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The current poor ratings for Bush and the Republican Congress represents an underlying reality, one that gives the Democratic Party and the Progressive movement an opening to halt, and reverse, the reactionary move in American politics. These openings will not, if left unexploited, give the Democratic Party real power to reverse the corrision of American values and American government. However, the represent a moment of very powerful weakness in the current governing coalition, which can be used to undermine and overturn what has occured over the last 25 years, and most specifically in the last 5 years.

What are those openings? Cleaving Americanism from Conservatism, the revolt of the periphery against the Republicans, and a new politics.

The Three Openings

I. Cleaving Americanism from Conservatism

One of the most important developments of the last 35 years has been the creation of an ideology of conservatism, and wedding that ideology in the American mind to patriotism and the health of America.

The purpose of the Conservative ideology and the creation of the Conservative movement was to create a rhetoric which would make it so that Americanism would express itself in reactionary terms, and thus side with the reactionary party. This is particularly important in cases where the public cannot decide between reactionary and progressive ideas - ties go to the Reactionaries.

The Conservative movment is built on associating the health and strength of America with ideas that point towards the reactionary side, and to make "unAmerican" progressive ideas. This is accomplished by "bashing", and particularly by demonization and marginalization of certain visible aspects of the Progressive movement and progressive agenda. Once the alienation of Americanism from Progressivism is accomplished, the second step is to give Americanism terms which point towards the reactionary strong holds of religious extremism, and concentration of wealth. Even such seemingly value neutral ideas as "a balanced budget" are part of this process, because a "balanced budget" is a measure of health of the country.

Now what is important is that the reactionaries are not, and never were conservative. This can be seen by their time in power: they have not pursued balanced budgets, they do not preserve existing legal structures, nor do they believe in "being conservative" in the sense of avoiding large risks. Iraq is a prime example: it is a deficit activity, it required the corruption of checks and balances to accomplish, and it is an enormous risk.

As a result, there is an increasing cleavage between the Americanist who thinks of himself as "conservative" and the Republican Party.

II. The revolt of the periphery

Through much of American history, the populist periphery has been the most powerful center of Americanism. Americanism is important to the periphery, because they live in a highly cyclical and high risk economic environment. The nation represents the defense of their position against outside and inside forces. Which ever party captured this sentiment was a large step towards a governing majority, particularly because the Senate and Presidential election are tilted towards representing the periphery.

The three fold cleavage of economic integration: metropolitian, exurban and peripheral is visible in British politics by party: the reactionary party, the Tories, dominates English exurban politics. It does not dominate the peripheries - instead, increasingly, it is the Liberal Democratic party that does. A party of the left.

In the United States, there are growing signs of a revolt of the peripheries against the Republicans. In some measure this is the fracturing of the Americanism/Conservatism rhetoric, and as well the fracturing of Conservatism and Reactionary politics. The challenges is to promote both: to split conservatism from being the natural rhetoric of America, and to increasingly emphasize that conservatism is not aligned with reactionary policy.

That the Republicans do not deliver for the periphery has created this cleavage, and we can see it in Montana, Arizona, Wyoming, New Mexico and even in the Great Plains states. To convert these states to reliably Democratic states at the local and statewide level means to emphasize that reactionary politics are not conservative. To win them at the national level means to emphasize that conservatism is not the only language of Americanism - without disrupting the delicate balance of the first.

One crucial "periphery" demographic is the rise of the Latino and Hispanic vote. Many of the people who will decide elections in the states of the periphery will be from this demographic, and their outlook, not only economic, but social and political, must be integrated into the outlook of the Party. Just as individuals from agrarian states came to Washington to form the new Deal, so too must young, bright and ambitious young people from this group see the Democratic Party as one that is advancing their vision of a better America.

Taking advantage of this is crucial as soon as possible, for example by projects such as John Edwards' Raising the States.

III. The New Politics

As Simon Rosenberg observed in his New Politics Institute conference call, the Democratic party must have a different way of campaigning, one that is "built into the DNA" of the party. The Democratic Party needs to have, not only policy ideas, but political ideas. It must be a party which reflects passion at every level and in every part of its operation.

This means that a spirit of progressive passion and persuasion must be woven into the entire fabric of both the movement and the party. It also means that the kind of communication, both in its substance, but also in its manner, be geared to the new ways that people receive their news, form their personal connections, gain employment, and pursue their goals in life. People will trust information that comes to them through the same channels that other information comes from, they will trust people they meet in the same way they meet other people.

That the way people communicate, form bonds, and gather news, has changed can be seen from the changes in newspaper and magazine readership - the internet is now as important a source of news as periodical magazines in terms of frequency of reference and readership. That people are increasingly leveraging the internet, in the same way that people leveraged the road system in the early 20th century, is a basic movement which, in its nature, does not favor reactionary politics.

The Challenge

The challenge is to exploit all three in combination. And right now there is a long way to go before that is being done. To take an example from recent debates on the Daily Kos itself. The DSCC is chosing candidates that take "the conservative/progressive" social issue off of the table - particularly privacy rights. This is designed to appeal to the bloc of voters which are conservative, but are being told that conservative doesn't mean reactionary. At the same time, this alienates people who believe in themselves as civil libertarians, many of whom also think of themselves as conservatives, but who are, in fact, "Americanists". It gains seats, but at the cost of alienating both base progressives, and failing to make headway among the other half of the challenge of prying the center out of reactionary rhetoric.

At the heart of this lies a demographic reality: for a very long time the Democratic Party has been moving to being the metropolitan party. Privacy rights are framed in terms of privacy issues that are most important to metropolitan areas, abortion being one example. It is not that access to reproductive freedom and liberty of fertility is not important everywhere, but it is seen as a metropolitan way of addressing the problem. Gun control is an even clearer example.  The road forward is to drop the shibboleth, while not reducing the real effective freedom. The reactionaries want people to attack the symbolic issue, in order to reduce liberty.

But to do this requires a broader conversation within the Democratic Party so that individual groups do not pursue goals which work for them, but come at the cost of hindering other parts of the larger Democratic Party agenda.

And it is here that there is both the weakness and the strength of the Progressive way of doing politics. The Republican Party is the party of top down. There is no discussion in a general sense about how to accomplish these ends, ideas are presented to their center, the center makes decisions, and their outlets, proxies and salesmen toe the company line. The progressive mechanism has no such arbiter of central party dogma. This is a weakness in that it makes coordination harder. It is a strength in that top down, when it fails, produces disaster. Schiavo is a perfect example: project decided upon, forced through, and into a public storm of rejection.

The identification of conservatism and Americanism has tremendous advantages for the Republicans politically: it means that when Democratic politicians want to establish themselves as "American" they do so by crossing, attacking or even betraying the fundamental progressive tennets of the Democratic Party. The "kick the base" or vote for a bankruptcy bill, or for large revenue reductions because "small government is American".

The three openings that we can exploit - and which will pay dividends starting in 2006, rather than at some far future date - can be backed by solid demographic and polling analysis. However, to exploit them is not through number crunching, but through reëstablishing the process by which the Democratic Party is trusted. The recent attacks on FDR by the right are an attempt to break another bond of trust, and another symbolic form of Americanism being a liberal Americanism.

"Don't burn the flag, wash it"

To change rhetoric begins every day.

One way is to constantly remind elected leaders to never "kick the base" as a way of gaining street credibility as an American. It is something we see every week or so, and some political figures have created their public image around it. It is important to never let such "kick the base" tactics go unnoticed, and to make sure that elected leaders who enage in them hear about it. But to do this requires changing some of the rhetoric that the left all too often falls into. I speak, of course, of Anti-Americanism, of identifying America as the problem.

It is important to remind people using tropes of unAmericanism, in the same way one reminds a "kick the base" Democrat, that this rhetoric is also out of step with the direction of the progressive movement. Americanism is not the problem, it is the solution to the problem. The challenge is to get Americans to live up to the ideology upon which our political system rests.

Cleave the hypocrisy of Republican actions, and make it clear that "Americans don't behave like that". Americans are hungry for reasons to reject Iraq, and they dislike how the War on Terrorism has been handled. They want to know why things have gone wrong, and will listen to reasons that flow from basic American principles. Iraq was a corrupt war that has created a weak and corrupt state. "Americans", we must say, "do not make mischief abroad." That we have in the past is something that the otherside then has to bring up in defense, and each and every specific action can then be criticised, without questioning the moral fabric. The key is to always speak in terms of how Americans see themselves, even if we have not always lived up to that self image.

Americans don't waste, therefore wasteful vehicles are unAmerican. Americans don't destroy the wilderness, therefore strip mining the country for the last drop of oil is unAmerican. Americans do not run large deficits for the future, leave those who have worked their lives in poverty, or break promises. And the Republicans and the reactionaries stand for all of those things.

In the short term it is absolutely essential to continue to press challenges to the Republicans in the peripheries. In 2004 a host of exciting candidates became visible in these states, and while most of them lost, they came closer than people expected. 2006  can be the break out year, where it is clear to the public that rural America is not with a policy of high energy prices, foreign wars, depression economics, deficit culture and reactionary social engineering. They have faith, and they love God and Country, but they do not believe that it is a theocracy. They believe in frugality and personal responsibility, but not in niggardliness and holding others personally responsible.

Reconnecting the conversation between the peripheries and the center has been a bedeviling problem for an urban based Democratic Party. The trap was that cities drew people in for the intellectual stimulation and "hothouse" effect. Now with electronic communications, it is possible to again decentralize the conversation, and integrate the rhetoric of rural America and urban America - because, as politicians such as John Edwards keep pointing out, the problems of rural and urban America are more alike than different.

Splitting Conservatism

There are, therefore, three kinds of conservatives: reactionaries, conservatives and Americanists. It is important to cleave the reactionaries out by hammering how reactionaries are out of step with basic conservative principles. It is also important to cleave Americanism from conservatism by relentlessly connecting a rhetoric of an Open America, with progressive values.

The reactionary masquerading as a conservative will attempt to do so, not by argument, but by stance. He will take a hard, even bitter, stance of dogged stubbornness, and therefore establish in the minds of his listeners that he is "a real conservative". It is important to goad him into attack. Because while stubborn is good, close minded and nasty is not. While dogged and rugged are good, abusive is not. In almost all cases it takes very little to get the reactionary to boil over.

The conservative, in the sense of having a conservative outlook, needs to be appealed to by showing how progressivism values the same things that he does: thrift, hard work, maintaining continuity, tradition, community and earning one's place. Most real conservatives would be progressives if they thought it could work. By showing them that the threat isn't cheating poor people, but people being poor because they were cheated, it changes the dynamics of the equation: most conservatives feel that they have been cheated by the outside. That's why the are conservatives.

It is with the Americanist who has been persuaded that he is conservative because conservative means strong, that the greatest challenge lies, and the greatest need for transformation. Ham handed attempts to appeal to strength generally fail, because they leave open the counter attack from the right of the smear. Destroy trust, and all that is built on it crumbles.

It is for this reason that we must pursue a new politics, because the tropes of "Americans are conservative" are built into broadcast politics and media. Top down wants people to be fundamentally accepting of the present circumstance, even as it encourages them to be profligate. Reactionaries are better consumers, because they are neither as dissastisfied with the current social arrangements as progressives are, nor are they as careful as conservatives are. Hence, reactionaries are cultivated as good targets for advertising. This is why cable news constantly looks for them, since they are the "swing" audience that must be attracted.

Finding means to overturn the "Americans are conservatives" meme is one of the central projects of Democratic Politics. It will, at a stroke, hobble the Republican smear machine - since smearing icons that people believe in and identify with creates backlash - and it will end the circumstance where "ties go to the right" which has been so crucial in the politics of the last 15 years.

Originally posted to Stirling Newberry on Wed May 11, 2005 at 12:41 PM PDT.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Not clear on where you stand (none)
    Are you in favor of moving the Democrats to the center, to try to peel off moderate Republicans?

    Or are you in favor of pursuing a puritan policy wherein the Democrats take strong liberal positions and hope to convert enough voters to this viewpoint inorder to win elections?

    •  Both and neither (3.91)
      Much of what conservatism does is pick individual issues and stances and identify the whole party with with them. Many issues were phrased as they are based on the political realities of 1970, rather than the present.

      Instead of seeing the political "spectrum", and seek to peel off "moderates" the key is to understand that there is a third pole to American politics, and that capturing that pole will yield tremendous political dividends, and is, indeed, essential.

      I am advocating moving the party and its rhetoric to a series of stances designed to capture this third pole, and then showing how those stances imply progressive politics, progressive policy and a progressive public.

  •  I am not sure that this ... (3.90) something that can be generated in a mainstream party:

    The Democratic Party needs to have, not only policy ideas, but political ideas. It must be a party which reflects passion at every level and in every part of its operation.

    This means that a spirit of progressive passion and persuasion must be woven into the entire fabric of both the movement and the party.

    Such passion usually can only be found in interest groups, that is, in the "movement," whether the concern is related to foreign affairs, environmentalism or social matters. Weaving each of these passions into one fabric of a political party seems to me a most difficult task, especially at a time when so many Democrats seek to mushify the party message instead.

    I'd like to be dead wrong about this.

    •  You raise an important issue (4.00)
      We have to shift the passion from particular issues to the general vision, because without the vision there is no progress on any of the issues. This shift is already occuring and must be dramatically accelerated. Micro-issue politics is dying, and its death cannot come one day too soon for us.
      •  I wish I could agree ... (4.00)
        ...but while we see some evidence for this "dying," even here at Daily Kos where the umbrella passion ought to be strongest, there have been plenty of instances since November - resulting in ferocious debates - about jettisoning this or that issue. Micro-politics can die to our benefit as long as the issues themselves don't die and as long as those supporting "single issues" don't feel their concerns have been cast aside for "the better good."
        •  Why this politics stuff is hard (4.00)
          one important part of the success of the Republicans has been to convince their single issue groups that "your time will come".

          Some of the reasons for the temptation to do so are outlined in the post, particularly courting "conservatives who aren't entirely reactionaires". However, it should be pointed out that much of the anger comes from making trades where it should not be necessary. It is one thing to back a social conservative in South Dakota - such as Herseth. It is another to do so in Rhode Island.

          One important internal change is to dramatically improve the quality of communication within the party. Right now when a politician wants to reach these voters he "kicks the base". However, since the important part is not the single issue, but making progress generally, a Democratic Party with a strong internal dialog, which includes conservatives in a frame work not slanted by reactionary rhetoric, will be able to find ways of joining the different groups.

          Let's take the big one first: Roe v Wade. It was the best deal possible in 1972, and has become a quasi-constitutional fixture. Is it the best deal now? I doubt it. And one thing that is becoming clear to more and more Americans is that the Republican Party isn't looking to role back just Roe, but to rollback that entire constellation of issues.

          The current frame the reactionaries use is to tell people that they are holding back the liberal juggernaut by limiting Roe, when, in fact, the reverse is the case: the reactionaries are the juggernaut, and defending the current line is the conservative position. The reactionary frame is that they are pro-family and pro-child, when in fact, the reverse is the case. They aren't even pro-fertility, as a simple check of which states require insurance companies cover infertility treatments will show (the are all blue states).

          As with guns, which has been "make it a state issued" out of the public dialog, a way has to be found to formulate where the real line of demarcation is. The reactionaries want, not only to limit access to Roe, but to contraception in general. This is not supported by the mainstream. The reactionaries know that people don't like "abortion as birth control", but at the same time are doing everything in their power to put more and more women in the position of abortion being the only form of birth control they can get.

          Finding such a formulation requires, Bob Brigham puts it "a think tank for hacks". And one important project is to create a new set of "litmus tests" so that there is less temptation to fail them to get votes. Remove the temptation to kick the base, and fewer politician will do it.

          As for the arguments, well, that is important, because we need to consantly be communalizing our values so that we can find a consensus of rhetoric, policy and politics that allows everyone to support the party without reservation. And Democrats have too many reservations about the party even as it is.

          In the area of Roe, there is a growing movement in the Democratic party to push pratical steps that will slash the number of abortions - by dramatically increasing the access to contraception and education. Therefore we have to find a rhetorical way to get across "women shouldn't be forced to make that kind of choice" in such a way that will allow politicians to stand firm, and at the same time make the emotional appeal to people who are queasy about abortion. The Democratic Party position, boiled down, is "motherhood by choice", we need a way of saying that.

          Clinton did it with "triangulation", but it only worked because of his personal acumen in doing so. The proposal here is to capture that lightening in a bottle, without the downside of having to "kick the base" to do it.

          •  important point about melding groups together (none)
            "one important part of the success of the Republicans has been to convince their single issue groups that 'your time will come.'"

            This is a very important point! An examination of America's rightwing, so often described as if monolithic, shows it to be a confederacy of interests that needn't necessarily be united. But they are. As a result, you have conservative single-issue groups--for instance, flat taxers--jumping onto bandwagons like legalizing anti-gay discrimination because they've internalized an assumption that all Republicans are in the same struggle.

            That's not to suggest that the flat taxers of my example are ALL anti-gay, or anti-choice, or whatever, or that those who are demonstrate great enthusiasm. Maybe putting it another way: Steve Forbes wasn't at "[In]Justice Sunday."

            Nonetheless, the GOP's leadership--and I wish I knew just exactly who that was in this instance (I think, Paul Weyrich to a big extent, though there are many others, of course)--has done just as you're describing: placated and encouraged just enough to hold it all together.

            By my question is: HOW? Just how did the GOP leadership do it, and how--at the level of specific, tactical moves--does the leadership continue to do it?

            •  I'm not a psychologist (4.00)
              but I think it has to do with the psychological makeup of progressives and liberals versus conservatives and reactionaries.  It may be as basic as what makes people open-minded versus closed-minded, respectively.  I have trouble imagining a closed-minded person being willing to be open to new ideas and possibilities, pretty much a requirement (at least as I see it) for progressives and liberals.

              Now I have a thing about intolerance though....that's ONE think I don't have an open mind about!

              Be a patriot! Buy a hybrid vehicle!

              by billlaurelMD on Wed May 11, 2005 at 02:17:52 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

          •  EXCELLENT (4.00)
            diary and comments.

            Along these lines, WHAT ABOUT THIS?  --

            How do we consolidate all the "old" progressive issues, consolidating the Democratic base (one would hope) and, at the same time, reach out in a populist approach to the periphery?

            I think the idea proposed by Jesse Jackson, Jr., is actually well worth consideration  --  because it has been so easily shrugged off as impracticable.

            I AM NOT PROPOSING THIS AS AN ALTERNATIVE TO WHAT IS PROPOSED HERE  --  rather as congruent with it.

            What Jesse Jr. (NOT the elder) proposes should be taken more as a way to synergistically align "the movement" (or movementS) with the Democratic Party in an entirely inclusive  --  you could almost say "ecumenical"  --  way.  Jesse Jr.'s suggestion should NOT be taken as coming from the old man (his father, the living legend) or otherwise labeled as "radical" or as limited to "identity politics"  --  nor as part of a long-range personal presidential campaign (for 2024?). The idea deserves consideration for what it is.

            What Jesse, Jr., is proposing is a way to establish a concrete vision  -- what? can a vision be reified? --  that transcends the usual political realm, but that can be accessed by a progressive populist Democratic Party.  He specifies that we need long-range goals that can stand over a very long period of time as goals to be worked toward.

            Democrats generally, and Kossaks in particular, haven't checked this out and given it any real thought.  I tried to present it in a diary
            Can rights and values thrive in symbiosis?

            but what you really need to do is GO TO THE SOURCE OF THE IDEA  --  as presented in a speech at the May 2004 NYU conference "What We Stand For Conference - Ideas And Values To Take Back America"  --  Where Do Progressives Go From Here?

            "Fight to transform the old Democratic Party and the traditional progressive movement into a new Democratic Party and a new constitutional rights movement."
            ---  Jesse Jackson, Jr. (from transcription at

            "The American people now understand we have a problem." George W. Bush, Galveston, Texas, April 26, 2005

            by BornOn911 on Wed May 11, 2005 at 02:01:50 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

          •  Clusters of Ideas (4.00)
            I think what's key here is that we develop clusters of ideas that reinforce one another systematically.    This is not just for one issue--such as abortion (with the constellation of concerns sketched out above), or gun-control--but for the entire range of issues.

            For one thing, this reflects how progressives thinking actually works, just as boiling things down to a single symbolic position is a natural for reaction.  If we actually work hard at articulating the system of ideas, we will, in the end, also come up with simple ways of introducing/expressing the system.  But we can't realistically jump to the end of the process.  We have to work through it.

            Additionally, having internal discussions around systems of ideas is a way of drawing people together.  Some ideas will be rejected because they are too divisive/divergent, but everyone involved should be concerned that the viewpoint they reflect should be addressed in some better ideas that convergent with the other ideas and viewpoints on the subject.

          •  Griswold -- Birth Control (none)
            Somehow, voters must be educated that the real agenda of the right is to roll back not just Roe but its legal basis in Griswold - i.e., justification for banning birth control.

            Just as abortion is their wedge issue, birth control must become ours. The "conscience pharmacists" and the Schiavo case have helped us out on this.  But we need to be pounding the idea that they are fanatics intent on forcing their way into all of our bedrooms.

            At the same time, emphasize that birth control is the best way to limit abortions -- that abortions decreased in the '90s when family planning and not only abstinence was emphasized.

          •  You are absolutely correct. (none)
            We simply must find that single, unifying principle to which all of our differences wash over like grains of sand. They may erode it and smooth it out, but they cannot wash it away.

            What is this unifying principle from which we derive our passion? Social responsibility. Looking out for each other.

            The New Deal wasn't just a set of policy ideas. It was a social compact. A decision that we Americans made to watch each other's backs. A recognition that we are all in this together and that working together we can make all of our lives more prosperous.

            This is in direct juxtaposition to the "every man for himself" Darwinism of the right.

            I hate to use sports analogies, but it works so well. Look at America as a team. The Republican model has all the players working in their own self interests only. This will inevitably fail. It is presently failing.

            Our model has all the players working for both their own self interest AND the interest of the team. This is the superior model. John Nash proved it mathematically.  Adam Smith was wrong. Social Darwinism is destructive. We must work together.

            In a democracy, even a republic, the way the team works together, coordinates, is through government. When a politician comes along claiming that government is bad, see them as the enemy. The enemy of democracy. The enemy of cooperation. The enemy of the team.

            I wish the South Park dudes hadn't co-opted the "Team America" logo. We could sure use it.

        •  It just seems to me (4.00)
          that every issue for us is a micro-issue and all of our candidates build their campaigns a la carte. If people could really feel that the Democratic Party stood for them in terms of national security, economics and healthcare, education, social security and pensions, and even taxes - on the big issues - very few would care what our positions were on gay rights, abortion and we could take principled stands on those issues (the other requirement of course is that we take control of the debate and make the big issues the topic of discussion).

          Ted Kennedy's name is on NCLB; Kerry voted for war in Iraq and the Patriot Act; Hillary says nothing can be done about outsourcing; Biden voted with the GOP on the bankruptcy bill; Lieberman (who still looks like a Dem to most people outside of dKos) behaves like a Republican on too many issues. This isn't some small group of Blue Dog Dems - these are the national leaders of the party.

          By taking all of these issues off the table, we leave an issue vacuum where the Pledge of Allegiance or Ten Commandments or similar issues is all that's left to talk about. Some (not all) women care about abortion and women's rights; some (not all) gays and lesbians let marriage and other rights determine their vote. Everybody that votes is affected by the big issues and as a party we have nothing believeable to say about those - in marketing terms, we've failed to differentiate our product from the GOP product, and we've failed to design a product that customers really want.

          The most potent weapon of the opressor is the mind of the opressed - Steve Biko

          by badger on Wed May 11, 2005 at 02:02:56 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  Recipie for Failure (none)
            Lakoff addresses this in Don't Think of an Elephant. He says it reflects a fundamental misunderstanding of how things work. People don't buy policy positions the way they shop for consumer goods. They are engeged by worldviews. You have to articulate a worldview in order to get their support. Simply trying to sell them on a single selling point fails to reach them where they live--in their own worldview--and cedes this territory to the other side.
      •  Thanks For This Diary (3.50)
        In response to this post, "Micro-issue politics is dying, and its death cannot come one day too soon for us."...

        I want to point out the Green Party. Like the Liberal Democrats you can't hold them up and say "Look their massive success proves their approach is brilliant." However we are evolving concepts here, not merely replicating them.

        So what the Green Party in Europe did right, is it brought together a variety of narrow interest groups into a coalition. By agreeing to support one another through the party, the few became many.

        Now the trouble in the case of the Greens: Some of those issues were fringe enough, some of their stances strong enough, that they alienated voters, even amongst themselves; a correctable problem in the short term but an image problem ever after. It's important not to do that.

        However with the Democratic Party we don't have that problem. We already have the issues, when we choose to own them rather than turning on them.

        Ecology. Personal (private) rights. Ethnic rights. Religious rights. Fiscal responsibility. Social financial responsibility. Diplomatic foreign policy. Labor. Penal system reform. Education.

        It would be possible, I believe, to champion any and all of the above issues, without rubbing anyone in the other camps the wrong way. Attempts to do this simply have not been complete enough, and have also been couched in weak, apologetic language; defensive language.

      •  Vision is like a narrative . . . (none)
        Where are we going as a people, as a species? What story are we telling about the future of humanity?

        If we could read a history book from 2105 what stories would we like to find in there?

    •  Naw, it's possible (4.00)
      In fact, it may be happening.

      Take one of the lines I keep using on my friends:

      "While your "liberals" may be just reactionary one-issue voters, such as radical leftists, populists, or abortionists, the norm on the left turns out to be people like us, who may know that while some things are not acceptable to us now, our future holds incalculable promise.  And that promise is fulfilled by people who may not hold our exact values or flawed certainties of the world, and who do not deserve despoiled economies, broken societies, faithless wars, and moralistic government oversight.  And the future will only be a promise until we recognize that we can't get there piecemeal, and we can't leave others scrounging in the past."

      Seriously.  There are great and wonderful themes in Liberalism.  And if you do see one of those one-issue, interest group voters, smack em for me and tell them the same thing.  Ask them "Is that the ONLY reason you're with us?  Or is it because you also give a damn about justice, equality, and prosperity?"

    •  I think we already (none)
      have a lot of agreement in principle in spite of the single issue disagreements that we have. We are passionate about these principles which go far beyond 1 or 2 narrowly-defined issues.

      We are about helping people and not about survival of the fitest. We see the survival of the human species in the same way that we see the survival of American ideals.

      We really do live the principles of the Ten Commandments, The Golden Rule and even though I'm not a Trekkie, the values of the Federation rather than say we do in the face of near-universal refutation of fact as the neo-Republicans do.

      In the end, our ideals would survive in a peaceful and accepting multi-cultural, multi-ethnic world while Republicans count on creating and nurturing enemies for their survival and growth.

      We welcome diversity and Republicans ARE the white-guy-father-knows-best-50s world regardless of the number of Condelesa-Rice and Colin-Powell players they parade like the leashed lions when the circus comes to town.

      Top to bottom our views are idealogically consistent without resorting to sleights of hand or lies. We acknowlege the inconsistencies without letting them drag down our core values.

      Maybe I'm laying out my own philosophy and not those of dKos Democrats and while I'm sure there will be someone who jumps on some inconsistency between reality and what I've said. So be it but I contend that those instances are the exceptions and aberrations rather than part of our well-defined guiding principles based on the reality of what we do with power.

      dKos allows most who share our values a chance to tiptoe or storm the edges of issues which bring out those few differences which do exist. That's healthy and it's generally allowed with understanding.

      Someday, after the forest fire of the Right has died we'll say "Whew, I'm happy that's over."

      by CanYouBeAngryAndStillDream on Wed May 11, 2005 at 10:27:19 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Good points (4.00)
    Working my way around the local conservative scene here (God knows, it's big enough) taught me one thing: reactionary thought is frightening.

    There is quite a lot about Republican/Conservative rhetoric that still resonates with me, but I'm an example of how one of your "conservatives" can abandon the Republican movement.

    There's only so much exposure to reactionaries, Luddites, corporatists, dominionists, and fundamentalists that sane people can take!

    •  Chime in I must (4.00)
      I think it should be quite easy to move certain conservatives to our movement.

      I keep thinking about how I entirely thought I was a Republican as my formative years were spent being brainwashed at a baptist church and the Ohian loving mood of Reagan back in the late 80s.

      Of course, I was raised to think Democrats were wimps... but not necessarily by my parents, but by the the atmosphere of a suburban area that had lost the fairness doctrine.

      The only time I was actually confronted with politics is when I heard that Joe Lieberman was trying to censor some of my favorite videogames! Added to that we had Tipper Gore leading a panel of idots to attempt to censor music.

      And here in lies the problem... I was constantly being given images of Democrats in name only to associate with that party. Since my understanding of Republicans had to do with the atmosphere of the area, and the fact that my parents voted Republican... I had absolutely no understanding of actual Republican ideology, except that they were against abortion... and who wasn't in this atmosphere?

      The problem with that scenario is that me and my family were actually liberals!!!

      You see, I had believed in the freedom of speech from the day I was born. I believed in freedom and still do. When the images I had actually received of Democrats were that they were censoring the free speech of others... I simply believed that I had obviously been on the right side.

      Having a strong awareness and the desire to find my personal truth... long story short... I now have a family of Democratic voters. My mother is still conservative, but she votes Democratic because the Democratic party actually represents our values of freedom, humanity, and privacy.

      The Democratic plank as I see it needs to be... freedom, fair competition, and family.

      Notice that when I say family... it means that you are my brothers and sisters, and I will not turn away as the forces of the world ravage you... I will simply hold out my hand and help lift you up.

      That is the image we must strive to express... because that IS who we are.

      Silent consent or active dissent, the choice is OURS.

      by Alphakafka on Wed May 11, 2005 at 03:22:42 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Good points (none)
    I also think we need to get through our collective heads that demographic shift happens and is a good and necessary thing.  The "moral values" voters are long gone to us if they can't tell that the fundies are evil by now.  On the other hand, old-school libertarians can actually be won over by people like Brian Schweitzer, people who support ethical government free of special interests.  The South is long gone, same thing, but we can win and are winning the West, and we need to focus there and press hard for more victories.

    Basically, more ideology, less corruption, and we win.  End of story.

    "God isn't partisan." -- Sen. Harry Reid

    by Nonpartisan on Wed May 11, 2005 at 01:53:32 PM PDT

  •  Quit your day job! (none)
    You excel at authoring these instructive, comprehensive and clear posts. Any time spent away  from your true calling is missed opportunity.

    I envy your breadth of knowledge, commitment and style (it's less pedantic than mine, that's sure).

    a fan.

    "...there is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so." Hamlet, Act II, Scene ii.

    by thingamabob on Wed May 11, 2005 at 02:16:16 PM PDT

  •  I have been a long time (4.00)
    volunteer with the Christine Cegelis campaign (IL-06) and her new web site is rife with the kind of "American principles" you talk about. In fact their newly unveiled campaign theme is "Reclaiming the American Dream." I am one of those types that generally tends to skip discussions like this in favor of going out and doing some activity (short attention span I guess!), so maybe what she has is just "ho-hum" to y'all, but I found it pretty moving.

    For example:

    "America has always been known as the land of opportunity. Hard work, education, and creativity have enabled so many Americans to achieve their dreams. Each generation that followed dreamed bigger dreams and had the same opportunity to go to school, find work that suited their skills and talents, and live their dream. But, today, the promise of the American dream is at risk.

    Academic success and a desire to learn are no longer enough to attend college. The federal government is limiting grant funds, and a minimum wage job is no longer enough to pay college costs. A willingness to work hard and to learn new skills is no longer enough to support a family ...

    and also:

    In many ways, my story is like many of yours. It's a story of opportunity and hard work, of the chance for each generation to do better than the last, to live the hope of the American dream. (...) My grandparents came from Lithuania and never learned to read or write in English. But my grandfather was able to get a union job in the steel mills, where he worked for 50 years. That union job was his opportunity to work hard to support his wife and 7 kids ...

    I think the text still needs some work, but that idea of appealing to core American values (opportunity and hard work) is definitely there.

    Take the GCCC Challenge: $20.06 for 2006 and tell the world that you support Christine Cegelis for Congress!

    by citygirl on Wed May 11, 2005 at 02:37:34 PM PDT

  •  Give people a reason (4.00)
    I grew up in NH, not a freakshow red state but solidly republican.  I'm 26 and i have a lot of high school friends who still live in NH.  vast majority voted for Bush.  I tried to talk them out of it in November, but in the end they stuck to their guns.   I really had a hard time figuring out why but in the end I think it came down to not the question I was asking "why the hell are you voting for BUsh?" but what they were really asking themselves: why would I vote for the other guys?"  At the end of the day, figuring out which party  wants to fuck you over and which one wants to help you is pretty damn complicated.  Bush wants to give me a tax cut but the dems want to give me health insurance and save the environment.  Tough decision.  ANd i think what pushes them over the edge is what stirling is getting at.  At the end of the day, the GOP makes these guys feel good to be american.  Most of us on kos could give a shit if we get that feeling to boost our ego and we see how empty it is, but feeling good about your country and what it does is not insignificant when you're working 50 hours a week at walmart.  The GOP gives them that, even while they ruin the social welfare state that will take care of them when they get sick and old.  

    "If he who bases his hopes on human nature is a fool, he who gives up in the face of circumstances is a coward." -Albert Camus

    by jcbhan on Wed May 11, 2005 at 02:48:57 PM PDT

  •  Attack smart (none)
    I've beeen meaning to diarize for awhile about why the GOP attack campaigns often work.  In a nutshell, the GOP attacks things that people can change.  They attack liberalism as evil, fascist, homosexual, whatever, which on the one hand is pretty ugly and dishonest.  On the other hand, people can stop identifying themselves with liberalism tomorrow if they choose to.  

    If we want to have similar success we need to discredit things that people can change.  My fist suggestion is to discredit the idea that one's pet issues matter more than upholding the Constitution.  After all, that's what the radicalism masquerading as 'conservatism' really amounts to.  People have accepted that argument without reallly knowing they did it, and my bet is taht they wouldn't if they were forced to make the argument explicitly.  Americanism would come directly in conflict with Movement Conservatism and on the whole, Americanism would win.  

    Tom DeLay's GOP: cheating America in a time of war.

    by Tom Frank on Wed May 11, 2005 at 02:56:48 PM PDT

  •  Flag-washing... (4.00)
    Oh my.  Now there's an image.

    Imagine a protest where people bring flags and launder them publicly.  We're washing out...

    litany of un-American things.

    I think I hear right-wing heads exploding, wingnuts stripping their threads....

    "Too many policemen, no liberty; Too many soldiers, no peace; Too many lawyers, no justice." Lin Yutang (1895-1976)

    by ogre on Wed May 11, 2005 at 02:59:11 PM PDT

  •  Where are the soundbites ?? (3.00)
    I would have liked to read your post, I am REAL busy, it would have been nice to have some bullet points.  

    I hate powerpoint, but -- I spend all day correcting high school kids math homework.  I don't have the bandwidth do spend on paragraphs and paragraphs unless it pertains to my job.

    thanks for the effort, anyway.


    •  you should read this one...... (none)
      an excellent diary that deserves to be read. Just give the kids who seem to understand math "a"'s and the one who aren't trying "f's. Sorry I know you can't do that, but grades are one of major reasons why so many people in this country have the wrong idea about how to live life.
  •  Condensing should be your strategy (none)
    Much of what you propose (which I liked and agree with) won't get us anywhere if progressives can't be more concise.
  •  Excellent (none)
    I found this diary to be informative, useful, and inspiring.  Thank you for bringing clarity to a lot of thoughts that have been zinging through dKos and jangling together in my mind.  "We are America" needs to be the new Democratic war cry.  I nearly tore my hair out at the CA Democratic Convention when their slogan was "Democrats Protect Real People".  Ack.  They should have checked with you first.

    And I give you permission to ignore the folks clamoring for conciseness and bullet points.  Those are necessary, it's true, but it doesn't have to be your job.  You just keep thinking the big thoughts, and let someone with a different skill set do the packaging.  I may give it a try myself at some point.

  •  fantasticly level headed (none)
    Stirling, the reason I've been reading you more closely is a backward one, but I'm glad that I am (not that I didn't before, but like I say more closely).

    Anyway, a couple points or questions:

    (1) I'm not sure I follow who you mean by the periphery?  Is it the economic or ideological?  And if it's economic... is that really the right term?

    (2) Americanism:  I'm proud of american ideology, think Will Rogers, Mark Twain, Woodie Guthrie.  I think it's a good idea to say "Americans don't that, Americans do this."  An important part of this is when you say "Americans don't make mischief abroad"... we all know better, but the point is that American IDEALS don't allow that, and the many examples to the contrary have forever been against the ideals of America as they properly are when shining.

    (3) New Politics: I think the new ideals which is actually already in our DNA as progressives is simply "relativism" and the only problem here is that people do not understand relativism.  Until we make the shift and understand our principles as relativist principles we will forever, like Ptolemy, have to express our positions in overly complicated ways.

    PS: good point about the invention of the label "conservative"...

  •  Operation American Freedom (none)
    I ,too, believe NOW is the time to take advantage of a shifting allegiance that is taking place because of the failure of so many of Bush's policies.

    I'm beginning to think the best policy, the overriding theme for democrats, is "energy independence". National security, the economy, the budget, jobs, education, the future, the promise of what America can be, the environment, global warming, global leadership. technology , you name it, it can be tied to energy independence,

    Republican policy is rooted in maintaining the status quo. The democrats are already associated with the changes that need to be made. They just need to exploit it, while constantly building the meme out there, that the republicans are the party of extremism. that by protecting  corporate America above ordinary citizens, they have put America at risk.

    But we need a GRAND Proposal/ Something to ask every American to participate in, something that asks for change, but promises a great reward for doing so, I have nicknamed it

    Operation American Freedom.

  •  I really appreciate the depth (none)
    of thought and analysis represented in this diary and in so many of the comments. The complexities of politics by itself cannot be discussed in a series of sound bites no matter how clever those zingers might be. and describing the particularly nasty place we are in now with respect to the political scene is even more daunting.

    I agree with the diarist that there are fundamental distinctions between liberal, conservative and reactionary political mindsets, and that what he calls "Americanism" is ultimately an engineered mutation of reactionary philosophy. I disagree, however, that this "Americanism" is somehow a product of conservative thought or ideology.

    For me, whether it's liberalism, conservatism, or radicalism, these political perspectives share the same continuum. It's a continuum based on shared and participatory authority, and one which recognizes the need to safeguard itself by incorporating mechanisms to maintain a balance of influence and authority within the government. In short, it's a Democratic continuum. The reactionary position, the so-called "Americanism" referred to by Mr. Newberry is on a different continnum altogether. This is a place where the choices are simple; "Love it or leave it"; "If you can't take the heat get out of the kitchen"; My country right or wrong"; Only the strong survive"; "Father knows best". It's a continuum where all you regular people are not able to understand what's best for yourselves. In short, this is the continuum of Tyranny. Sharing this continuum are virtually all the non-democratic and anti-democratic political forms; monarchy, oligarchy, communism, fascism, and goodold fashioned military dictatorship. Nietztche's philosophyis found along this thread, as is that of Leo Strauss.

    And this "tyrannic" mindset is the fundamental trait of those on the right who have hijacked the government and are scrambling so aggressively to extend their power. They are anti-democratic in every respect, and this is how we need to characterize them if we are going to succeed in undoing the pernicious effects of their propaganda.

    The other thought I want to add here is that, where we Dems need to better articulate policy positions in unambiguous terms, and where we need to be able to converse well across a more diverse spectrum, we need to understand some key things.

    One is that we need to realize that the wingnut, (read reactionary or tyrannist) propaganda machine is effective because it operates primarily on an emotional wavelength rather than on a rational one. Every con man worth his salt knows that if you can scare someone with an enemy you can easily invent and then demonize, then propose a remedy to remove that threat, you will gladly turn over their money (or their votes) to help you vanquish the foe. Similarly, they know if they can tell you what you want to hear, they can get you to trust them, and if they can get you to trust them, they can get you to give them whatever they want.

    Secondly, the so-called culture wars, the battles between urban and rural, Northerer and Southerner, churchgoers and non-churchgoers, these conflicts are for the most part manufactured by the "reactionaries". This doesn't mean there aren't real issues that need to be considered, but we don't need to be tricked into spending 90% of our poitical and social energy rigidly defending positions that might account for 1% of the disagreement between us. This is part of the "divide and conquer" strategy that is as old as mankind; a strategy designed to weaken us by getting us to fight against each other over issues that are not anywhere near central to what we really should be seeking solutions for. If we can remind ourselves that we always have more in common with each other than that which separates us, we can begin to better repair the damage these fascist-minded maniacs have perpetrated on our world.

    Geez. I had no idea this would go on so long. there's more but I can't do it all now.

    Defeat the sound-bite.

    by sbj on Wed May 11, 2005 at 09:09:59 PM PDT

  •  How do you (none)
    respond to those who suggest that the increasing fluidity of international funds being directed by wholly unaccountable private organizations(Multinational Corporations, WTO etc) have caused the threat of capital flight to preclude any possible chance of a true progressive policy within the United States?

    In other words, since it is now becoming increasingly easier to just pull massive amounts of money out of a locale rather than deal with local policies, even if we got 100 Noam Chomskys in the Senate, 400 Howard Zinns in the House, and Gore Vidal in the White House, we would never be able to sustain any of the policies that progressives support before we would be thrown into an economic turmoil, thus formenting a hardline dictatorship that would be required to steward us through a time of strife and war?

    •  US still economic giant (none)
      Despite inroads of economic strength from China and the EU, the US still commands over 25% of world ecomomic consumption/activity, and therefore if there is capital flight that impovershes US, these organizations run the risk of losing a huge market.

      The multinationals and WTO would be shooting themselves in the foot. A shrinking US economy as a result of the capital flight would result in less demand for oil and manufactured products that they themselves must sell to make money.

      I am a bit more optimistic that we can implement progressive policy. Our policy and bent were more pro-worker and inclusive 1932-1970 than they are now with 20+ years of ever increasing reactionary US and multinational policy, yet as far as I know there was a much more broad based prosperity and no attempt by MNCs or trade to bring us to heel.

      If US workers have more discretionary funds, they can give the world traders and corporations better profit margins.

      Its the same philosphy of Henry Ford who insisted on paying workers wages sufficient to buy their own products.

  •  Off topic, (none)
    sorry but this type of diary and the subsequent discussion posts is what will save us. We need the nuts and bolts but we need this as much.

    It's why I keep coming back and what I've looked for all my adult life but haven't been able to find.

    I haven't led a sheltered life and I know this kind of discussion was probably common in other circles; they just weren't the circles I moved in.

    Thanks everyone here and thanks dKos community. I'm hearted by this.

    I hope some of those in Congress and the Senate are reading.

    Someday, after the forest fire of the Right has died we'll say "Whew, I'm happy that's over."

    by CanYouBeAngryAndStillDream on Wed May 11, 2005 at 10:35:40 PM PDT

  •  Why Dems didn't defend the label "liberal (none)
    is beyond me.

    Let's smoke out the Republican Jihadists

    by Joe B on Thu May 12, 2005 at 12:18:37 AM PDT

  •  i agree (none)
    with the comment upthread about energy independence.

    that's a flag big enough for all democrats to rally around, no matter where they stand on micro issues like roe, gay marriage etc.

    the old media's bought and sold down the river, we've been given a new one, potentially much more powerful than the old models, let's continue to use it!

    we need to be very very smart to beat this nightmare, and discovering and developing energy footprint awareness is the key. it needs to be a patriotic, then global thing, i.e. it's american to live within your means, it's unmanly to always be in hock to bankers, it's the economy stupid, but not just the money economy, it's the bigger picture: what money is only a symbol of anyway, the energy, starting with the muscle in your arm, moving out to your home, neighborhood, and so on.

    it's about taking responsibility and husbanding this beautiful planet in a compassionate, humanistic way, not behaving like drunken bulls in a chinashop.

    respect for values is fine, but not just 'old paradigm' moral and family values, but ones of fairness and decency, free of dogmactic cant and propaganda, such as to be found so well espoused and articulated here at dkos, especially in stirling's brilliant diaries (and the excellent comments they provoke).

    intelligence and common sense decree that we take peak oil and energy independence totally seriously; it's sheer terrorism to do otherwise, trading the capital (and debt) built up through centuries of hard work for the quick fix of oil dependence and wasteful folly when it comes to being frugal with a resource whose era of primacy is fading rapidly.

    if dems offer tax breakd for solar panels, windmills and the like, and make gm and ford follow the japanese example, recognising the enormous number of people who'd like their driving habits to respect mother earth, but now have their own tax money abused to support old paradigm industries that would die a natural death if the market were really allowed to play out, instead of being supported by cronyism and lobbies.

    why? just kos..... *just cause*

    by melo on Thu May 12, 2005 at 02:38:07 AM PDT

  •  Splitting the republicans (none)
    What better way to do this than local voter referenda calling for an end to the occupation of Iraq?

    This was done by antiwar activists in Vermont, and they succeeded in getting 50 towns and cities to vote for a US pullout from iraq.

    And tradtionally republican areas went strongly for these resolutions. This should not be surprising, since opposition to foreign entanglements USED to be a core republican (and conservative) value.

    Give conservatives an opportunity to vote against the war without having to repudiate a lifetime of voting republican. After they've done this once, they might feel more free to finally break with the party that has betrayed their conservative principles.

    Try it in your state.

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