Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Thomas Frank [repost]

(Reposted due to spam in comments when posted previously)...

...Is the author of "What's the Matter with Kansas", and also a hero of mine.

He eviscerates Joe Klein's latest screed about how the Democrats are losing because they are not "centrist" enough...

"Joe Klein is not the only one to moan about the polarized age in which we are supposedly living these days, with all the power having gravitated to “the extremes of both left and right,” to use the standard deploring formula. Everyone in pundit-land moans this way, and they can be fairly confident that their buddy the CNN host won’t contradict them when they so moan. But someone needs to rub their faces in the fact that, compared to today’s “polarized” Democratic Party, their lovable old Harry Truman sounds like a fire-breathing anarchist, defending positions so far to the left that we have forgotten that one of the two major parties ever held them. Maybe what ails us isn’t a deficit of authenticity or the pull of the poles; maybe it’s something Truman would have grasped in a Kansas City minute: the power of money, the push of the right. Maybe squishy centrism is the problem, not the solution. And maybe we could use a little more polarization of the Turnip Day variety."

Saturday, June 17, 2006

Come back, Woody Guthrie, Come back to us now...

I found an interesting article that criticizes the Democrats' turning away, about the time of the McGovern presidential run, of a key constituency of their 30-year winning formula: working class Catholics.
This is something that I've mentioned here before -- we need to get the working class back into our fold. This must be our base, from which we expand the coalition to intellectuals and others. Red States should be the focus of lots and lots of attention, and I'm not talking about candidates taking pictures in front of tractors and hayfields every 2 or 4 years.

I'm talking about making a big deal of touring red states for months, begging their forgiveness for abandoning them, for allowing their debasement at the hands of right-wing snake-oil salesmen and religious extremists. LISTEN to them, with an attitude of humble contrition. Listen. LISTEN.

When we listen, we will hear stories that will break our hearts of incredible economic loss, cultural marginalization, and suffocating, ever-present worry that two guys in dress blues are going to stop at their house this time and delivery the awful news that fuels their nightmares - "The secretary of the Army has asked me to express his deep regret that your son, John, was killed in action..."

Dammit, Democrats, remember

I am SICK of losing elections in which, given the playing field, we should be absolutely CRUSHING the Republicans.

Remember the 2000 presidential election result? Was Florida "stolen"? I don't friggin care. Gore was riding the crest of the longest economic expansion in American history. The Federal Budget was not just balanced, but running such surpluses that Alan Greenspan was cautioning against paying off the entire national debt too soon. The world was, relatively at least, at peace. Competence reigned supreme at the highest levels of government. Given all that, Gore - hell, ANY Democratic nominee - should have absolutely crushed whoever the Republicans found to run against them. Florida, and the rest of the country for that matter, shouldn't have even been close - Florida should have been 200,000 votes in our favor, along with 40 to 45 other states.

How do we win the Congress and the White House?

Hit the Republicans hard, all the time, everywhere.

"Hey folks, remember the last time the economy was really good for you - not in some abstract, esoteric-indicators way, but the last period of time when you were getting regular raises in your hourly wage? Yeah? Who was running the country then? Do you remember?"

"Tired of the leadership in Congress being covered in rich peoples' pocket lint? Wanna vote some people in who will fight for you, and not to keep their rich friends farting through silk?"

["B-b-but that's class warfare!" you stammer? The response is "Good call! Yes, it is." Period.]

The agenda must be to fight for the bottom 70% of the income scale. Whatever is most important to them, well, that's what we stand for.

This is not about "framing". If your agenda doesn't match their needs, no amount of "getting them to think about it in your terms" is going to get their votes. You ARE them. You must decide to stand with them, and then explain over and over and over again in what specific, concrete ways you are, in fact, standing with them.

Friday, June 09, 2006

I found a winning strategy for the Democrats

There was a time when the Republican base was our base. Working Class meant "votes Democratic" - every single election. And make no mistake: you win the working class, you win national elections

While I know that the Republicans are using immigrants, abortion, school prayer etc. as political wedges, and that that is despicable, have you ever wondered why that works? It's because the agenda, the issues, of the Democratic Party neglect the priorities of the working class. The Republicans are the only party that seems to be - in fact, in a cynical way is - listening to the working class.

Ok, here's an agenda that I believe the Democrats should be standing for, that I believe will win them elections, reliably.
mftalbot's diary :: ::
1. We stand with workers against bosses. That means we support unions, all the time and loudly. Not just existing unions, but we push, loudly, constantly and publically, for more and more unionization in every sector of the economy - not just manufacturing, but services. Not just auto and steel workers, but call-center employees, bank tellers, EVERYONE who is non-management. The perfect villain: Walmart.
2. We stand with 40 million Americans to get them Publically-financed health care. Every single citizen should be guaranteed health care. Not "tax incentives" to help people buy insurance, or any other scheme the effect of which is to enrich insurance companies and HMOs. Nope. Publically financed health care. This is truly a winning issue, if "liberals" pull their heads out of their asses and get behind it.
3. We stand for a truly progressive income and other tax structures. The tax rate on incomes over $200,000 should be 90 percent (during the Eisenhower administration, it was not considered especially remarkable that the tax rate for equivalent incomes was 95 percent!), and deductions should thin out at that stratospheric income level.
4. We stand with our chronically-poor citizens in calling for a MASSIVE, sustained, and comprehensive jobs training program, so that any resident of these communities will be aptitude-tested, and then trained for, matched with, and placed with companies that need their skills.
5. We stand with every American who is starting out in the job market in calling for a raise, and a big one at that, in the minimum wage. 8 dollars an hour seems about right - and this should be indexed for inflation every sigle fucking year, and also adjusted for the cost of living in more-expensive coastal areas.
6. We stand with our brothers and sisters to the south, in beginning a massive and sustained effort to help Mexico raise its citizens' standard of living to a point that Mexicans emmigrate to the US at the same rate that Americans emigrate to Canada (expain it in exactly those terms, and a lot of people will get on board).
7. We stand with our brothers and sisters in South Central, The South Side of Chicago, East Oakland, etc., in saying that, as a companion program to "4." above, we vow to end the 40-year murder spree terrorizing these places, and we will use the entire resources of our nation to meet this commitment, if necessary. If we have to hire enough cops to post one on on every fucking corner in every ghetto in the country 24 hours a day 7 days a week, then that's what we'll do. "Poor" must never mean "unsafe" again.

Do this, advocate this agenda, and the Repulicans (and quite a few affluent "liberals") will scream bloody murder, call you socialist, make up all kinds of lies, spin the crap out of your positions, etc. This is how we'll know we're winning - they'll be arguing on our terms. And notice, this is NOT "framing" in the Lakoff sense, at least not yet - sure, sales skills are there somewhere in the mix - but selling a wheelbarrow full of entrails as "anatomy lessons for your children" will only take you so far. Selling a valuable product at a reasonable price takes a whole lot less framing to begin with.

When Repulicans start screaming and spinning, you loudly and constantly call them the rich people's party, the advocates for the affluent, that they are. We answer their lies and fearmongering with the truth, and with a chuckle: "It's no wonder Senator Blowhard hates this: his rich friends are screaming bloody murder! Well, a reckoning is coming - they've been ruining this coutry with their greed and selfishness long enough. America is a better coutry than they can possibly imagine, and with your help in November, we're going to start to show them just how much better."

One final thought - a commenter with the handle "Biminicat" over at Daily Kos brought up an interesting, and in my view legitimate, point to me, in response to my suggestion to appeal to the working class and make them our base:
"[in the elections of] 1932, 1936, 1940, 1944, 1948, 1960, 1964 half the dem party was racist.
we don't have that option now, nor should we consider that option. Poor people certainly like it when you stand up for their own interests.
sometimes they like it more when you represent their petty prejudices. (see: repug party since civil rights)."
While I agree that the Republicans get mileage out of appealing to prejudices (really, fears) of the (white) working class, it is worth remembering a couple things:
1. The country has changed a lot in 40 years. There is still racism out there, plenty of it in fact, but civil rights, at least in the sense the term was used in the '50s and '60s, is no longer a motivating issue for southern working-class voters like it was then. I think you would find very, very few southern voters of any class who would advocate a return to segregated schools, no voting rights for blacks, separate dining and restroom facilities, etc. There may be some quiet sentiments in that vein, but are they going to vote to restore those things? To put it mildly, I doubt it.
2. More to the point, a party that advocates for the bottom 70% of the income scale recognizes that the bottom 70% includes a (too) large proportion of black voters, latinos, etc. You answer the fear-mongering with, again, the truth: "They are trying to play you [white working class voters] - they want you to believe that we'll be helping blacks and latinos and not you. They are just trying the old southern rich peoples' trick of trying to divide you from your brothers of color, so that neither one of you gets help. I believe in you. I believe in this country. I know that you will reject that cynical ploy, and will work with us so that everyone gets help."

Remember, Democrats, dammit, REMEMBER.