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:: Thursday, December 09, 2004 ::

Choosing Candidates

Something's been bugging me the last few days about "electability" and I thought I'd tease it out into a seperate screed, instead of shoving it in the middle of a "DAMN YOU, DLC!" post.

Right now, the current Democratic practice of "fine-tuning" candidates doesn't work against the GOP. (The GOP gets away with it, but we don't have that sort of media machine).

Say the debate is "We don't want a candidate that's too Northern. We don't want to give off that 'elite' vibe and we certainly don't want to come across as too 'liberal'".

How does that actually play? Well, first off, it's a standard news story for the entire leadup to Iowa. OVER AND OVER AND OVER again the talking heads will handicap the front runner, and OVER AND OVER AND OVER they'll mention "So-and-so is considered a favorite, because he doesn't give off a Northern 'elite liberal' vibe that the Democrats fear is so damaging".

How does Joe Public hear that? He hears "The Democratic Party is full of "elite liberals". They're trying to hide it by finding a guy who doesn't look that way, so it must be a bad thing. I should vote against them. He's probably just a "northern elite" anyways.".

All that does is reinforce the image we're trying to avoid (on a level it's difficult to erase) AND make our candidate look like a he's just "pretty face" tacked onto something we're trying to hide.....

The Demcoratic party is too obsessed with image over substance, and worse yet -- we're publically obsessed with it. People know it's a crafted image designed to smooth over weak spots, and don't trust it. They wonder what we're hiding.
:: Morat 2:25 PM :: ::

Read My Lips

Shorter George Bush: "I learned all I need to know about accounting from Enron".
:: Morat 1:56 PM :: ::

:: Wednesday, December 08, 2004 ::

For the record...

I -- obviously -- didn't support Kerry in the primaries. He didn't excite the base, I felt he had rolled over too many times to Bush between 2000 and 2003 to be effective (the usual "Senate" problem) and I suspected his supporters were leaning WAY too hard on his war record as "protection" against Bush.

But he won the primaries, and I devoted time, money, and effort -- and my vote -- to John Kerry. I worked my ass off for him, despite the fact that he was way down my list of candidates. I'd really like to have been proven wrong about him.

I think he's a fine man, a decent Senator, and probably would have made a good President. Unfortunately, he strangled himself with his war votes and his Senate record. People -- both Republican and Democrat -- look for certain things in their President. And Kerry's record on Iraq reeked a little too hard of someone holding their finger to the wind, and voting for political advantage and not on principle. It didn't help that "Kerry the Senator" was contrasted with "Kerry the Vietnam Vet", a man who -- upon returning the to the US -- became an anti-war advocate despite his notions of public service. At the time, such an act was considered political suicide.

It's hard to look at a man who stood on his conscience on one war, but on the polls on another, and convince yourself he's a man of character. It made him all to easy to smear.

Do I think Dean would have won? I have no idea. I think the battles would have been different, the issues different, and the fight different. It might have been a blowout, a close loss, a close win, or an easy win. I've got no idea.

But I do know this: Dean proved to me that what I really want out of a candidate, out of a party, is a certain faithfulness to principle. I don't expect enforced ideological purity. I relish a "Big Tent". But I do expect my Congressmen, my President, and my party to pay more than lip service to their ideals. Perhaps that's too much to ask for a President, for any candidate....but at least do me the courtesy of putting up a good fake.

But I'll tell you this: I played the good soldier. Dean lost, and I bucked up and support Kerry and the party. I was a team player. But the game is over and that stopped on November the 3rd.

I swallowed my doubts about Kerry, about the DLC, and about the direction of the Democratic party during the election. Not anymore. I don't personally care if such doubts are "good" or "bad" for the Democratic Party. I don't care if they're productive, counterproductive, or even if I somehow end up personally ripping the party to shreds over it. I'm not a far left Democrat. I'm not a Green. I'm not a Nader voter. But I am NOT playing the good soldier anymore. Not until the party starts to represent me.
:: Morat 2:03 PM :: ::

Speaking softly..

I realize Josh Marshall likes to speak softly, but this is ridiculous. He might as well write -- seriously and without even a trace of ironic understatement: "Well, while I understand -- if not totally sympathize -- with Zell Miller's problem with current Democratic priorities, perhaps endorsing President Bush during the campaign wasn't quite the best way to get his fellow Senators to sign on...".

But I do agree with Josh. The DLC using the op-ed page of the fricking Wall Street Journal to launch their "Save the Democrats from the liberals" campaign DID show a certain lack of, shall we say, tact. In the future, they might try a more calm and reasonable route, such as setting their op-ed on fire and inserting it directly into the rectum of liberal Democrats.
:: Morat 1:08 PM :: ::

Excuse me, whilst I curse horribly...

Check out this Daily Kos diary on Dean's speech.

First, on the speech: Dean gets it. No question about it. He states:
Here in Washington, it seems that after every losing election, there's a consensus reached among decision-makers in the Democratic Party is that the way to win is to be more like Republicans.

I suppose you could call that philosophy: if you didn't beat 'em, join them.

I'm not one for making predictions -- but if we accept that philosophy this time around, another Democrat will be standing here in four years giving this same speech. we cannot win by being "Republican-lite." We've tried it; it doesn't work.

The question is not whether we move left or right. It's not about our direction. What we need to start focusing on... is the destination.
[...]
Over fifty years ago, Harry Truman said, "We are not going to get anywhere by trimming or appeasing. And we don't need to try it."

Yet here we are still making the same mistakes.

Let me tell you something: there's only one thing Republican power brokers want more than for us to lurch to the left -- and that's for us to lurch to the right.

What they fear most is that we may really begin fighting for what we believe -- the fiscally responsible, socially progressive values for which Democrats have always stood and fought.
And yes, he's running for DNC. He's just learned some important lessons from Iowa.

Now, having gotten past that, I'd like you to read some of the comments in the thread discussing the speech. This one is typical:
It woulda been a knockout. Look, I was a Dean guy, but when you saw what they did to a decorated war hero, just imagine what they'd have done to Dean, who was a bonafide draft dodger. It would have been ugly and I suspect we'd been looking for a new candidate by mid-August. No, this election cycle, during a "war time," Kerry was our best and only shot. Note, however, that all the good that came out of this thing for Demos, came out because of Dean's work. That should not be forgotten.
That is why we lose.. Over and over and over again.

Because of this. Do you know what this says to Americans? It says: "Democrats have no ideas, no issues, no strong leaders. They are so weak and puerile that they choose candidates out of fear of the GOP, rather than from any vision or desire".

We're weak. We're pussies. We're utterly beaten. We're crawling, puerile little enablers who have not only turned out primaries into a "Who is least objectionable to Karl Rove" contest, but have no reached the staggering nadir of openly worrying that our party head will be too "liberal" for Karl Rove's taste.

FUCK THAT. Karl Rove is not a goddamn Democrat. He gets no fucking say in who our party chair is, who our candidate is, or what our issues are. The GOP has their own party, their own candidates, and their own goddamn issues. So why, exactly, are we letting them run our show too?

The Democratic party is run by sniveling cowards. Our image is crafted by sniveling cowards. We run on a platform specifically created to try not to offend the GOP. We are, in short, the absolute bitch of the GOP.

Why the fuck should anyone vote for that? Cowardice? Weakness? Lack of vision? Is there anything worth voting for here?

Here's a message to the idiots and morons running the party: I'm through with you. Nominate Dean, nominate ANYONE willing to act like the Democratic party has something worth fighting for, and I'll give you another chance. But you're not getting a goddamn dime from me anymore. You're not getting my support. You're not getting my vote. I voted for Clinton, I voted for Gore, I voted for Kerry.....no more.

There's no point in voting for the lesser of two evils if there's no chance he'll win. Might as well vote for Satan and hope he cuts you some slack for the support.

You don't represent me. You don't represent my issues. You don't represent anything but fear of the Big Bad GOP. And worst yet, you're gearing up to crush the only goddamn leader you've produced in the last decade. You're doing the GOP's own dirty work for them out of sheer goddamn fear.

Fuck you.
:: Morat 11:25 AM :: ::

An Important Announcement

As of today, I have been happily married for two years now. My wife is an amazing, brilliant, talented and tireless woman whom I barely -- and only through dint of great effort -- deserve.

Plus, she puts up with me, and I can be kind of a pain in the ass at times. I'm sure you hadn't noticed, but I assure you it's true.
:: Morat 9:22 AM :: ::

:: Tuesday, December 07, 2004 ::

Inventing a Crisis

Krugman distills the SS crises to it's barest elements:
But since the politics of privatization depend on convincing the public that there is a Social Security crisis, the privatizers have done their best to invent one.

My favorite example of their three-card-monte logic goes like this: first, they insist that the Social Security system's current surplus and the trust fund it has been accumulating with that surplus are meaningless. Social Security, they say, isn't really an independent entity - it's just part of the federal government.

If the trust fund is meaningless, by the way, that Greenspan-sponsored tax increase in the 1980's was nothing but an exercise in class warfare: taxes on working-class Americans went up, taxes on the affluent went down, and the workers have nothing to show for their sacrifice.

But never mind: the same people who claim that Social Security isn't an independent entity when it runs surpluses also insist that late next decade, when the benefit payments start to exceed the payroll tax receipts, this will represent a crisis - you see, Social Security has its own dedicated financing, and therefore must stand on its own.
Compared to George Bush, the Red Queen was a piker. George Bush can believe a lot more than seven impossible things each morning.....
:: Morat 10:00 AM :: ::

One more thing..

Just for the record, the statement "You were right, not shut up because you're bad politically" is a really stupid for two reasons.

First, we were right. Normally "being right" tends to give you a little more sway than the "being wrong" crowd. Secondly, claiming we're "bad for politics" is a bit rich coming from a team that's lost everything in the last decade.

Lost the White House, lost the House, lost the Senate...and then lost the White House again to the most incompetent leader in the history of mankind. What you should be asking yourself is "How badly would we have lost had George Bush not been a complete moron"?

This isn't a knock on Kerry, or Clinton -- but it is a slam on the DLC. People want leaders who stand for something. When we elect Presidents -- or Representatives or Senators or even town dogcatcher -- we're not choosing them because we know all the decisions and compromises they'll make over their term. How can we? We don't know what issues will come up, we don't know what problems will arise...you can't even know how much -- or little -- cooperation they'll have with other branches of government.

We're electing them because we know where they stand. Because they have firm principles that will lead them in what we think are the right direction. We judge them by their ideals because their ideals will form the basis of their decisions.

Ideals get compromised when actually applied to reality. We all understand that. But if what you're telling us -- during the campaign -- is not where you start from, but where you expect to end up, well...therein lies a problem. You're hiding your ideals. You're refusing to stand up for them. That leads to a two-fold problem.

First, it makes it look like you're ashamed of them. People don't trust them because you won't talk about them. They want to know why you're hiding them. Second it -- as I noted earlier -- people still mentally draw the compromise position halfway between the parties. If you're advocating the middle, the compromise is 3/4s of the way towards the other side.

And let me ask Kevin Drum and those who agree with him one question: Do you really believe the Democrats in Congress will effectively fight anything Bush does? Do you think they'll mount an effective fight anywhere -- the Senate Floor, the media, anywhere?

I voted Democrat this year because they were the other choice any anything was better than George Bush. And I'm not that much of a flaming liberal (I actually agreed with Dean on policy not rhetoric). If that isn't a sign of severe sickness within the party, I don't know what is.

And your solution is to tell me to sit down and shut up? Well fuck you. I was right about Bush, and you were wrong. And you've had a decade to make your ideas work and I note we don't control jack shit. I'm about done with voting for you idiots because you don't win anyways so what's the point? I can't vote for you based on ideals, I can't vote for you based on visions, and I can't vote for you based on leadership -- you don't offer them. And your routine incompetence is taking away the one last reason I had ("You're better than the right-wing nutcases") because you can't win....and all you do is enable the right to be more extreme year after year. I might as well just start supporting moderate Repubs in the primary. I understand some of them still have their balls. Pity about Arlen, though....
:: Morat 9:28 AM :: ::

War of Words....

Well, as we on the left all know, Kevin Drum and Atrios are having a fun conversation about the war, opposition to the war, Michael Moore and the future of the Democratic Party. Well, specifically about two of them, but really about all four.

I'm rather heavily in Atrios' camp here. Not because I opposed the Afghan war (I didn't, although I was VERY skeptical Bush would accomplish anything beyond short-term ass kicking. I was also right) but because I'm starting to grasp the underlying dynamic of post-Clinton politics, and despite the best of intentions, it's Kevin Drum that's killing the party. Not Michael Moore and Atrios.

The problem really isn't the war, although I'm not happy how people -- especially people who should know better -- keep trying to run Afghanistan and Iraq together as if they were the same damn thing, but the reality of post-Clinton politics.

America has a two-party system. Only two parties, despite the fervent desires of the Greens, the Libertarians, and the Reform Party. That two party system forms the backdrop for political discourse, creating a "right to left" continuum based on the public faces of the two main parties. Like it or not, the Democratic Party and the Republican Party define "right" and "left" to the media -- and the average voter. They create the political spectrum. Up until, oh 1992 or so, this worked rather reliably. Sometimes a party as a whole moved too far from the other and was easily cast as "Extremist" (Goldwater, for one) by the other and suffered rather heavily from it, but mostly the two parties kept a certain political distance between themselves and created a comfortable middle that most people could live with, even if they weren't terribly happy about it.

Then came, as I said, 1992, and Bill Clinton. Clinton tried, as every Presidential candidate does, to grab the middle. He wanted to stake out a claim between the two parties -- where the main comfort zone of Americans was -- and he succeeded rather admirably. The problem was what happened to the Democrats next: The rise of the DLC.

The DLC is a compromise-driven, centrist group. They've basically staked out some common-sense areas on some issues, and simply split the middle on others, and followed the polls on a few more, all in an attempt to occupy the middle.....the middle defined by the the Democratic party in 1992 and the GOP in 1992. When Clinton became elected and the DLC rose to prominence, they became the face of the party. This was helped along by the rise of Foxnews and the soon common "moderate/conservative" pairings of talking heads. True liberals were a rarity.

The problem should be simple to spot: The DLC became the definition of the "Left". Not the Democratic Party as a whole, but the DLC. The centrists defined -- to the public and the media -- the "left". That let the GOP shift right even further, placing the new middle somewhere around Ronald Reagan. Needless to say, the bulk of American opinion doesn't rest somewhere around Reagan's politics.

People aren't defining "left" and "right" off of how politics was in 1992, but on how politics are now. And right now "Left" is defined by a group of liberals who have -- in essence -- already compromised their ideals for what they consider a workable solution. That's good government, but bad politics. Compromise is for committees. It's for getting votes on the Senate floor. But you cannot run a campaign, cannot attract voters, cannot sell a vision that is -- in essence -- what you consider a reasonable compromise between your "real" (and unspoken) views and the GOP views. Especially when the GOP views have moved a hell of a lot farther right since you settled on these compromises.

Bush pinned "flip-flopper" on Kerry. He pinned "weak" and "indecisive" on the man. Why? Because the Democrats -- including Kerry -- were selling compromise, not ideals. And elections are won on ideals.

The DLC's solution to this is, basically, to shift again and occupy the new middle. Hence Clinton's comments on gay rights. All that does, however, is play into the narrative that we're weak. That we have no ideas, just "less extreme" ideas than the GOP. People crave leadership from their Presidents, and like it or not, Bush and the GOP are the only ones leading.

Which brings us to Ralph Nader and Howard Dean. Nader -- and god help me for admitting this -- actually had a point in 2000 about Al Gore. It was obscured by ego and narcissim, but it was there. He claimed there was "no difference" between the two parties, which was obvious bullshit. But it resonated among a good number of voters and we should have listened. The problem was with the lack of a visible left. You had a centrist party (the DLC) that was defined as left and a conservative party.....leaving the "middle" somewhere to the right of John McCain, a position many voters -- especially those on the left -- were uncomfortable with.

Political junkies understood that Gore was offering compromise positions, not stirring and strong statements of liberal ideals.....but the average voter was splitting the difference between Gore and Bush, and not liking where that middle was. And there wasn't much of a difference between that point (the point between Gore and Bush) and the moderate GOP that gets showcased every election cylce.

And then came Howard Dean. It wasn't that he was against the war, although that helped. Dean's support came from representing the left. We didn't care that he was a moderate, because he sold those things (balanced budgets, for instance) as necessary outgrowths of liberal ideas. He wasn't offering compromise, he was offering visions and ideas....compromise was, in fact, for committees and writing law.

We live in a country where the Democrats primary issues garner majority support. Yet we control nothing, and we are afraid to espouse those issues for fear of being labeled "extremist". So we offer compromise -- not when trying to get enough votes in Congress -- but on the campaign trail. We do not stand up for our ideals, and people begin to believe we don't have them.

In short, it boils down to leadership. Kevin Drum bitches that Michael Moore has become the outspoken leader of the left. He doesn't ask himself why, probably because the answer to that question is a bit too painful. Moore has started speaking for the left, instead of being just another Hollywood liberal, because no one else was there.

The DLC -- the ironically named "Democratic Leadership Council" -- does not lead. Kerry did not lead. Howard Dean is the closest thing we have to an actual leader on the left. He's loud, unafraid, and passionate about liberal issues -- issues that actually resonate with a good chunk of the American public. Issues like living wages, access to healthcare, protecting the elderly, and being grown-up about the budget.

The fundamental lesson the DLC refuses to learn -- that Kevin Drum refuses to learn -- is that the "middle" is defined by two extremes. Without a strong left, there is no middle. Kevin wants to shut down the only extreme we've got actually talking. I say if we don't like Moore as a spokesman, we put up our own. Strong blue-state Congressmen and Senators, strong party members who can go out and push back on the right.

Bush is an extremist. He's well beyond the comfort zone of most Americans. But he's the only one talking, and the DLC has implicitly accepted the validity of his views instead of disputing them. We've made him look moderate. We've given him power because we killed the left.

We don't offer them a choice anymore. It's just the GOP, and a less extreme version of the GOP. That's fine for when bills get written, but in politics you have to offer a choice.
:: Morat 8:47 AM :: ::

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