Let Everybody Come versus The Club for Extinction

Throughout -- Throughout our history, when people have looked for new ways to solve their problems and to uphold the principles of this nation, many times they have turned to political parties. They have often turned to the Democratic Party. What is it? What is it about the Democratic Party that makes it the instrument the people use when they search for ways to shape their future? Well I believe the answer to that question lies in our concept of governing. Our concept of governing is derived from our view of people. It is a concept deeply rooted in a set of beliefs firmly etched in the national conscience of all of us.

Now what are these beliefs? First, we believe in equality for all and privileges for none. This is a belief -- This is a belief that each American, regardless of background, has equal standing in the public forum -- all of us. Because -- Because we believe this idea so firmly, we are an inclusive rather than an exclusive party. Let everybody come. -- Barbara Charline Jordan

In her keynote address to the Democratic National Convention in 1976, Barbara Jordan, I think, hit on what it means to be a member of the Democratic party. We are an inclusive party that believes in equality for all and privileges for none. Whether Senator Arlen Specter stands ready to embrace all the key tenets of the Democratic party remains to be seen, still this is a party of sometimes competing ideas and raucous squabbles but firmly premised on the singular belief that everyone has a seat at the table. I am not quite sure if I agree with our newest member of our party that there was a "Reagan Big Tent". If there was, it certainly didn't include me. And while I have scores galore with the Democratic party, I have always felt accepted by the party's leaders and its membership.

Even if I sometimes rather vociferously complain that the Democratic party has strayed from its working class roots, there is little doubt that the Republican party has for a generation been the party of intolerance if not hate and a party that aims to serve the narrow class interests of a privilege few. I am struck today by the response of Grover Norquist's Club for Growth that is increasingly becoming the vehicle of extinction that will drive the GOP over the cliff into complete and utter political irrelevancy.

Arlen Specter argued today in his defection announcement that the GOP has strayed too far to the right since the days of the "Reagan Big Tent." But if there was anyone who understood the importance of standing up for principle, it was Ronald Reagan who declared in 1976:

"A political party cannot be all things to all people. It cannot compromise its fundamental beliefs for political expediency, or simply to swell its numbers. It is not a social club or fraternity engaged in intramural contests to accumulate trophies on the mantel over the fireplace...No one can quarrel with the idea that a political party hopes it can attract a wide following, but does it do this by forsaking its basic beliefs? By blurring its own image so as to be indistinguishable from the opposition party?"

Some commentators suffer from "Battered Republican Syndrome" -- they cling to liberals like Specter hoping some day the betrayals will stop. Get over it. If the Republicans are going to prosper as a political party, they must offer a consistent conservative alternative.

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Would YOU step up to help a progressive challenger to Specter?

On the very day Arlen Specter became a Democrat, he lamented that not enough right-wing Bush judges got confirmed, he opposed workers' right to organize, and he compared himself to Joe Lieberman. The DSCC and Pennsylvania Democratic Party will be supporting Specter in the primary.

If there is a potential progressive challenger to Arlen Specter in Pennsylvania, they are probably scratching their head right now asking, "Would I have any chance at all if I ran, or is the fix in?"

What can progressives to do create an environment where this person feels they can run?

Legally, we can't put money in a pot for a fictional candidate. But we can pledge now that if a real progressive steps up, we'll get their back.  

So, here's a little experiment. I just created a Facebook fan page (like a Facebook group) called "I support a real progressive against Arlen Specter."

People who join are pledging to give at least $25 to a credible progressive challenger who steps up.  It'll either succeed or flop -- and that will solely be determined by whether the energy is there for people to join and pass it along to their friends. 

If enough folks join, media will probably pay attention -- but more important, a progressive challenger would be paying attention. If not many people join...same thing. The destiny of a "challenge Specter" movement is in your hands. And the window to make this idea credible is likely short.

So, what say you? Click here or on the image to the right if you want to join.

(Not on Facebook? You can sign up to support a progressive challenger here.)

Let's see what happens...

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Republicans, how low can they go?

(Cross-posted from Think it Through)

Most of the time the big story lies hidden under the topline data.  The latest Pew Poll is no exception. While the poll headlined the story that the public sees more partisan bickering now than it did in January, the most interesting finding to me was that just 21 percent of Americans now identify themselves with the Republican Party.  A year ago 26% of Americans self-identified as Republicans, and six years ago it was 30%.  In fact, you have to go back a whole generation to 1977 to find Republican identification as low as 21%.

This exodus from the Republican party has not turned people into Democrats, but rather it has increased the population of independents from 31% a year ago to 40% today in Pew's poll.

In order to bring these voters into the Democratic camp, President Obama needs to convince them that his agenda for change reflects their values. All of our experience over the last two years demonstrates that Barack Obama understands their values better than the Republicans and much better than the conservative, or "practical", Democrats. In last fall's election, Obama won many of these voters by appealing to the values of responsibility and fairness as a contrast to the decade long drumbeat of freedom, individualism, and superficial patriotism.  His more reasoned, careful and caring approach to the country's problems helped him win majorities among segments of the electorate that are uncommon for Democrats, including moderates, voters with college degrees, and people earning over $200,00 a year.  He has four years to turn these anti-Bush voters into Obama democrats.  There is evidence he is off to a good start.

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Down for the count: The real fight for 2012

The fight for 2012 is here. Beltway media insiders rejoice!

Who's it going to be? Spunky Sarah? Moneyed Mitt? Holy Huckabee? Some dark-horse candidate flying under the radar? One thing is for sure: While the media clamors for every tiny detail in the looming battle for the Republican presidential nomination, the real fight for 2012 is taking place right before their very eyes.

Conventional-wisdom channelers in Washington, wittingly or not, have already been put to use by conservatives so determined to win that few facts remain untwisted. The fight over the 2010 census, which will ultimately dictate how congressional districts are drawn in 2012 and potentially influence party control of Congress for years to come, has already started.

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Tell me more about the Accountability Now PAC

The Accountability Now PAC announced its arrival today:

"We need members of Congress to leave the bubble of Washington, D.C. and stand with their constituents," said Jane Hamsher, founder of Firedoglake.com and co-founder of Accountability Now. "We need members of Congress to ask the tough questions about continued Wall Street bailouts that reward the donor class, two wars without seeming end, the ceaseless assault on our civil liberties, and other issues that separate the citizenry from the DC cocoon."

"Accountability Now is an organization built around a single guiding principle: challenging the institutional power structures that make it so easy, so consequence-free for Congress to open up the government coffers for looting by corporate America while people across the country are losing their jobs and their basic constitutional rights while unable to afford basic health care," said Glenn Greenwald of Salon.com and co-founder of Accountability Now. "Accountability Now believes that members of Congress in both parties need to hear from their constituents, and that nothing focuses the mind of a politician on listening to citizens better than a primary."

"Accountability Now PAC will recruit, coordinate, and support primary challenges against vulnerable Congressional incumbents who have become more responsive to corporate America than to their constituents," said Accountability Now's new Executive Director, Jeff Hauser. "By empowering the grassroots, Accountability Now will help create the political space needed to enable President Obama to make good on the many progressive policies he campaigned on - such as getting out of Iraq, ensuring access to affordable health care for every man, woman and child, restoring our constitutional liberties and ending torture."

In 2007, grassroots activists banded together to oust Al Wynn out of office, and it shook House Democrats to their core. Similarly, we learned in 2006 how even a primary challenge that does not win could change behavior, as Jane Harman has been more accountable to the concerns of her constituents after a tough primary race against Marcy Winograd.

Out of these recent lessons, diverse and politically powerful groups have decided to support Accountability Now's efforts, such as MoveOn, the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), DailyKos, ColorOfChange.org, and Democracy for America, 21st Century Democrats and BlogPAC.

On principle, I agree with the goals of this PAC. Like some guy once said, "the system in Washington is rigged and our government is broken. It's rigged by greedy corporate powers to protect corporate profits. [...] We cannot replace a group of corporate Republicans with a group of corporate Democrats [...]"

However, I won't get excited about the Accountability Now PAC until I learn more about the criteria it will use to determine which Democratic incumbents are "bad enough" to be primaried, and which primary challengers are "good enough" to be endorsed.

To my knowledge, Democracy for America was the only organization in the Accountability Now PAC that helped Ed Fallon in last year's primary in Iowa's third district (a D+1 district represented by Blue Dog Leonard Boswell).

How would someone thinking about a primary challenge know whether he or she is likely to get full support, like Donna Edwards in MD-04, or almost nothing, like Fallon?

Speaking of Democracy for America, they have announced the 2009 schedule for their acclaimed two-day training academy. I've never attended one of these, but I have heard great things about the program. My fellow Iowa blogger noneed4thneed has signed up for this weekend's DFA academy in Des Moines.

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