Good Works

I am writing a few different articles right now, many of them long. It many be some time before I am finished, especially considering that I am frequently sidetracked into writing more timely articles. In the meantime, I wanted to blog instead about a single phrase that has become stuck in my head: "good works."

To try and improve public education, but to do so without providing the funding for your own plan, is not a "good work," it is instead a really poor job.

To provide health care for all of your citizens, not just to make the costs lower, is to perform a "good work."

Too often in this country, we engage in policy debates purely at the ideological level, rather than at the level of works and functionality. For example, to simply be in favor of, or opposed to, Roe vs. Wade does nothing. However, to increase reproductive rights and simultaneously reduce the number of abortions in this country, as Bill Clinton's policies were able to accomplish, is an example of carrying out the sort fo good work both sides seek. On the other hand, to reduce reproductive rights worldwide while simultaneously increasing the number of abortions in America, as Bush's polices have done, is an example of the sort of work neither side desires. No one would consider what Bush has done on that front good work.

I think we can really use this phrase. Not only does it shift the debate away from ideological demagoguery and toward actual results, not only does it describe much of the liberal agenda in extremely positive terms, but it does so in a moralistic frame to which people of many different religions have a strong connection.

Are there any phrases stuck in your head?

Tags: Ideology (all tags)



Government accountability, fiscal responsibility
Oregon Senate Democratic Leader Kate Brown ran the state campaigns on this platform and picked up 3 of the 30 senate seats. [link]
by Jonathan Singer 2004-11-07 01:32PM | 0 recs
How about this simplification:
Fair and Honest.

Which side are you on?

The Dems want things to be fair and honest.  Things like elections, education, taxes and govenrment.

If any Republicans rail against a Dem candidate, ask the voters why that repug doesn't want things 'fair and honest'.  When we push for transparent, verifiable votiing machines and they block it, shout from the rooftops: "THEY DON'T WANT THINGS FAIR AND HONEST!!!!"

Your thoughts?


by joby 2004-11-07 05:35PM | 0 recs
good works
I don't know your ethnic / religious background, Chris, but what you have just described as a "good work" is otherwise known as a "mitzvah."
by globecanvas 2004-11-07 01:50PM | 0 recs
Re: good works
I grew up Catholic.
by Chris Bowers 2004-11-07 02:05PM | 0 recs
tax obligation
We need some phrase to counter "tax relief." There is simply no way we can do what we need to do without raising taxes and Kerry was dishonest for suggesting it. Funding what needs to be done is an obligation of citizenship. Instead of talking about "tax cuts for the rich" why not talk about "evading tax obligations"?
by epiguy 2004-11-07 01:52PM | 0 recs
The phrase this post reminds me of?
Salvation through faith, not good works.

Seems to fit things.

by aesthesia 2004-11-07 01:55PM | 0 recs
Re: The phrase this post reminds me of?
Good works are performed by the person who has been saved, in much Protestent theology. Ont eh other hand, in much Catholic theology, good works are required for salvation.
by Chris Bowers 2004-11-07 02:05PM | 0 recs
Re: The phrase this post reminds me of?
I think that they are performed by people who are sinners and saved.  (I grew up in a Southern Baptist Church.)  Christians, however, are guided into performing good works, because God has his ways.

It probably doesn't matter, though.  I'm no longer Christian, but it may help in understanding the dialogue.

by nanoboy 2004-11-07 02:08PM | 0 recs
I'm not sure that this fits here, but...
Good works is appealing to people of all persuasions (save sociopathy,) and it should be.  However, it is worth noting that evangelicals often have an interesting Biblical belief in national divine punishment.

The idea rests in the Old Testament.  There are various kings (probably the majority) of Israel and Judea who end up inviting God's wrath by bringing in foreign gods or other evil.  The whole kingdom suffers for it, of course.  Christians and Jews who read this will probably know exactly what I'm talking about.

That's why Jerry Falwell and his ilk like to talk about how our own country's disasters are linked to homosexuals, abortion, and whatever else is the sin of the week.  It's wrong, but they do it.  I'm wondering if the "good works" idea, which is an excellent idea, could incorporate some sort of idea of also lifting up our nations moral standing in the eyes of both God and man.  I'm no Christian (anymore) but it is a thought.

by nanoboy 2004-11-07 02:06PM | 0 recs
Re: I'm not sure that this fits here, but...
"national divine punishment"? When people say that Bush has been divinely chosen, I can only believe that if true, God is punishing the country for the sins of its Republicans.
by deixis 2004-11-07 02:45PM | 0 recs
Re: I'm not sure that this fits here, but...
I agree.  Now, we have to convince the evangelicals... or at least the few that we can.
by nanoboy 2004-11-07 02:55PM | 0 recs
Re: I'm not sure that this fits here, but...
Falwell is not a Christian and if you go to his websites and look at his mission statement you'll see that the word Christ or Christian does not appear.  There is nothing Christian about the Falwell/Robertson/White Evangelical Political Movement.  

Fallwell states on his website that he lobbies government to "influence legislation".  Lets not forget that Jerry Falwells financial woes were cured by none other than Rev. Moon.  


by elscal 2004-11-08 02:44PM | 0 recs
I haven't done the wordsmithing yet, but something about "government minding its own business" would be effective.  My notion is that we ought to counter the Right's regressive social agenda (anti-gay, anti-abortion) by making it appear intrusive; let's frame it as an imposition forced upon us by the Federal government, which conservatives love to hate.
by global yokel 2004-11-07 02:19PM | 0 recs
First the South has to Face reality
To begin with before one can deal with a person or an individual a common reality must be agreed upon.
this means that the south has to admit and face that their traitorous, oath breaking, treasonous, bigotted behavior was the cause of the civil war. There never was a war of northern agression.
For the south to keep naming places after traitors such as lee, jackson, stuart and the rest of that losing scum who broke their oaths to the United States in the name of slavery is unacceptable.
When the south admits that it fired the first shot. It was fighting to protect the right of slavery. It was the home of the klan and citizen councils and it is the home of the regressive fundie/born again heresy.
Then when they admit their failures can we help them but as long as they revel in their ignorance and hate we cannot communicate with them or hope to have them join the civilized states.
Please there is no more of a southern backlash then there was a backlash against the japanese on Dec. 8th 1941.
by Rational 2004-11-07 02:24PM | 0 recs
Oops Wrong subject area
Sorry the above post was suppose to be elsewhere. How this happened I am unsure.
My apologies for misplacing this post.
by Rational 2004-11-07 02:27PM | 0 recs
Progressive pragmatism

Despite any of my personal theological leanings, when it comes to the real world of politics I describe my point of view as that of a pragmatist. Pragmatism is true conservatism. The Republican notion of conservatism, as debunked by your Clinton-reducing abortion scenario, perverts the term and masks a reckless radicalism, untested and unproven. Progress can only occur gradually. The great American philosophers I admire are pragmatists: Wm. James, Dewey, and the abolitionists. I think pragmatism is the American philosophical ethos, not this distorted theological platform of the RNP get out the vote network. American political philosophy is based on what works, not on imagined platitudes. Although I'm quite disgusted with the Red State culture, I'm now recovering to the point to where I realize we have to keep bombarding the electorate with facts. I will try to think of other examples of progressive pragmatism.

by JHGrimson 2004-11-07 02:28PM | 0 recs
Re: Progressive pragmatism
Bombarding these people with facts won't work. We rolled out one "October Surprise" after another and it had no effect.

We're looking at your basic attachment issues here, in a Buddhist sense. Remember the monkeys reaching in a hole to get the banana? That they won't let go of even when the human shows up to grab them? Same thing.

I think we need to recognize that the only thing to be done here is a withdrawal of the reasonable population from occupied territory (i.e. red states). Then we need to isolate the territory and let it self-destruct. Should take less than a generation.

by goldengreek 2004-11-08 02:32AM | 0 recs
$$ - another thought....

Again, I don't have a punchy phrase at hand, but the time might be ripe for the Democrats to reverse the longstanding notion that the Republicans are the party of fiscal discipline.  The GOP has long enjoyed the fact that money issues and national defense are pretty much conceded to them.  It's long-established common wisdom that the "Daddy" party can be trusted on those issues, and the Democrats cannot.  But the recklessness of the Bush adminstration on money matters makes them vulnerable, IMHO.  With the proper phrase, I think we could start shifting the dynamic here.

by global yokel 2004-11-07 02:38PM | 0 recs
Preaching to the choir
Personally, I love the phrase "good works."  But I think it's preaching to the choir.  If you read Lakoff's Moral Politics on the topic of sin and redemption, you'll see that this phrase will appeal only to those who are already in the liberal camp.  It's soft and fuzzy and smacks of giveaways and welfare mothers and people getting free health care and a free ride.  That's anathema to many Americans.  They really believe that each of us is on our own, that government should not be in the business of helping people.  They believe deep down that the people who need help are bad, and don't deserve help, that helping them actually harms them.

I've often thought in this election season that Kerry would have done better if he'd appeared to be a bigger SOB.  I mean if he'd showed some teeth, been sharper in his retorts, been angrier.  I think that's what a lot of voters are looking for in a leader.  Pretty sick, and I'm not sure how to address that.  I'm afraid "Good works" might not do the trick.

by pammo 2004-11-07 02:40PM | 0 recs
Re: Preaching to the choir
Isee no trouble with preaching to the choir. I think we have difficulty talking about ourselves even amongst oursevles. It is a good place to start.
by Chris Bowers 2004-11-07 03:39PM | 0 recs
"Good works" has appropriate moral and religious connotations, but the pragmatic idea here can also be expressed in a way that grounds it in good business practice. If we can all agree that a diminishing number of abortions is a good outcome, then Clinton's policies did it, and Bush's have done the opposite. But Democrats haven't always drawn attention to their achievements in this way.
by deixis 2004-11-07 02:40PM | 0 recs
Re: "outcome-based"
I like that phrase.
by goldengreek 2004-11-08 02:33AM | 0 recs
A wast of time, we dont need a new message
We are being defeated by their TACTICS.

They are stealing our votes.

We have people standing in line for 6, 8, 10 hours because they deliberately do not put enought voting machines in our districts.

They alter the vote totales in the machines at the district and state level.

They challenge our voters and win in a close race that way as well because the provisional ballots are not counted, before the opposing candidate is forced by the corporate mass media to conceed.

We could have 100% turn out and everyone voting for us, and they would still be albe to convert our votes into votes for their candidates.

They have the media and can cover their tracts and they build a counter story to distract every one; "it was the morality - issue" "liberalism is rejectd".

That is just pure hogwash.

As long as they can steal the vote it does not matter what we do, our message does not matter, our candidates will not matter, its all a huge waste of time.

Wise up, people on the street know what has happened and they are not going to turn out again unless we can stop the rigged elections.

by leschwartz 2004-11-07 02:42PM | 0 recs
Re: A wast of time, we dont need a new message
I agree completely.
by pammo 2004-11-07 02:59PM | 0 recs
Re: A waste of time?
There isn't a silver bullet. A good strategy is multi-pronged. It's language AND tactics AND infrastructure. I think Chris was suggesting "good works" as a portion of the strategy. And it has a lot going for it. Besides its religion tonality, its has great carry through in the strictly secular sense, too. Put it in the singular. "Good work." It's a phrase of congratulations, a goal, a mark of excellence. Our GOTV was a damn good piece of work. I think the association of "good" with "democrats" has no downside. In a variant, it also has great pragmatic value: this/that works. We want school and hospitals and services - and a government! - that work. These are all "good works." Other words that have similar resonance are "neighbor" - "Democrats are your good neighbors" - and "community" - "Democrats build vibrant, good communities."

None of this, though, needs to make us "soft." It takes nothing away from our energy to defend our honor, our integrity, our people, our sense of justice. "Goodness" and "strength" are not opposites. One feeds the other.

by Jeff Donner 2004-11-07 03:39PM | 0 recs
"good works"
I may not be the most qualified on this but,

Isnt this the wrong phrasing? For the "values voters"  doesnt works talk imply a distinctly Catholic idea of the right path. If we start talking about good works, evangelicals see good works as a Catholic substitution for faith in Jesus. Evangelicals are fond of saying that Catholics are trying to get to heaven with good works alone.

here's some ludicrous propaganda that captures the feeling i'm trying to describe...there's some other good reading if you need some idle entretainment...these people aren't joking. its a bit scary.

by srolle 2004-11-07 02:45PM | 0 recs
Re: "good works"
Thanks for the horrific propaganda. I thought it was sarcastic at first (drunken sailor?) but was horrified to see that this is taken at face value by the religous right. There is plenty in the New Testament to shift the arguement the other way.
by JHGrimson 2004-11-07 03:08PM | 0 recs
Re: "good works"
Holy shit.

If the cartoon screed that srolle links to is un any way properly representing evangelical christian thought, then Chris's idea can only be interpreted (by evangelicals) as a direct assault on evangelical beliefs.

by globecanvas 2004-11-07 06:05PM | 0 recs
Re: "good works"
Not really. Fundementalism is an impossibility, bec. even the New Test. contains many conflicting messages. In other words, there isn't any one fundemental message that unifies everything in either Testament. "You aren't saved by works" is there, but so is "Your faith isn't true unless you prove it by works." A former Christian, I would say the latter is the stronger message, esp. when you read the four Gospels.
by JHGrimson 2004-11-08 06:10AM | 0 recs
The phrase that's stuck in MY head... Which Side Are You On?

I agree with those on various blogsites who fault the Democrats, more than anything, for their fear of offending the center. The "Republican Lite" orthodoxy, which holds that we should drop gun control and gay rights (for starters) from our message (and, most recently, suggests that we adopt faith as yet another "me too!" mantra), offers a doomed strategy, IMO.


Because we can't compete on those issues! How many voters did Kerry win over by hunting geese? Not nearly as many as he lost, apparently, by failing to convince swing voters that his positions on many issues weren't simply a reflection of typical political opportunism.

I thought Bush was vulnerable on the assault weapons ban; Kerry hammered him on that point in the debates. Why not a gun-related photo-op with, say, the bereaved families of law enforcement officers killed with assault weapons? Because it'd cost us the NRA vote?

The way I see it, the Democrats and the Republicans each have their hardcore consitutencies, and both of those are actually smaller than we tend to realize. The trick to getting elected, whichever side you're on, is to drive a wedge between the opponents' hard and soft supporters. The Bush campaign accomplished this. We did not. And we will not, as long as we soft-pedal our fundamental convictions out of fear of losing the middle. Because, like it or not, in a campaign between lucid description of the real world and manipulation of emotions through cynical symbology, we have to have faith in the intelligence of those whose votes are in play--those in the center.

We need to state exactly where we're coming from, and then work like hell to convince folks to join us. Backing away from our political roots makes us look weak AND opportunistic.

We need to make it damn clear which side we're on.
by bit shifter 2004-11-07 03:03PM | 0 recs
by leschwartz 2004-11-07 03:03PM | 0 recs
Re: How they stole our vote;
Come on dude, we have a permanent Open Thread for this sort of stuff.
by Chris Bowers 2004-11-07 03:38PM | 0 recs
by leschwartz 2004-11-07 03:08PM | 0 recs
Not sure...
I mean, it's absolute true what you say, but truth doesn't seem to matter to red-staters.  John Kerry kept saying "faith without works is dead" but it didn't seem to do much.
by fwiffo 2004-11-07 04:04PM | 0 recs
Some Religious Themes
I like the "good works" phrase.  I also think that the type of Christians who are offended by the Falwell/Robertson type of Christians need a label to distinguish themselves.  This should come from their ministry, not from an explicitly political angle.  But, the phrase I propose is 'Love Thy Neighbor Christian'.  As opposed to the prideful, cast-the-first-stone type of Christian who gets so much media attention.

Also using religious terminology, I think that the left should refer to privatizing social security as 'trusting retirement accounts to the moneychangers'.

by EdSez 2004-11-07 04:07PM | 0 recs
Good Works
sounds good, and I've been thinking about this too.  I'm new to blogging, and I am hesitant about this because I'm sure someone has already brough this up, but why can't we re-take the word "Liberal" and be proud of it again?  
by BlueAndProud 2004-11-07 04:35PM | 0 recs
Re: Good Works
Good Point, BAP! Go ahead and articulate your point of view. To me, when I hear "liberal," I think of diverse viewpoints (anyone remember the old DNP where no one agreed on anything?) and diverse viewpoints lead to democracy.
by JHGrimson 2004-11-08 06:14AM | 0 recs
Another phrase
Re. phrases that stuck in my head --

One which we could use is that the Dems believe we are all equal under God. I am not religious but believe this sort of formulation will play well with fence-sitters, and if articulated properly can be the sort of thing that Republicans would find difficult to agree to.

E.g., gay marriage: we are all equal under God so should have the same opportunities to marry those we love.

Health care: we are all equal under God so have the same rights to basic health care.

Etc. Make up your own formulations.

by dmsmith 2004-11-08 04:05AM | 0 recs
How about Moral Responsibility
Instead of good works, We could use the phrase "Moral Responceibility", This doesn't conotate any religion, but only a belief in an moral kind of correctness.
by likesun 2004-11-08 05:21AM | 0 recs


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