by Big Tent Democrat, Sun Aug 12, 2007 at 07:19:03 AM EDT
Crossposted from TalkLeft.
I just finished watching the Meet the Press debate between Daily Kos' Markos Moulitsas and DLC Chairman Harold Ford, Jr. and they both acquitted themselves admirably.
The theme of the program was much more unites the DLC and the Netroots than separates them. I think that is true. So what are the differences? Kos laid them out eloquently - it is a question of not being afraid to tout Democratic values. Kos argues for contrast with Republicans. The DLC has in the past argued for blurring distinctions. Today, Ford appeared to be abandoning his objection to contrast with Republicans.
But, while both performed well, I thought Kos was outstanding. Obviously I think he has the better case to make. I was especially impressed by his explanation that he understands that not all Democrats in the country can, or even should, adopt liberal orthodoxy on all issues. I have known this about him of course (like him, I have railed against single issue groups that support GOP incumbents over better Democrats on their issues, see NARAL and Linc Chafee), but his explanation on MTP was an excellent one. It is a much misunderstood insight. I have writtenabout it in the past:
Let's recall H&T's 5 postulates:(1) The starting point for all political organizing and campaigns should be: "What are my core beliefs and principles and how do I best explain them to supporters and skeptics alike?"
(2) Every political battle, both proactive and defensive, should represent a basic statement of progressive character and present a clear, concise contrast with conservatives. Do not blur lines.
(3) All issue campaigns and agenda items are not equal. Progressives should focus their efforts on issues that can simultaneously strengthen the base and appeal to centrist voters. Progressives must be willing to make sacrifices and tradeoffs -- in terms of coalition building and budgetary concerns -- to achieve their most important agenda items.
(4) Escalate battles that expose the extremism of the right or splinter their coalition. [Follow-up: When confronted with the right's social, cultural, or national security agenda, the absolute worst response is to fail to combat these caricatures or to explain one's position directly to voters, regardless of the popularity of the position.]
(5) Every political action should highlight three essential progressive attributes: a clear stand on the side of those who lack power, wealth or influence; a deep commitment to the common good; and a strong belief in fairness and opportunity for all.
As general themes and principles, these postulates can be applied in every region of the nation. But they will not lead to uniform specific issue positions for Democrats everywhere. The political gravity or, "political space time curvature" in Nebraska or Mississippi is different from that in say, Rhode Island. But the progressive or Democratic position in each of these locations can clearly be discerned and is the position for Democrats to follow in each of them.
So how do we determine what the political gravity is in the locales and how do we determine the "progressive position?" How do we determine how far progressives can push? What is the velocity of progressivism and where does it stand across the Nation?
Uncertainty:. . . [T]he Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle named after Werner Heisenberg who first formulated it in 1927. The name was chosen for the simple reason that the more an observers knows about the location of a particle, the more uncertain they can be of the velocity and vice-versa.
. . . The Uncertainty Principle was at first disheartening to physicists. It knocked the idea of an elegant Newtonian Universe unfolding with clockwork precision for a loop. Upon first hearing of Uncertainty, physicists figured if they could never know for sure the position and speed of a particle, they could never predict what it will do or how it will react with other particles. In fact, if a particle has no location in time or the location is highly uncertain, cause and effect themselves can become meaningless.
Einstein himself criticized Uncertainty saying "God does not play dice with the universe!"
Well, politics is, I posit, not something God is averse to playing dice with. And I think we have to live with that uncertainty. However, we can, like Bill James, make observations and analysis based on the information at hand.
It is important that Democrats, Single Issue Groups, citizens, all make these judgments. And argue their points of view. How far can we push Dems in Pennsylvania, Nebraska, Mississippi, etc? We have a wonderful POSITIVE mechanism for making these determinations - primaries.
Time, Effect and the Now
Single Issue Groups have a special problem - a belief in a static political universe. T&H and Moulitsas and Armstrong have laid the case out beautifully. The Single Issue Groups' event horizons are today and, at most tomorrow. They do not weigh the long or even medium term effects of their actions. Many have defended NARAL, Sierra Club and others for their endorsement of Chafee based on one or two actions by Chafee yesterday or today and have not considered what keeping Chafee means for tomorrow. They must broaden their view or become irrelevant.
I think Kos' discussion this morning reflected an understanding of these realities. It was a boffo performance.