Why is this So Hard? A Liberal Public Philosophy

Here we go again. According to Matt Bai, "The Framing Wars" and Kenneth Baer, "A Stick in the Bai" we Democrats can't figure out a clear, pithy statement of our ideals:

[T]he problem with Democrats [is that] [w]e lack an overriding argument or a clear public philosophy.

So let's make one.

First, since we have no idea what we're doing, let's start with a public philosophy that everyone agrees is a great one: the Conservative Republican public philosophy (this is Lakoff's version):

  • Strong defense
  • Free markets
  • Lower taxes
  • Smaller government
  • Family values

Why is this so great? According to Bai,

The Republican version is an argument, a series of philosophical assertions that require voters to make concrete choices about the direction of the country. Should we spend more or less on the military? Should government regulate industry or leave it unfettered?

Typically Democratic attempts at formulating a public philosophy look something like this (again this is from Lakoff):

  • Stronger America
  • Broad prosperity
  • Better future
  • Effective government
  • Mutual responsibility

Why is this so bad? Bai again:

Lakoff's formulation, on the other hand, amounts to a vague collection of the least objectionable ideas in American life. Who out there wants to make the case against prosperity and a better future? Who doesn't want an effective government?

Now, I think Bai is a bit harsh here in looking at the conservative list as forming such a strong philosophical argument (who isn't for "family values"?), and Lakoff's progressive list as simply mush ("broad prosperity" is a potentially strong rejoinder to conservative "trickle-down economics" represented by "low taxes,""smaller government," and "free markets"). Plus, there is the 30-year campaign by the right-wing noise machine to load up these terms with all sorts of meaning. But, let's concede that Bai has a point.

So, what do we need in a public philosophy?

  1. It should be a clear, concise statement of progressive values;

  2. It should cover the main areas of the economy, social policy, foreign policy, and the nature of politics and government.

  3. It should be hard for conservatives to agree with, but easy for progressives and moderates to agree with.

The Economy

Conservatives believe in "trickle-down economics." Give the rich more so they can create prosperity for the rest of us. Do this by freeing markets, cutting taxes, and shrinking government.

Progressives want a prosperous economy too (and we're better at delivering it than they are), but not at the cost of social justice. We can achieve both growth AND equity,  but not by cutting taxes and shrinking government, and not through the market alone. We're not against markets, but we realize that growth with equity requires a mix of markets, government regulation, public investment, and service provision, and social regulation through the institutions of civil society. The archetype is the post-WWII boom period, in which rapid growth and reduced poverty and inequality were achieved through a combination of markets (a generally free enterprise economy with reductions in international trade barriers), state (government regulation of financial, labor, and some industrial markets; public investments in education and R&D; the welfare state - Social Security and Medicare), and civil society (a strong labor movement to countervail corporate power). This is what used to be called the "mixed economy" (although I find it hard to see people manning the barricades for the "mixed economy").

So, our economic plank should be something like "economic prosperity with social justice," or more simply "prosperity with justice." Some people might prefer "economic security." At any rate, "prosperity with justice" is clear, concise, and should be pitched as the antithesis of conservative "trickle-down economics."

Any modern economic policy of course has to take into account the ecological limits to human activity. Smart growth, combatting global warming, finding alternative sustainable energy sources, clean air and water, protecting wildlife and habitat, conserving natural resources are all on our policy agenda. So "environmental sustainability" or "stewardship" must be on the list, too, fundamentally opposed to the Republican "free market, small government" vision of squeezing every last dime of revenue out of our natural resources without regard to the long-run cost.

Social Policy

It's a no-brainer that something like "racial and gender equality" has to be on our list. For historical reasons, because ameliorating the economic and social inequalities suffered by women and minority groups is fundamental to any kind of liberalism or progressivism. Although Democrats haven't always stepped up to the plate on these issues as fully as one might wish, there's no way that Republicans, given their history, have much credibility on these issues.

National Security

The Republicans are for "strong defense." More military spending will solve all of our international problems and ensure that America is respected in the world. We know this is bunk. True national security requires not just military power, but also economic resources and diplomacy. It requires that we be able to lead by example, act with allies, and work through international institutions. Further, we are committed to far more than military supremacy. We also want to spread respect for human rights, democratic self-government, and economic development with global poverty reduction. It's hard to sum all of this up in a couple of words, but traditionally this kind of foreign policy has been called "liberal internationalism." Maybe "progressive internationalism" would be better. Whatever the terms, it must be sold as clearly in opposition to neoconservative militarism, unilateralism, and international bullying.

Politics and Government

The current conservative Republican era is one of the most corrupt in American history. So liberals must stand for reform, for cleaning up the mess conservatives have made of campaign finance, voting and elections, and governing. For transparency and openness in place of conservative secrecy.

If we are to be the party of active government, we also have to be the party of reinventing governement to make it more, yes, effective, as the liberal historian Alan Brinkley has argued:

But to make th[e] case [for active government] effectively, liberals must also argue with equal force for a reexamination of the way government performs its tasks. They cannot reflexively defend existing agencies and procedures just because conservatives are attacking them or just because the agencies' ostensible purposes are desirable. They must be able to demonstrate that institutions of government are capable of performing their functions effectively and, equally important, that they are capable of continually "reinventing" themselves in response to the changing world around them.

So something along the lines of "open and efficient" (flexible? capable?) government to stand in stark opposition to the Republicans' "smaller", and in reality, fundamentally corrupt and ineffective, government.

So, that leaves us with:

  • Prosperity with Justice
  • Environmental Stewardship
  • Racial and Gender Equality
  • Liberal Internationalism
  • Open and Capable Government

Now, was that so hard? Only 15 words! Is this a series of philosophical assertions? Does it require voters to make concrete choices about the direction of the country? Or just more mush that even conservatives could support?

Feel free to tell me what I forgot ("freedom of conscience" or something like that?), make suggestions, or just generally rip me to shreds in the comments.

Tags: (all tags)



Very Necessary--Recommended!
This kind of discussion is very necessary and very important. So that's more important than anything else right now.

That said, I'm not sure if I agree with any of your phrases. But that's not a bad thing. A public philosophy gets articulated out of a public process, not just out of one person's head. What sounds good to one person may sound clunky or fatuous to another. The GOP terms were honed through countless campaigns, so it's only natural that they have a certain "obviousness" to them that will be impossible to match with any list that any one person comes up with.  But if we don't start seriously working on this now, we're never going to come up with that list.

So, I'm going to cogitate a bit today, and post something more in the way of a response later on.

by Paul Rosenberg 2005-07-21 05:28AM | 0 recs
Re: Very Necessary--Recommended!
You mean you don't see people storming the Bastille for "environmental stewardship"?
by tgeraghty 2005-07-21 07:47PM | 0 recs
Okay, I Lied
Today is not going to end until quite late. Further substantive thoughts will have to wait.

But I can point out that there's another reason the conservative phrses fit together so well, and that it will be harder for us--they are expressing a primative mythic worldview, and we are trying to capture a sophisticated, factual, yet idealistic outlook that has room for multiple worldviews.

It's inherently much harder.

What I mean by this in part derives from the work of Robert Kegan, who identifies traditional conservative society with the third stage of cognitive development in which the self is defined by the social roles in which it is embedded.  

Liberalism is a very good fit for the fourth stage, in which one is responsible for creating, modifying and sustaining such roles--which is where personal autonomy comes in as a core liberal value (this is what underlies both the "traditional" liberal rights, like those found in the First Amendment, as well as the "privacy" rights found in the penumbra).  But we're also heavily into dealing with the fifth stage as well...

Like I said, it's inherently much harder.

by Paul Rosenberg 2005-07-21 10:12AM | 0 recs
moral power
Any statement about liberal foreign policy ought to build off of the idea of America's moral power or moral authority.  It's an idea Americans love, that Rs think is foolish or worse, and that can be used as a compelling reason that our country should do the right things and not do the wrong ones.  Abu Ghraib is bad partly because it drained our moral authority; standing by in Darfur drains our moral authority; Guantanamo drains our moral authority; failing to secure Iraqi streets and protect Iraqi civilians drains our moral authority.  Not only will Americans love the idea, it has the virtue of being a reasonably accurate way of conceiving of foreign policy and public diplomacy.  And it's a strategy particularly well suited for fighting terrorism, when we need to be draining the swamp rather than killing the flies.    You drain the swamp by combining economic power, diplomatic power, media power, and moral power to change conditions in the Arab world.  You certainly use military power where appropriate, but you can't use your military so recklessly that you piss away your moral authority.
by texas dem 2005-07-21 10:17AM | 0 recs
PNAC turned on it's Ass
July 20th, 2005
American foreign, domestic and defense policy is all caught in a Catch 22 with willing and able soldiers and citizens being led by inept leaders. Liberals have rightly criticized the incoherent policies of the Bush Administration from day one. They have also resisted centrist impulses from within their own ranks. But liberals have not confidently advanced a humane vision of America and the role it is to play with our global neighbors. They have not yet done the work possible to direct America away from it's miliatristic foriegn policy. They have allowed differences over ideals to obscure potential agreement on humane objectives. And they have not fought for a domestic budget that would provide the American Dream to all who become citizens in the new century.
We aim to change this. We aim to make the case and rally support for American global humane leadership.
As the 20th century draws to a close, the United States was lucky to end the cold war before it sank our nation into even more debt. After years of wasting taxpayer money on the Spy Vs Spy mentality of the GOP America faces an opportunity and a challenge: Does the United States have the vision to build upon the achievements of its citizens? Does the United States have the desire to fight for the American Worker, Family, Student, Teacher, Soldier and Fireman?
We are in danger of squandering the last good will allotted to us globally. We are living off the the poor from China, Haiti and South America. Cuts in domestic spending and implications of treason at the WhiteHouse and unbalanced leadership are making it increasingly difficult to maintain solid relationships around the world.. And the promise of short-term commercial benefits for Halliburton threatens to override strategic considerations. As a consequence, we are jeopardizing the nation's ability to meet present threats and to deal with potentially greater challenges that lie ahead.
We seem to have forgotten the essential elements of the Clinton Administration's success: a nation that is open to working on new global projects that benefit humanity is a nation that prospers.
Of course, the United States must be prudent in how it exercises its power. But we cannot safely avoid the responsibilities of global leadership or the costs that are associated with its exercise. America has played questionable roles in its dealings with Europe, Asia, and the Middle East. If we shirk our responsibilities, we invite challenges to our fundamental interests. The history of the 20th century should have taught us that violence begets violence and true leaders do not need guns. The history of this century should have taught us to embrace the future of a global community.
Our aim is to remind Americans of these lessons and to draw their consequences for today. Here are four consequences:
* we need to increase domestic spending significantly if we are to carry out our
responsibilities to our citizens and modernize our transportation systems;
  • we need to strengthen our ties with all willing nations to prmote harmony and productivity;
  • we need to promote the cause of political freedom abroad;
  • we need to accept responsibility for America's unique role in preserving and extending the lives of our citizens.
Such a liberal policy of true strength and moral clarity may not be visable in today's whitehouse. But it is necessary if the United States is to build on the successes of this past century and to ensure our security and culture in the next.

crosspost from
http://politicalswitchboard.invisionzone.com/admin.php?printframes=1&adsess=c52a3f43cfaacc866dda b746e6f6d3f5&old_adsess=

by goplies 2005-07-21 12:17PM | 0 recs
Re: PNAC turned on it's Ass
wrong link try this one


by goplies 2005-07-21 12:22PM | 0 recs
How about a direct contrast?
Why not use their construct with reframing to strike a clear contrast between their ideas and ours?


Strong defense

Free markets

Lower taxes

Smaller government

Family values


Smart Defense (could we have a better time to run on the argument that stupid defense [i.e., stupid leadership and management] is not so good for  national and international security?)

Honest Markets (free markets create corruption and imbalances -- honest markets create strong economies and protect worker's rights)

Limited Government (the contrast here is made with the point that even a conservative "small government" that is willing to intervene in the most private and personal human decisions [see Terri Schiavo] is still bad government)

Fair Taxes (lowering takes in ways that create disproportionate benefits for the wealthy is not fair)

American Values (honest vs dishonest, justice vs injustice, freedom vs intolerance, democracy vs theocracy, rationalism [public education] vs dogma, environmental stewardship vs greed, etc.)

Note that these frames provide nice gateways for running on a "reform democrat" platform that makes good sense to me.

by dicta 2005-07-21 02:50PM | 0 recs
Re: How about a direct contrast?
That is awesome.  "Limited government" needs work, cause we ought to say positively what we think government is good for, other than being limited.  But the others are great.  

I'd been thinking civic or community values, but American values will do.  Community sounds communist; civic might be a little too latin.

by texas dem 2005-07-21 07:43PM | 0 recs
Limited Government
Is actually very good, but it will take time to pay off.

You see, "limited government" is what liberalism is all about. Historically, the term is the opposite of "absolute government." That's what the term means--a government that can't do whatever it wants, but that is structured--as well as legitimated--so that it can only do certain sorts of things, and not others.

Absolute government was legitimated from above by religion--the whole "divine right of kings" trip, for example If God gave you the right to rule, then obviously, you could do whatever you want. That's the Bush philosophy in a nutsell.  But limited government was legitimated from below by consent of the governed--social contract theory.  And that's the historical model that liberals came up with to counter the top-down legitimation of absolute government.

So, "limited government" is very much something that we want to get out there in its true and original meaning. It's why Democrats believe in separation of powers, for example, while rightwing Republicans believe in using whatver branch(es) they control to steal power for themselves.  It's why Democrats actually do believe in states rights--such as Michael Dukakis refusing to let the Massachussettes National Guard be sent to Central America during the Contra War--while rightwing Republicans only believe in it when it suits their interests, and discard it whenever it doesn't. It's why Democrats believe in due proces--even for really bad criminals--because an out-of-control government can do far more evil than individual criminals can.

But this will surely take some doing, and some time. So I'm not sure we want it to be in our mantra. At least not at first.

by Paul Rosenberg 2005-07-21 08:36PM | 0 recs
Re: Limited Government
Yup. Except I see a good opening currently for this position in light of the Terri Schiavo debacle.
by dicta 2005-07-21 09:15PM | 0 recs
Oh, Definitely!
It's just this sort of situation that gives us an opening to start using the term correctly.  But as the memory fades, we're still at the point where we need to dial it down until the next opportunity arises.
by Paul Rosenberg 2005-07-21 09:18PM | 0 recs
Re: Oh, Definitely!
I guess I was thinking that the Schiavo event has a longer shelf life than most things, but maybe not.
by dicta 2005-07-21 09:26PM | 0 recs
Re: Oh, Definitely!
I think it's had a lasting influence. I think it's eroded some knee-jerk support, and softened up even more people for the next big shock, which for some could be Rove & Libby & whoever else gets exposed to the sunlight & turned to dust.  But I don't think it's at the top of people's consciousness, so that it helps in framing just now.  Still, the next time something similar happens--and it will--the name of Terri Schiavo will rise again. And it will help us to advance our frame-to-be-someday.
by Paul Rosenberg 2005-07-22 10:07AM | 0 recs
Re: Limited Government & the Patriot Act
This is exactly the time for a limited government frame to oppose the Patriot Act.
by Gary Boatwright 2005-07-22 05:10AM | 0 recs
Re: How about a direct contrast?
Fair Markets
Fair Taxes
Smart Growth
Smart Defense
Government for the People, of the People, by the People
by Paul Rosenberg 2005-07-21 08:22PM | 0 recs
Re: How about a direct contrast?
That's excellent. Now we're getting somewhere. Much simpler language.

Do you think we ought to mention "taxes" in our list, though? As much as I like to fight (politically), I think the Republicans have sort of cornered the market on that issue.

by tgeraghty 2005-07-21 08:38PM | 0 recs
We Have To Raise Taxes On Millionaires
There's no avoiding this fight.

Reagan and Bush both produced massive deficits by slashing taxes on the rich, thus forcing Democrats to advocate one cut versus another.  We have to reverse what they've done. We have to raise taxes. And the only honest, courageous and winning way to do it is to be absolutely straight about it: This is what we're going to do, and here's why: (1) It's necessary. (2) It's fair. (3) It will make us all better off in the long run. (4) It's what the really great presidents in the past have done.  Presidents like Lincoln and Roosevelt, who got us through the most difficult times we ever faced as a nation.

by Paul Rosenberg 2005-07-21 08:56PM | 0 recs
Re: We Have To Raise Taxes On Millionaires
Ok, you're right, I was momentarily weak.
by tgeraghty 2005-07-21 09:05PM | 0 recs
Aren't We All?
Momentarily weak, that is.

It's what friends are for. To get us through those moments.

by Paul Rosenberg 2005-07-21 09:15PM | 0 recs
Re: We Have To Raise Taxes On Millionaires
Just like Reagan and Bush did. We have to also point out that the only reason Reagan's and Bush 41's deficits were not even worse is that they both raised taxes.

One of the greatest failures of the Democratic party is their failure to kill the tax the middle class approach of "supply side economics." Republicans are the ones who favor tax increases on the middle class so the wealthy get tax cuts. We have to forcefully make the case that tax cuts for billionaires means tax increases for the middle class.

by Gary Boatwright 2005-07-22 05:09AM | 0 recs
Re: We Have To Raise Taxes On Millionaires
We have to watch the "raise taxes on millionares angle for two reasons:
  1. Republicans get poor and middle class to vote for them by tempting these groups into thinking that if they vote for things that benefit the rich, then they will be rich too. Classic examples are vouchers and flat taxes. Vouchers will only help a small percentage of poor folks who vote them yet these people continue to support because one day they hope to be rich enough to benfit. I have had middle class Repubs tell me that we should have aflat tax, because it's not fair that the "Rich should have to pay more because they are Rich."  ?!?! This logic can only come from someone who one day wishes to be rich.
  2. The second reason that being to blatant about raising taxes on the rich is because there are many Dems who are rich and/or upper middle class. As the upper and lower classes increase in this country, we can't risk losing our affluent base by being proud of raising taxes on a group that ALREADY pays more money disproportionately than any other group....
by Bruticus 2005-07-22 06:10AM | 0 recs
Re: How about a direct contrast?
I think each of the items on the list represents important intersections between our government and our society, which is why I think they resonate so well for republicans despite the exploitable weaknesses in the positions they have taken on them. Accordingly, I do not think we can avoid any of them without risking some serious political turf to the other side. Our  strategy then is to draw a clear and easily repeatable distinction between our tax position/philosophy and theirs and repeat it over and over until "fair taxes [meaning not only fair burden but fair distribution]" is synonymous with Democrat.
by dicta 2005-07-21 09:09PM | 0 recs
The Liberal Disease
Hat tip to Dave Johnson at Seeing the Forest for answering tgeraghty's question. Now matter how you phrase it or frame the issue, Democrats will run screaming in the other direction.

The Liberal Disease:

It's called fairness.  . . .   That's pretty much the last ten years of American political history in a nutshell. While liberals sift and weigh the evidence, debate alternative points of view, and reach for that ever elusive "fairness," the conservative machine sifts and weighs alternative propaganda points, debates the best way to manipulate public opinion, and reaches for power -- first, last and always.

Democrats are congenitally incapable of playing hardball politics. Or to put it another way, they don't have any balls so they can't take a stand on any issue. It doesn't matter how you frame it or how popular it is with the American people. If it requires taking a forthright stand on any issue, there won't be a Democrat anywhere in sight.

Besides never taking a stand on any issue, the liberal disease requires that you never, ever say anything rude about a Republican. We all remember how leading Democrats reacted when Howard Dean made a rude comment about Republicans. They were horrified!

As I said, I could be wrong, and I'm certainly open to persuasion. But withholding fire on Robers out of some high-minded sense of "fairness," or a desire to consider all the facts -- well, I think it should be obvious that we don't live in that kind of country any more. And if progressives don't start adapting their principles to fit that reality, we could find ourselves living in an even more mindlessly reactionary one before long.

It could get worse? In a word, yes. If the Democratic party keeps chasing Republicans to the right, Scalia and Thomas will soon be considered moderates.

by Gary Boatwright 2005-07-21 07:23PM | 0 recs
Re: The Liberal Disease
That Billmon piece ought to be tatooed to every liberal's forehead. That is exactly what's wrong with us.
by tgeraghty 2005-07-21 07:44PM | 0 recs
Democrats are pussies
Let's face it.

No one votes for band geeks who hugs trees and oppose wars.

Ask Bill Clinton.  Kill a retarded kid.  Have your brother tossed in the klink.  Fuck around on your wife.

Oh, yeah . . . become President.

Even in a pussy-vs-pussy matchup, the most depussified candidate usually wins.  Look at Bush 1 vs Dukakis (although, in fairness, Bush 1 threw everything but the kitchen sink at Dukakis once Bush 1 fell more than 10 pts behind in the polls; he had nothing to lose).

The Democrats have proven it is better to be feared than respected.

Everyone likes the Dems as a generic idea.  But once they see the uber pussies limp out onto stage, the general chorus is "Fuck that! I'm voting Republican!"

And when we replace a boisterous tough guy with an unaccomplished former naval officer turned protester and his adopted puppy, we confirm every fear America has about us.  

America is a mean-spirited kid.

Anyone could win 65% of the vote in America by going from town to town beating up drunks and the mentally retarded and fluffy-looking dogs.

by jcjcjc 2005-07-21 08:28PM | 0 recs
You're Half Right
People want their candidates to be strong. If they can't get real strength, they will settle for the appearance of strength, which at least is better than the appearance of weakness. Here's what real strength looks like:
(Billy Edd Wheeler / Jed Peters)

The Kingston Trio - 1963
Bobby Darin - 1963
Faron Young - 1963
Johnny Cash - 1981

Also recorded by: Tex Ritter; Lonnie Donegan;
John Stewart; Tim Grimm; Sherwin & Pam Linton.

He rode easy in the saddle, he was tall and lean
And at first you thought nothing but a streak of mean
Could make any man look so down right strong
But one look in his eyes and you knowed you was wrong

He was a mountain of a man, and I want you to know
He could preach hot hell or freezin' snow
He carried a Bible in a canvas sack
And folks just called him the Reverend Mr. Black

He was poor as a beggar
But he rode like a king
Sometimes in the evenin'
I could hear him sing

I gotta walk that lonesome valley
I got to walk it by myself
Ain't, nobody else can walk it for me
I got to walk it by myself
You got to walk that lonesome valley
You got to walk it by yourself
Oh, nobody else can walk it for you
You got to walk it by yourself

If ever I could have thought this man in black
Was soft and had any yellow up his back
I gave that notion up one day
A lumberjack came in and it wasn't to pray

Yeah, he kicked open the meeting house door
And he cussed everybody up and down the floor
Then, when things got quiet in the place
He walked up and cussed in the preacher's face

He hit that reverend like the kick of a mule
And to my way of thinkin' it took one pure fool
To turn the other cheek to that lumberjack
But that's what he did, The Reverend Mr. Black

He stood like a rock, a man among men
Then he let that lumberjack hit him again
And then with a voice as kind as could be
He cut him down like a big oak tree when he said

I gotta walk that lonesome valley
I got to walk it by myself
Ain't, nobody else can walk it for me
I got to walk it by myself
You got to walk that lonesome valley
You got to walk it by yourself
Oh, nobody else can walk it for you
You got to walk it by yourself

It's been many years since we had to part
And I guess I learned his ways by heart
Cause I can still hear his sermon's ring
Down in the valley where he used to sing

I followed him, yes siree, and I don't regret it
I hope I will always be a credit
To his memory 'cause I want you to understand
The Reverend Mr. Black was my old man

I gotta walk that lonesome valley
I got to walk it by myself
Ain't, nobody else can walk it for me
I got to walk it by myself
You got to walk that lonesome valley
You got to walk it by yourself
Oh, nobody else can walk it for you
You got to walk it by yourself

Your bitter misanthropic view of the electorate is totally wrong. If you really believe that, maybe you should consider leaving the country. It does not help us to have people in our midst who have hatred and contempt for the American people.  And it does not help you to be surrounded by people you despise.

by Paul Rosenberg 2005-07-21 08:44PM | 0 recs
Actually, I don't despise them
In my lifetime, about the only thing I've listed there that I haven't done is beat up a retarded a kid (just doesn't seem fair).

Fluffy dogs do piss me off.  I have picked fights with drunks for my own amusement.  

I'm not certain that the "pro-dick" lobby in America is wrong.  After all, the best way to get an ass whoopin is to stand around looking like a target.  Walk mean, avoid eye contact.

The one thing the GOP has done wonderfully is frame everything Democrat as weakness.  They even made Max Cleland and John Kerry look like pussies.

Democrats overthink.  "I don't wanna justify the Swift Boat VEts!"  Boo-fucking-hoo.  The SBVFT will be the crowning moment in the history of Democratic pussydom.

Any real man would have called the fuckers out and threatened to kill them to a man.

John Kerry would be President today is he had challenged the SBVFT leaders to single combat.

The sad part is, the media would have dismissed the whole threat as a joke.

And John Kerry wouldn't have looked like a pussy.

by jcjcjc 2005-07-21 09:03PM | 0 recs
Oh, You're Worse Of Than I Thought
Still half-right. But the half-wrong part really doesn't get the whole Reverend Mr. Black thing, now does it?

Hell, Johnny Fucking "I shot a man in Reno, just to watch him die" Cash sang the damn song, dude!

by Paul Rosenberg 2005-07-21 09:11PM | 0 recs
My thoughts

The biggest difficulty Democrats have is taking a step down from their horse.

The majority of Americans don't have a college education.  The majority of Americans crave security.  The majority of Americans want to know the world will be the same tomorrow.

Democrats need to tap back into basic American ideas, and use traditional American language to describe themselves.

"Stewardship"?  "Internationalism"?  "Open Government"?

These aren't common concepts (or even common words) in America.

Let's review:

1. Prosperity with Justice
A little too lengthy.  How's about social justice?  Better yet, how about "OPPORTUNITY"?

2. Environmental Stewardship
Not a core issue.  As the 21st Century marches on, watch this turn bipartisan anyhow.

3. Racial and Gender Equality
Merge this with #1.  "OPPORTUNITY".

4. Liberal Internationalism
Dear God, no!  I can't imagine two words that less belong in a sentence being broadcast to millions of Americans.  Why not just scream "Blue Hats to begin charging non-abortion tax against all Christians"?!

5. Open and Capable Government
How about "HONEST"?

Let me give you a little boost in the right direction:


That's a lot simpler.  And anyone who opposes those ideals needs their fucking head sawed open and examined.

I'd add:

INDIVIDUALISM: just, please trade in the damned words "rights" and "libertarianism".  Those are big scary concepts for some Americans.  The word "rights" has been overused and muddies to the point it is a negative.  INDIVIDUALISM is a hell of a catch-all, too.  It covers everything from religious rights to sexual orientation, etc.

PAY FOR WHAT YOU GET/GET WHAT YOU PAY FOR: our economic policy in a nut shell.  This means you pay the damned debt down.  This means taxes come back in returns: roads, hospitals, education.  Anything else gets refunded.

Likewise, PAY FOR WHAT YOU GET falls under the heading of "things that are so American you could just shit".

I think you're on the right track, but you're still cruising a little high with the Democrat think.

by jcjcjc 2005-07-21 08:17PM | 0 recs
Re: My thoughts
Yeah, but who's not for "honesty" and "opportunity"? That's the same kind of thing that Bai and Baer were complaining about in Lakoff's list.

And if you think the environment is not a core issue, I have an enormous bone to pick with you. Bipartisan? Who are you kidding?

"Individualism"? Conservatives have been touting that as a core value for years.

Any list has to clearly and concisely identify our values and distinguish us from our opponents. Your list is even further from that than mine is.

by tgeraghty 2005-07-21 08:32PM | 0 recs
Clear and concise are for chumps
In light of the fact that probably 50% of Americans couldn't even define the word concise . . .

Core values count more than real ideas.

You pointed this out yourself when you mentioned family values.

The GOP suceeds in framing because they attach their ideas and goals to simple, easy-to-understand terms.

Consider "strong defense".

That's a bullshit concept.  Paying $2 billion for a bomber the military doesn't even use, while paying the average infantryman welfare wages . . . that ain't a strong defense.

Besides, America proper hasn't needed a strong "defense" since the Battle of New Orleans ended.

So, it's fair to say there is no clear and concise concept for strong defense.

It just sounds big and manly and American.  "Godammit, Jane.  We gotta have a STRONG DEFENSE, or the niggers and the Indians might get at your pearly white womanhood."

It sounds like something that a man who eats a lot of bacon would say.

"Clear and concise"?  I'm not so sure.

Dems tend to overthink things.  "Small gov't"?  Puh-lease.  Shrinking our government to a scale acceptable to the more conservative Founding Fathers would understand would mean an end to civilization as we know.

No one actually means anything when they threaten "smaller gov't".  Besides, how are you going to have a strong defense with a little bitch ass government?

Republicans know this.

Hell, the average person knows this.

In the final equation, the GOP wins because even though they and the Dems are known bullshitters, the GOP is at least bullshitting in the common language, while Democrats continue to blather on with corporate weaselspeak, like "transparency" and "triangulation".

Most people, given the choice between shit and shit, will choose whichever turd smells better to them.

by jcjcjc 2005-07-21 08:49PM | 0 recs
Re: Clear and concise are for chumps
I guess I just have more faith in the ability of people to understand complex issues than you do.
by tgeraghty 2005-07-21 08:52PM | 0 recs
Consider who "people" are
10,000 years ago, "people" were scratching their asses on the floor of the cave instead of using toilet paper.

500 years ago "people" considered drowning a woman a sign that she was the faithful servant of Christ.

60 years ago "people" were herding non-people into cattle cars to gas them.

I have my doubts about people.

by jcjcjc 2005-07-21 09:15PM | 0 recs
That Sounds Like Pretty Rapid Progress To Me! n/t
by Paul Rosenberg 2005-07-21 09:21PM | 0 recs
How about straight talk?
Dems don't have to be Blood Thirsty Beast Warmongers to be strong. You still don't seem to grasp the basic principle and appeal of The Reverend Mr. Black.

It's easy to be a vulgar, neanderthal Joe Sixpack bully. You seem to have being a man confused with being an asshole. A strong man and a good father is not violent and threatening. A strong man and a good President is not violent and threatening.

Bill Clinton and Ronald Reagan were respected for being straight talkers and having character, not for being bullies. In spite of what their political opponents think and say about both men, the American people never believed the caricatures of either man.

Both Clinton and Reagan were admired and popular more for their character and straight talk than for any other reason. Their politics and policies confuse the issue on both sides of the political divide, but they both had good hearts.

Bush is dropping in the polls because voters are finally seeing through Bush's veneer and don't like his flawed character.

by Gary Boatwright 2005-07-22 08:35PM | 0 recs
I'll believe this truth when I see it
Because a dirty little thing in the back of mind tells me we're past the point of no return, and America is stuck this way for some time to come.

I'm sorry if I don't quite buy the Reagan non-bully theory.  We may wish to review operations in Latin America during his tenure.

Reagan was not viewed as a bully because he was unconvincing in that role.

Likewise, his operatives surrounded him with real hatchet men.  Lee Atwater is the joint between the Nixon administration the Bush 2 administration.

Clinton . . . Clinton was the beneficiary of good times.  Few foreign threats and a good economy.

Still, I struggle to believe that anyone who executed a mentally retarded person during an election year was out simply to serve justice.

Sounds like bullying to me.

In fact, the only US president who was neither bully nor was surrounded by hatchetmen was Carter.  Look what he got to show for.  He's considered by far to be the least effective president of the 20th Century, and should probably be blamed for letting the Cold War continue without really trying to give the Soviets a push.

It's inherent to the job: the president is an alpha male.

by jcjcjc 2005-07-22 08:56PM | 0 recs
Re: My thoughts
Bush and Rove certainly aren't for honesty. They are cutting opportunity for average Americans every chance they get.

One of the problems with framing Democratic issues is that ignores the failure of Democrats to point out the real world failure of Republican frames. You can't trust Republicans to do what they say.

Until the Democrats start calling Republicans liars on a daily basis, the Republicans are going to win the framing war.

by Gary Boatwright 2005-07-22 05:15AM | 0 recs
This is basically what I meant
Keep the message short, simple, straight-forward.  

And you are very right.  How many damned years did the GOP call the Clintons outright murderers?!

To call Bush a liar is embarassingly little next to what they called Clinton.

It's not hard, but the Dems and their coddled play-nice bullshit gets old.

The GOP spent a decade calling the Dems pussies and murderers without even flinching at the stupidity of the contrast.

There's no reason we can't take a more straight-forward message and give that to the public.

Bus is a liar.  He's a cheat.  And worse, he attacked the wrong goddamned country as a product of his lying and cheating!

by jcjcjc 2005-07-22 10:19AM | 0 recs
Re: My thoughts
Take a look at Rosenberg's list. Much simpler language than mine, linked to basic American ideas, but draws the contrasts between us and the Republicans much better imho.
by tgeraghty 2005-07-21 08:39PM | 0 recs
It's Still Just A Start, Though
Maybe it will stand up, but I doubt it. I think this process has to take time, and needs a lot more people than just us taking a whack at it.  But I am glad it has some resonance with others.  I think it starts to give a better sense of what we're looking for.  

That's what we need to do first--develop a strong sense of what we're looking for.  If my list (or even part of it) lasts, then great. But more important is that it helps stir us onward.  I don't think it needs to take us years--especially if we draw enough other people into the process.  But it can't be done overnight.

by Paul Rosenberg 2005-07-21 09:04PM | 0 recs
Re: It's Still Just A Start, Though
Maybe I'll streamline and update this diary and post it over at Booman Tribune.
by tgeraghty 2005-07-21 09:19PM | 0 recs
Two observations. Ok three.
Newt Gingrich's website this morning responds with the following:

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Warning: session_start(): Cannot send session cookie - headers already sent by (output started at /usr/local/freedom/lib/index/loader4.php:7) in /usr/local/freedom/lib/index/loader4.php on line 7

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Sorry...our web server is too busy, please try back later.


I can derive two immediate conclusions.

1. Whomever's out here is really interested in
substantive policy change, and reform. Always
a big factor with independents and
what chris would like to call faithful
republicans but what I refer to as
swing voters.

2. Newt's running a linux based /php website.

Ok, here's a third one. We're here in the modern
forum of the 21st century. Government could
actually assay the will of the people in less
than a single day, electronically, without
any - and I do mean any - real significant
cost. Probably less than 500.00 total for
a census of the opinion of the entire country.

I think one of these two parties should add that
to the points. I actually like the GOP
so I'll start with my two cents:

#  Open Source Government

Preferably, one that should not crash
the day after a terrorist attack.
Newt, if you're out there, you got a problem
with your server.

by turnerbroadcasting 2005-07-22 05:00AM | 0 recs
Republicans cannot be trusted
This is a very positive way to go negative against Republicans. I think it's better than calling them liars. Democrats still need to develop a positive message and a brand identity, but they also need to tear down the Republican brand.

I've been pushing this frame ever since Boadicea posted it a few months ago, Republicans cannot be trusted.

It has the dual advantage of being true and being flexible:

This would seem to be common knowledge, but for some reason is not the conventional wisdom: Republicans can not be trusted with our money, our health or our Constitution and they lie to the press.

If we sent Democrats to speech therapy classes, do you think they could learn to repeat that simple declarative sentence?

Democrats should be repeating that stock phrase every chance they get in a dozen different ways:

Republicans can not be trusted with Social Security.

Republicans cannot be trusted with national security.

Repubicans cannot be trusted with the lives of your sons and daughters in Iraq.

Repubicans cannot be trusted with your tax dollars.

Republicans cannot be trusted with your health care.

by Gary Boatwright 2005-07-22 08:49PM | 0 recs
Here is my take and its less then 15 words
Democrats believe in Teamwork.

As opposed to Republicans who believe in selfishness.
Strong defense=don't let 'them' mess with MY stuff.
Free markets=keep the guvmint out of MY business.
Lower taxes=don't let the guvmint take MY money.
Smaller government=less guvmint, more for ME.
Family values=everyone should be like ME.

by TJonBergman 2005-07-23 08:17AM | 0 recs


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