky change from the typical "individual above all" stance that they usually take.

I think that Democrats need to seize upon this switch for themselves by adopting a capitalist rhetoric that will be recognizable to the typical Republican, and using it to talk about issues that until now have been presented by us in purely social terms.

It's time for the sheep to bear the wolf's clothing.

This is one way we might go about "growing" Liberals...

by JonesingforaDem 2004-11-03 08:04PM | 0 recs
two party system
We don't need to become more like Republicans, we need to identify part of their constiuency (spelling? argh.), peel it off and bring it into the fold.

Winner take all systems are by definition two party systems, and the most successful party is the one that can build the largest coalition before the election. There are a bunch of liberals in the conservative party that don't see themselves as such. I'm thinking of the fiscal conservatives who are social liberals. They think they are red, but since Reagan and Newt things have changed. Leave the evangelicals to the Red party. Bring the compassionate, thoughtful people home.

Our coalition simply isn't large enough. We need to expand it.

by marcic 2004-11-04 04:55AM | 0 recs
Re: two party system
I somewhat agree with your post, but I think the larger issue is that the people in control of the Democratic Party do not listen to anyone. They are exactly what they accuse Republicans of being: close-minded.

Many on this site share that...virtue? as well. Some people are so sure they are right that they do not listen to desending arguement. Over the last 20 years Republicans have beat them in this area, Clinton being the exception.

Democrats have to at least listen to Republicans instead referring to them as "wing-nuts". I mean 52% of the country supported Bush, they can't all be nuts. Bush is someone the Democrats thought everyone agreed was dangerous to the country and the world. Look hard at that and don't fall into the trap of thinking tactics or cheating won the election.

by Patrick Henry 2004-11-04 05:38AM | 0 recs
Re: two party system
52% of the voting public, not "the country" elected George Bush (and that's only if you believe those voting machines were legit, which I don't).

I've listened to Republicans all my life.  Used to be one, if fact.  I left precisely because the "wing nuts" took over.  

Once upon a time, The Democratic Party knew how to play hard-ball. Mayor Daley of Chicago was a corrupt son-of-a-bitch, but he got the job done for Kennedy!  If you don't realize how far they've/we've fallen, think back to poor John Edwards crying "you take that back,  you apologize!" after Bush/Rove rolled out the Swift boats liars.  It was pitiful! They- and we- have to put them on the defensive and keep them there.  We absolutely need new, aggressive  blood in the DNC.  I think the DLC needs to go completely.

by bellarose 2004-11-04 09:16AM | 0 recs
Our message: Progress &amp; the American Dream
Our message is simple and incredibly powerful:  we believe in progress and the American Dream.  We believe that every generation can live a better life than the generation that came before it.

We are liberals because we believe that our policies are the best way for Americans to achieve the American Dream.  We must constantly emphasize that we are fighting for progress and the American Dream.  Policies are a means, the American Dream is the ends.

The GOP does not believe in progress, they believe in tradition.  We believe that progress and change are the way to make life better for working Americans.

The American Dream was the bedrock of the New Deal coalition and the Clinton presidency.  We must bring our message to every corner of the country.  

by Ephus 2004-11-04 05:33AM | 0 recs
We must get the Evangelicals to split
My sister and brother-in-law are evangelicals. But they understand that impierialistic war is not Christian. Chrusades are not Christian. Corporate welfare is not Christian. Trickle down economics are not Christian. We need to quiet the pro-gay side of our party. We love them and intend to help them but that one issue probably let them win the election due to the 11 states. Let them have that issue in every swing state, but keep it out of the midterm election. We need to concede on Marriage. We can ensure marriage is a religous issue. and therefore the promotion of "marriage" is a violation of the first ammendment. Catholics put marriage with the eucharist as canons of the faith. We can do an end around and make all government support of unions into civil unions, but we must try to do this in small steps. The federal marriage amendment will backfire if we ensure marriage becomes the religeious institution that it is. Any federal support for marriage should become a first ammendment violation.
by Tomtech 2004-11-04 05:34AM | 0 recs
No one (or not enough someones) finds the blatant partisan control of the electoral process in the self-described greatest democracy scandalous?

For info/interest, THIS was the most controversial and oddly-shaped electoral district drawn at the last round of redistribution here in Canada:

The principle oddity? In order for the member to get from the central area of the riding, where the population centre is, to that northern niggly bit, he has to go through the neighbouring riding of Acadie-Bathurst; the land is contiguous but the highway system isn't.

And that is about as controversial as it got in 2004.

Well, except for a neighbouring riding which seemed to have been cobbled together from whatever was left of New Brunswick after the other nine ridings had been redrawn... But seriously, apart from some battles over riding names, there is nothing like the abominable electoral maps of Texas, NY, Illinois, or Florida up here.

When I have shown the US congressional map to people involved in Canadian politics, they are flabbergasted; they always assumed that your system was "fairer" than ours, which they accuse of being biased and flawed.

by Canuckistan 2004-11-04 06:08AM | 0 recs
Re: So....
I replied above.  It's terrible - but it can't change because Congress has to approve any national change.  Doing it state-by-state is suicide.

The only other option would be a Supreme Court ruling that districting by party-ID (as opposed to race, etc.) is unconstitutional for some reason - but the last chance for that in the next 30 years evaporated with Ohio.

by Silent E 2004-11-04 06:34AM | 0 recs
by Canuckistan 2004-11-04 11:22AM | 0 recs
Another view of the religious landscape...
Check out the following article from Beliefnet...

Combined, the Religious Right and the Heartland Culture Warriors make up less than a quarter of the population.  The remaining groups make up over three quarters.

The key to growing the Democratic Party is to make significant inroads among Moderate Evangelicals and Whitebread Protestants while holding on to the remaining groups, particularly Convertible Catholics, Latinos, and Black Protestants.  And, as many others on this board have pointed out, we can do this by framing issues of peace and justice - especially economic justice - in spiritual terms.  This doesn't have to be explicitly Christian, or even explicitly theistic, but we do have to recognize the spiritual dimension within us all.

The difficult part will be dealing with social issues.  Many of us would never accept a party that mimics the GOP positions on abortion and gay rights.  But we have to deal with the fact that these issues will present a stumbling block to millions of potential members.

(KTinOhio, card-carrying member of the Religious Left)

by KTinOhio 2004-11-04 04:26PM | 0 recs
how to build liberalism? institutions

Chris, you almost speak as if building liberalism and strengthening our ground game were different things. We need to strengthen the institutions that foster liberal values on a year-round basis - forget the DNC, I'm talking about organized labor, the new PACs, immigrant groups, left-leaning religious organizations, and so on. We may disagree on this point, but I don't think that the evangelical movement has spread because the country has grown more conservative, but rather, it's the other way around. Conservative organizations have become stronger, and by expanding (and sometimes filling the gaps in our social safety net), they have brought conservatives into the fold in a deep and lasting way. We have to do the same with our side.
by juddcomposer 2004-11-04 05:11PM | 0 recs


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