Friday, December 30, 2005

The Right Thing To Do

It's become almost reflexive for political observers to assume that all policy positions are motivated by a desire for political gain. Whether it is the average American, who scoffs at the notion of a politician who actually gives a damn about their welfare, or the media pundit, who is oh-so proud of their clever way of using words to pin down a wiggling politico, we have all become ingrained with the belief that politics is about nothing more than political gain.

Democrats only feed into this notion when they are seen to discussing whether it is politically wise for them to decry the violation of bedrock American principles.

Digby has it exactly right, that the question of whether this is a winning issue for the Democrats is and should be completely besides the point.

Did the men who signed the Declaration of Independence do so because they thought it would earn them an honored place in history? No. Most of them assumed they were signing their own death warrant. They did it because it was the right thing to do.

Did Martin Luther King face jailings, beatings and death for what he believed because he thought it would lead to this nation declaring a national holidy to celebrate his birth? No. He expected to die. He talked about it often. But he continued on because it was the right thing to do.

Should Democrats oppose Bush's imperial presumptions because doing so might earn them a vaunted place in history (or at least a few extra votes at the polls)? Should they avoid it because it might hurt them at the polls? No. They should do it because it is the right thing to do.

It is the right thing to do because it is the right thing to do!

Working Together

Wil Weaton (of Wesley Crusher fame) has a long and thoughtful post on dKos that is a followup to an article he wrote for Salon just prior to Christmas. In the article, Wil talks about a blowup his father had with him about the death penalty. Wil wrote the article as a way of dealing with his feelings over the incident and his anger with the way that the polarizing nature of our current political debate has destroyed his ability to talk with his parents about the most pressing issues of the day.

Unfortunately, in the course of writing his original article, Wil painted a picture of his parents that made them out to be wingnuts just like the people he was decrying. The post on dKos describes his subsequent conversations with his parents about the article and how it hurt them. It is a useful (albeit LONG) excursion into an experience that, unfortunately, far to many Americans are experiencing today.

Wil's parents sound like people who are willing to "talk it out" and reach some kind of consensus (even if that means agreeing to disagree). Those are the kind of people who you can work with, even if you have vastly different philosophical outlooks.

It is the True Believers, the One True Wayers and the Wingnuts who are really poisoning our political dialog, and that is what I think Wil was trying to get at in his original article. The mistake he made was in recklessly painting a picture that suggested his parents were of the same stripe when all he was trying to say was that the REAL wingnuts were making it harder for him to have reasonable discussions with his parents (and others) about the most important issues of the day.

There's a lesson here. The true wingnuts are a rare breed. But they are so loud and disruptive, and so many of the rest of us are so desirous of "just getting along", that the wingnuts come to dominate the political discussion. As a result, everyone gets painted into the most extreme corners where they don't fairly belong.

It is those people, the cockroaches as I like to call them, that we should really stomp on. It is the people like Wil's parents that we should continue to try to work with, even if we can never convince them of the correctness of our own beliefes.

We shouldn't let the scuttling of the cockroaches get in the way of our natural human desire to work together to make the world a better place. The spirit of cooperation is as strong a force in human history as is the spirit of competition (possibly more so). It is one of our greatest strengths and one of our most powerful survival instincts.

We fall when we fail to realize how much we are capable of achieving together.

Thursday, December 29, 2005

An Analogy

Supporting Bush in his war on Iraq in order to prove you are not afraid of war

is like

Boarding the Titanic in order to prove you are not afraid of boats.

The Democratic America

I agree completely with this post by Digby:

A party that is described as fumbling, confused and scared is unlikely to win elections even if they endorse the wholesale round-up of hippies and the nuking of Mecca. People will listen to us if we can first convince them that we know who we are and what we believe in.

I'm of the mind to adopt "give me liberty or give me death" as my personal motto. If I have to kowtow to a bunch of childish Republican panic artists who have deluded themselves into believing that fighting radical Islam requires turning America into a police state, then it's just not worth it.

In the America that Republicans see, Americans are a bunch of weak-kneed pussies who cower under their bed waiting for Daddy Bush to come and protect them.

In the Democratic America, Americans are brave enough to suffer the harsh realities life throws at us because we know that jettisoning are deepest principles for a false sense of security is the cowards way.

You want to know the secret of Bush's success? Whenever someone suggests that his actions may be politically unsupportable he says, "fuck it" and does it anyway. And the American people, even his critics, know this about him and admire him for it.

There are Democrats who behave similarly (Dean, Feingold, Boxer, Reid, Conyers, etc.). The only reason they have not become the face of the Democratic party, the counter to Bush's "strength of character" is that the rest of the party continues to treat our hard asses like crazy uncle Joe that no one likes to talk about.

After all, if we were to stand behind these people we might get the reputation for being "soft" on military issues and that might hurt us at the polls. Better the keep them locked away and change the subject whenever they come up.

After all, we wouldn't want Democrats to get the reputation that they actually STAND for something would we?

Monday, December 12, 2005

Reject The Premise

Ezra Klein:

Liberals tend to think of wedge issues as actual issues, problematic policy thickets that a clever bit of reframing will make vanish off the agenda forever. That's where the various attempts to triangulate abortion or compromise on flag burning come from. But that's wrong. Once you dispatch a wedge issue, another springs forth to take its place. The style is the substance here -- wedge issues are nothing more than cultural controversies that large groups of lower middle-class whites disagree with Democrats on. Conservative strategists take their pick from among the many possible contenders and inject the winner into the public debate. The urgency is all manufactured, and it's entirely replicable. Kill one and they'll choose another.

Ezra is right about Democrats on this point: simply trying to reframe a wedge issue won't make wedge issues as an issue go away. There are a million potential wedges out there just waiting for some unscrupulous huckster to come along and take advantage of them. Democrats are mistaken if they think they can finesse their way out of this minefield. At best the only thing they will achieve is getting that particular problem off the radar. The deeper problem, how to deal with wedge issues in general, still remains (and it just compounds the image of Democrats as weavers-and-bobbers.)

What really needs to be done to address wedge issues is to simply "reject the premise".

Ezra says that "wedge issues are nothing more than cultural controversies that large groups of lower middle-class whites disagree with Democrats on." We should reject the premise that these wedge issues are ones that represent a fundamental disagreement between lower middle-class whites and Democrats. A lot of Democrats, lower middle-class whites or not, happen to not fit into the stereotype being presented by the wedger. For example, it is not necessary for Democrats to deny hating Christmas. It is simply a matter of rejecting the premise entirely.

Don't even give the wedge the weight a denial would give it. Don't even get into an argument on this point. Just reject the premise of the wedge every time they assert it. Want proof that this works? Check out how many times Scott McClellan uses this handy shield when he is deflecting hostile questions from the press.

When facing down someone who is trying to spin you into an indefensible position ask yourself what is the underlying premise of the comments they are making and the questions they are asking. Then bring that premise out into the light and that flatly reject it. In fact, don't even allow the conversation to continue until they acknowledge that you have rejected it and are justified in doing so. If they don't then don't even bother engaging them in any further discussion. They have already proven themselves to be dishonest argumentarians.

Bush's is delusional, this could be a help to Dems in '06

Courtesy Sam Rosenfeld of TAP comes this paragraph from Karen Tumulty and Mike Allen's Time article on George W. Bush's "search for a new groove":

However improbable the odds at this point or modest his short-term goals, aides say, Bush still subscribes to Rove's long-held dream that his will be the transformational presidency that lays the groundwork for a Republican majority that can endure, as Franklin Roosevelt's New Deal coalition did, for a half-century or more. Once he gets past the midterm elections, Bush plans to introduce a concept that, if anything, is even more ambitious than his failed Social Security plan: a grand overhaul that would include not only that program but Medicare and Medicaid as well. Says strategist McKinnon: "He knows that part of what he brings to the presidency is an ability and commitment to chart a long course under public pressure." The question that will be answered in the coming year is whether America still believes in George Bush enough to follow. [emphasis added]

Says Sam:

Two years ago I would have found this plan a whole lot more alarming than amusing; how times have changed. No reason to get complacent, of course -- but really, this scheme seems more than a bit unlikely.

With this crowd it is never a good idea to relax and laugh off their ideas as a joke. Admittedly, this is delusional thinking on Bush's part. But if the GOP manages to win the mid-term elections it would be just the kind of thing that I could see Bush attempting. He really does think he has some kind of "mandate from heaven" to fundamentally alter the nature of our government. A Republican victory in '06 would just validate that belief.

Which is all the more reason why Democrats must win next year. One suggestion I might make: spread these kind of reports far and wide. The more people know what they will be voting for in 2006 if they vote Republican, the better it will be for our side.

Michael Moore did something similar before the 1998 elections. He made a strong push to get out the message that a vote for Republicans in 1998 would be a vote for more Lewinsky. The Republicans got trounced in the polls that year (not all, of course, due to Moore's efforts). What Moore and others didn't count on was that the Republicans would go forward with impeachment even though they got a clear message from the electorate to shut the hell up.

We can use Bush's delusions against the Republicans, and not just in the sense of making people think he's nuts. We can also use them to, quite appropriately, scare the bejeesus out of the people who might consider voting for one of his fellow travelers.

Monday, November 21, 2005

BushCheney: All Talk

I watched part of Cheney's speech this morning. I have to say that, on content alone, it was a good speech. Indeed, the Bushies are usually pretty good at giving speeches that "sound right." But there are a few problems

1. It helps when the speaker has credibility. Bush and Cheney, have no credibility left, so the words they speak automatically trigger the "what aren't they telling me?" skepticism.

2. The actions on the ground often don't match the grandness of the rhetoric. Bush, Cheney and the others talk a good game about bringing freedom. But they rarely turn their rhetoric into reality. They are of the school that tyinks that reality will follow the rhetoric. But reality is a restless beast that rarely tolerates someone tugging on its leash.

3. They spend an inordinate amount of time spreading fear about what might happen if we don't do what they say, but they repeatedly gloss over what is happening in response to what they are doing. Cheney talked about how doing anything other than what we are doing will lead to a "victory for the terrorists". But he didn't explain how doing what we are doing will lead to a victory for us.

More and more people are starting to notice that rather key omission.

Friday, November 18, 2005

John Kerry Blasts Murtha Critics

Sen. John Kerry responds to the 'swift boating' of Jack Murtha:

I won't stand for the `swift boating' of Jack Murtha. It disgusts me that a bunch of guys who have never put on the uniform of their country venomously turn their guns on a Marine who came home from Vietnam with a Bronze Star and two Purple Hearts. No matter what J.D. Hayworth says, there is no sterner stuff than the backbone and courage that defines Jack Murtha's character and conscience.

You know why the Republicans are engaged in the lowest form of smear and fear politics? Because they're afraid of actually debating a senior congressman who has advised presidents of both parties on military matters. They're afraid to debate a decorated veteran who lives and breathes the concerns of our troops, not the empty slogans of an Administration that sent our brave troops to war without body armor. They're terrified of actually leveling with the American people about the way they misled America into war, and admitting they have no clear plan to finish the job and get our troops home. Whether you agree with Jack Murtha's policy or not is irrelevant. The truth is there is a better course for our troops and for America in Iraq, and I am going to keep fighting until we take that course for the good of our country.

Instead of letting his cronies run their mouths, the President for once should stop his allies from doing to Jack Murtha what he set them loose to do to John McCain in South Carolina and Max Cleland in Georgia. The President should finally find the courage to debate the real issue instead of destroying anyone who speaks truth to power as they see it. It's time for Americans to stand up, fight back, and make it clear it's unacceptable to do this to any leader of any party anywhere in our country.

Bravo John! That's the kind of fighting Dem spirit I like to see.

(You know, I could make a snarky comment like "Why didn't we see this John Kerry last year". But what would be the point? It's long past time to stop beating up on Kerry for his failings. He's one of the good guys, even with his flaws.)

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Don't let the GOP win this battle!

The Woodward revelations are being used by the GOP to blow a hole in Plamegate. Now some may say that it doesn't matter because this case is not being tried in the court of public opinion.


This offensive won't make any difference to Fitzgerald's case against Libby. But that isn't the GOP's concern right now. What is their concern is the falling approval ratings of both Bush and the party. That is where a "trial in the court of public opinion" matters and that is where this offensive is directed.

If the GOP can manage to spin Woodward's revelation as proof that that Fitzgerald's case is bunk then they can stop being on the defensive and go after those who are attacking them.

How do we counter this?

1) Knock down the offensive wherever it shows up and do so with ferocity. Do not allow them to distort the case in the slightest. Call them on the lies firmly and repeatedly.

2) Renew the attack by saying that this latest lie is just another in a repeated line of lies going back to the original justification for the invasion of Iraq. It is a "pattern of lies" that demonstrates that the Republican party has lost all claim to responsible leadership.

This is their battle of the Bulge.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

What is it about Dems named Joe

Joe Lieberman and Joe Biden are of a similar stripe: they get ahead by complaining about their fellow Democrats as much if not more so than about the opposition party.

And now Joe Biden is running for the 2008 nomination?

Joementum Mark II?