Thursday, November 11, 2004

Reformation

There's been a lot of talk lately about how the Democratic Party should reform itself after the "devastating" loss little over a week ago. There has been plenty of hand wringing over how moral values, or our liberal view of them, have undermined the party even though 48% of the nation voted with us. Fingers are being pointed at our support of Gay rights issues or our stance on Women's Choice even though the nation as a whole again agrees with us on both issues. Cries of needing to be more in touch with "moderates" within the party, or at least with "middle America" abound even though middle America is increasingly out of the mainstream with respect to racial diversity, religious diversity, and social diversity.

My two cents on this rush to the middle: baloney.

We didn't lose because we support equal rights for everyone or a woman's right to choose. We didn't lose because we are some group of east coast elitists. We didn't lose because Kerry was an inept candidate (I think he did as well as could be expected against a "war time" president playing on people's fears of terrorism striking Des Moines). We didn't lose because the moral values of the blue states are inferior to the red states (actually, it's quite strikingly the opposite with regards to marriage, poverty, murder and divorce rates just to name a few).


In my opinion we lost because the Republicans are better at what they do than the Democrats. The GOP has a message that appeals emotional to a broad range of the populace and they stick to it like flies to horse manure. Their message may be completely misleading, not borne out by the facts, and totally undermine peoples' well being by trading a false sense of security and morality for more tangeble trinkets like jobs, healthcare and human rights. But that matters little when it's their message and they stick to the script like it was the gospel (and to many I think they think it is gospel).


Just what was the Democratic message in 2004? To me it was a loose concoction of "I can fight a more efficient war on terror" (boy that just grabs ya!) alternating with "Bush is bad" mixed in with a little sporadic talk of better health care, equal rights, and allies that would like us better than Bush. It's not that I disagree with any of these, and find them all important and equally real. But they don't send me swooning, nor do they excite me in the way Bush's consistent message (albeit misleading) excited the fundies and his base. I can't explain effectively in ten seconds or less what Democrats stand for the way the GOP can with their "Culture of Life" sound bytes.


So rather than run to the middle, which given the current political landscape is actually running to the right, or trying to get in touch with states that aren't as representative of America as they are being made out to be, two actions which have served as so very well in the past (sarcasm), I think it's time for a change. Two such changes I've heard the most about and agree with are picking a new DNC Chief and getting rid of the the focus on Iowa in the primaries.


As far as DNC Chief, I've heard many names, of which three names that catch my attention: Gov. Howard Dean, Gov. Tom Vilsack, and New Democratic Network President Simon Rosenberg. Here's my two cents on this decision: Rosenberg has been a big supporter of the new progressive movement, especially the blogosphere. But I've read that he's a really nice guy. No offense Simon, but I don't want a nice guy, I want a street fighter. Republicans play to win. We don't need nice right now.


Gov. Vilsack of Iowa has noted his interest in the job. But I didn't like his behavior in the primaries nor some of his treatment of some of us on the his side.  His connection to the Iowa Caucus is a big negative and something I would like to see go away. I doubt he will see it this way what with his being the governor of  Iowa and all.


So that leaves Gov. Dean. He's a bull dog. He's behind the progressive movement completely. Contrary to conventional wisdom, he is not a flaming liberal, but a pragmatist. He's done wonders with DFA, and was one of our best attack dogs for Kerry. I'm sure he has some issues, especially with the DLC, but I could care less. We need someone to rally around, and Dean in my opinion is the man.


The Iowa Caucus is another relic that needs to go away. Iowa went for Bush this year, and nearly did last time. It's population is not remotely representative of America, but instead of an America long past. The focus placed on such a state for so long skews the message and image of any Democratic candidate who is forced to appeal to a demographic that leans toward the GOP. Allowing such a skewed population to effectively pick our nominee and dominate our message for months every election cycle undermines the big tent that the Democratic Party is suppose to have and handycaps our party.


Chris at MyDD has an excellent article on "The California Plan" also known as the Graduated Random Presidential Primary System, places much better emphasis on the country as a whole, and eliminates many problems with this misplaced fixation on Iowa voters:


This system features a schedule consisting of ten two-week intervals, during which randomly selected states may hold their primaries. This 20-week schedule is the approximate length of the traditional primary season. The schedule is weighted as an ascending scale based on the number of congressional districts. The actual number of delegates for each state would be set by the political parties themselves, as they always have been. The District of Columbia, Guam, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands, which also send delegates to both national conventions, are each counted as one district in this system, although they in fact have no representatives in Congress.


We as a Party need change. Changing one leader for another who will use the same paradigm is not real change. Running our nomination process the same as it always has been is not real change, nor has it been effective.  The Party needs leaders who use new approaches, and nomination processes that produce results that better align themselves with the views of the whole nation, not just a small population group within it. The party needs a reformation.