Tuesday, November 30, 2004

Terrorism and Reactionism

Close your eyes and imagine something for a minute. Something terrible. Something I hope does not come to pass:

What if Osama bin Laden, or some other terrorist, attacked the United States again. What if the Mall of America or Woodfield Mall was blown up right in the middle of the Holiday season? Think of the endless reports on CNN. The economic impact. The grief broadcast on cable news 24/7. The blood, the gore, the terrible footage we'd endure. Again.

Think about that.

Now think about this. What has our government done about it? Let me rephrase that. What has our completely Republican controlled government done about it? Besides duct tape and shopping recommendations?

A while back, I seem to remember a certain bi-partisan committee that did some investigating of some now distant terrorist attack on US soil. I seem to remember that a certain President, now elected with a mandate, fought this commission’s formation, then their funding, and then initially their findings and recommendations. Um, that would be their bi-partisan findings and recommendations.

But now, even with his public “support” for them, the congress can’t seem to enact them into law. Let me rephrase that. The Republican controlled congress can’t seem to enact them into law.

Now back to our visualization exercise. Imagine it’s two months after the Holiday season and the blame game has started. All the Democrats are crying loudly that the Republicans could have taken measures to prevent this. The Republicans could have passed the commission’s recommendations, taking the first steps to reform our intelligence systems, but they didn’t.

And you know what?

The Republicans would call the Democrats anti-American, hindsight history revisionists, who are systematically undermining the war president who of course is not to blame for any of this at all. In fact, it is the Democrats fault for giving aid to the enemy with all their anti-war protesting and filibustering in congress. It’s the Democrat’s fault, and their gay-loving god-hating Democrat party that is to blame.

And you know what? It’d stick. Again.

Here’s why. Everything except the visualization is true. Bush opposed the 9-11 commission, the funding for it, and the report and recommendations from it (which he now “supports”). The legislative and executive, along with a good deal of those revisionist judges, are all Republican. The GOP is in complete control of Washington. The only thing standing in the way of any new laws are, well, the Republican majority in the house and senate. Let me repeat the important part: The Republican majority.

But I haven’t heard a Democrat leader say this yet, at least not in any organized fashion. I haven’t heard one peep about a “what if we are attacked again” and who’s fault that would be, except from some enterprising pundits. I haven’t heard any organized effort by the Democratic party to say “We as a party support the recommendations of the 9-11 Committee, and if it were up to us we’d enact them into law to ensure the safety of America.” I heard Kerry say something like this once on the stump for a week or so. Then he stopped saying it. Where was the rest of the party?

No, we as an unorganized party are not putting the screws to the Republican majority for their failure, and yes that term if correct, of not passing the intelligence reform bill that would make the country safer, even if such is not completely true in the details. No, instead, if such a terrible thing such as another attack should happen, we as a party will look like a bunch of whiney Johnny-come-lately back biting cheap shot attack artists playing politics with a national tragedy.

The party, and especially the leaders of the party, need to lay the back-story of Republican failure now. The party needs to start working the press now with organized assertions of blame in advance and GOP hypocrisy of keeping the country safe. The party needs to lay the groundwork now so that there will be pressure for the Republican majority to act in a way it clearly does not want to. The party needs act now, so later Democrats can say with one loud voice “we told you so” while they lay the blame squarely at the feet of the GOP.

If it doesn’t, which it probably won’t, then the Democratic party will have to act in a reactionary way, and be accused of playing politics by the Republicans. This will have the effect of diverting attention from the fact that they are the majority party in control of the government, and allow the GOP to once again own our donkey asses.

Saturday, November 27, 2004

It's Only Your Retirement

You've probably heard the old joke: The only thing a stock broker is certain to do for you is make you broker. That's the essence of the stock market. It's not a sure thing. You invest at your own risk. Low risk earns low yields. High risk offers the possibility of high yields - an of course total loss as well. Regardless of how you do, your broker takes a cut off the top of your investments through fees and commissions.

Therein boys and girls lies the problem of what to do with Social Security. It's just too low risk to garner a high return on your investment. I mean, sure the government is protecting Grandma by making sure she doesn't lose that Social Security check she bases her retirement on. But who wants to live like their Grandma? There's all those great goodies like 54-inch plasma televisions to buy, all the great places like Las Vegas to play in, and who wants to stay home and eat canned prunes? So here's where we run into the pinch: All this might require a wee bit more income than Grandma's Social Security check.

Lucky for us though, any red blooded American raised in the rampant consumerism of the end of the last century can easily figure out the problem here. It's not our materialistic society, our inability to save for retirement, our lifestyle of living beyond our means or the associated crushing debt enjoyed by many Americans. No, silly. It must be the poor investment of Grandma's Social Security taxes by our wasteful and ever incompetent government. If only the stupid government would let us, we'd invest our own Social Security taxes, play the market, strike it rich, and live like kings when we're Grandma's age.

Nice story, but back in reality things don't work that way. Do you know of anyone who's IRA's have taken a hit in the last four years? Who doesn't? Yet President Bush in his infinite wisdom has decided that the government, obviously incapable of managing Grandma's retirement money, should allow you, the savvy investment aware and market wise citizen, to invest your own money in the stock market, reaping the windfall profit that is your right in lieu of the government's overly protective, and equally low yield, approach.

Let's forget about the fact for the moment that we are paying for Grandma's canned prunes and meager Social Security check though our current Social Security taxes. Lets forget for the moment that President Bush has yet to tell us just how much of our Social Security taxes he's proposing to let us invest or just how he'll pay for the budget shortfall - in the amount of billions of dollars - this will cause. Let's forget that the market does better when Democrats are in office. Let's just forget all those meddlesome facts for a while while we focus on just one aspect of this plan: who would you rather have insuring your Social Security benefits, the federal government or a Wall Street stock broker?

That's right you fools! Social Security is a government scam! You can do better in the market than it ever could with it's "safe" approach. Sure you'll take the risks that the government has taken for you. You might lose it all, but you could strike it rich and live like a king! But hey, it's only your retirement you're dealing with here. It's not like Wall Street is in this to make a profit off your investments. Your broker puts your retirement ahead of all that. You trust your broker, don't you?

Um, about that. From the Social Security Network:
Brokerage houses, banks, and mutual funds have been very active in the campaign to privatize Social Security. Small wonder, since they stand to gain enormous fees if billions of dollars are shifted each year from Social Security payments into accounts under Wall Street management. Of course, those fees must come from somewhere, namely from the balances in individual accounts.
Fees? Pshaw. I'd be in control of my retirement income, and thus reap the benefits! Or not:
Claims of enhanced control and ownership in Social Security privatization schemes are greatly exaggerated. The details provided in the privatization proposals put forward in Congress to date (in the cases where claims are backed by programmatic detail) demonstrate that workers would actually have little or no control over 1) how the assets are invested, 2) what would happen with the nest egg upon retirement, and 3) what would happen with any remaining assets upon death.
Who do you trust to insure your retirement benefits: the Federal Government or a profit driven Wall Street brokerage firm? Privatization of Social Security is a myth. Actually, according to the Social Security Network it's 11 myths.

Are you willing to bet your retirement on it?

Thursday, November 25, 2004

In My Next Life

Even though I'm taking a week off, when I read stuff like this from Thomas Friedman I just have to post it. On a day like today when we are suppose to be thankful for what we have, Mr. Friedman nails just how rediculous we in America can be. From "In My Next Life:"
If I can't be The Man, then I at least want to be the owner of a Hummer - with American flag decals all over the back bumper, because Hummer owners are, on average, a little more patriotic than you and me.

Yes, I want to drive the mother of all gas-guzzlers that gets so little mileage you have to drive from gas station to gas station. Yes, I want to drive my Hummer and never have to think that by consuming so much oil, I am making transfer payments to the worst Arab regimes that transfer money to Islamic charities that transfer money to madrassas that teach children intolerance, antipluralism and how to hate the infidels.

And when one day one of those madrassa graduates goes off and joins the jihad in Falluja and kills my neighbor's son, who is in the U.S. Army Rangers, I want to drive to his funeral in my Hummer. Yes, I want to curse his killers in front of his mother and wail aloud, "If there was only something I could do ..." And then I want to drive home in my Hummer, stopping at two gas stations along the way.
Spot on.

Wednesday, November 24, 2004

Happy Thanksgiving

I've been taking a week off, but thought I'd drop in for a quick post. I'm thankful for many things. For the sake of brevity (and to spare you all the dreary details), I'll limit my thanks to the political realm:

- I'm thankful for Dean for American. It's changed my life and awakened an interest I didn't realize would consume my life.
- I'm thankful for all the people I've met and worked with through the primaries and the general election.
- I'm thankful for how this election, regardless of result, has brought me closer together with my neighbors.
- I'm thankful only one of my nearby neighbors is a wingnut yet many are reform minded Democrats like me.
- I'm thankful I was able to help several local and national candidates who needed my design skills.
- I'm thankful I found C-Span, the Blogosphere, and new reads like The Hill, Washington Monthly, and the New Yorker.
- I'm thankful that there is a real grass roots movement to reform the Democratic Party.
- I'm thankful my wife understands my addiction to blogs and C-Span.
- I'm thankful Obama is my senator and not Joe Lieberman.

So what are you thankful for politically?

Saturday, November 20, 2004

"A Terrible Way to Do Business"

I'm sick. Literally and figuratively. It's Saturday night and what am I doing? I'm watching the Senate floor debate of the $388 Billion omnibus appropriations bill. It's a sickness I don't understand as I can't tear myself away from C-Span 2.

But what is sicker than my reaction to the theater I'm watching is the workings of the theater. The bill is over 3,000 pages in length and, as Sen. McCain noted, there is no way any one of those senators, elected by us, representing us, and there to protect our interests, could have read this bill that is about to be passed into law spending $388 Billion with a big fat capital "B." No chance. None.

Yet here's the debate where even Sen. McCain, a Republican, is questioning the provisions to the bill. Last minute provisions made in the middle of the night. Provisions filled with pork. Money for the Scandinavian Americans' charter. Money for the Hard Rock cafe. Wonderful provisions that would allow certain committee chairs to have access to and the ability to release IRS tax return information on any one of us. Any American. Our IRS tax return information. And the Republicans initially objected to taking this provision out!

One of the highlights of what I've seen so far was when Sen. McCain reminded the chairman that Bush will be along shortly asking for an additional $70 Billion for Iraq. An additional $70 Billion with a capital "B" dollars of our money to be added to the $388 Billion with a capital "B" dollars of our money. We have a record deficit. There are provisions in this bill that study the effects of Mariachi Music on student achievement! Bush is going to ask for more money on top of this ridiculous bill. And there's last minute provisions to let certain congressman view and release any American's tax returns.

I'd have to agree with Sen. Ted Stevens (R-Alaska): "This is a terrible way to do business."

Mr. Chairman, in regards to how our elected officials are doing business, I'd like to add for the record that that this American is disgusted.

Thursday, November 18, 2004

Blogging ITRW

Blogs are addicting. I first started reading and lurking in June of 2003. I started posting on DFA around August. DFA was a community that I found a home in and where I learned both good and bad blog habits. As a regular, you came to know other bloggers through their posts, and developed real friendships with them on the blog. It was wonderful to feel so full of hope in a time when Bush's popularity was still very high, and speaking ill of the president still not considered proper, especially in my Republican dominated area.

But the best experience I had was when many of the Chicago bloggers got together for a Dean House party just after Christmas. It seems years ago now. What was neat about the whole experience was that here was a bunch of people I thought I knew intimately, but had never met. I didn't know their peculiarities or their personalities. I didn't know their hobbies, or interests outside of Bush bashing. I had no idea who these people were other than their posts. Funny how on a blog, especially when one has been around a certain community for a long time, you think you know everyone like another one of you real world friends.

That night the group of us met on the north side of Chicago was really special. After the jitters wore off and we realized no one in the group was an axe murderer (sitting next to HBP I did get a close up look!), the conversation became quite familiar. We had schedule some DVD time watching an assortment of Dean inspiring and Bush-Iraq-Faux bashing material. But it quickly became apparent that we wanted to blog in the real world. I must say, as much as I like blogging, being able to see the body language and facial expressions (LOL is a poor substitute for laughter), plus having the group dynamic right in front of you, I found having an old fashion conversation to be really enjoyable (not to mention free of my trademark typos). The viewing materials were pushed back quite a while as we "posted" multiple comments for quite a while into the night.

Chris at MyDD has a great post about MeetUp, and how it was an oppotunity lost by the Kerry campaign. I must admit that I agree completely. MeetUps are the ultimate form of blogging ITRW. When I first started posting on DFA I loved the collaborative aspect of working on ideas or coming up with rapid response tactics with a large group. However, when I went to my first MeetUp I found that the ideas on the blog were often put into practice rather than just blogged about. It was when I went to my first MeetUp in October that I began writing letters, working with local candidates, and designing flyers and logos for any Democrat I could help. From Chris at MyDD:
The netroots is at its best when it creates an emotional connection with individual progressives, allows them to connect to other like-minded people, and provides them a forum where they can become active participants in the process. Frankly, this is politics at its best, and it is essential for us to do this if we are going to grow the party nationwide. Personally, beyond the fundraising insanity and strange ossification that began in the Dean campaign near the end of September 2003, the best experiences I had in this election cycle came from Dean Meetups from May to September of 2003. This is also the time period when Dean went from being more or less an asterisk to become the frontrunner.
MeetUp and house parties were very powerful in their role of decentralizing the campaign. By distributing instructions to the MeetUp coordinators, each group of Dean volunteers had a real way to be not only a donation source, but a source of outreach locally for the campaign. And since all politics is local, what a better source of campaign help than a bunch of inspired locals working for one candidate in thousands of small groups across the country.

This made us more than donors. We were a part of the Dean campaign. This involvement created an emotionally powerful and empowering phenomenon. The more we did for the campaign, the more we felt we were an important part of the campaign. The more we felt we were an important part of the campaign, the more the did for the campaign. It just spiraled up and up and up. People who had never even voted before were spending 10, 20 even 80 hours a week passing out flyers, tabling events, registering voters and even running for local offices. The more we did, the more we felt we had to do.

MeetUp was the driving force behind all of this. We could blog for a month, develop lots of ideas, then meet and actually do some of them. Single MeetUps split into two, then two into four. All with one focus: Getting Dean elected.

Kerry droped the ball on this one. But the model is still there. I firmly believe blogs have the ability to change politics. But until I read Chris' post today, I didn't realize just how integrated into the importance of blogs MeetUp is. Now I see. MeetUp is our outreach. It is where we can put our ideas into practice. Through MeetUp we can grow the type of Democratic Party we would like to see from the grassroots up. Through the blogs we can promote our new organizational strength, and put it to practice through MeetUp.

We do have the power. We just have to tie all the pieces together by tying our blogs on the Internets to MeetUp. So next time you think of MeetUp as another commitment, just think of it as blogging in the real world.

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

Learning to Oppose.

Let's face facts: the Democratic Party is the minority in both the House and the Senate. Anything the Republicans want to do, they will be able to do. Short of perpetual filibuster, a gift to further define Democrats negatively the GOP would gladly campaign on in 2006, there is realistically next to nothing we can do about it. So what do we do? Do we run to the middle and compromise everything we stand for in hopes of avoiding the GOP painting us as obstructionists? Do we stand up and vote as a block against GOP in a fight to the end that is certain to lose anyway? I'd bet the compromise option will be the one most chosen as the chance of getting the Democrats all on the same page with the likes of the Joe Libermans among us are pretty slim. But by rolling over and compromising the Democrats once again will miss out on the opportunity presented by being the opposing minority party.

Yes, even in the minority role, opportunity presents herself to us. If we compromise and support in various fashion the GOP's agenda, the Party will miss out on the opportunity to define exactly who Democrats are and what Democrats stand for. Even more importantly, through continual compromise the Democratic leadership will miss the opportunity to highlight the differences between us and the Republicans. And in missing this valuable opportunity to differentiate ourselves from the Republicans, we will once again allow the GOP to dominate the 2008 election cycle.

From Kevin Brennan at BOP:
What does being an opposition party mean? An opposition's job is not to stop the government from doing things. An opposition has only one job--to sell a set of alternative policies to the voters. Why? Because your goal is to win the next election. And the only way to win the next election is to learn how to lose battles.

In a parliamentary democracy, like Canada, the role of the Opposition (Official and otherwise, and yes, we do have an "Official Opposition") is very well defined. Opposition parties know, most of the time, that the government doesn't need them in order to get its policy through. The government will do whatever the hell it damn well pleases.

Accepting this gives you an odd kind of freedom. If you know that you're going to lose no matter what, then you can concentrate on the real question--how you want to lose.
This excellent article points out that controlling how one loses can actually be advantageous in allowing one to define one's opponent. Rather than scratching to form coalitions, easily used to the other side's advantage (can you say "Rose Garden" Mr. Gephardt?) and just as likely to lose anyway, defining why you lost the inevitable on your own terms pays future dividends:
You need to think both tactically and strategically about how you're going to lose each fight. Always think about the message you want to convey about the government's shortcomings. Forget scorched earth, forget the idea that you'll make them fight for each inch of political territory--instead select two or three messages that you want to hammer into the news cycle. The Alberto Gonzales nomination is a perfect example. He gives Democrats a perfect chance to talk about Abu Ghraib, the torture memos, and criminal investigations of the Bush White House. They don't need to be the same messages each time, but they should reinforce your overall themes.
Themes? Also known as strategy. Also known as talking points. The GOP is masterful at this. They speak with one voice on every issue, even the ones they win. We on the other side speak as individuals. And as such are easily picked off as individuals by the Right's noise machine. Lieberman goes on Fox to undercut Dean. Gephardt poses with Bush in the Rose Garden. Edwards helps pass the Patriot Act and NCLB. Kerry votes for the authorization to use force. And just like that, all our leading candidate have lost their credibility and have to play defense for most of their election campaigns.

The Democratic party has to define who it is, and more importantly, how it is different from the GOP. Failure to do this will leave us in the same position in 2008 that we saw in this election. We need to learn to oppose, giving the administration full credit for all the failures and scandals it will undoubtedly achieve while putting our candidates in a position to say "I told you so."

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

Who Has the Power?

I think this is a good idea from BriVT at MyDD:
Here's the idea. Bloggers and others should shut off the DNC money spigot right now. Take down all links, encourage people not to give to the DNC, just cut it off for a period of time. That probably wouldn't have a huge effect because I doubt many people are giving now, but I could be wrong. But meanwhile, there should be a strong fund-raising push (say, first week of December) for Democracy for America, with Tom McMahon aware of it ahead of time. Just flood the zone with appeals to give to "the most visible Democratic grass-roots organization out there." People are pretty desperate for something to do, and I think a pitch for a new organization might have a real effect.

If this is successful, it'd show where the real future is for the Democratic Party, where the money will be coming from. And it would also show that we, the grassroots, ARE NOT TO BE TAKEN FOR GRANTED! We won't just fall into line when the establishment candidate wins. We did it this election, but it was a special case, and you can't count on on-going support if you don't listen to us. We have other places to put our money.
As he notes, there probably isn't a lot of donations happening right now, but the precident might be nice to set. Especially if Dean where to throw his hat into the ring and then announce a "Send Howard to the DNC" Bat or something like this.

Thoughts?

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.

Sunday, November 14, 2004

Who Should Steer the Ship?

Funny how things repeat themselves. Back in the days of Iowa, I remember all the Democratic status quo candidates, the ones inspiring little excitement or following outside their traditional constituencies, banding together to point out what a flaming Volvo driving liberal Dean was and going to great lengths to inform us all that he wasn't "electable." What was especially annoying about this invective laced line of attack was its stench of the staple of GOP attacks: fear. Dean is unstable. Dean has a temper. Dean can't win. Dean will take the party down. Dean is another McGovern. It was all fear and no substance. The Internet is a fad. Young cyber voters won't show. Dean's record? Dean's proposals? Hell, Dean's whole quote? Naaa. Fear and doubt and fear. The Republicans couldn't have done a better job.

Now nearly a year later we have the same battle going on again for who is going to steer the USS Democrat. The status quo Democrats are all posturing to keep Dean from being the DNC chair and ensuring that Iowa - that overly white rural wide cross section of America that it isn't - stays as the first place we as a party will decide who to steer our ship and dominates the Democratic message for months.

Iowa's dominance of the nomination process hasn't served us well and Dean hasn't even publicly announced if he wants to be captain of the ship yet. Yet the status quo is already posturing to toss Dean overboard and aim straight for that Iowa iceberg. But a status quo, with more losses than victories under it's belt, continues to insist that its vantage point from the bridge is better than that of our's on the lower decks, and especially better than that of the modern day steerage, the blogosphere. To see the folly of this, all one has to do is look back to the race now only a few days old.

The party leadership rolled over and gave Bush nearly everything he wanted in his first term, effectively forgetting what an "opposition" party was and killing Kerry's campaign in one fell swoop. It's terribly hard to argue against an administration when one votes with it on nearly every major policy. Then the status quo candidates all espoused a GOP-lite approach to beating Bush - until Howard Dean showed that many Americans, not just the Democratic Base, wanted a change and were fed up and didn't trust a Bush-lite Democratic approach anymore. Finally, much has been made about Kerry's use of the Internet. But where he and everyone else got that idea is widely known, and even then Kerry's Internet use lacked the vision of the Dean campaign, reducing the Internet outreach to little more than fundraising. Even the Bush campaign understood the Internet and Netroots were more than a fundraising source. Yet while Bush was giving his base and the Fundies hordes direct answers on policy questions, talking points and marching orders via it's email list and web sites, Kerry was still primarily using his list to ask for money.

No my fellow steerage passengers, this is a failure of leadership. Maintaining the status quo cost us the election in 2000, 2002, and 2004. Maintaining the business as usual in the Party has cost us the Executive, the Legislative and if not completely, soon the Judicial branch of government. A party leadership that patches together a meal plan of loose proposals that they hope appeal to a variety of constituencies in lieu of a well framed easily understood vision that resonates with the majority of America has cost us the south as a whole and large portions of America in general. Steering the ship as it has, the Democratic leadership has seen its titanic mistakes, and yet chose to take the same course in its quest to find the next iceberg time and time again.

With the election results from 2004 still warm, and in some places not yet completely counted, the first question of where this ship is headed is soon to be decided. The lines of battle are quickly being drawn and the gates to the upper decks quickly being locked. Kerry has a great amount of money left over from his campaign, and that buys a lot of keys to those gates. Will they lock us out and buy a captain like Governor Vilsackof Iowa, a status quo Democrat who would fight to maintain an Iowa first in the nation caucus and misplaced dominance of the Democratic message. Or will it be a captain who will steer the ship into new waters - new waters filled with their own dangers certainly - but potentially free of the icebergs the ship has repeatedly hit. Will the blogosphere be relegated to steerage again as only another source of funding, or used to its potential to provide a fast acting decentralized organizational structure? Will we see the party again run to the middle, which in today's climate is actually running to the right, in an attempt to compete for the red states on a map, while abandoning their base again in attempts to be GOP-lite? Will we abandon our values and traditions for a middle of the road set of vanilla "morals" that offend none and pander to the other side's base?

I don't claim to know what direction the ship will take, but the familiar rising water, cold around my feet, reminds me and many others in steerage of how we've grown tired of being locked below decks only to go down with the ship.

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.

Wednesday, November 10, 2004

Unity.

From Political Wire we find a wonderful gesture of unity in the form of prose. Gotta love this:

The election is over, the results are now known.
The will of the people has clearly been shown.
We should show by our thoughts, our words and our deeds
That unity is just what our country needs.
Let's all get together. Let bitterness pass.
I'll hug your elephant.
You kiss my ass.

Sunday, November 07, 2004

Now is Not the Time to Quit

I am still stunned by this election result. Like many, I'm trying to figure out where to go from here and what to do next. But today I've had the feeling of loss I experienced on Tuesday once again, unexpectedly, brought to the surface. Like many, I am a regular Daily Kos reader. Several of the "Kos Irregulars" - key members of the dKos community - announced an end to their posting on Kos. Trapper John's "It's been real" and the associated resignation of DemFromCT, following the earlier epitat of Meteor Blades "Swan Song" where losses I hadn't expected today. These where all bloggers I aspired to be like, cited often in my posts, and looked forward to reading.

Now they've hung it up.

I'm not them, and can't understand their situations. They have every right to walk away and have a normal life not preoccupied with getting one's syntax correct, following every news event every day, and/or worrying about whether that href is correct. They've earned their respect with the quality of their posts, inspired people like me to start my own blog, and been foundation members of the blogosphere. But in my opinion now is not the time for such highly visible members of the blogosphere to quit.

Here's my reasons for this thought: Right now many people, especially those new to politics like myself, are bruised and battered by an election cycle that consumed us all for nearly two years or more. We've found politics to be more than a contact sport, capable of ripping out our hearts and torturing our minds. We are all justly wondering if our efforts and sacrifices of time, money and energy were worth it. We all want to quit and go hide out in a nice quiet politics free cave for a while where no amount of trying will get Wolf Blitzer or Joe Liberman on the TV. We all want to hang it up.

But we can't. None of us can quit now. We must continue to fight, even if all we do is call attention through a blog post to actions that the major media will never cover. The blogosphere is no longer just the quirky place to post one's rants that it was two years ago. It is a source in information, and in my opinion - inspiration, to those who have in the past sat on the sidelines in blissful ignorance of what was actually happening on the ground around us.

Bloggers like Meteor Blades, DemFromCT, and Trapper John are more than just mere bloggers with a wide audience. They are a source of inspiration to many who read their work. They are role models of what it it like to be aware in one's democracy. If many of us are feeling loss over this election and questioning "was it worth it," then surely these leaders of our community are no different in such feelings. In fact, I suspect they may feel such feelings more deeply than many of us. Yet if their reaction is to walk away, to go back to lurking, to give in to the feeling of despair we all feel right now as we watch Bush smirk and enforce his "one question rule," then what does that say to those new to politics who gave their all?

Surely these people have their reasons, and my wanting them to stay on is as selfish as it has to do with their roles as leaders in the blogosphere. But in my heart of hearts I know that now is not the time to quit. None of us can quit. If we do, then the mandate is real. Rove wins more than just the election if we go back to just lurking. Together, with the help of leaders like Trippi and Marcos, we built the blogosphere from nothing to something that may well save the Democratic party. We need to add voices at this critical time, not retire the voices of proven leaders among us. We need to expand, to attract more, to awaken more of America that is asleep with new and proven voices of our online communities.

To those thinking of hanging it up, here's my woefully pathetic and trite advice: Take five. Take time off. Take a knee. Take the kids to the Zoo. Go get drunk. Go get laid. Post once a week instead of once a day. Post once of month instead of once a week. But don't just walk away, especially so publicly. How we as members of the blogosphere, especially our leaders, react to this election cycle's loss will determine whether this experiment of mass political awakening and mobilization directed through Internet Web Logs was real or a fad.

I've worked too hard for this to be a fad.

Just How Red is America?

If you've had the misfortune of watching the cable news talking heads recently, you've probably heard them babble on about just how red America is. Sure Kerry earned 48% of the vote, they'll say, but just look at a map of America county by county. It's all red! America is really trending Republican and with the exception of a few cities, completely behind Bush!

Well, not really.

The GOP did win the majority of counties across America. But if you look at the map in terms of "win" and "loss" you see a very misleading map. Many of those red counties just aren't all that red. Even in the deep south, many counties are not firmly in the GOP column. With that in mind, Robert Vanderbei of Princeton University put together the map below:



Here's how he gathered the data for the map:
Using County-by-County election return data from USA Today together with County boundary data from the US Census' Tiger database we produced the following graphic depicting the results. Of course, blue is for the democrats, red is for the republicans, and green is for all other. Each county's color is a mix of these three color components in proportion to the results for that county.
This mixing of red and blue using the percentage of votes gained in the election provides some interesting results. For example Arizona and Georgia are surprisingly purple. The only truly red red states are Oklahoma and Nebraska. This is quite a different picture than Hannity and Scarborough would have us believe.

Saturday, November 06, 2004

The Majority of Democrats Vote Bush?

Remember all those polls about how 90% of Republicans supported the president and 90% of Democrats supported Kerry. I guess they never called Florida. You see, in many counties, such as Calhoun County where registration was up to 82% Democrat vs. 11% Republican, President Bush got 65% of the vote. It seems to be a trend. In Baker County where Democratic registration was 69% to 24% for Republicans, Bush again won with 78% of the vote. This graph shows several such counties, all overwhelmingly Democratic in registration, that went to Bush by huge margins.

What is the common thread in this trend? From Common Dreams:
While the heavily scrutinized touch-screen voting machines seemed to produce results in which the registered Democrat/Republican ratios largely matched the Kerry/Bush vote, in Florida's counties using results from optically scanned paper ballots - fed into a central tabulator PC and thus vulnerable to hacking – the results seem to contain substantial anomalies.

In Baker County, for example, with 12,887 registered voters, 69.3% of them Democrats and 24.3% of them Republicans, the vote was only 2,180 for Kerry and 7,738 for Bush, the opposite of what is seen everywhere else in the country where registered Democrats largely voted for Kerry.
Let's see if Fischer does actually have evidence that the vote was hacked or if the FBI, like the major media, will just ignore this story.


Thursday, November 04, 2004

Reaching Out and Touch This

I love this quote from Bush today:

"I will reach out to every one who shares our goals"

I just love that. Think about it for a bit. Is that a conciliatory tone? Is that a statement meant to build unity? Is that a humble statement? Come on boys and girls; use that grey matter. Translation: You're with us or against us. I will work with those who share my objectives. I am open to others as long as they agree with me. My goals are more important than your goals.

We are in for a long four years. According to Mr. Cheney, Mr. Bush has a mandate. The people have spoken. But what about the other 55.9 million Americans? Let's put some perspective on this mandate, shall we? From Another Liberal Blog:
Assuming Bush gets New Mexico and Iowa, he will have gotten the lowest percentage of electoral votes (54%) of any incumbent running for reelection since Wilson. If those two states should swing Kerry's way (NM might), it'll be even lower.

He will have won with the lowest percentage of the popular vote (51%) of any incumbent running for reelection since Truman (well, technically since Clinton, but he also ran against Perot, who was a more significant 3rd-party candidate than Thurmond and Wallace were in '48)

He will have won by the lowest margin of the popular vote (3.5M) of any incumbent running for reelection since Truman (2.1M, and back then only 50M voted).

He will have won the three states that put him over 270 (OH, NM and IA--assuming the last two go his way) by only 161,989 (not counting the provisional ballots, absentee, etc.).
Or to put it in more Democratic terms:

• 1% more than 50% is not a mandate but a bare, thin, majority.

• At 80% approval after 9-11 and guaranteed a landslide election by prognosticators 2 years ago, only half the country supports him

• A president who leads a divided country owes it to all Americans to lead fairly or have his party face the consequences begining in 2006. No one else is here to blame.Then there's these numbers from Chris at MyDD:
The last two cycles have seen the forging of a new Democratic Electoral coalition. CA, MI, OR and WA have left the realm of the battleground and joined the Democratic base, while CO, NV and VA have left the Republican base to become swing states. At the same time, no safe Democratic state has become a swing state, and only AR, LA and WV have left the battleground to join the Republican base. The advantage in the battleground belongs to us for the first time in many, many cycles.
Then about that youth vote that didn't show up. Umm, dear media, you might want to re-check your math:
The Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement is reporting that Young Voter turnout increased by 4.6 million over 2000 levels. Turnout for young voters topped 50% for the first time since 1972, when 18 year olds first gained the right to vote. In battleground states, turnout among 18-29 year olds was at an unprecedented 64.4%
It is going to be a long four years. But let's not start it off believing the hype from the dark side.

Wednesday, November 03, 2004

My Election 2004 Insights

Basically, I'm in need of a vacation mentally from this for a while. The idea that Bush would win, let alone with a majority, creates a cognitive dissonance on a level that is difficult to deal with. So, here's what I've been able to figure out in the stupor of the day after:

- We really are a minority.
This has really come to light in many discussions I've had with people I thought I knew, yet were supporting Bush. When they say we needed to invade Iraq for our security, what they really mean is as Americans we have the God given right to take what we want and kick anyone's ass who gets in our way. When they say they are for family values, what they mean is that fags are inferior and deserve to be ridiculed, and that this is only a Christian nation. When they say Jesus has saved them, they are certain of of their salvation, yet despite his teachings the poor and weak deserve none of their hard earned incomes, especially if it comes through government assistance, as the poor are basically lazy and have earned the hardships of a life they may have been born into. People want what is best for the world, just not in their back yard or on their block, and not if they or their kids have to fight and die for it.

- The Democratic party is in need of fundamental change.
I'm amazed at how organized the GOP is; how on message they are; how adept they are at their use of language; and how unified they are regardless of what outrageous statement - racist, outright lie, inept - one of their candidate's might say. Delay could call the sky green, mercury good for children, and blacks inferior intellectually, and the whole GOP would line up to explain it all away. They would say that he meant the sky was so beautiful as to be seen differently by different people, blacks should be viewed proudly as role models for their sports prowess, and children have boundless imagination. They would line up and say these exact lines, every time, from every GOP office holder. It's not that I think we should mimic their distortions or racial prejudice. But we could learn about circling the wagons and staying on message - let alone not shooting one of our own in the back. I won't forget what our own side did to Howard Dean.

- Polls are worthless.
I remember Iowa and Dean. I remember Zogby predicting Kerry. I remember Gallup over sampling Republicans. From now on, I'm not wasting time on polls anymore. There are much better uses of my time. The only polls that count are on election day. All the rest are a waste of time.

I'm sure there will be more revelations. But who the hell cares what I think anyway. I'm just one of a minority in this country.

Tuesday, November 02, 2004

GOTV

Get out ther and vote and drag someone with you. Here's some info to help from the Votemaster:

Find out today where your polling place is by calling your county clerk or checking www.mypollingplace.com

Alternatively, call 1-866-MYVOTE1 to find your polling place.

Check the hours the polls are open with your city or county clerk.

Bring a government-issued picture ID like a driver's license or passport when you vote. Some states require it but if there are problems, you will certainly need it. If you have a cell phone, take it to call for help if need be.

As you enter the polls, note if there is an Election Protection person outside the polling place.

If you are not listed as a registered voter, try to register on the spot. Some states allow that. Otherwise, talk to the Election Protection person if there is one or call 1-866-OUR-VOTE for instructions. If neither of these helps, ask for a provisional ballot, but you will need a picture ID to get one.

Monday, November 01, 2004

Republicans Know.

Republicans know. Gone are the smirks and the quick sarcastic jabs. The laughing "flip-flopper" comments have ended long ago. The brazen machismo, the swagger, the dismissive eye rolls are all history now. Talk to a Bush supporter and listen to the desperation in their tone, the question in their voice, the fear in their increasingly petty attacks. They know.

Kerry is going to win.

Even the flagship, the mouth piece of the GOP, the chief propaganda arm of the right, Fox News has Kerry up in it's polls. Actually, most of the polls show Kerry either leading or with the momentum.

Bush is making his last stop in Dallas. No not Des Moines. Not Detroit. Not Palm Beach. Not Madison. Dallas. Yes, that Dallas, in the heart of Texas. In the heart of what was supposed to be solid, rabid, unadulterated Bush country. What's that? There's congressional races in which the Republicans are not doing as well as they thought? In Texas? Kind of has the whiff of desperation, that does. If such a trivial can chance upon such a rabid Bush stronghold, then be afraid, my republican Republican brothers and sisters.

Even with them screwing with the ballots, arresting journalists covering early voting, and electronic voting machines supporting Bush, Florida is still trending Kerry. Don't believe me? Go read Fox News were today they put it at Kerry 49% to Bush at 44%. No kidding!

They know. The first stage of grief is denial. All the Bush supporters I know, and I am outnumbered by them, are in the full throws of denial. Next on our stages of grief comes Anger, which should rear it's ugly head around Wednesday morning for the GOP. Watch the outrage they will pour out for the rest of this week about all those.. those...those... minorities who the democrats registered in record numbers made sure they voted. The nerve!

No boys and girls, it won't be because of minorities. It will be because of Americans. It will be Americans who will vote this year in record numbers. Americans who will vote their conscience, not what the pollsters, the talking heads, or the "So Called Liberal Media" told them to vote. Americans who will vote for inclusion rather than division, openness rather than secrecy, and the rule of law rather than the laws of the ruling. It will be Americans who will vote to restore an America based on the true moral authority that asks that we be on God's side, not he on ours.

It won't be minorities. It won't be independents. It won't be the "Security Moms", "NASCAR Dads", or the youth vote. Americans will elect John Kerry. Even the Republicans know this.