For The Trees

Who is our economy FOR, anyway?

About the Authors:
Dave Johnson
John Emerson
Richard Reich
Thomas Leavitt


Recent Posts:
Moved to Seeingtheforest.com
This Blog Has Moved
Democracy Arsenal
Thought Crimes
Think Progress
Bill Bradley Describes VRWC in NY Times Piece Toda...
Blog Change Coming Friday
How the Liberal Media Myth is Created
Interest Rates
Finally Leaving Blogger


BEST OF STF:

Dave's:

Articles not at STF:

The ATLA Speech on building a progressive infrastructure
Lowering the Bar
The Attack on Trial Lawyers and Tort Law
Who's Behind the Attack on Liberal Professors

On the Right and their communications infrastructure:

Why Republicans Win
Win or Lose
The "Conventional Wisdom" Machine
Some History of the Conservative Movement
HOW TO FIGHT BACK
An Amplifier Of Our Own
Don't Blame the Democrats
How They Do It 1 2 3 4
Getting Rolled

Other:

You're Gonna Get Drafted
Scalia and Self-Government
Who is Our Economy For?
Voting Machine Story Link Collection
What's Wrong with this Picture? (Voting Machines)
Like Meat in the Supermarket
Get Active
Thin Line 1 2 3
Fixing Social Security
Seeing the Forest I, II, III
"Incredibly Positive News"
The Breadth of It
The Republican Crony Club
Moon Bush
Ralph Nader is a Scab


John's Best Of:
Kerry Smear Page
Bandar Bush
9/11 Commission Report Damages Bush -- if you read it
Florida Goon Squad Intimidated the Supreme Court
The Use and Abuse of George Orwell
Zizka's Archives (John's previous identity)
Zizka Sampler


News Sources:
AlterNet
BuzzFlash
Common Dreams
Cursor
Drudge Retort
Information Clearing House
Smirking Chimp
TruthOut
What REALLY Happened

Links to Other Weblogs:




1/24/2004
 



From The Roots

From The Roots :: Pulling the Bush Out


 



The Comeback Bat

Note, over on the right, the Dean "Comeback Bat."

Yes, the Dean campaign has "the Bat" up again. This time it's the Comeback Bat.

Even if you can only give $5, click the Bat and donate something!

yeeaarrgghh!


 



Brandnaming the Heathers

Howard Dean has had pretty good success making a joke of the groupthink media response to his "scream" in Iowa. This got me to thinking about how to make the media an issue in the upcoming election.

We need to turn the tables by brand-naming the various media stupidities and using a rogues' gallery or Hall of Shame to turn the big offenders into objects of nationwide ridicule.

We have to publicize this and make it funny. Political wonks already understand what's going on, but we need to get the word out to everyone. Many Americans -- and not just the wingnuts -- still believe that the media are liberal. Most people don't even know who Bob Somerby and WMO are.

Some brandnames (subject to revision):

1. Heathers: This covers most of the rest, and perhaps it's the only brand name we need. The media's shallow pack mentality is one of the main causes of the whole problem.

2. Shoes and sweaters: Paul Krugman has already written about this, and here's a great example from Slate found by Bob Somerby. Some coverage is really too shallow to be tolerated in a functioning democracy.

3. Wellstoning: Sometimes so many people pick up a cheap theme that you know it's a coordinated effort. The Wellstone Memorial was the perfect example: Noonan, Novak, and the talk-show hosts got their smear out there within 24 hours, just barely in time for the election and too soon for there to be a response.

4. Inventing the Internet (or Goring): media people are still repeating a story about Gore which has been refuted in detail many times. This smear was stupid when people thought it was true, but it's unforgivable now that we know it's not.

5. Burying the Story: This isn't too zippy, but putting fluff stories on Page One and meaty stories on Page Three (or Section B, Page Seventeen) is one of the main ways newspapers mislead the average voter.

6. Slanted Playing Field: This is a hard one to make stick, but sometimes it's just plain obvious that the two sides are playing by two different sets of rules. (Between being dull, sort of wonkish, and hard to prove, this item and the one before should be used sparingly.)

The media really are the enemy. We should avoid broad-brush attacks on everyone out there, but we should embarass the worst of them badly enough for it to be a lesson to the others.

We have to make it funny, and we have to get the word out. I hope someone sharper than I am picks up this ball and runs with it. (Other ideas are solicited.) We need to produce a tight funny little package which makes its point in an instant.

P.S. Not everyone knows that Bob Somerby's Daily Howler has a search function. Punch in "Novak Gore", for example, and you'll get 38 Novak stories (or TV appearances) involving Gore. ("Ceci Gore" for Ceci Connoly gets 138). Somerby isn't just a great media critic -- he's given us a five-year archive to work with.





1/22/2004
 



War in Syria?

Probably the election distraction event will be an attack on Syria. (Unless the piece of information I'm linking to is a feint, and the election distraction war will really be somewhere else.) Over at Matt Yglesias the nice moderates there, some of whom who call themselves liberals, are being open-minded about this.

Janes is a mainstream source specializing in military and strategic questions.

Story


Janes homepage (subscription).


 



Scream

Randi Rhodes says whenever you get in an argument with a Republican, just stop talking and do the Dean Scream.


 



Al-Qaida Endorsing Bush

Al-Qaida will do Whatever it Takes to Assure Bush is Re-elected:
"Yet the Islamist radicals have always been completely open about their goals. They want to take power in the Muslim countries (phase one of the project), and then unite the entire Muslim world in a final struggle to overthrow the power of the West (phase two). They are still stuck in phase one, with little to show for it despite 30 years of trying, so in the early 1990s Osama bin Laden and his colleagues switched from head-on assaults on the regimes in Muslim countries to direct attacks on Western targets. Yet their first-phase goal remains seizing power in the Muslim world, not some fantasy about "bringing the West to its knees."

Terrorists generally rant about their goals but stay silent about their strategies, so now we have to do a little work for ourselves. If the real goal is still revolutions that bring Islamist radicals to power, then how does attacking the West help? Well, the U.S. in particular may be goaded into retaliating by bombing or even invading various Muslim countries -- and in doing so, may drive enough aggrieved Muslims into the arms of the Islamist radicals that their long-stalled revolutions against local regimes finally get off the ground.

Most analysts outside the United States long ago concluded that that was the principal motive for the 9-11 attack. They would add that by giving the Bush administration a reason to attack Afghanistan, and at least a flimsy pretext for invading Iraq, al-Qaida's attacks have paid off handsomely. U.S. troops are now the unwelcome military rulers of more than 50 million Muslims in Afghanistan and Iraq, and people there and elsewhere are turning to the Islamist radicals as the only force in the Muslim world that is willing and able to defy American power.

It is astonishing how little this is understood in the United States. I know of no American analyst who has even made the obvious point that al-Qaida wants Bush to win next November's presidential election and continue his interventionist policies in the Middle East for another four years, and will act to save Bush from defeat if necessary.

It probably would not do so unless Bush's number were slipping badly, for any terrorist attack on U.S. soil carries the risk of stimulating resentment against the current administration for failing to prevent it.

Certainly another attack on the scale of 9-11 would risk producing that result, even if al-Qaida had the resources for it. But a simple truck bomb in some U.S. city center a few months before the election, killing just a couple of dozen Americans, could drive voters back into Bush's arms and turn a tight election around. Al-Qaida is clever enough for that."
Bush and Al-Qaida's interests coincide. An attack before the election.


 



Dirty tricks in Majority Leader Frist's office

If nothing comes of this story, I think that we might as well give up.

"From the spring of 2002 until at least April 2003, members of the GOP committee staff exploited a computer glitch that allowed them to access restricted Democratic communications without a password....With the help of forensic computer experts from General Dynamics and the US Secret Service, [the Senate Sergeant-of-Arms'] office has interviewed about 120 people to date and seized more than half a dozen computers -- including four Judiciary servers, one server from the office of Senate majority leader Bill Frist of Tennessee, and several desktop hard drives."

Nothing came of Enron. Nothing came of the Plame case. Nothing came of the Republican Party Communist spy Katrina Leung's case. (But at least the Democratic candidates footwear and sweaters have been thoroughly covered).

The Democrats are jellified and the press, the Republicans, most of the media, and much of the electorate are too cynical and corrupt to care. Both Josh Michah Marshall and Calpundit seem to think that something will come of this one.

I doubt it, but I'd be willing to pay good money to be proven wrong. Right now I'm waiting for a parade of the usual suspects to explain that this is no big deal and that it's really Clinton's fault -- or maybe the story will just die quietly. The next month should be enough to tell.

If the story dies, it will prove that the Republicans are able to get away with anything. And between now and November, presumably they will.


 



Budget

I'm trying to sign up for Budget Rental Car's "Fast Break" program. In the enrollment process, they say to "Review the Budget Fastbreak Global Master Rental Agreement Terms & Conditions. Right. Just go there and hold down your "Page Down" button a while. Don't even try to read.

I have a fast computer, with fast screen drawing. When the Page Down button held down, and the legal document whizzing by at full speed page by page, it took almost 25 SECONDS to reach the end.

Right. Read it. Sure. Guess I'll try Avis.




1/21/2004
 



I Meant It

I meant it. You gotta go read We Are the Majority. Really.


 



We Are the Majority

Every single person, please go read this entire piece. Please We Are the Majority:
"Sometimes progressives say, well, you know, we're right, but we're really kind of fringe. Our views are not reflective of a vast majority of the people. After all, Bush, well, was almost elected, and there is rightwing control of the House of Representatives, led by a gentleman named Tom DeLay. There is rightwing control of the United States Senate. Very few people in the media reflect our point of view. So they must be representing the majority of the people, and we're just a smart minority of the people.

I want you to disabuse yourselves of that notion. You represent mainstream America. We are the majority.

Go out on Main Street, stand at the corner, and ask people a simple question. Tell them you're doing an informal poll, and ask them if they want 40 percent of the tax breaks, hundreds of billions of dollars, to go to the top 1 percent, or whether those breaks should be spread around more fairly and be used for education or lowering the deficit. Then tell me who is "fringe." Ask them if we should maintain our disintegrating health care nonsystem or establish a universal health care system that guarantees health care for all. Then tell me who is "fringe." Ask them if we should continue to let polluters destroy our environment, or move to safe, sustainable energy. Then tell me who is "fringe."

So how do the rightwingers get elected if they have nothing to say about the most important issues facing the American people? That is the central question of modern American politics. And the answer is that they work day and night to divide the American people against each other so that they end up voting against their own best interests. That is what the Republican Party is all about.

They tell white workers their jobs are being lost not because corporate America is downsizing and moving to China, but because black workers are taking their jobs--because of affirmative action. White against black.

If you turn on talk radio, what you will hear, in an almost compulsive way, is a hatred of women. And they're telling working class guys, you used to have some power. You used to be the breadwinner. But now there are women running companies, women in politics, women making more money than you. Men against women.

And they're turning straight people against gay people. The homosexuals are taking over the schools! Gay marriage is destroying the country! Straights against gays.

And if you're not for a war in Iraq waged on the dubious and illegal doctrine of "preemptive war," you're somehow unpatriotic. And those of us who were born in America are supposed to hate immigrants. And those of us who practice religion in one way, or believe in the separation of church and state, are supposed to be anti-religious, and trying to destroy Christianity in America--and we get divided up on that. And on and on it goes.

The Republican leadership does all of this in an incredibly cynical, poll-driven way, because they know when you lay out their program about the most important economic issues facing America, it ends up that they are representing the interests of 2 percent of the population. You can't win an election with the support of 2 percent. So they divide us, and the result is that tens of millions of working people vote against their own interests. "
Oh you gotta just go read the whole thing. It starts better, it gets better.


 



Not Just Dean

In This Is How They Campaign For Office I wrote:
"This is not just an accidental, glib, throw-away wingnut hit piece. This is part of a coordinated, researched, tested, professional character assassination campaign that will phase in and ramp up between now and the election. This is the modern Republican Party. This is Norquist's Wednesday Meeting, and Karl Rove and the Wurlitzer, and cigarette company marketing people, and former CIA destabilization specialists all working together to do their job ON YOU! This is George Bush 'staying above the fray' while his subordinates engage in the nastiest kind of character assassination and voter manipulation -- spreading lying, humiliating, ridiculing smear after lying, humiliating, ridiculing smear until even YOU hate Dean!"
It seems that we're nearly there already. People are disappointed in Dean. OK, and I'll get into that later. But think about this -- if the nominee is Kerry, or Clark, or Edwards, it's going to be the same story. They are going to find the weakness, and pound on it, and repeat their smears over and over, and, as I wrote previously, "engage in the nastiest kind of character assassination and voter manipulation -- spreading lying, humiliating, ridiculing smear after lying, humiliating, ridiculing smear" until even YOU hate your nominee. BE READY FOR IT.


 



Rush Who?

I was driving, listening to Limbaugh, who was saying stuff about Clark, and replaying the doctored tapes again and again... and I stopped at a liquor store to buy a couple of retirement tickets. In the store the radio was playing The Creator Has A Master Plan, by Pharoah Sanders. (and here.) One of the most perfect pieces of music ever recorded. (Another is Space is the Place by Sun Ra.) So when I got in the car I found it on the radio, and when I got home I tuned it in, and now I'm on a MUCH higher spiritual plane and probably will be for the rest of the day.

Rush Who?

Ipdate - How could I leave out My Favorite Things by Coltrane!? How could I? (And a beautiful website, as well!)


 



I know who I'd like to send to Mars...

From bold idea to dud in less than a week:

The man who told Congress a year ago he was headed to war arrived this year with a proposal for halfway houses for released inmates, and an appeal to athletes to stop popping steroids. The big plan floated a week ago -- to settle the moon and strike out for Mars -- never came up, having bombed in the polls and on both sides of the congressional aisle.
They're floundering folks.

Enjoy it.


 



Parallels

Parallels, at uggabugga.


 



Use Of Language

On privatizing Social Security, Bush said, "We must make Social Security financially stable and allow personal retirement accounts for younger workers who choose them."

ALLOW personal retirement accounts? We're not ALLOWED to set up personal retirement accounts NOW? Is my IRA ILLEGAL? Am I going to JAIL because I have a 401K?

This use of language is similar to the school privatization language. They say we need "school choice" because public schools are a "monopoly."

I'm not ALLOWED to send my kids to a private school NOW?

And they say that because some local schools aren't good enough, the government should give kids vouchers to go to expensive private schools. Well, I don't think MY LOCAL BUS SYSTEM is good enough, so I'd like a voucher for a new LEXUS, please!


 



Lyons: "For once, press acts just as it should"

As most of you who read my (now on hiatus) blog know, I like Gene Lyons.

So here's Gene's column for the week:

For once, press acts just as it should

Gene Lyons


Posted on Wednesday, January 21, 2004

To me, the single most significant event of the 2004 election campaign
hasn’t been the Iowa caucuses or President Bush’s State of the Union
address. Rather, it was the quick debunking of an attempted smear of
retired Gen. Wesley Clark by a half-dozen or so news organizations
functioning exactly as a free press should. Basically, the Republican
National Committee got caught doctoring Clark’s words in a vain attempt
to manufacture a "flip-flop" on the Iraq war. Given the dreadful
standard set during the 2000 campaign, when the Washington insiders who
set the tone of political coverage at the nation’s major newspapers,
magazines and TV networks conducted themselves like a high school clique
trying to fix a prom queen election, the Clark incident came as a
welcome surprise. Has war sobered them, or has American journalism begun
to recover from Ted Baxter Syndrome?

Ted Baxter, for the uninitiated, was the comically pompous anchorman on
"The Mary Tyler Moore Show." Like many celebrity pundits of the cable TV
era, he thought the news was about him.

But hold the sociology. First, a quick outline of the ill-fated effort
to portray Clark as a two-faced opportunist. Whether or not the incident
shows GOP fear of facing the former four-star general in the November
election, as Clark insisted, it definitely indicates that turning the
Democratic nominee into a caricature won’t be as easy as lampooning Al
Gore with phony stories like "inventing the Internet," " earth-tone
clothing, "etc.

What happened was that on the same day RNC Chairman Ed Gillespie had a
speech scheduled in Little Rock, Clark’s hometown, the infamous" Drudge
Report" just happened to produce one of its "worldwide exclusives"
claiming to show that, contrary to his campaign rhetoric in New
Hampshire, Clark supported Bush’s rush to war with Iraq during
congressional testimony in 2002.

In his speech, Gillespie portrayed Clark as a hypocrite and turncoat.
"There was no stronger case made than that expert testimony, the
testimony of Gen. Wesley Clark," Gillespie claimed.

Drudge "reported" a passage from Clark’s testimony that was suspiciously
like to that in an RNC fax. "There’s no question that Saddam Hussein is
a threat," Clark supposedly said. "... Yes, he has chemical and
biological weapons. He’s had those for a long time. But the United
States right now is on a very much different defensive posture than we
were before September 11 th of 2001.... He is, as far as we know,
actively pursuing nuclear capabilities, though he doesn’t have nuclear
warheads yet. If he were to acquire nuclear weapons, I think our friends
in the region would face greatly increased risks as would we."

But the quote turned out to be problematic, as Knight-Ridder reporters
Dana Hull and Drew Brown determined in an article headlined: "GOP chair
claims Clark supported war; transcripts show otherwise."

Clark’s words had been taken completely out of context. In fact, he had
pointedly argued that Iraq was a manageable problem and no imminent
threat existed. He’d urged that Bush form "the broadest possible
coalition including our NATO allies.... [Force] should be used as the
last resort after all diplomatic means have been exhausted."

The reporters also noticed that the Drudge/RNC quote "further distorted
Clark’s testimony" by adding sentences they were unable to find in the
transcript. Dogged research by the estimable Josh Marshall on his
Talking Points Memo Web site subsequently determined that the first and
last sentences appeared on Page 6, the bit about post-9/11 defensive
posture on Pages 25-26. Indeed, Clark argued that the U.S. was actually
in a better strategic position vs. Iraq, leaving ample time for
diplomacy.

In short, Clark’s words had been yanked out context and their order
jumbled to alter their meaning. The ellipses concealed gaps of 11,500
words, roughly a dozen times the length of this column. I’d argue they
were essentially manufactured quotes, a firing offense at any
self-respecting journalistic organization—not a phrase which describes
"The Drudge Report."

The heartening part was that it wasn’t only Knight-Ridder and Josh
Marshall and liberal watchdog sites like mediawhoresonline. com that
blew the whistle. While some of the usual suspects such as The
Washington Times and The Wall Street Journal Editorial page got taken
(or pretended to get taken) for a ride, many others did not.

According to the Columbia Journalism Review’s brand-new Web site, The
Campaign Desk, "most of the major newspapers including the Washington
Post, the New York Times and the Boston Globe ran pieces reflecting the
whole story." (The Democrat-Gazette also got it right.)

The brainchild of the renowned journalism school’s new dean, Nicholas
Lemman, CJR’s new enterprise means to provide "real-time" media
criticism putting the Paula Zahns of the world on notice. (On her CNN
broadcast, Zahn treated the Drudge quotes as factual.) Next time,
sweetheart, do your homework and get the facts. Your professional
reputation may once again depend upon it.

Free-lance columnist Gene Lyons is a Little Rock author and recipient of
the National Magazine Award.





1/20/2004
 



Message and Branding and Dean

In marketing message is everything. If you want a message to sink in it can't be complicated. Short and simple, repeat it over and over again. The basics. Think about the most successful brand marketing and you'll realize that it is about a very short message that you hear over and over, and pretty soon that message is what the product/company/candidate/whatever IS. You "brand" a product with an emotional image that you want the customer to feel whenever your product is thought of. That message becomes identified with the product. Lexus = luxury. WalMart = cheap. Jetta = youth. Scope = get kissed. Campbell's Soup = mmm good. Marlboro = manly. Virginia Slims = feminine. Chevy = Apple Pie/America. Sony = quality. Hot Sauce=Tobasco. (For some reason I'm having trouble thinking of these tonite...)

Often the branding is the ONLY difference, yet it causes customers to make a clear distinction or to pay a premium. For an example look at the ingredients in the cold remedies or pain relievers at the drug store. You take a product, maybe soap flakes, put it into two different boxes, repeat over and over again a different message about each of the boxes, and that is what the product IS -- regardless of what it really is. One of the boxes contains "BOB'S JEAN WASH" a basic soap for washing blue jeans, and costs $4.99. The other is "LEXO SHORT PREMIUM" a high-end soap, used only for expensive cotton shirts, and a box costs $7.99. If this message is repeated often enough I bet you that every house in America will have one box of each, and the BOB'S is only used to wash blue jeans, and the LEXO is only used to wash expensive cotton shirts, and the customer won't have it any other way! Marketing WORKS!

It works with candidates, as well. Republicans know how to do this. You decide the message of the candidate, and repeat it over and over, and IT DOES NOT MATTER if it is a truth, or consistent, it becomes what the person IS. Bush said, over and over, that he was going to bring "honor and integrity back to the White House" and said it again, and then again, and pretty soon he was the guy who was going to bring honor and integrity back to the White House. It DID NOT MATTER that Bush had no honor or integrity, because he had a clear message and repeated over and over that he had honor and integrity SO THAT BECAME WHAT HE WAS. And he was able to repeat over and over that Gore was a liar. This is how marketing and repetition works.

If this sounds simplistic, in marketing and mass communication you CAN'T oversimplify. The shorter the message the more effective it is. It is a basic rule of hi-tech marketing that you have to have what is known as your "Elevator speech." This is the description of your entire product strategy/company/whatever, that you can say in the amount of time it takes to ride a couple of floors in an elevator. Because for an interested person that is all the time you get to convey everything to either win the person over or lose the person forever.

I think the Iowa caucuses were all about beating Bush. The only question was, "How is he going to beat Bush?" I think a candidate's positions on jobs, national security, and other issues were relevant only so far as Iowans imagined most American voters responding to the positions, not their OWN response. (And probably mostly in terms of imagining those other voters seeing Bush as = security after 9/11.)

Here are the simple messages, or "brands," that I think people went to the caucuses with:

Kerry = War hero
Edwards = From the South/Nice
Dean = Money & supporters/Fighter
Gephardt = Unions

But Dean allowed himself to be defined/branded by others as "angry," and that, of course, scared Iowa voters. (Previously they tried defining him as "extremist/McGovern," but that didn't stick, so along came "angry.")

Sun Tzu's Art of War says to beat a powerful enemy you must "find the weakness in his strength." If Dean's strength is being a fighter who is ready to get in Bush's face, then "angry" is the weakness in that strength. So Dean got branded as the "angry" candidate and this is Dean's fault. The reason it is Dean's fault is that if Dean is going to go up against Bush, and is ready to fight back, that means that he shouldn't be so easily defined by opponents -- because that is what Republicans DO. He should already have a team in place ready to counter that basic tactic -- defining your opponent!

To me, this is about getting some things done, not about marrying a candidate. It isn't about "loyalty" whatever Joe Lieberman says. Yes, it's about changing the Democratic Party, but mostly it is about going into a fight to save the country, maybe the world, and finding the best candidate to do that. That is why I turned away from Kerry and supported Dean.

Dean has a few days to turn this around. And it is up to HIM to do this. He can blame the press or "negative campaigning" but that's the playing field he is on. If he can turn it around, then maybe he does deserve to be the nominee. If he can't, than maybe we would do better sending someone else up against Bush -- IF we can find someone who is better. I think he's a smart guy, and I expect he will do a good job of this.

Now it is time for Dean to show us he can win.


 



Thoughts

So today I'm rethinking everything I thought I knew... wondering about the viability of Dean's door-to-door, new-voter strategy -- having enough people go door-to-door, the old fashioned way. If this isn't going to work, it means that the strategy of America Coming Together is also questionable. They are planning a "massive voter contact campaign" and are well-funded. So does this mean that all those funding eggs are in one broken basket?

Also, if voters in Iowa felt that Kerry's military record and Edwards' southern accent are the best ways to go up against Bush -- if that is what the results mean -- then I suspect this will lead to Clark as the nominee.

And then there's "the sound." I was listening to right-wing talk radio earlier, and it is almost the ONLY thing on.

Anyway, it's early, it's going to take some time for this to settle in. More later.

Update - I just wrote to someone, "Dean is WAY ahead in NH. And well-organized. AND if Dean is smart, he'll make adjustments to his ads and to his message now. AND if he is not smart he shouldn't be our nominee against Bush. This is too important."




1/19/2004
 



New Voters and the Democrats' Passivity

(This would be New Voters vs. Swing Voters V.)

In my previous post, "New Voters vs. Swing Voters IV", I commented on the passivity and defeatism of the Democrats regarding proposals to recruit among the non-voting 50% of the voting age population. What are the reasons for this passivity?

One reason is probably the left/right question which has been in the background of this discussion all along. I suspect that moderate and conservative Democrats also believe, as I do, that the working poor in fact are a big chunk of the non-voters, and that the issues most likely to rouse their interest are the old-fashioned lunch-bucket issues such as an increased minimum wage, decreases in payroll rather than in income taxes, and government provision of medical insurance.

Democrats, including New Democrats, have never openly renounced those goals, but in emphasis these issues have tended to take a back seat to middle-class issues, free trade, and social liberalism. This slant is usually justified on pragmatic grounds based on what the voters think. In reality, though, I think that it's not the voters but the donors who are calling the shots. With exceptions, Hollyood liberals and other liberals with money are militant about free speech, choice, diversity, and the environment, but notably silent about the lunchbucket issues. (And the same is true of the media we've been afflicted with).

A second reason for the Democrats' lack of interest in the non-voters is that the working poor are often sort of tacky. The populism of millionaire Republicans is an enormous fraud, but there is a germ of truth in the idea that Democrats tend to be collegiate -- perhaps professionals, perhaps government workers, maybe a little artsy, and so on. A white guy working for $8.00 / hr. in an assembly plant in Kentucky is very likely uneducated, unstylish, religious, and not too pretty to look at. For whatever reason, Democratic outreach to a guy like that is almost certain to be much weaker than Democratic outreach to a black or Hispanic worker who is similiar to him in every way except race.

Here's a first suggestion on what to do. The Democratic Party's move from reliance on volunteers, neighborhood groups, etc., to the use of paid staff was probably inevitable. In my experience, however, low-level paid staff seem overwhelmingly to be college students and recent college graduates who have nothing better to do at the moment. For recruiting the working poor, however, it would make infinitely more sense to recruit staff from among the working poor themselves. (Not to be cynical, but one advantage of this is that, by definition, the working poor are willing to work very cheaply.) So what you'd want to do would be to find a sharp individual who's trapped in a crappy job, convince him that the Democrats can help him and his friends, and then give him a job spreading the word.

A final reason for Democratic passivity in this respect is slavery to social science. I've been told many times that "the trend toward declining participation has continued for for many years and is a fact of life we have to live with". But everybody admits that Democrats benefit from high participation and suffer when participation is low, so that statement might just as well be translated "the trend toward Republican victory has continued for for many years and is a fact of life we have to deal with". Should we just lie down and die?

Social science facts are not like science facts. Water is always going to be water, and gravity is always going to be gravity, but "trends" can be changed. A trend is not something to live with, but something to deal with -- in this case, something to fight against. Republicans who come from an entrepreneurial, gambler background are much better equipped than sociology students to find the weak spots in the opponent's armor and the turning-points of political history. Polls are fine, but in the last analysis the best way to see if an approach will work is to try it, rather than run a poll.

The Republicans do their polling, but they win mostly bacause they've tried all kinds of approaches and some of them worked. Over a lot of trials, the guy who says "Let's give this a shot" will whip the guy who always says "How can we be sure this will work?"


 



Over At the american street

Over at the american street I have posted two pieces: Win With the Base or the Mythical Middle? and Growing the Base.


 



4ew Voters vs. Swing Voters IV

Below Dave has collected the links so far which discuss this issue.

I have some new ideas to add, but right now I'd just like to summarize what I think now. First, long-term strategy is the real question, here, not the 2004 election. Not much energy has been put into strategy since the New Dems took over in 1984. The New Dem strategy has been OK but not great, and in any case it's twenty years old.

Partly because the party is usually financially strapped, the long-term party-building efforts have tended to be cannibalized in favor of each year's election. (That's what the "soft money" controversy was all about way back then). We shouldn't let this continue to happen.

The question of whether to put effort into "growing the base" is independent of the left vs. right / new voter vs. swing voter controversies. Active efforts to get moderate independents to identify as Democrats count as "growing the base" too.

The Democrats have been too passive, lazy, and defeatist about recruiting new voters and non-voters. My hypothesis is that a lot of non-voters are working poor and that they are natural Democrats if the Democrats can convince them that they can deliver medical care, an increase in the minimum wage, lower payroll deductions for social security, etc.

I have never heard anything whatsoever from Democratic wonks and pros about the 50% of Americans who don't vote except "No one really knows why non-voters don't vote; they have all kind of different reasons for not voting and don't form a coherent group of any kind; they're impossible to organize and probably aren't Democrats either; and besides, non-voters don't vote so they're not going to help us at all".


Those things may all have some truth in them, but they're all reasons for quitting. Much as I hate Robertson, Norquist, and Rove, I'll give them 100 points for enterprise. And I'll give their nameless Democratic counterparts zero. The bad guys have tried dozens of things, some of which worked. They didn't just take polls and then say "That's not going to work" and sit down and chill. (Right now they're going after the Dem base: at the moment, Jewish voters.)

(Edited: changed 2000 to 2004)




 



Horay!

Hooray for Digby!:
"We simply cannot compromise on policy anymore. No more 'pilot programs' on privatization, no quarter on 'faith based' initiatives, no bipartisan cover on anything. It only hurts us. Any experimental ideas can be tested in the states. As a national party, and particularly as congressional delegation, we have moved as far to the right as we can go and it is time to hold the line.

Just as important, we must counter their obfuscatory rhetoric and never, ever adopt it as our own. Any Democrat who uses terms such as 'tax relief,' 'tort reform' or 'partial birth' abortion should be fined 1000 dollars per instance."



 



The Base Or New Voters Discussion

This is part of a something I posted over at the american street.

In the last few days several weblogs have written about, and many, many readers have left comments about whether it is better for the Democrats to “move left” and appeal to “the base,” to “move right” and appeal to the “middle,” or to try to get “new voters.”

Here are some of the weblog posts, hopefully in this order (if I have missed any weblogs writing about this issue, please point to them in the comments here AND at the american street!):

John Emerson at Zizka: Why do we Lose? Five Ways the New Dems Hurt the Democrats
Nick Confessore at TAPPED: WHAT NEW VOTERS?
Kevin Drum at Calpundit: New Voters
John Emerson at Seeing the Forest: New Voters and Swing Voters
Kevin Drum at Calpundit: THE BASE vs. THE MIDDLE....
Mathew Yglasias: SWING, SWING
John Emerson at Seeing the Forest: New Voters vs. Swing voters II
South Know Bubba: Swing voters
The Mysterious Atrios: Swing Voters and Nonvoters
The ever-amazing Digby, with The Base, The Base Part II and Swingers
John Emerson again at Seeing the Forest: New Voters vs. Swing Voters III
And a while back, Simon Rosenberg at the New Democrat Network Blog: WE CAN DO BETTER II - THE EMPEROR HAS NO CLOTHES




1/18/2004
 



Suppose

Suppose our government learned that North Korea was planning an invasion of South Korea. Suppose our government learned that the Serbians were planning to invade Albaina, possibly triggering a wider conflict. Suppose they learned that Venezuela was planning an action against its neighbor, triggering a conflict that threatened to destabilize Mexico, maybe bring enemies of the U.S. to power, and in any event sending millions of refugees rushing north to our borders.

What actions would be available to them? Could they go to the UN to make a case? Could they go to the country to ask for support for military action to protect our interests?

After Iraq, the government could not realistically go to the UN to ask for action. They have no credibility -- they have been caught lying. They could not go to the country to make a case for military action because they have been caught lying AND because have intentionally divided the country, using "wedge issues" and using national security for political purposes.

And, with our military completely tied down in Iraq, they couldn't even take action on their own.

Look at the mess we are in should a REAL national security threat emerge. THIS is a practical example of why what Bush has done is so bad. He has left us vulnerable. He has destroyed our credibility with the world. He has destroyed the credibility of our government with US. By using terror alerts politically, we can't even trust if Bush comes to us to say there is a new threat. What is he going to say, "This time I mean it, this time it's for real"?




Copyright © 2002-05.





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