Why People Don't Think Democrats Believe What They Say

The habit of the Democratic Party to kill itself via self-referential meta-talk was on full display at the DLC meeting yesterday. Tell me if you can find what is wrong with the message coming out of the conference. From the Mercury News:Sen. Clinton said the council's initiative can ``unite Democrats and elect Democrats.'' Now, when you preface your policy proposals by indicating that said proposals are intended to win elections and unite your party, you have already pretty much ended any chance that people will think you making said proposals because you believe in those proposals. This is because, well, you just said that the purpose of these proposals was to win elections. Americans love it when politicians admit in public that their legislative proposals are designed to win elections.

More brilliant messaging from the same article: Stone said the council's centrist approach has been the only proven success for Democrats in the past 25 years. While this is not a direct quote, it is a widely held sentiment in some Democratic circles. It is also utterly self-defeating, since it strongly gives the impression that the only reason Democrats are moving to the center is because they think it will help them to win elections. Not only does this tacitly admit that Republicans have the right ideas and Democrats must move toward those ideas in order to win, it also is a pretty direct implication that Democrats don't believe in anything, but that they are moving to the center solely for the purpose of winning elections.

Yet more death by meta:Another possible Democratic presidential candidate, Sen. Evan Bayh, D-Ind., gave a speech that focused primarily on national security. He said Democrats must prove they are strong on this subject if they want to win future elections. "If [Americans] don't trust us with their lives, they are unlikely to trust us with anything else." Aarrgghhh. Again, we are faced with a quote from a major Democrat telling Democrats what we need to do in order to improve our standing with voters. Rather than, you know, actually laying out a series of foreign policy initiatives, Democrats feel the need to comment on why they need to lay out that series of foreign policy initiatives. This, of course, traps us in an endless cycle of meta and process stories about how much we always lose, and how we need to adopt new beliefs in order to win. Well, if you suddenly adopt new beliefs after previously saying that you need to adopt new beliefs in order to win elections, is there any chance that you won't come off as utterly invertebrate? Considering that changing a position on an issue or issues in order to win elections is one of the most negative stereotypes affecting politicians nationwide, why do we insist on constantly making public declarations that we are in fact going to change our position on issues in order to win elections? Are there any Democrats at this conference who remember what the main Republican attack on John Kerry was during the 2004 Presidential election?

If you are going to stand on your principles, then stand on your principles. There is no need to preface that stance by saying that more Democrats need to stand on principles in order to win elections. In fact, such a preface just makes it look like you are standing on your principles in order to win elections, and trying to distance yourself from those other, evil Democrats who don't stand on principles.

If you are going to talk about faith, then talk about faith. There is no need to preface your discussion of faith with a statement that Democrats need to talk more about faith. All that will do is make it look like you are talking about faith in order to win elections, and to distance yourself from those other, evil democrats who don't talk about faith.

If you are going to talk about national security, then talk about national security. There is no need to preface your discussion of national security with a statement that Democrats need to change their stances on national security. All that does is make it look like Democrats don't stand for anything on national security, and are just talking about it now in order to win elections. Oh yeah, and it distances you from those other, evil Democrats who don't hold the same national security position you do.

If you are going to move to the center, then move to the center. Don't preface it with a statement about how Democrats need to move to the center in order to win elections. All that does is make you look like a pile of mush who freely moves from left to center to right and back again in order to win elections.

The bizarre Democratic need, found most often within DLC-type conferences, to preface any proposal with a public claim that the coming proposal will help Democrats win elections is a major factor in the national belief that Democrats do not stand for anything. If you tell the country that your ideas are designed to win elections, then they won't think you stand for anything except winning elections. And then, well, you probably won't win many elections, because Americans don't like politicians who only stand for winning elections. If you want to do something, then just do it. Throwing the "this will get us elected" qualifier in front of your statements just makes us all look like spineless jackasses who are trying to pull one over on the electorate. If you want to talk faith, or be a centrist, or be a hawk, or stand on principles, then just go for it. Stop wasting our time and making us all look bad by telling us you are doing it in order to win elections.

Tags: Democrats, DLC, Media (all tags)

Comments

70 Comments

Re: Why People Don't Think Democrats Believe What

Terrific post.

by Matt Stoller 2006-07-25 07:10AM | 0 recs
Re: Why People Don't Think Democrats Believe

The reason NeoDems talk this way isn't to convince general election voters to support the party; it's to convince other Democrats why NeoDems should remain in control of the party.

And there are still way too many Democrat suckers falling for it, despit the NeoDems' abject history of failure.

More of them need to bew challenged in their primaries than just Lieberman (take down the queen bee Hillary and the others will fall like dominos.)

by Sitkah 2006-07-25 08:54AM | 0 recs
The Mike Is Always Open

The reason NeoDems talk this way isn't to convince general election voters to support the party; it's to convince other Democrats why NeoDems should remain in control of the party.

It's one thing to talk about strategies needed to win; it's stupid to do it in public.

by JD Rhoades 2006-07-25 10:27AM | 0 recs
Re: The Mike Is Always Open

They have to do it in public in order to convince ordinary Democrats who don't attend strategy meetings that they have a clue as to how to win in spite of all the evidence and experience which proves otherwise.

by Sitkah 2006-07-25 12:18PM | 0 recs
Re: Why People Don't Think Democrats Believe

The reason NeoDems talk this way isn't to convince general election voters to support the party; it's to convince other Democrats why NeoDems should remain in control of the party.

And there are still way too many Democrat suckers falling for it, despit the NeoDems' abject history of failure.

More of them need to be challenged in their primaries than just Lieberman (take down the queen bee Hillary and the others will fall like dominos.)

by Sitkah 2006-07-25 08:55AM | 0 recs
DLC is worse than useless...

Here come the AssClowns!

Good analysis of the reasons why Billary is a disaster and Schumer and Emmanuel are worse.

Go Ned!

Go Howard!

by Pericles 2006-07-25 07:10AM | 0 recs
Re: Why People Don't Think Democrats Believe

What this tells me is that they are afraid. Fear makes people act like this. Once you understand you are dealing with irrational behavior, then a lot of the DLC's decision making makes sense.

by bruh21 2006-07-25 07:15AM | 0 recs
Re: Why People Don't Think Democrats Believe

What this tells me is that they are afraid.

Yep, this is a tepid way of saying what you're for - yet betrays the fear of expressing any number of bottom-line progressive truths that should be easy to express. It's "I believe we should..." vs. "The first thing I will do...."

Bayh does it. Obama does it. Salazar does it.

Anyone who thinks their preznitial material better say what they believe and not half-ass it. We deserve better from our side.

by zappatero 2006-07-25 07:50AM | 0 recs
Re: Why People Don't Think Democrats Believe

The thing is that I consider someone like Obama probably to the left of me, and yet, his politics aren't what have disappointed me. It's the fear I sense in how he approaches politics. I had a lot of high hopes for him after that speech in 2004 because I thought, finally, a new generation of Democrats who gets why we are losing. We lose because fear isn't, as I keep saying to people, a strategy for winning. It maybe a strategy for Republicans to keep the status quo which right now favors them, but its not a strategy for the minority party to achieve the majority. Like in the private sector, to grow, you have to be willing to take risks. if you can't even take the risk of talking plainly, then what does that say for the rest of your character? that's the question I keep asking myself of this style of leadership

by bruh21 2006-07-25 08:26AM | 0 recs
Re: Why People Don't Think Democrats Believe What

Chris, I'm mostly with you, but consider this.

Rove and friends go around all the time talking about how national security will be a big winner for Republicans at the polls.

Every time a hot-button issue like withdrawal comes up, the Republicans make clear (whether they're bluffing or not) that they think it will help them at the polls.

In 2002, not only did Bush arrange for the Iraq war vote to be scheduled just before the midterms, but he went around the country taunting Democrats with the electoral consequences should they vote the wrong way.

How come it works just fine for Republicans?  How come no one listens to them and thinks "gee, they're only doing this to win votes?

I frankly think there is a big difference between saying that a given policy will win elections and saying that a goven policy is intended to win elections, and you miss this point with your opening comment about Hillary.  Further, Hillary has to speak not only to voters but also to fellow members of her own party.  Convincing those people that a given policy is an electoral winner is a critical component in terms of gaining political support for that policy.

I agree that this business of "Democrats need to do a better job of leading on national security" is flat-out bullshit and needs to stop.  But I don't think we need to go so far as to pretend we haven't even thought about whether the people support our policies or not.  If people want universal health care, an increase in the minimum wage, or whatver, the results are what they care about anyway.

by Steve M 2006-07-25 07:21AM | 0 recs
Re: Why People Don't Think Democrats Believe What

Very good post, and interesting comment.  The R's have different people for different purposes.  Rove is an operative. He or Card can talk about rolling things out before the election.   Bush would never say something like that, however.  He and Cheney talk like men of principle, who believe what they believe and damn the facts.

Too many Dem candidates sound like operatives instead of just having the courage and conviction to lay out their views on substantive matters.

I also think they are afraid of the progressive wing, and that is why all the talk about how "our way is the way that wins elections."  They think we are only about winning elections, when it should be clear we are also about being a true opposition until we are a majority.  (Of course they also think we are too ideological, but that's another story.)

by Mimikatz 2006-07-25 07:40AM | 0 recs
Re: Why People Don't Think Democrats Believe What

Yes, that's an excellent point.  It goes to how the R message machine is better coordinated.  It would be great if Hillary could roll out a policy proposal and then count on some political operative to make the case for the electoral consequences.  Maybe in Howard Dean's DNC we'll achieve that level of organization someday... or maybe not :)

The Democrats being what they are, a pure policy proposal would probably be swiftly followed up by a comment from an "unnamed Democratic aide" fretting about whether the proposal will hurt with swing voters in November.  We've all seen this drill.

by Steve M 2006-07-25 07:46AM | 0 recs
Re: Why People Don't Think Democrats Believe What

t would be great if Hillary could roll out a policy proposal and then count on some political operative to make the case for the electoral consequences.

I take your point. But actually, she did just this, more or less, about a month ago. Lengthy, specifics-driven foreign policy statement.

The Democrats being what they are, a pure policy proposal would probably be swiftly followed up by a comment from an "unnamed Democratic aide" fretting about whether the proposal will hurt with swing voters in November.

Actually, what happened was the Broderite press condemned it as a boring-as-drt wonkish speech and turned instead to analyzing her choice of an orange pantsuit to deliver it. Or maybe it was yellow.

Oh, and then they all went back to agreeing sagely that Dems need to put their own foreign policy proposals forward if they want to be taken seriously and how come they don't do that?

by DrBB 2006-07-25 08:40AM | 0 recs
Re: Why People Don't Think Democrats Believe What

I take your point. But actually, she did just this, more or less, about a month ago. Lengthy, specifics-driven foreign policy statement.

Right, the first part is doable.  It's the second part, the followup, which is hard.  The Republicans are coordinated and they always have a political operative on the spot to tell you how the policy platform you just heard will be a slam-bang winner at the polls.

Actually, what happened was the Broderite press condemned it as a boring-as-drt wonkish speech and turned instead to analyzing her choice of an orange pantsuit to deliver it.

Well, right.  In a sense the playing field is uneven because Republicans are better on the red-meat issues and Democrats are better on the wonky issues.  But there are ways to fix it.  One way is to throw in a little more theater.  The media may roll their eyes but they'll still eat it up because it makes for good ratings.

Another way is to have someone you can go to for a red-meat reaction.  Even if the Republican position isn't that exciting, you can always count on Karl Rove to give you some incendiary quote.  The Democrats need a rock star on their side who can do the same.

Perhaps if the Democrats win this fall, Howard Dean will be the prophet who can fill this role.  One problem is that when the current batch of Democrats say "we're going to win because of this issue," no one believes them because of the party's recent track record.  But everybody, the media included, loves a winner.

by Steve M 2006-07-25 01:46PM | 0 recs
Why it's different for Republicans

The reason is that people believe that the GOP already knows where it stands in these areas.

Taking a position in order to win votes looks weak, because it is.  Trumpeting the electoral viability of the position you already have looks like self-confidence.

by RT 2006-07-25 07:40AM | 0 recs
Re: Why it's different for Republicans

It is a complete lack of vision.  They all look wishy washy and people don't like to support that.

by DrWolfy 2006-07-25 08:25AM | 0 recs
Re: Why People Don't Think Democrats Believe What

Notice the difference, though, between what Republican operatives say and don't say.  (I agree with Mimikatz the distinction between operatives and politicians here is important.)  Republican operatives don't say, "We need to do specific-policy X because that will help convince the electorate we're strong on general-issue-category Y."  They say, "Specific-policy X is good for our electoral chances because we're strong on general-issue-category Y."

The first implies that the party is not good at Y, but the party can "fake" Y by doing X.  The second says the electorate will agree with policy X because it trusts the party on category Y.

The first works for an electorate that examines particular policy proposals and judges a party based on the sum of those policies.  But we don't have that electorate in this country.  Whether people support particular policies is, in essence, not that important.  Most people aren't paying close enough attention to the details of policies anyway -- that's why they hire representatives to consider the details.  What they do care about is the overall thrust of those policies.

by kenfair 2006-07-25 08:22AM | 0 recs
Re: Why People Don't Think Democrats Believe What

And when republicans do "fake" Y by doing X, they also fail miserably.

Examples: We need to be more inclusive as a party. We like black people now! And latinos, except for that fence thing.

But notice still that as stated before, you most hear Ken Melhman talking like that. NOT George Bush.

by adamterando 2006-07-25 09:30AM | 0 recs
Re: Why People Don't Think Democrats

as others have said- it's because the republicans have built up a 30 year brand- we haven't.

by bruh21 2006-07-25 08:28AM | 0 recs
Re: Why People Don't Think Democrats Believe What

Big difference. Rove says 'our positions win'. Perhaps if the DLC types would argue that 'our positions are popular' instead of 'our positions must change so that we will be popular', the meta talk would be helpful instead of destructive.

by mutant 2006-07-25 08:34AM | 0 recs
Damn Straight

Chris, I know you've been talking about this stuff for a while, but this is the post I'm sending to all my political-operative-friends who always argue with me when I try to prove this very same point.

And this line came through as very Daou-esque:

This, of course, traps us in an endless cycle of meta- and process stories about how much we always lose, and how we need to adopt new beliefs in order to win.

Every time someone gives a speech that goes against the advice in this post, the media narrative of the Democratic party becomes that they're trying to figure out which principles to stand on.

by msnook 2006-07-25 07:22AM | 0 recs
Re: Why People Don't Think Democrats Believe What

Sounds to me like maybe these Dems are just parroting back what the consultants are telling them.

The consultants say "You have to move to the center in order to win elections", and the Dems absorb that concept so thoroughly into their mental processes that they find themselves compelled to rehash it in circumstances where it would not be appropriate even if it were true.

Can we look at it from another angle?  Are there any Dems who never fall into that trap?  Gore? Dean?  Feingold?  Clark?  Those are the Dems I like -- do they do it too?

by xebecs 2006-07-25 07:23AM | 0 recs
Re: Why People Don't Think Democrats Believe What

Not quite: it's about SHOW, don't TELL.  Instead of announcing "this is my strategy because I think it'll help Democrats", just f'n employ the strategy and see if it helps.  This is especially true when folks like Biden say on Sunday shows that "Democrats need to show more leadership on national security".  Don't say you're going to do it: JUST DO IT.

by Adam B 2006-07-25 07:52AM | 0 recs
Re: Why People Don't Think Democrats Believe What

Which part of my hypothesis are you disagreeing with?  

I don't doubt that you are right -- I'm just suggesting part of the reason for what they do: that they are just repeating what they've been told by the consultants, without considering that it would be better to keep that conversation behind the scenes.

As a sometimes writer myself, and an attendee of numerous writers' groups, I find very few things more annoying than "telling".  I don't even like the Tom Clancy-style "I'm showing but in such a brazen way that it is effectively telling".  

It's spectacularly annoying when it appears in political discourse that will almost certainly affect the future of my family, my friends and myself.

by xebecs 2006-07-25 08:15AM | 0 recs
If I could, i'd force ever DLC member to read this

ALOUD.

Fantastic Chris.

the Media loves talking about process stories, why even give them the chance?

-C.

by neutron 2006-07-25 07:26AM | 0 recs
Re: Why People Don't Think Democrats Believe What

Shorter Chris Bowers: Democrats lose when Democrats talk about trying to win elections in public?

by blueflorida 2006-07-25 07:31AM | 0 recs
Re: Why People Don't Think Democrats Believe What

Chris: Exactly.

by Omark 2006-07-25 07:37AM | 0 recs
Re: Why People Don't Think

Stone said the council's centrist approach has been the only proven success for Democrats in the past 25 years.

Yeah, they've done a great job.  They began in the mid 1980s, won the White House in 1992 -- then proceeded to lose the House, the Senate and the White House.  Great fricking job, DLC

by nathan 2006-07-25 07:41AM | 0 recs
Re: Why People Don't Think Democrats Believe What

Chris - thanks for saying so clearly just what it is about the Dems that makes me pull out my hair so often.

by RT 2006-07-25 07:42AM | 0 recs
Re: Why People Don't Think Democrats Believe

Great post.  I agree 100% that you should just say what you believe.

by John Mills 2006-07-25 07:44AM | 0 recs
Amen!

I agree that our  leaders, including us netroots stop prefacing speeches with:

"Democrats should......"  instead do it.

Arent they democrats too?

by jasmine 2006-07-25 07:44AM | 0 recs
Re: Why People Don't Think Democrats Believe What

By the way, excellent post.  If you talk about TACTICS we need to employ to win elections, that's cool.  But if you talk about issues you need to adopt to win elections, you are pandering.

by nathan 2006-07-25 07:44AM | 0 recs
On the facts, Bayh is wrong

"If [Americans] don't trust us with their lives, they are unlikely to trust us with anything else."

Actually that couldn't be further from the truth. Even taking on Bayh's framing of "national security issues" as "Americans trusting us with their lives" - Americans HAVE approved of Democratic positions and competence on these issues, over time, but only by very small margins. But they've approved of Democratic positions on basically everything else - truly, EVERYthing else, from Social Security to the environment to health care, etc. ad infinitum - by enormous margins.

What Bayh says is a snappy - and idiotic, counter-productive, etc. - sound bite, but it is also just blatantly false, its falseness borne out by decades of public opinion polls. In point of fact - Americans approve of Democratic positions by wide margins, many even when they DON'T agree with Democrats on foreign policy or national security issues.

by jkdism 2006-07-25 07:48AM | 0 recs
Re: On the facts, Bayh is wrong

Please tell that to President Kerry.

You are side-stepping Bayh's core point which is that Democrats keep losing national elections due to the national security issue. The only polls that ultimately matter happen on Election Day.

Sure people prefer Democratic policies on a whole host of issues. But national security, at least in 2004, was a threshold issue: people won't vote for you if they are concerned about your willingness to do whatever it takes to keep their families safe.

by blueflorida 2006-07-25 09:25AM | 0 recs
Re: On the facts, Bayh is wrong

2004 exit polls. Public fear of terrorism trumped public displeasure over Iraq.

by blueflorida 2006-07-25 09:27AM | 0 recs
Re: On the facts, Bayh is wrong

But Bayh never should have said it. That's the point. That is why Dems are always being cast as "a party of no ideas" and "searching for their soul" and "don't stand for what they believe in".

Instead of castigating the party and saying, "This is what we need to do to win this election." Why couldn't he say
"I will protect you from terrorism because I will do x and y and because I believe in x and y."

What the fuck does his statement get us? Democrats are not perceived as being strong on national security. Thanks Evan! That's a big newsflash. Haven't heard that analysis before. We'll get right on that. Your the best political consultant..er..presidential candidate around!

It's self-defeating and stupid.

by adamterando 2006-07-25 09:35AM | 0 recs
Re: On the facts, Bayh is wrong

Support for liberal issues and trust of Democratic politicians are two different things.  Judging from the high support for liberal issues and tepid trust in Democratic politicians, they are very different things.

by Marc Brazeau 2006-07-25 09:36AM | 0 recs
Re: Why People Don't Think Democrats Believe What

BINGO!! I posted the following on Fark a few days ago in a thread on Clinton's stumping for Lieberman:

I have tremendous respect for Bill Clinton in many areas, but I'd like to remind folks of the following:

1. Bill Clinton has the type of personal charisma and magnetism that only comes along once in a generation. A THOUSAND CLINTON WANNABES DO NOT.

2. Even with his tremendous charisma, Clinton still only received 43% of the popular vote in 1992. Put another way, 57% OF THE PUBLIC VOTED FOR SOMEONE ELSE TO BE PRESIDENT.

3. If it hadn't been for the extremely rare addition of ROSS PEROT'S 19% SHOWING IN 1992, the odds are that Bush Sr. would have won re-election after all (it's my understanding that about 2/3 of Perot voters were drawn from Bush vs. 1/3 from Clinton).

4. Even in 1996, as an extremely popular incumbent with a great economy and a weak opponent, Clinton still never broke the 50% mark--he only hit about 49% of the vote, with Perot getting about 8% and Dole about 43%. He would've won in '96 without Perot, but HE STILL NEVER BROKE THE 50% MARK.

So, if you add up Clinton's personal charisma PLUS Ross Perot PLUS a weak opponent PLUS his "move to the center triangulation" strategy, it works--but ONLY with those factors in place. Remove any one of them and the strategy falls apart, as so many Dems have discovered since then.

In other words, while Clinton is indeed a master politician, he is NOT the end-all be-all of all political knowledge. The same strategies which worked FOR HIM, AT THAT TIME will NOT necessarily work for someone ELSE, at a DIFFERENT time, under different circumstances. Times change, attitudes change, technologies change, etc.

by Brainwrap 2006-07-25 08:03AM | 0 recs
Re: Why People Don't Think Democrats Believe What

I don't disagree with your overall point.  But, on #3, I think you are wrong.  It is my remembrance that the Perot vote split pretty evenly between Clinton and Bush.

by erasmus 2006-07-25 08:51AM | 0 recs
Re: Why People Don't Think Democrats Believe What

Hmm...I could be wrong about that. Even so, the Perot factor definitely disrupted what would have likely been a very different campaign otherwise; his inclusion in the debates, the media angle, etc. shook the entire election up, making it impossible to draw any long-term strategic lessons from it.

Some strategies/principles of campaigning remain true no matter what the situation--regardless of the size (Presidential, Senate, state- or local-level, etc) or circumstances (primary/general/numerous challengers/etc).

Other factors depend very much on the specific situation, and the DLC types seem to still be stuck in the mindset that "Move to the right = success" under every circumstance--which has, of course, proven to be a complete disaster in almost every case except for Clinton.

by Brainwrap 2006-07-25 09:05AM | 0 recs
Re: Why People Don't Think Democrats Believe What

I also think it was 50/50 but you analysis is right regarding undestanding the need for adaptability. If by moderate, they mean a lack of adaptation to changing  circumstance then the DLC is moderate. If by moderate they mean reflecting voters and a winnings trategy-t hen they aren't.

by bruh21 2006-07-25 01:44PM | 0 recs
Re: Why People Don't Think Democrats Believe

Notice how Ned Lamont comes out and says what he believes, not what he thinks the Democrats should do or say.  Notice how Ned is gaining on a Democrat that is the personification (squared) of the DLC problem.  Notice how Ned's campaign is not staffed with the usual crowd of DC consultants.  How I hope for a paradigm shifting victory on August 8th.

by Joe Scordato 2006-07-25 08:11AM | 0 recs
Re: Why People Don't Think Democrats Believe What

This is the difference between Howard Dean and the rest of the party.   Dean knows what to do and does it. It's difficult.  It's risky because it's a path frought with setbacks.  When you give power away in order to keep it, when you rely on other people there's always the danger of mistakes and miscommunications.  

The other guys, let's say the DLC, would rather talk about talking about strategy.  That's easy.  That's fun.  That's bulletproof because you can always say that your master plan wasn't followed perfectly.  Mistakes were made.  

It's the difference between getting on the ground and working and talking about what other people should do to get still other people on the ground working.

by eRobin 2006-07-25 08:19AM | 0 recs
Genuine

The GOP is percieved as believing their positions because they push them for their own merits, whatever they actually are. Democrats push there positions as election winning strategies, just as you say Chris. This seems disengenious, and often is.

I was just pointing this out on a local blog. This is precisely why many people are reticent to support candidates. Positions are geared to get them elected. It's often pretty obvious. And it's what we fear. The candidate has positions. They are geared to get them elected. Once in office, how will they vote and who will they represent?

Politicians say what the polls say will get them elected. They shift with the blowing winds. Leaders stand up for what they believe. They are a rock in a storm. We need more leaders and fewer politicans.

by michael in chicago 2006-07-25 08:22AM | 0 recs
Re: Genuine

I think more people need to view polls as a report card instead of a guide. If a we care about an issue that isn't polling well, it means we aren't doing a good job of explaining our view of the issue.

How can people follow a politician who is only following the polls? It is like a dog chasing it's tail. Meanwhile, the other side knows where they want to go and will keep hammering on an issue -- for three generations when it came to ending Social Security -- until they eventually win.

When we lead, people are able to follow and that can then be reflected in the polls.

by Bob Brigham 2006-07-25 09:34AM | 0 recs
Edwards and Gore

I think the point made here is shown by Edward's and Gore's popularity.  Edwards has submitted proposals to end poverty, following up on his 2 Americas phrase, and he comes across as committed to ending poverty.

Gore comes across as someone who has devoted his life to saving the environment.

Sincerety is important, and the DLC openly treat politics as a game.

by magster 2006-07-25 08:24AM | 0 recs
Re: Why People Don't Think Democrats Believe What

One of the very best Blog posts of the year-

DLC- Demeaning Lifeless Clones

by RF 2006-07-25 08:36AM | 0 recs
The DLC has nothing else to say

They can't really defend their policies as policies, since moving to the right is a shit-stupid idea.

So they are trying to defend their positions in terms of electability.  "We're doing this to win elections" does make more sense than "We're doing this to undercut liberalism and betray the American people."

See?

by Avedon 2006-07-25 08:44AM | 0 recs
Good posts all

I have seen some good points.  Particularly good ones about DOING and not SAYING.

It's also about having a vision.  The DLC is too busy checking the direction of the wind to say where it is they want the country to go.

The DEMS may regain some seats in congress, but it's only because the Rethugs have been stinking it up so bad.

Once people realize that the DEMS have no vision for the US, they will drop them too.  That is why it is so crucial to get ON MESSAGE instead of just waffling around.

by DrWolfy 2006-07-25 08:45AM | 0 recs
death by DLC meta

if they weren't senators with instant name recognition and i only had their words to judge them by... i'd be calling them "concern trolls".

and about that quote: ""If [Americans] don't trust us with their lives, they are unlikely to trust us with anything else.""

i'll tell you what... you show me i can trust you to defend the constitution with your life - every EFFIN' day, then i'll think about trusting you with my lunch money.

being better than the bush/cheney administration is nothing to boast about.  even the nixon administration was better than the crew in charge now.

p.s. thanks for an excellent post.

by selise 2006-07-25 08:53AM | 0 recs
makes me wonder...

These people aren't morons. Most of them have been doing this kind of thing for quite a while as professional politicians with multiple advisors. Sometimes consistently poor messaging over and over like this makes me wonder whether it's on purpose.

How many times in a row can you shoot yourself in the same foot and get me to believe it was an honest mistake?

by TimThe Terrible 2006-07-25 09:22AM | 0 recs
Re: Why People Don't Think Democrats Believe What

Yes, yes, a 1000 times yes. Dead on.

We ARE a representative democracy, which means that our politicians DO need to listen to the people they represent. But, there's a big difference between making your message palatable to your constituents vice saying, "I know where you want to go. Follow me!"

This is why I like like Jim Webb. The political handlers haven't got hold of him yet. And this is the reason I don't like H. Clinton. I could forgive her position on the war if I thought the position was based on an honest belief instead of (misguided) political wind sniffing.

by Bob Miller 2006-07-25 09:35AM | 0 recs
Re: Why People Don't Think Democrats Believe What
look at this thread, for example...you are still talking about what "will work".
my advice?  pick something and take a stand.
for example, at least 2/3 of americans supported the exapansion bill for ESCR.  Ron Bailey said the veto was riddickulous and even the instadude said it was politically motivated.
will you come-out and unequivocally support ESCR?
nope.
your party is still poisoned by the schiavo effect, it was truly sickening to see hilary and the rest  vote-whoring on the emergency session of terri's law.  any sentient being that could actually read knew that lady was a 240 pound carrot.
or pick immigration.  all the dems do is waffle around and take polls on any issue.
i'm a registered republican and the only difference between you and the repubs is that the repubs are open about being assholes and pandering to their base, and you try to pretend you're not.  
by matoko 2006-07-25 09:37AM | 0 recs
Best thing I've read this year

This post should win an award. It's the most succinct and dead-on explanation of the problems in the Democratic Party since 1984. Thank you.

by adamterando 2006-07-25 09:38AM | 0 recs
Democrats Believe....

"Stone said the council's centrist approach has been the only proven success for Democrats in the past 25 years."

What 'success' is he talking about?  The past 25 years have been a disaster for Democrats.

by global yokel 2006-07-25 10:00AM | 0 recs
Re: Why People Are Not Inspired by Bullshit

I think this is a very intelligent insight, one that touches the core of why the Democrats are not CRUSHING at the polls, instead of just "leading."

Man, are the people hungry for heart, for truth, and for integrity. And the system is terrified of it.

What is the solution?

by Nezua Limon Xoloquinta Jonez 2006-07-25 10:36AM | 0 recs
The DLC are not "libs"

People believe what liberals say.  The trouble is that there aren't any in the DLC.

by Avedon 2006-07-25 10:48AM | 0 recs
Re: Why People Don't Think Democrats Believe

by definition if something is based on emotion alone - its irrational. fear is an emotion. risk benefit analysis- would be more along the time lines of rational actions. i see no weighing of risks here. i simply see fear of a projection. that projection being what they think will happen versus any proof of the matter that it will. their fear is that voters will not vote for them if they are forthright without any proof of the matter that this is true. they talk in the language of someone afraid of what will happen, not in the language of someone who is testing risks against benefits. the risk -benefit approach to me at least would be to have some people test the unequivocating style in an actual campaign versus repeating a failed approach of triangualtion.  afterall, whatever esle is true- at this point we know triangulation hasn't served them well. yet they still use it- why? to me, the difference here is important. the former- fear- is irrational because it repeats unsuccesful behaviors, the later risk benefit analysis does not.

by bruh21 2006-07-25 10:49AM | 0 recs
Re: Why People Don't Think Democrats Believe

ps

incidentally this why i, with my layman's understanding of politics, will often say here that the chief problem for democrats is that they lack character (or at least an undestanding of it)- by  character I mean certain personality traits. in 2004, one of bush's chief re-election advisors was on charlie rose discussing that his candidate chief strength, and I have to agree, is that he is willing to take risks. the going after the base strategy in 2004 was a bigger gamble than kerry was willing to take. now, you may not like his choices, but it was a smarter move. i think here we see behavior patterns w/ democratic leadership that isn't focused on anything other than resolving fear.

on a personal note, i am having to deal with this myself with a career change- so these are emotions i know first hand. in my new profession it is called silencing your internal editor. this voice will make you equivocate and watch your wording even when you dont have to because you are too afraid to simply say 'x' instead you say a lot of stuff before x and then say x. all the stuff before you say x is fear of just saying x

by bruh21 2006-07-25 10:56AM | 0 recs
Genious post

Excellent work, Chris!  This should be cross posted at dailykos.  It is one of the best postings I've read on this site ever.

by hotshotxi 2006-07-25 11:00AM | 0 recs
A Question of Money

The REAL problem for Democrats is that DLC thinks like who backs them...private business. The DLC arose from the union of high tech companies and free trade oriented merchants who saw the Clintons as pliant on an agenda of deregulation and rolling-back worker protection in the name of fostering growth because these new industries were "different" and not like manufacturing.

On the other hand....the unions who were far more confrontational lost the money race for the Party's soul.

That's where all the frustration is...because the Boomers didn't respect the need for unions in the 80s and 90s and now we have an hourglass-society based on a few wealthy people, a lot of people living beyond their means, and giant underclass just waiting for the next batch of rioting to begin.

This ain't about nat'l defense, it's about understanding that the Democrats won by being aggressive, and confrontational when they were successful. This goes from the lowest union captain to Strom Thurmond's filibusters.

by risenmessiah 2006-07-25 12:20PM | 0 recs
What is the solution?

Challenge the NeoDems in their primaries and get rid of the them.

by Sitkah 2006-07-25 12:22PM | 0 recs
Re: Why People Don't Think Democrats Believe What

When beltway Dems talk about "the Democratic party needs to move to the center" on some issue, what they are really telling voters is "you shouldn't believe what you believe", you should support what WE tell you to believe.

Naturally this doesn't work very well.

After decades in the wilderness railing against social security, Republicans found ways to get around the problem of their issues being wildly unpopular with the overwhelming majority of voters.

First they appeal to religious conservatives who will vote for people who peel them like an apple when April 15 comes and ship their jobs to Mexico -- so long as they believe he's a "good christian man."

Next they appeal to the fear voters have by saying "we're strong" over and over again. Democrats who try to say "no, they're not" only reinforce the fear of these voters - "are you saying I'm not safe? I don't want to believe that!" Thus, you see the anger of conservatives when Democrats attack the Republican response to the war on terror.

Finally, most importantly, they appeal to southern exceptionalism by saying "we're one of you." While Northerners generally care more about issues than whether the candidate is "like them", southerners won't vote for a "yankee". This can change, but only after a HUGE investment in outreach to red-state blue-collar workers that will take a lot of time. Joe Bageant writes passionately about this: http://www.joebageant.com/joe/2005/01/dr ink_pray_figh.html

Democrats like Dean in 2004 who appeal to populist issues (like really providing health care for all Americans for instance), arouse fear in corporate boardrooms. Thus, they cut him down to size with endless negative coverage of the "scream" - making a perfectly normal, rather mainstream democrat seem like a freak.

Thus, DLC'ers fear that to take progressive stands on an issue will cause them to be de-funded and attacked by the corporate media. You see it in the coverage of Ned Lamont too.

THAT in a nutshell is why the DLC exists in the first place and why it takes the positions it does despite constant failure every election.

The problem is that Democrats have found no way to get voters to support them despite taking positions directly contrary to the interests of a majority of those voters. For example, they are caught between the demands of their corporate sponsors for further "free-trade agreements" that directly result in the loss of American jobs, and their constituents who are increasingly unhappy about them.

Republicans don't have that problem to the same extent since their voters aren't paying attention. But, the decline in Bush's fortunes suggests that many Americans are finally beginning to wake up!

The biggest problem is that the more Democrats take progressive positions on issues, however popular, the more the mainstream media will attack them.

by Cugel 2006-07-25 01:22PM | 0 recs
Re: Why People Don't Think Democrats Believe

wanting power isn't the irrational part. thinking they will get power by using failed techniques is the irrational part. i can want to fly, but if i think i am going to fly by jumping off the roof of my building without a mechanical means of staying afloat- well would you be arguing that I was acting rationally?

by bruh21 2006-07-25 01:24PM | 0 recs
What center/middle?

A couple of days ago I posted a comment elsewhere daring people to define the "middle" agenda.

The "middle" is defined negatively: the middle is "not lefties" and "not wingnuts". Apparently the vast majority of U.S. citizens want to define themselves as "middle" - i.e., reasonable, rational, practical people who want a working government they can be proud of.

But now try defining what the "middle" believes in. You can't do it. That's because everyone in the middle is drawing from their own mix of beliefs, taken from both the right and the left. Those who claim to speak for the middle (usually for business and branding purposes, like "Unity08"), are actually just projecting their personal mix of beliefs onto the "middle" they are falsely claiming to represent.

The illusion of the middle is killing are civil society because when people invoke it, they are invoking an empty concept. They are simply expressing a will to disengage from partisan politics, not proposing any sort of political platform to replace it.

At a gut level everyone knows this: and that's part of why politicians sound like phonies when they invoke the "middle".

by breakingranks 2006-07-25 01:35PM | 0 recs
Re: Why People Don't Think Democrats Believe

you capture the truth of most of the shit I say on here: namely I am not talking politics, just simple human nature shit. peo who have something to say- say it- they don't beat around the bush (no pun intended) unless they are either afraid of what they are going to say or trying to figure it out while equivocating. that's a general rule of human interaction - i see it in corp america all the time- that's why i am so familar with what the democrats are doing and why it pisses me off. its a style of speech meant to CYA (cover your ass) and its not meant to produce leadership. leaders tend to talk in definite terms-t hey may capture the nuiance, but no one questions that there is some authority behind it. Even obama- I am looking at this guy- that I know is supposedly brilliant, and a lawyer, and he's talking like he's trying to convince people that he's not a child molestor or something. Like Bowers said- how hard is it to simply talk your faith w/o trying to divide dems in the process into good dems versus bad dems.

how hard is it to do the following:

"I believe in God, and I believe in my country. I use faith like most to drive me to do better, and I use my faith in country, in fredom and equality. I believe that there is a public good. Democrats believe in all these things too. Don't let anyone tell you different. We believe that all these things are possible. One can be a believer in a separation church and state and believe that your faith should be respected. That all these things should be respected."

and leave it at that.

versus

adding "some secularist (democrat) don't respect faith." why add that last line unless one a) is trying to create a wedge issue b) is not very articulate in one's use of language or c) buys into the meme that dems aren't okay with peo of faith? More deeply what drives all of this? I believe at base we are all emotional so this question to me is important. I think fear drives one to approach politics with the later expression while hope for the future drives one to use the former. Just my opinion.

by bruh21 2006-07-25 01:36PM | 0 recs
Re: Why People Don't Think Democrats Believe

No and that in a nutshell sums up the true problem with this generation to is before us. They were weaned to think of being liberal or progressive as something to be said in hushed whisper and thought of as being 'bad' or 'orthodoxy'  or the stereotypes that developed. They fundamentally dont understand someone like me- I am in my 30s, I am not some crazy hippie on the street. I went to law school, want to build a business, I maybe gay but I want to be able to have a family and kids without the state through the christo conservatives screwing with that, I want a country that is really secure beyond the mere fears of the rednecks now in control of the Republican party, and mostly I just want to not to have to worry about all this apocalyptic shit happening due to democratic appeasement of a crazyman in the white house. I am also someone who grew up during the Reagan revolution- and have watched as it has grown old and become an orthodoxy with its own stereotypical leaderships, views, and bullshit. Rather than realizing there is this generation out here whose motto is 'cut the bullshit' as my friend (a conservative democrat) puts it, they insistent on talking down to us like we aren't jaded enough to know they are bullshitting us. And, that's the real problem with their fear by the way- we can smell it. ANd you know if we can smell it the Republicans can.

by bruh21 2006-07-25 05:28PM | 0 recs
Re: Why People Don't Think Democrats Believe What

Yes, yes, yes, yes! No wonder people think Dems are wishy-washy. As Yoda said, "No say, DO!"

by jimp1947 2006-07-25 05:51PM | 0 recs
they have

They lack clear principles to give voice to.  Good intentions are not good principles.

And I know more than a few bloggers that tell them to keep it that way, that there is too much purist principle based thinking going on already, and that that's the problem.

All that's important is that D, so what if a person failed to live up to some principle standards on the right to choose or the environment?  They are a D... and that's good enough.

Btw, it's almost silly how you call this meta chris.

PS: btw, on actual meta: when I asked you at the yKos meta if community blogs serve as model communities, you said no, that would be terrible, someone would say something funny and be chased around and harrassed, that would be terrible.  I of course agree.  My position has been they should be models, because we need to invent progressive community.  But note: kos said at ykos and reiterated a couple times for Nightline, he is mayor of a city.  That's how he sees it.

Don't you have to be elected to be mayor?  What is the "mayor" of a non-democratic city?  That's actual meta.  And I think it's important, because I believe in second generation cognitive science.

PPS: yes, I know, someone didn't understand me. sue me.

by pyrrho 2006-07-25 10:15PM | 0 recs
btw, if not clear

I totally agree with your sentiment's Chris.

I also would like to see your version of the 50 state strategy, or at least, what I came to advocate and remember you pushing for, that is a red state strategy that is not just a red-state strategy.

But a blue state strategy where we try to get Democrats Of Principle generated in blue states.

by pyrrho 2006-07-25 10:19PM | 0 recs

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