Monday, November 15, 2004

Where's Democratic True North?

True north is a nifty concept. You see, the North of the compass needle we grew familiar with in our younger days fishing compass rings from the bottom of Cracker Jack boxes is not actually, well, North. You see no matter the quality of compass, be it the Cracker Jack or the North Face variety, they all point to Magnetic North, the top of the Earth's magnetic pole. The only problem with this is Magnetic North isn't always North at all. Every year Magnetic North moves, today landing several hundred miles from where it was first "discovered."

True North, on the other hand, is fixed. Faced with the problems of of a fickle compass needle, navigators for centuries tried to fix a constant reliable North. In the quest for more accurate navigation, True North was finally fixed in place with Longitude and the invention of accurate time pieces, now pinpointed through Global Positioning Systems.

Politics, however, is a less refined science than navigation. The compass needle of political opinion is difficult to read, rarely pointing to any point North, true or otherwise. In this struggle for political navigation lies the Democratic Party's difficulty. Faced with a defeat by an administration marked by incompetence and scandal, the Democratic Party is debating which "North" to fix its direction upon, and once again contemplating a Magnetic North of political opinions driving it to the "center."

The trouble with running to the center is that the center keeps moving, much like Magnetic North. As the GOP continues to embrace the radical right, the direction the middle keeps moving is right as well. So for the Democratic Party to run to the center is to always run to the right of where Democrats have traditionally stood. By relying on a Magnetic North of political compass, the Democratic Party continues to run from what has stood for, with disastrous results.

If the Democratic Party runs continually from its legacy and its values, chasing a variable Magnetic North politically, why should anyone trust it to navigate the political landscape? Bush and the GOP repeatedly fail, but remain proud of their decisions and policy no matter how disastrous. As stupid as this may sound given their record, the GOP at least demonstrates the courage of their convictions. Americans see Bush's political compass is not only fixed, but locked in place, and they respond to it by rewarding him as strong and resolute leader regardless of the facts.

People see the Democrat Party's compass as well. They see the Party run from its traditional values. They see Democrats shy away from the "L" word; fighting desperately to avoid being labeled a liberal even though the Party's greatest leaders have worn the label with pride. They see them ever willing to immediately compromise their positions, and attack one another with this label, leaving no doubt to the bystander that everything the Democratic Party is founded on must be somehow inferior. Through guilt by association, Democrats have lost their True North, abandoned their liberal foundations, and demonstrated through their actions that everything it has meant to be a Democrat in the past is somehow wrong, weak or directionless. No wonder America voted for Bush. Who wants to follow a party so adrift as to demonstrate a complete loss of where North was anymore.

The Democratic Party needs to realize its compass isn't pointing to True North, and remember just what that True North looks like again. It needs to remember what it as a Party stands for, what over arching values navigate its course, what fixed morals it has that transcend the political landscape so as to give people hope in its leadership again. Democratic True North lies in what it means to be an American, and those experiences common to us all. What it means to work for a living, raise a family, and worship one's God. That the rights of the individual only mean anything when such rights are equal for ever individual. That to be a political servant means to serve first, and be a politician second.

The Democratic Party needs to change it's direction and find its True North again. It won't do that by moving to a center that is ever changing.