• comment on a post Using technology to win elections... over 9 years ago

    This is a fantastic piece.  I think the following two points are among the most important:

    1. The use of email to inform voters.  They are already benefiting from the cadidate before he's won.

    2. The use of email to involve voters.  In every campaign, evey message should ask supporters to do something, no matter how small. Supporters should also be asked for suggestions on the campaign (in ways that don't hurt the feelings of those whose ideas are not chosen); this keeps them invested in the campaign.

    I recommend Joe Trippi's "The Revolution Will Not be Televised" for a great description of the use technology and the involvement of supporters in the Dean campaign, there is fuel for the imagination of every Democrat there.


    We have to make sure that we understand that the  democratic technology of the internet provides us with an extraodinary tool, but we must also understand that we can only win elections ifwe  use it in conjunction with traditional grass roots tools.  We still have to master precinct analysis, voter targeting, and basic election law.  I recommend "The Campaign Manager : Running and Winning Local Elections" -- by Catherine M. Shaw, Michael E. Holstein as a great primer on this.

  • I'm glad that "Impeachment" is in the mainstream now, but, as Mr. Boatwright points out, we would first have to take Congress.

    In addition, "Impeachment" is too narrow; it only applies to Bush. "Accountability", "Resposibility", or, if we want to get Biblical, "Reckoning" may be better words, because they can also apply to the yes-men in Congress.

    We need to find an umbrella for all of the following abuses:

    Tribal Gaming & Fundraising
    Implicates Tom DeLay, Cong. Bob Ney (House Administration Committe Chair, Cong. Doc Hastings (House Ethics Chair), Ralph Reed (Former Christian Coalition Leader and current canditate for Lt. Governor of Georgia) and Grover Norquist (anti-tax crusader and supporter of Gingrich Revolution)

    Profiting From Positon
    Cong. Randy Duke Cunningham, made $700,000 of a real estate deal with a military contrator who was simultaneouly lending him a yacht to live on (all while lobbying his committee)

    Abuse & Lack of Values
    Cong Sherwood, currently being sued for $5.5 million by his mistress for allegely attempting to choke and punch her.  The Congressman has not yet divorced his wife.


    you name it

    What is the best way to describe all of this, and what is the best way to describe our alternative?

    I think "Betrayal" is the key word here.  All of these amount to a betrayal of of American values of family and fairness,  trust, their oaths of office, and the rule of law.

    Most importanty, it is a pattern of betrayal of their own supporters, who believed they were electing honest populists. This is key, because one of our biggest mistakes has been to mock Bush supporters, which made them circle their wagons,  instead of pointing out how Bush and his allies have broken almost every promise they made, even to the people who voted for them.

    What do we offer? Suggestions:

     Effective and Accountable Government.
    Leaders who mean what they say.
    Real Protection from threats abroad, and at home,  including disease, industrial poison and corrupt government.
    An invitation to participation and prosperity.  

    (I got many of these ideas from George Lakoff's book, "Don't Think of an Elephant".  I keep mentioning him for three reasons: 1) he outlines these ideas much better than I do, 2)to give credit where credit is due, and 3) in hopes every one will by his book and check out the Rockridge Institute: www.rockridgeinstitute.org )

  • Our "decency" is not the issue. Our effectiveness is.

      "Fighting back" is not the goal. Winning is the goal.  And we will only win if we fight forward.

    "Fighting forward" means that we always show what we are for as well as what we are against.  It also means that we never respond to conservative areguments, we always reframe them.

    This is not because we're "afraid of sinking to their level", but because it is an effective strategy.

    First, we have to look  at the form our our communication. When we answer Republican  propaganda, slander and insult with the same, we legitimize the use of these tactics.  That's a mistake, because it reinforces the idea that both sides are lying through their teeth and fighting for no more than political gain.  If voters believe that, then they have no reasen to trade in the perceived devil they know for one they don't.

    Everything we do should be designed to get us more allies than opponents. We must be forceful, factual and decent, and we must publically focus our anger on what the Republicans are doing to America rather than what they say about us. If we provide a contrast of style that is just as important as our contrast in values.

    When confronted by lies, or insult, we should instanly remind our oppponents that the American people expect better and then immediately switch  to the facts and issues.

           Conpropagandist: "Of course, any proposal      
              from Soros is a joke, considering his
              gains from the drug trade."

           Progressive: "Don't insult the audience
              with  another lie; they know distraction  
              when they see one.  Now, this prosal is
              the right thing to do because.."

    By responding to this, we don't fall into the trap of debating a lie about Soros, but point out that  the real attack is on the American people.

    Second, we need to look at the content of our communication.  We must reframe to the real issue and, to paraphrase Carville, provide a narrative, not a litany.

    They argue for the "War on Terror".  We know that the facts don't back up what they assert and that the war is increasing terror.  But, the frame of a "war" against somthing horrible works very well, and frames often trump facts.  

    Reframe! Our goal isn't to fight a war, it's to achieve victory!  "Victory over Terror" is better than "War on Terror".  A victory means the threat is over; a takes away the need for an endless war and the associated loss of life, resources and liberties.  A focus on "Victory" make us look at all the tools at our disposal, including economic and diplomatic; after all, we achieved victory in the Cold War without every engaging the Soviets on the battlefield.

    We are up against a huge machine here, but taking it down will require us to always remember that we need to be convincing as well as right.

  • comment on a post Action Thread over 9 years ago

    The following is from ombwatch.org, "a nonprofit research and advocacy organization dedicated to promoting government accountability, citizen participation in public policy decisions, and the use of fiscal and regulatory policy to serve the public interest."

    They provide understandable reports on the doings of that most mysterious and incomprehensable agency, the Office of Management and Budget.

    This piece on the estate tax reflects a growing dissolutionment with the what the Democrats are calling "The Paris Hilton Tax Break".

    We need to reach the tipping point on this one.  I suggest we stop talking about taxes and start reframing the arguement in terms of dues and moral responsibility.


    On dues: Most Americans pay to play in the United States. We have the benefits of  opportunity, rule of law, a great business environment, a high standard of living and a fantastic infrastructure; all of these we paid for by generations of Americans and need to be maintained for a better future.  Why should those who enjoy the these benfits the most be allowed to use them for free?  The rest of us don't.

    On moral responsibility:  Cutting taxes during wartime is not only fiscally insane, it is morally repugnant.  Again, why whould those whose assets need the most protection foot the smallest part of the bill.  They aren't doing the fighting, the least they can do is help pay for the $1 billion per week the war costs and for the medical care our veterans have earned.

    For more on framing progressive issues, seecognitive scientis and politcal activist George Lakoff's book "Don't Think of an Elephant" and vist the Rockridge Institute.

    For more on the moral obligation of the rich during wartime, see  "God's Politics, Why the Right Gets it Wrong and the Left Doesn't get it", by Jim Wallis, Chapter 8,  "Not a Just War".  Also see the websit of his organization Sojourners. They are a large Evangelical Christian organization working for peace and justice, but you don't to be a Christian to learn from their moral arguemnts for more progressive politcs.

    OMB Watch: Rhetoric Heats Up On Estate Tax as Political Reality Pushes Compromise

    The Senate appears headed for another showdown on repeal of the estate tax, possibly before the August recess. With permanent repeal costing around $1 trillion over the first 10 years, there is discussion between Senate Republicans and Democrats on possible reform options. It is unclear whether these discussions on reform may turn into a back-door approach by pro-repeal groups to push through legislation that would amount to a virtual repeal of the estate tax.

    This spring, Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) asked the chair of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY), to begin investigating a possible compromise with Senate Republicans on the estate tax issue. Advocates of permanent repeal have needed 60 votes in the Senate to achieve their objective, but have fallen short of the mark. Even after Republicans picked up four Senate seats in the last election, it is unlikely that repeal advocates have enough votes.

    Nonetheless, pro-repeal groups, primarily business leaders and conservatives, have used the estate tax as a political wedge issue. For example, the National Beer Wholesalers Association has run print ads in support of repealing the tax. Many believe that similar ads were a factor in the loss by Minority Leader Tom Daschle in his re-election bid last November. Democrats, particularly senators up for re-election, remain nervous about the power of such ads.

    On the other side, Sen. Jon Kyl (R-AZ), who is a champion of permanent repeal, is leading the reform negotiations for the GOP. Realizing that full repeal is out of reach in the Senate for at least the next two years, Kyl and other Republicans are feeling pressure to compromise as well. Unlike their Democratic colleagues, however, it is not concerns over re-election, but rather over budget deficits, that is putting pressure on Republicans.

    It is clear both sides agree the phase-out of the estate tax passed in 2001 is poor tax policy and needs to be changed. But any change or compromise that would raise the exemption levels or lower the rate (or in fact any reform that would extend the changes implemented in 2001) would have a drastic impact on the federal budget. Full repeal of the estate tax would cost close to $1 trillion over the first 10 years of repeal when debt interest is included. With deficits already soaring and many other high priority issues needing to be addressed (such as the Alternative Minimum Tax, Social Security, and huge increases in health care and defense/war costs), each year Republicans wait to act on the estate tax makes it that much more difficult to pass a compromise that is closest to repeal.

    Strikingly, as time marches on, some who supported repeal of the estate tax are now questioning their position. For example, Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR), who has regularly voted to repeal the estate tax recently told the publication Tax Analysts, "The deficit picture is different today and the choices are pretty darn hard… There's three or four horses in this race, and I wouldn't bet against the AMT.” Wyden, and other Senators who have supported repeal in the past, such as Sen. George Voinovich (R-OH), are starting to realize they will have to make choices between some very expensive options.

    Yet despite these realities, thus far the negotiations have not yielded many tangible results. Kyl and other Senate Republicans, including Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-TN) appear to be growing increasingly frustrated with the lack of a compromise. Both Frist and Kyl have been issuing statements in the press with threats of a vote on full repeal in order to force Democrats into a bad compromise. Such maneuvering is leading many to question whether Kyl is genuine in his desire for a compromise on this issue.

    Negotiations are also being slowed by rumors of Kyl's unwillingness to move far from the proposal he introduced in a stand-alone bill earlier this year of a $10 million exemption ($20 million for couples) and a rate of 15 percent for the estate tax. This proposal, which would cost the federal government 90 percent as much in revenue as full repeal and is thus tantamount to full repeal, is largely unacceptable to Democrats.

    Even costlier still, Kyl has floated a slight modification by lowering the amount exempted from the tax to $8 million ($16 million), but tying the taxable rate to the capital gains rate, rather than setting it specifically at 15 percent. If this were to take place and Republicans succeed in their efforts to lower or zero out the capital gains tax, the estate tax would be repealed. It is highly likely that the President's Advisory Panel on Federal Tax Reform will include in its recommendations lowering the capital gains rate significantly from its current level of 15 percent, perhaps even to zero percent. Even more so than Kyl's original proposal contained in his bill, this proposal opens the backdoor to full estate tax repeal.

    As the negotiations move forward, it is essential for Democrats and moderate Republicans not to agree to a compromise at any cost. The importance of the estate tax, in terms of the progressivism it adds to the tax code, the incentive for charitable giving it provides, and the revenue it brings in for essential services and investments in communities compels a call for responsible reform. Bad reform could remove the estate tax as a hot-button election year issue, but it could lead to a back-door repeal of the estate tax.

  • comment on a post The Daily Pulse: A Red (White, and Blue) Herring over 9 years ago
    If you want to stop the flag-burning amendment in its tracks, get the Dems to insist that Cross-burning be banned as well.  I'd love to see the Southern Republican who refused to cosign the anti-lynching legislation sdquirm on that on that one.

    Also the public should wonder why Randy "Duke"     Cunnigham was chosen to sponsor the Amendment in the House.  Was it because of his history as a was hero, or to distract us from his much-pulicized  real estate scandal? An outline of said scandal, excerpted from the Guardian:

    SAN DIEGO (AP) - U.S. Rep. Randy ``Duke'' Cunningham has a reputation for both brashness and emotion...

    But he was nearly silent for almost two weeks after the story broke this month that he had sold his house for nearly $1.7 million to a campaign contributor and close friend - whose company was enjoying a rush of new business with the Pentagon.

    ...Although any prosecution would be difficult, the scandal has been front page news in Cunningham's wealthy northern San Diego County district and could threaten his 15-year congressional career...

    Cunningham, 63, conceded Thursday in a written statement that he showed ``poor judgment'' in selling his home to longtime friend Mitchell Wade in November 2003.

    Wade, the head of a small defense firm called MZM Inc., bought the home in the wealthy coastal community of Del Mar for $1.675 million. He then put the house back on the market and it sold for $975,000. His $700,000 loss amounted to a 60 percent drop in the home's value during a period when the average San Diego County home price increased 25 percent.

    Around the same time, little-known MZM started making lists of the nation's most successful defense contractors. Its revenues tripled last year, according to the company Web site, and Wade described the growth as ``exponential.''...

    ...At the same time, Wade and his firm were giving increasing amounts of campaign cash. According to PoliitcalMoneyLine.com, Wade and MZM gave at least $35,000 to Cunningham and his and his political action committees since 2000.

    Cunningham is a member of the House Appropriations Defense Subcommittee and the Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, both of which oversee the kind of classified intelligence work that Washington-based MZM does for the military. The congressman noted that he lacks authority to award contracts, though lawmakers can influence who gets them.

    Cunningham said he had mentioned he might sell his house at the same time MZM was expanding in the San Diego area. MZM intended to use the house as an office and corporate housing until it could find a more secure site, Cunningham said.

    Selling the Del Mar home helped Cunningham buy a $2.55 million seven-bath mansion in Rancho Santa Fe, which census data rank as the nation's wealthiest community of at least 1,000 households. Last week, a group of 25 protesters gathered at the end of his palm-lined driveway, shouting accusations that the congressman accepted bribes.

    After The San Diego Union-Tribune broke the story June 12, the normally voluble Republican hid behind vague denials of wrongdoing, insisting he was an exemplary citizen who ``never even smoked a marijuana cigarette.''

    ``I would never put the interests of a friend or contractor above the interests of my country,'' he said.

    On Thursday, Cunningham said there was also nothing improper about living while in Washington on Wade's yacht, the ``Duke-Stir,'' an apparent reference to Cunningham's nickname. Cunningham said that instead of rent, he has paid at least $13,000 to cover dock fees and other expenses at the Capital Yacht Club since April 2004.

    Cunningham was one of the Vietnam War's most decorated pilots, shooting down five enemy planes. He retired as a Navy commander in 1987 and was elected to Congress three years later.

    Federal authorities would have a tough time pursuing a case, according to legal experts. Under a 1999 U.S. Supreme Court ruling, to prove bribery prosecutors would have to show a clear and direct link between the home sale and anything Cunningham did in return. The mere appearance of impropriety isn't sufficient...

    If he seeks a ninth term in 2006, however, Cunningham may be in for a fight.

    ``I would advise him to resign,'' said Cynthia Vicknair, a San Diego political consultant who works with Republicans. ``What the Republicans don't need is a primary in which they have a damaged candidate. Damaged is what he is right now.''

  • comment on a post How Do White Christians Feel About George W. Bush? over 9 years ago
    I think you are among a growing number of people who are recognizing the significatance of people of faith in the political process.  I have a question and a suggestion.

    What is the source of your original survey?  I've looked and I can't find it.

    Instead of looking for wedge issues, look for bridge issues.  Take a look at "God's Politics,  Why the Right Gets It Wrong and the Left Doesn't Get It" by Jim Wallis.

    The book is written from a progressive Christian perspective, but the book's arguemnts can be used in any debate over moral values.

    Wallis, an influential evangelical and remarkable   activist, calls on Christians to judge all candidates, Republican and Democrat, by how they will actually act on the full range of Christian concerns, includeing poverty, war, civil rights and social justice.   He argues that effectively that every great progressive movemnt in the United States, from the abolition of slavery, to voting rights for women, to the end of child labor laws, to th4e Civil Rights movement included, and was    often , led, by religious leaders, and that progressive politics is in the best tratdition not of of American citizenship but also Christian citizenship.

    My favorite quote so far (Wallis is at a meeting with a Republican Strategist right after the 2002 midterm elections):

    "This very smart political operativesaid that Republicanswon middle-class and even working-class people on the 'social' issues, those moral and cultural issues that Democrats don't seem to understand or appreciate.  he even suggested that passion on the social issues can cause people to vote against their economic self-interest.  Sinch the rich are already with us, he said, we win elections.

    I raised my hand and asked the following question:'What would you do if you faced a candidate who took a traditional moral stance on the social and cultural issues?  They would not be mean-spirited and, for example, blame gay people for the breakdown of the family, nor would they criminalize the choices of desparate women backed into difficult and dangerous corners.  But the candidate would be decidedly pro-family, pro-life (meaning really want to lower the abortion rate), strong on personal responsibility and moral values, and outspoken against the moral pollution throughout popular culture that makes raising children in America a counter-cultural activety.  And what if the candidate was also an economic populist, pro-poor in social policy, tough on corporate corruption and power, clear in supporting middle- and working-class families in health care and education, an environmentalist, and committed to a foriegn policy that emphasized international law and multilateral cooperation over preemptive and unilateral war?  Waht would you do?' I asked.  He paused for a long time and then said, 'We would panic!'"

    It's a great book for anyone concerned about how the definition of values has been warped by the Republicans

    From Wallis' biography:

    "Jim Wallis, an evangelical, is the leading figure at the crossroads of religion and politics in America today. He is a public theologian, nationally renowned preacher, faith-based activist and author of seven books. He is the founder of Sojourners, a nationwide network of progressive Christians working for justice and peace, and continues to serve as the editor of Sojourners magazine, covering faith, politics, and culture. He is also the Convener of Call to Renewal, a national federation of churches and faith-based organizations working together to overcome poverty by changing the direction of public policy..."

  • comment on a post What Conservatives Prepared For over 9 years ago
    I think this list is one of the best, to the point assesment of the failures of this administration I have seen.  I would only change one thing: the frame of the debate.

    As it is, the list responds to the Rove frame of "conservative strength vs. liberal weakness".  While the FACTS show the errors of the conservatives, the FRAME reinforces the beliefs of  both conservatives and liberals about each other.    

    We can't stay trapped in their frames.  It's not enough to be right, we also have to be convincing.

    I suggest we use these facts but reframe it as a COMPETENCE and HONESTY issue by changing the word "Conservative" at the beginning of each point to the phrase "This incompetent Adminstration".

    Further, I suggest including things that we are for at the end of each bullet point.  The model would be:

    "This Incompetent Administration" (insert stupidity here).  An honest and effective administration would (insert better policy here.

  • on a comment on Developing Progressive Media over 9 years ago
    We do need an organized message, but we won't be able to, and shouldn't even try, to form one the way the Republicans have.

    In "The Republican Noise Machine", David Brock details the history and scope of Republican propaganda.  It is a huge top-down message machine, maintained by billions of dollare and strict discipline.  Those who stray from the party line are punished with primary challengers, loss of chaimanships, and more.

    The progressive media is a frass-roots up phenomenon and will not respond well to strict controls.  However, party leaders can take their cue from activists and repond by working their issues into a coherent values-based nararative (See Gerge Lakoff's book "Don't Think of an Elephant" or vist the Rockride Institute on line for great advise on how to do this.

    The following can be done from the top:

    1.  Providing resourses for fact-checking in the form of databases of conservative contradictions, progressive successes, supporting economic data.

    2.  Providing technical assistance for the establishment of more alternative media.

    3.  Providing training on how to deal with the mainstrea media in the form of guides on press releases, letters to the editor, successful news event.

    4.  Provising guidance on what the mainstream media will cover, particularly focusing on the fact that for-profit media will cover whatever makes them money!  This often trumps the ideological opinion of the owners of the media, as evidenced by Rupert Murdock's willingness to give up broadcasting news on  Tianmnen Square when the Chinese governemtn threatened to stop him from doing business in China.

    5.  Detail the successes of other political medial campaigns.  Newt Gingrich was very successful ion generating media "resonance" by visiting small paper acreoos the country, getting coverage, and that shameing the national media into covering
    him.  He also stressed that "the media loves a fight."  (See "The Ambition and the Power" by John M. Barry.
  • comment on a post What To Expect In Bush's Speech over 9 years ago
    I know that I've mentioned George Lakoff once before, but the mention of Frank Luntz is always enough for me to promote him and his work.

    Lakoff is a cognitive scientist and political activist. I highly recommend Lakoff's book "Don't think of an Elephant" to any progressives who are looking for ways to counter the effective GOP use of language.

    In "Don't Think of an Elephant" (about $10) Lakoff distills  his scholarly work into  strategy and tactics on values, message and policy.  One importatnt peice of advice is: Don't respond, reframe.


    Republicans frame tax policy as "tax relief" .  Relief implies rescue from something bad.  Interfering with relief is only done by bad guys.   If Democrats respond with a different version of "tax relief", they are stuck in the Republican frame that makes all taxes bad.

    On the other hand, taxes can be framed as "Dues".  You don't get to stay in the club, in this case, the country with the best infrastructure, highest standard of living, and best opportunity for all, unless you pay your dues, just as 200 years of Americans have done.  Those Americans paid there dues to help build the club, are we so unpatriotic that we'll skimp on maintainance?

    One of our challenges is to change the frames of the Iraq debate, particularly the frames that equate conservatism with patriotism.

    A modest proposal (improvement welcome):

    When confronted with "The Terrorists win because Liberals are soft", Reframe as "We need effective policy abroad and honest decision making at home to win."  I like to think this frame turns turns the focus from "Are liberals/conservatives more effective" to "Are these policies actually working?"

    Check out Lakoff's progressive Rockridge Institute: http://www.rockridgeinstitute.org/

  • comment on a post Backing Up the Candidate Sites (action) over 9 years ago
    I would suggest the following additions to the already-excellent list: 1. Always give volunteers something SPECIFIC to do and clear insructions on how to do it. Many people stay out of campaigns because they are unaware of the simple tasks that make a difference. 2. In every campaign communication, ask for some kind of reply. This gives people a personal investment in the campaign and helps build the database of supporters. 3. Don't ignore proven "traditional" campaign methods, particularly precinct analysis and voter targeting. "The Campaign Manager" by Catherine Shaw, three-term mayor of Ashland, Oregon, is a great guidebook on this and every other aspect of traditional campaigning. About $30, it is worth every penny and more.
  • comment on a post Things I Hate About The Progressive Blogosphere over 9 years ago

    In his book "Don't Think of an Elephant: Know Your Values and Frame the Debate--The Essential Guide for Progressives", George Lakoff of the Rockridge Institute addresses the problem of

     "regular pronouncements about "The" progressive issue. Whether it is reproductive rights, environmentalism, election reform, labor rights, or foreign policy..."

    He uses cognitive science and linguisticstics to tie progressive values together metaphorically, ideologically and strategically.  Basically, he answers Carville's complaint that the Democrats have a "litany instead of a narrative."  Howard Dean and Kos are big fans.

    Check out www.rockridgeinstitute.org


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