We Can Do Better

Here's ostensibly uber-media-savvy Chuck Schumer making the case that the problem with Republicans in Congress is that they don't do anything:

"When they (Republicans) get up and read their litany, it's things that only a few narrow special interests care about, like a bankruptcy bill or class-action reform," said Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., the chairman of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee. "Anything major that affects average Americans and makes their lives better, they haven't been able to get done, and I think people know that."

Granted, people like for Congress to do things.  So when your opponents run the Congress, it makes sense to accuse them of not doing things.  But with this Congress especially, which has done all kinds of no good very bad things, it's worth actually pointing out how bad those things are.

Schumer is doing exactly the opposite.  He's taking two awful pieces of legislation passed by our right-wing Congress at the bidding of right-wing special interests and at the expense of everybody else and he's suggesting that no one other than those special interests are affected.  Conservatives have passed bills to make it harder for working Americans to lift themselves out of bankruptcy or to get just compensation for grievous corporate abuses, and Chuck Schumer doesn't find it worthwhile to make the case to the American people that these laws are bad - rather than distracting - for all of us.

This is the same kind of silly rhetoric we hear all the time from national spokespeople for the Democratic party about how gay rights and women's rights aren't the kinds of issues that actually affect people.  It's not an approach that seems to have sold too many people on the principled vision of the Democratic Party as of yet.

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McCain: Invincible? Not so much.

Chris Cillizza in the WP's political blog "The Fix" talks today about reasons Obama could run in 2008 (though he thinks that he won't). So today on Boldly Blue, we're going to talk about the 2008 presidential forecast, but in a bold new way. As is traditional for our bold website.

For all the pundits out here, I'll throw out a mild shocker: we shouldn't be looking for a good candidate--we need to find a good message.

That part's fairly obvious, especially considering it's what pundits have been saying for years. The shocker part comes from a suggestion I have: values aren't just a good defense (as in, clearly defining and pushing the Democratic values message), but they're a good offense as well.

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Hank Sheinkopf Writes a Great Article in the NY Observer!

Hank Sheinkopf wrote this op/ed piece in the NY Observer that's quite fascinating....

I've had the pleasure of knowing Mr. Sheinkopf and he's a smart guy, who has both the political smarts and a sensibility about culture and popular culture that's different than most political consultants. He's the kind of guy you want on your side in a tough campaign.

This article has some new light on the way things are going in the South, and the rest of the nation, and he makes points you don't find elsewhere. It's worth reading, because it has some info and insight you won't find anywhere else! Check it out!

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Defining Us and Defining Them

Important stuff - Matt

Have you ever wondered why Democratic politicians will frequently criticize their opponents by arguing that something like the budget deficit or President Bush's attempts to consolidate power violates conservative principles, and that true conservatives would object to what Republicans are doing, yet no Republican ever argues that Democrats are not being liberal enough? The answer tells us something essential that conservatives have done well and liberals have failed to do at all: define their opponents.

As progressives struggle to articulate their identity, too many are forgetting that in politics, definition has two parts. In my new book, Being Right Is Not Enough: What Progressives Must Learn From Conservative Success, I argue that conservatives understand that in order to attract people to your ideology, you have to make them turn away from the other side. So the Four Pillars of Conservatism each imply their opposite: conservatives believe in small government, liberals believe in big government; conservatives believe in low taxes, liberals believe in high taxes; conservatives believe in a strong defense, liberals believe in a weak defense; conservatives believe in traditional values, liberals believe in moral relativism. (My progressive alternative to the Four Pillars can be read here.)

Pick up the latest book from Regnery or listen to Limbaugh or Hannity, and you'll find an extended discourse on the evils of liberalism. Yet we on the left spend almost no time talking broadly about why conservatism is harmful and conservatives are not just wrong today on a particular issue, but inherently wrong in their entire worldview. If we begin doing that consistently, Democrats will realize that saying your opponents aren't being conservative enough may win you a momentary debating point, but it loses the argument in the long run. In Being Right Is Not Enough I lay out many things conservatives have done right in recent decades, and what lessons progressives can learn. One of the most important is this: your enemy is not a particular social problem, a particular war, or even a particular president. It is a competing ideological system that must be fought from its roots to the tips of its tallest branch.

Answer to Dems' Message Woes: More Socialism

Excellent article in a mainstream Democratic rag, one which broaches the rarely discussed topic of the relevance of Socialism in America today by Ron Aronson in last week's Nation.

http://www.thenation.com/doc/20060417/ar onson

Aronson opines:

"The reigning economic system will continue to generate opposition as long as it speaks of equality (which it must) yet continues to be unequal and undemocratic (which it must); as long as it incites dreams of a better life (which it must) but deforms social, cultural and political life according to its bottom line (which it must); as long as its rampant abuse of the environment and pillage of natural resources continue (also inevitable)."

I would argue this is the fundamental disagreement on social and economic policy between lefties and the Democratic party, whose Clintonesque motto "a rising tide lifts all boats" simply does not square with economic and social history. The party establishment continue to parrot self-congratulatory neo-liberal platitudes along the lines of a Thomas Friedman, giving short shrift to cornerstone values of social equality, human progress and economic and environmental justice lefties hold dear. This is why many of us are suspicious of Democrats - same economic prescriptions as the GOP, like the GOP, rendering whole classes of society terminally ill, just offering slightly better palliative care than the more regressive GOP.

The party will never win hearts and minds without making these ideals the centerpiece of its agenda once more.

Aronson wraps things up:

"There can be no future social movements without key socialist themes: the importance of economic class, the centrality of labor and workers in shaping the world, the idea that people must act to create their own destiny. Not to mention themes already suggested: the decisive role of the economy in determining the rest of our life, the fact that today it is above all driven by the pursuit of profit, the insistence on freeing people from its domination and the need to think and act politically in terms of the socioeconomic system rather than in terms of individual policies. Whatever language people use, socialist ideas, experience, models, aspirations and analyses will help form the heart and soul of the alternative-in-the-making, or there will be no alternative."

This is indeed the political paradigm whereby virtually all of the West extended civil rights, political equality, economic equity and mutualisation. Progessive movements are essentially socialist movements, have been from the start. To claim you are a progressive but at the same time claim allergies to the word socialism is to exhibit bad faith or cravenness at a fundamental level. For you may not be electorally astute at the present time (though apparently someone forgot to tell Bernie Sanders this). But you will never win the strategic war of ideas with the forces of regression running the nation today without going back to the roots, restating them anew for our times, and making them the core of the message.

Why not? Because socialism is the heart and soul of the left, and the left is the heart and soul of the Democratic party. Without 'em, the Dems are rudderless and value-less. Today's party may be able to generate K-street cash, but they can't generate new constituencies without strong values.

I note also Perry Anderson is also getting print in the Nation. It is heartening to see this. Perhaps there is some glimmer of hope out there after all.

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