Tuesday, November 30, 2004

States feel the power (part 2)

Mark Brewer, the President of the Association of State Democratic Chairs is telling his fellow state Democratic leaders to hold off on endorsing any particular candidate for the DNC chairmanship (link). Brewer seems to recognize, as I pointed out in a previous post (link), that the state parties could wield and extraordinary amount of influence over the national party leadership. But they won't do so if they start, independently, throwing their weight behind particular candidates.

Brewer wants them to wait at least until the state party leaders meet Dec. 9-11 in Orlando. I wouldn't be surprised if he wants to lobby the Association reach a consensus among themselves about who should be leader (or at least what type of leader they want, if they can't agree on a particular individual).

The linked article doesn't specifically mention if any of the leading prospects will actually be in attendance at this meeting.

As goes Maryland...

I'm not sure if the parallel will hold, but the race for the head of the Maryland State Democratic Party has some interesting similarities to the race for the national chair (link):

The race for Maryland Democratic Party Chair has proven surprisingly competitive, with three announced candidates taking each other to the mat over the future of the state party. Party Treasurer Gary Gensler, former Howard Dean state political director and congressional candidate Terry Lierman, and former Glendening staffer Dan Ruppley are vying for the office, whose current holder, Ike Leggett, is stepping down most likely to run for Montgomery County Executive.

Gensler maintains a home in Baltimore County, though his main residence is Montgomery County. He has been the treasurer of the national Democratic Party and has a proven record as a fundraiser. Gensler appears to have been the initial frontrunner but is facing a staunch challenge from Lierman, a resident of Maryland's Eighth Congressional District, whose fundraising skills are also considerable -- he was the national finance co-chair for the Dean campaign. It is expected that a Lierman chairmanship would result in more grassroots Democratic activism, as his work with Dean demonstrates; Gensler seems to be the choice of the older, more entrenched party bosses.

The two candidates are waging an extremely low-profile pitched battle for votes inside the several-hundred-member Democratic State Central Committee, which decides the next party chair. A third candidate, Dan Ruppley of Frederick, has a record of experience in former Gov. Parris Glendening's political campaigns. However, a party insider and Lierman supporter who asked not to be named told me that Lierman has been endorsed by Frederick Mayor Jennifer Dougherty, which would seem to put quite a damper on Ruppley's hopes.

The divisive race highlights the many divisions among a party still smarting from its 2002 gubernatorial defeat at the hands of then-Rep. Bob Ehrlich. One high-profile Democrat, Baltimore Mayor Martin O'Malley, has already announced he is challenging Ehrlich in 2006; another Democrat, Montgomery County Executive Doug Duncan, also is gearing up for a run. The party is also split along urban/rural lines, with Eastern Shore and Western and Southern Maryland residents feeling passed over in favor of heavy Baltimore and D.C.-area representation.

The similarities:

1) One candidate (Gensler) represent the "more entrenched party bosses" and another (Lierman) represents upstart "grassroots Democratic activism". Not sure how Ruppley fits into this, but this report suggests he may not have much impact.

2) The battle lines appear to be drawn over the direction the party will go (status quo vs. reform)

3) The party is still reeling over a significant electoral loss (the governor's race in 2002) which could seriously influence the final result.

4) There is a growing sense of frustration on the part of non-urban residents over a lack of representation within the party apparatus.

Sounds familiar doesn't it?

Sunday, November 28, 2004

From many, one

Maryland Governor Says He Intended Ban on Reporters to Have 'chilling Effect'

ANNAPOLIS, Md. (AP) - Maryland's governor says his order that state officials stop speaking with two reporters for The (Baltimore) Sun was "meant to have a chilling effect" on two writers he believes "have no credibility."
The ban was intended to set a benchmark for the minimum level of accuracy expected of newspaper coverage of his administration, Gov. Robert Ehrlich said in an interview on WBAL radio.

"At what point does a monopoly newspaper abuse its privilege, its First Amendment privilege, in making things up, making quotes up, making context up?" the first-term Republican governor said Friday. "I just said this is our minimum benchmark."

Rob Douglas, a WBAL radio host, questioned whether Ehrlich should direct all state government officials not to speak to reporters.

Ehrlich responded, "That's my government. That's my government. I'm the chief executive."

Dear Mr. Ehrlich,

It's not "your government". It's the people's government.

And we want it back.

Yours Truly,
E Pluribus Unum

Support Democratic Corporations

Want to express your political partisanship with your purchasing power. "Choose The Blue" (link) has the answer: only spend your money on those companies that donated predominantly to Democrats. It provides a handy guide to several companies out there to help you decide where to spend your hard earned lucre.

Democrats dysfunctional relationship with Republicans

I recommend the following blog post over on Mathew Gross' blog Deride and Conquer (link):

Watch Dan Rather apologize for not getting his facts straight, humiliated before the eyes of America, voluntarily undermining his credibility and career of over thirty years. Observe Donna Brazille squirm as she is ridiculed by Bay Buchanan, and pronounced irrelevant and nearly non-existent. Listen as Donna and Nancy Pelosi and Senator Charles Schumer take to the airwaves saying that they have to go back to the drawing board and learn from their mistakes and try to be better, more likable, more appealing, have a stronger message, speak to morality. Watch them awkwardly quote the bible, trying to speak the new language of America. Surf the blogs, and read the comments of dismayed, discombobulated, confused individuals trying to figure out what they did wrong. Hear the cacophony of voices, crying out, “Why did they beat me?”

And then ask anyone who has ever worked in a domestic violence shelter if they have heard this before.

They will tell you, every single day.

I think many of us in the Dean movement understand completely what this person is talking about. Democrats have gotten so used to being abused that many of them don't know how to live any other way. Like an abused spouse, they are so afraid of what it might mean to break the cycle of abuse that they are unwilling to risk doing so.

I've often felt over the last few years that the Democrats needed a good intervention.

Friday, November 26, 2004

The rise of the local parties

Dan Balz has a good article in this morning's Washington Post (link) on the maneuvering going on in the Democratic party with regard to the DNC chairmanship. There are several points in this article that are noteworthy, but I was particularly drawn to the following section:

But there is disgruntlement among some, particularly the heads of the state parties, many of whom feel neglected after a presidential campaign cycle in which just a dozen or so states were targeted by the Kerry campaign. "There is huge frustration that the party broadly defined was not well served," one longtime DNC member said. "The presidential candidate was well served, but in states not targeted by the presidential [candidate], we were completely shut out."

Mark Brewer, chairman of the Michigan Democratic Party and the leader of the Association of Democratic State Chairs, said: "We're looking for a much more cooperative relationship with the DNC, with much more focus on state parties and on races down the ballot [below the presidential contest]. I'm the chair of a targeted state and I feel that way. Michigan got plenty of attention from the DNC and we're grateful for the financial support, but there's no question we've targeted ourselves into a corner. When you write off states in election after election, you make it harder and harder to win."

Brewer has asked his fellow state leaders to remain neutral for now in the contest to elect a new DNC chairman, in the hope that they ultimately could become the power brokers in deciding who succeeds McAuliffe. The state chairs have begun to invite candidates for the DNC chairmanship to meet in Orlando on Dec. 12 in what will be a potentially pivotal tryout before the February vote. "Together we can have quite an impact, if we choose," Brewer said.

We may be on the cusp of a fundamental power shift in the structure of the Democratic party. Since at least the election of Bill Clinton, the party has been run by a small nexus of power brokers within the Democratic Washington establishment. This nexus' political philosophy was to focus energy and resources on a narrow band of races with the idea of breaking the back of the Republicans at their heart. It was a plan that worked for Bill Clinton, but it has failed pretty much every else it has been tried.

In the process of feeding this national beast, the local parties fell into disrepair. They no longer had the money or the talent to keep their political prospects alive. The money was sucked up by the focus races and the talent was siphoned off by the nexus power brokers.

But this year the local parties have started to wake up and, with a new infusion of grassroots activists, have produced some of the few good stories to come out of this past election. It was at this level that Democrats had the most success, taking back several state houses and winning surprising gubernatorial races (most notably, in Montana).

I take the comments from Mark Brewer as an indication that the state parties have become aware of their power. They may be seeking to play the role of kingmaker in the selection of the new DNC chair. The Dec. 12th meeting with the state party leaders could give us the first indication of how much influence they have and who among the potentials have the best prospect.

This is a positive sign for Dean. One, because Dean was and is the focal point of the rising grassroots/state-party movement. And second, because Dean has a proven ability to win people over to his side in these kind of situations. Recall that Dean was the guy who managed to get both the SEIU and AFSCME heads to endorse him, despite the fact that they had a history of NOT cooperating with each other.

I've always had the sense that Dean was a great coalition builder. The Dec. 12th meeting could be his first opportunity to demonstrate it to the party leaders.

Smearing Dean Supporters

Jonathan Chait in today's LA Times (link):

Let's begin with Howard Dean. Most of us thought that Dean's spectacular defeat in the Iowa caucuses last January meant the end of him and his movement. Instead, it was more like the ending to "Terminator 2," where the evil robot is blasted to smithereens and presumed dead, then the fragments slowly regroup and come to life. As we speak, Deaniacs are reconstituting in their yoga studios and organic juice bars, plotting — in their benevolent, cheerful but fundamentally misguided way — to make Dean the leader of the Democratic Party.

Why would this be such a disaster? Because, remember, the Dean campaign advanced two novel theories about national politics. The first was that Democrats paid too much attention to winning over the center. What they really needed to do was mobilize the base by nominating a candidate like Dean who'd fire up liberals. This turned out to be doubly wrong. Democrats were fired up enough that they didn't need a Howard Dean to inspire them to unprecedented enthusiasm. And a fired-up Democratic base, volunteering and donating at unprecedented levels, was not enough to win.

Second, Dean argued that Democrats didn't really need to engage the cultural issues that Republicans had long used to win white, working-class voters. Instead, Dean argued, it would be better to persuade culturally traditional whites to vote their economic self-interest. But of course, a candidate can't always decide for the voters what issues they should pay attention to. Economics is complicated. Cultural issues are visceral. The presidential election showed pretty decisively that Democrats can't get a hearing on their more popular economic platform if voters don't think their values are in the right place. A secular Yankee like Dean is about the worst possible candidate.

This garbage just makes me livid. Where to start?

  • Anyone who characterizes Dean supporters as attendees of "yoga studios and organic juice bars" demonstrates right from the start that they haven't any idea what the Dean movement was about. I have never gone to a yoga studio and organic juice makes me gag. I don't know any Dean supporter who does either and I was heavily involved in the organization effort here in the Portland area. This "yoga studio and organic juice bar" shit harkens back to the "latte-drinking, sushi-eating, Volvo-driving, New York Times-reading" crap perpetrated by the Club For Growth's "Back To Vermont" ad (link). That Mr. Chait chooses to buy into Republican stereotypes of Democratic candidates indicates that he is part of the problem, not the solution. How can anyone trust his judgment of the qualifications of Howard Dean when he himself fails the first test in understanding the man and the movement?
  • Chait propagates yet another myth when he said that Dean advocated for a campaign that appealed only to the left. This is yet another fallacious misreading of Dean's campaign. Dean didn't say we shouldn't appeal to the center. He said we should appeal to it by standing up for what we believe in! Dean understood better than any other Democratic candidate that you don't appeal to the center by adopting any particular ideology. You appeal to the center by demonstrating that you believe in your own positions strongly enough to win them over to your side. Does George Bush soften his stances and adopt more left-wing approaches in order to "appeal to the center"? Of course not! He stands proudly on what he believes in and many people in the center reward him for that even if they personally disagree with his position!
  • Dean was one of the first advocates of the idea of appealing to people's values and not just their pocketbook. So for Chait to suggest that it is Dean that is promoting the idea that you can win the middle through an "economic self-interest" argument is the height of absurdity!

Dean is a moderate. Dean's supporters are moderates (as well as leftists). Dean is an advocate for the Democratic program, as opposed to many other Democrats who are advocates for hiding from the Democratic program because doing otherwise would require them to defend it. Dean is an early adopter of Lakoff-style values framing.

Mr. Chait thinks that Dean and his movement are the last gasp of the old left wing of the Democratic party.

Sorry Mr. Chait, but we're already miles ahead of you in this debate. Perhaps it is time you caught up to us?

Wednesday, November 24, 2004

Redistrict Illinois

AMERICAblog makes the case.

Visualize a congress without Dennis Hastert and Henry Hyde.

All it would take is Democratic leaders with guts..

Tuesday, November 23, 2004



Voters are the consumers. Politicians are the producers.

There's a fascinating discussion over on MyDD (link) about an article in The New Republic by Christopher Hayes about the undecided voter (link). Hayes explodes several myths about the undecided voter, but one of the biggest is the idea that undecided voters care about issues:

Perhaps the greatest myth about undecided voters is that they are undecided because of the "issues." That is, while they might favor Kerry on the economy, they favor Bush on terrorism; or while they are anti-gay marriage, they also support social welfare programs. Occasionally I did encounter undecided voters who were genuinely cross-pressured--a couple who was fiercely pro-life, antiwar, and pro-environment for example--but such cases were exceedingly rare. More often than not, when I asked undecided voters what issues they would pay attention to as they made up their minds I was met with a blank stare, as if I'd just asked them to name their favorite prime number.

The majority of undecided voters I spoke to couldn't name a single issue that was important to them. This was shocking to me. Think about it: The "issue" is the basic unit of political analysis for campaigns, candidates, journalists, and other members of the chattering classes. It's what makes up the subheadings on a candidate's website, it's what sober, serious people wish election outcomes hinged on, it's what every candidate pledges to run his campaign on, and it's what we always complain we don't see enough coverage of.

But the very concept of the issue seemed to be almost completely alien to most of the undecided voters I spoke to.

I developed the theory a few years back that undecided voters are undecided voters because they just don't know what their issues are. Or, as Hayes puts it, they don't have any issues that they think of in political terms. To such a person, politicians who approach them with a laundry list of issues are the ultimate snooze.

I came to the conclusion that politicians can't win over undecided voters by simply determining what they want and then giving it to them. What works better is to simply tell them what they want and to do it in a convincing enough fashion that they will respond, "Yeah, that is what I want!"

Democrats have been making the mistake for years of thinking that if they just find the right hot button issues to push they can get these people to come over to their side. You see them making the same mistake in thinking that all they have to do is use the right code words on issues like abortion and homosexuality.

Democrats have been using focus groups to determine what issues motivate people. Republicans, on the other hand, use focus groups to figure out what messages motivate people. This is perhaps the fundamental reason why Democrats come off as confusing to the indecisive and wishy-washy to the decisive while Republicans appear steadfast and resolved even to those who ultimately disagree with their stance on particular issues.

Put another way: a winner in politics is not someone who figures out what the people want. A winner in politics is someone who can make the people want what the winner already has.

Democrats, in order to win, have to start seeing the voters as the consumers of a political message, not the producers of a political opinion.

Defining victory down

In Deal, Reid's Aide Named to NRC

"In a deal to let 175 of President Bush's nominees take office, an adviser to new Democratic leader Harry M. Reid, the Senate's staunchest opponent of a nuclear waste dump in his home state of Nevada, will be named to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission," the Washington Post reports.

Roll Call calls it Reid's "first major political victory" as the new Democratic leader.


Bush gets 175 of his nominees through. Reid gets one of his toadiesadvisers in at NRC. Sounds like a great victory doesn't it?</sarcasm>

It's interesting how our new leaders "first major political victory" is a victory only for the leader and not much else for the rest of the party. Is this why he wanted the Minority Leader job?

My Soldier

This sounds like a worthy effort

Monday, November 22, 2004

More thoughts...

There's been much talk about a Rosenberg/Dean co-chair for DNC, with Simon Rosenberg being the behind the scenes organizer and Howard Dean being the before-the-cameras spokesman. There are good arguments for this, not the least being that Rosenberg is less likely to antagonize the establishment Dems while Dean has more of the public street cred needed to sell the party message.

But I am concerned that such an arrangement would lead struggle between Dean and Rosenberg over just who really is in charge. I understand that the two like each other, but that won't count for much if they start stepping on each others toes or can't work out a mechanism for shared power that will benefit everyone.

I think it would be best for the Dems if they had one person at the top. Whoever that person is has to have the power to do some housecleaning and a split chair might prevent that from happening. That may be the reason this idea is being proposed. A lot of establishment Dems fear that a Dean chairmanship would lead to their losing their position within the party power structure. They may be pushing this split-chair idea out of a simple desire to protect their turf.

When the idea of Dean for DNC chair first came up, I said that Dean should not accept the position unless he is granted the real authority to make real changes. I still hold to that position and thus would recommend against him joining in a power-sharing agreement of this sort. Rosenberg would be a good person to have on board to help Dean re-organize the Democrats. But it should be Dean who holds the ultimate position of authority.

Musings on the Democratic future

What I would like to see is a partnership between Dean and Kerry. Dean as head of the party organizational system, Kerry has head of the party legislative system, but both working with each other to coordinate efforts towards a single unified response to the Republican juggernaut. Dean has the grassroots strength and the proven fundraising skill, but is still lacking in the skills necessary to run the policy apparatus of government. Kerry has proven his fundraising prowess as well (albeit on the backs of former Deaners) and certainly understands the ins-and-outs of running the government from the inside, but he lacks the kind of grassroots organizational capability that Dean has demonstrated.

Dean also trumps Kerry when it comes to promoting the Democratic message.

A Dean and Kerry partnership would allow them to compensate for each others weaknesses. The only problem with such a partnership is that it would give neither of them a clear advantage going into the 2008 race. Such a partnership would require both of them to put party ahead of personal political ambition. I know Dean can do this, he has demonstrated as much during the general election. There is no more loyal Democrat alive today then Howard Dean.

I don't know yet whether Kerry is capable of similar selflessness. But I'd certainly like to see it.

Vilsack Out!

Vilsack won't seek the DNC chair position (link)

DES MOINES, Iowa - Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack said Monday that he will not seek the chairmanship of the Democratic Party.

"These challenges and opportunities require more time than I felt I could share," Vilsack said in a statement. "As a result I will not be a candidate for DNC chairman."

Well this certainly opens things up doesn't it? As of now it sounds like there are two prominent candidates left for the post. The first is Howard Dean. The second is Simon Rosenberg, head of the New Democrat Network (link). Rosenberg might be an acceptable compromise candidate. He is not viewed by the establishment Dems as being as maverick as Dean and he has a lot of close ties with the progressive forces that have coalesced around Dean (Rosenberg was an early critic of those Democrats who hammered on Dean as being to outside the mainstream). I suspect the Vilsack/Anybody-But-Dean forces will move to Rosenberg now.

Rosenberg at least has the advantage over other alternative candidates in that he himself is not an Anybody-But-Deaner.

If Rosenberg withdraws his name, I don't know who is left who could oppose Dean.

Latest info on DNC chair

A commentator on the DailyKos (link) brings us this bit of reporting from 'The Hotline' (no direct link):

Looking For Clarity At The DNC?

Well, you may not find it via the results of The Hotline's exclusive non-scientific poll of DNC members, conducted 11/15-19.

  • Because of the fluid nature of this DNC Chair campaign, we were careful to start the survey with an open-ended question (i.e. sans candidates). Of the more than 150 DNC members who participated, just two candidates received double-digit support in the open-ended question: Howard Dean and Tom Vilsack, with Dean ahead 17 mentions to 11 for Vilsack.
  • In our 2nd question, we read a list of 12 names and, again, Dean and Vilsack were 1-2 with Dean garnering 45 mentions to Vilsack's 37.
  • Finally, in our 3rd question, we matched up Vilack and Dean in a 2-way and this is where the story changed. Vilsack led Dean 54-46.
While we caution from drawing too many conclusions from our survey (since another 250+ voters did not respond), the trend for Dean is certainly worth noting, i.e., there's clearly an "anybody but Dean" contingent in the party that can be coalesced.

This is deja vu all over again for those of us who went through the Democratic primary season. Dean once again leads in the individual candidate numbers. But on the sentiment of the leadership as a whole, there is still a tough, but not insurmountable opposition to the man.

I say not insurmountable because the fact that a maverick like Dean holds the individual candidate lead is significant. The desire for change in the party is not just at the grassroots level. We have a lot of allies within the leadership itself. I will continue to berate the leadership as long as it continues to demonstrate a feckless nature. But I will remain mindful of the fact that not everyone at the top of the Democratic party is opposed to change.

Saturday, November 20, 2004

The Paris Hilton Tax

An excellent frame.

Run with it!

Friday, November 19, 2004

A Humble Request

Please stop using the term "InternetS"!

Yes, at first it was cute to make fun of Bush for this little flub. But the repeated use of it by many in the liberal blogosphere is just adding legitimacy to the term. "Strategery" and "Misunderestimate" have already been legitimized. Let's not aid Bush even further in his quest to polute our political grammar.

Thanks in advance.

Dean uses the power

Once again Dean shows that he understands the power of the grassroots. He hasn't yet made it official whether he will try for the DNC chair. But his organization, Dean for America, is laying the groundwork for such an effort. This morning, the DfA blog contained a post (link) that describes the procedures that grassroots organizers can use to put themselves on local Democratic committees. This is important because it is those committees who select the members of statewide delegations who ultimately cast the votes for who will become the head of the DNC.

If Dean should decide to go for it, having some of his own people in on the ground floor will make the effort more likely to succeed. Not only will it help him get the position, it will also help him by giving him the power to use that position for real change in the party.

And, even if Dean ultimately decides not to run, having more grassroots organizers in at the ground floor of the party organization can't be anything but a good thing.

Right now, DFA is compiling a scheduling database of local Democratic meetings around the country to help you get involved over the next few months. You can help by calling your state, county, and local committee chairs and adding your next meeting to the DFA database at http://www.democracyforamerica.com/localdems.

Incredibly enough—no one has ever compiled all of the local Democratic meetings across the country in one place. There is no equivalent of Meetup.com or DFA's Project Commons for the Democratic Party. No wonder many people find it hard to find their local meetings times! Over the next few months, DFA is taking the lead on growing our Party and ensuring that the grassroots have a big voice in determining the Party's future.

At the December Meetup, DFA groups around the country will lay out specific plans to get involved in their local parties. What are your plans to take an active role in determining the future of the Democratic Party?

It is pretty amazing that no one has ever compiled a database like this before. Republicans have been doing this kind of basic organizing of their national groups for years.

A good idea whose time HAD come

I support this effort whole-heartedly and I like the fact that John Kerry is going to the grassroots to ask us to be "co-sponsors" on this legislation.

But still there is this nagging question: why didn't Kerry do this months ago when (1) it might have had a better chance of passing and (2) Republican opposition to it could be used as a campaign issue.

Oh well...

Gonzalez: Qualified where it matters most

Any doubts that may have lingered about Alberto R. Gonzales' chances of being confirmed as President Bush's next attorney general were put to rest this morning, when Sen. Patrick Leahy of Vermont, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee, told the New York Times that Democrats will not oppose the move. Critics had raised questions about the legal advice Gonzales had given the White House regarding the use of Guantánamo Bay, and his suggestions that the facility was outside the reach of U.S. courts and the rule of law. That's a finding more and more judges find plainly flawed. Gonzales was also at the center of the White House's post-9/11 legal strategy that the Geneva Conventions were "obsolete" and "quaint.

But it appears none of that will matter much, because Gonzales has two big things going for him: a strong Republican majority in the Senate, and even more important inside Washington, likability. Said Leahy, "I like him."

He may be an advocate for torture, but at least he is a nice advocate for torture.

<Big Al Gore Sigh>

The fog is lofting from my eyes

Madman from Liberal Street Fighter describes his problem with the Lakoff frame of "Nurturant Parent" to describe progressives:

[...] I am deeply uncomfortable with identifying the left with the “nurturant parent” description. I think it works against us. In the right’s worldview, nurturing is the job of the mother, and they successfully use their twisted stereotypes of women to attack the left.

I also am uncomfortable with the "Nurturant" label for pretty much the same reason.. I've talked previously about how "Loving Parent" might be a better frame, but I'm not sold on that either because it still seems to squishy a response to the frame of "Strict Father" morality.

Madman points out that the problem with all these frames may be the whole "Family" frame itself. Lakoff warns against adopting a negation of the opposition's frame because doing so just re-affirms that frame (e.g., who wants to be considered against Tax Relief?) However, the same problem is manifest when you only adopt a variation on the opposition's frame.

Lakoff, by pushing the "Nurturant Parent" frame, is still pushing the idea that political activity should be based on "The Family". The problem is that the Republicans have a more fully fleshed model for "The Family" than have the Democrats. So, when Lakoff talks about the "Nurturant Parent", he is giving moral weight to the "Strict Father" model.

Madman suggests an alternative political frame based on the "Politics as Partnership" frame. It's a good frame if for no other reason then it leaves the whole "Family" frame on the floor.

A picture says a thousand words


How do you pull off a bandaid?

My Republican friend Jimmy is back with another though provoking comment to this post on the Bush idea to remove the write-off for state and local taxes:

I dont know if this is a good idea or not, however, the system we have right now for tax exemption for state and local taxes is unfair. Those of us in Texas have no income tax (hooray!). It also means that we have no state tax to exempt on our federal income tax return (boo!). Except we still pay plenty of taxes to the state through our little buddy the sales tax (big boo!). We can't deduct sales tax so we are paying state taxes that are not deductible like your income tax is in Oregon (where you don't have a sales tax--yay!--or at least you didn't when I lived there 20 years ago).

Note: minor exception, somebody figured out that we were being screwed by this and made our sales tax deductible this year and next. That's nice, I'm waiting for my check for the past fifteen years I've been paying sales tax.

My response to him:

I agree that the disparity in being able to write-off state income tax but not sales tax is unfair. But I'm sure you appreciate the idea that changing the system by eliminating the state income tax write-off would be politically untenable because it WOULD amount to a tax increase.

Oregon doesn't have a sales tax. I know some people would like to switch from an income tax to a sales tax, but I personally prefer the income tax. It's just so much simpler to figure out the financial impact it has on you. Which, ironically, might be why people hate it more than sales taxes. The cost of a sales tax is harder to appreciate in the long run because you don't receive a form at the end of the year telling you, to the cent, just exactly how much money you had to hand over to the government.

I think the irony here really is delicious. While a sales tax may make you grumble every time you go to the checkout stand, that's kind of a low-level background annoyance in your life that you eventually get used to. After a while, most of us just stop grumbling and don't give it much thought. It's just a part of life.

But an income tax (or a property tax) hits us in a bigger way because we get the aforementioned piece of paper at the end of the year reminding us just how much of our sweat we had to turn over to the government. So, even if a sales tax actually ends up costing us more money, the income tax has more of a psychological impact because it appears to hit us all at once.

As I said to Jimmy, I happen to prefer the one-time hit because I want to know exactly how much I am bleeding (If you have to pull off the bandaid it is better to do it quickly). And, as is clear from this example, that piece of paper makes it easier to turn around and ask for some relief from the federal government in the form of the tax write-off.

Meetups are our churches!

Over on MyDD.com, several commentators have continued the discussion of the important role meetups played in the early Dean efforts and how they can continue to play that role in the future. One poster, camilow, came up with a great description of this: "Meetups are our churches":

As Jakob Nielsen pointed out, it was a great failure not to use the net for organizing. I went to several meetups and enjoyed the electric atmosphere.

The Bushies enjoyed the ground organization of their churches.  Democrats need their own church.  Meetup meetings, combining local and national themes, are the way to give our Movement the physical presence it so badly needs.  Properly done, they would have tipped the election our way.


It occurs to me, when thinking about the strength of the local Oregon organization, that we may have benefited from a lack of national attention in the early phases of the campaign. This forced us to identify our own strengths and put together the local campaign that was needed to turn Oregon into one of the shining jewels of both the Dean and Kerry campaigns.

This is in contrast to what happened in Iowa and New Hampshire (for Dean) and Ohio and Florida (for Kerry). The national campaigns focused a lot of attention on those "important states" from the beginning, sending in their own outside organizers to set up the campaigns in those states. The result may have been "local" organizations that weren't local but were instead just reflections of the national campaigns. Many in the Democratic leadership appear clueless about how to run local campaigns in those states. They win only in those areas in which they actually live. But when they come to the "red states" they are the outsiders. And outsiders don't know how to best use the local tools available to them.

This may be an important clue for future Democratic success: the national leadership needs to surrender some of their control over the local campaigns and trust that the local people are the best ones to figure out how to organize themselves. We need leaders in the red states, not professional campaign consultants working from a blue state playbook.

Meetups are the key to the whole approach. They are the closest thing we have to the Republican's network of evangelical churches. They are the best vehicle the Democrats have to grow new leaders. But in order for them to grow to their full potential they have to be allowed to do so. The national leadership can provide guidance and resources. But it is the local leadership that ultimately has to lead.

Thursday, November 18, 2004


Alert posted at the top of THE DAOU REPORT::


A message to our friends on the right

FOX News is the MSM

Glory Days

Chris Bowers gets wistful:

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.


These were the great days, the creative days, the formative days. All of these activities, very few of which were connected to fundraising, brought us all personally into the campaign. We all felt like we were making a difference, and certainly not just when a bat went up on the website. Fundraising was just one of many activities we were involved in. Best of all, because these events were organized around social Meetups, they all involved meeting new people and making new friends. We were not just involved in the campaign, we were forming a new, local progressive activist organization. It was the height of excitement.

Ah yes, I remember those good ole days of the early meetups. The excitement was incredible as our numbers appeared to double from month to month (40 in one meetup in March, 100 in April, 3 meetups of 40+ each in May, 5 meetups in June, and so on until by September we had reached 9(!!) meetups in the Portland area alone). But, I also noticed the drop off in excitement level as the campaign headed into the Fall. I hadn't thought about it before, but I think this started right around the time the headlines about Dean became more and more about how much money he was raising and less and less about the grassroots organizing effort. Our local efforts were not dominated by the money campaign, but the money increasingly became the theme of the whole campaign.

I think Chris is on to something here. Both Dean and Kerry started to stumble when they became disconnected from the grassroots. Dean was carried forward to Iowa by the rock-star momentum of his campaign. Kerry was carried to election day by the institutional strength of the Democratic party (happy to take the money we gave them, but not really all that interested in what we had to say about the campaign itself).

The question becomes this: Can the kind of grassroots enthusiasm that elevated Dean to national prominence ever be sustained over the long term?

I would use Oregon as proof that it can be done. Despite the drop off in enthusiasm I noted above, we still maintained a strong local organization that generally initiated its own grassroots efforts separate from both the Dean and Kerry campaigns. I would argue, in fact, that the continued work of the local Deanizens went a long way towards Kerry's 5 point boost in Oregon over Gore's 2000 performance.

Perhaps the lesson from the Oregon campaign is that grassroots campaigns can only be sustained from the grassroots (an answer so obvious that that is why we lose sight of it).

The national campaign can provide materials and guidance. But the energy that is needed to carry the campaign across the finish line can only come from the bottom up. This can happen only if those on the bottom feel like they have the power to control their destiny. The national campaign can concern itself with message and money. But it is the local people who have to carry the weight of organization and outreach. Barring the kind of top-down control structure Karl Rove has instituted in the Republican party, a model that is distinctly antithetical to the Democratic spirit, the only sustainable organizational structure that will work for the Democrats is the bottom-up approach we developed through the meetup structure.

Some of the local Deaners have been talking about the idea of bottling up whatever it was we had here and exporting it to other parts of the country. We will be holding brainstorming sessions in the coming weeks to figure out just how to do that.

It should be fun.

Republicans want to raise your taxes!!!

Atrios notes that if the Democrats take Matthew Yglesias' advice to come out with a revenue neutral tax reform plan before Bush then they will inevitably be accused of raising taxes:

[...] The thing about "revenue neutral" changes to the tax code is that they necessarily raise some taxes and lower others. [...]

The problem with the Democrats having a plan is that it too will inevitably raise taxes on some people, and so coming out with a plan pre-emptively will allow Republicans to screech "Democrats want to raise your taxes!!!!"

I agree. But this brings up an interesting point: if a revenue neutral tax reform plan inevitably results in the raising of taxes on someone then why aren't the Democrats screeching "Republicans want to raise your taxes!!!!"?

Given the proposal to eliminate the state and local tax deductions, I'm sure it would be easy to find a large group of American families who would see their tax burden go up under such a plan. The Democrats should find a representative sample of these people, perhaps one family from each state (just to show how universally bad this idea is), and hold a press conference on the steps of Capital Hill in order to show America the face of the people who will be hurt by Bush's "tax reform" plan.

Democrats need to learn how to attack. Here is an ideal opportunity.

Know your enemy

Paul Waldman:

Year after year, Democrats are amazed that the public thinks they're a bunch of wimps and Republicans are strong and manly. Perhaps if we come out in favor of missile defense, they think, people will change their minds. Perhaps if we vote for this war we all know is going to be a disaster, they'll see how much we care about Americans' security. Perhaps if we go hunting, they'll see we're real men.

Well here's an idea: perhaps the American people wouldn't think you were a bunch of wimps if you weren't such a bunch of wimps.

The amazing thing is that the Democrats are perfectly capable of playing hardball. They are quite capable of using rough tactics to undermine their opponents. Just ask Howard Dean.

Now if only they would turn their abilities on their real enemies.

It's long past time for the Democratic establishment to stop complaining when other Democrats call them wimps. Don't waste our time trying to argue that you aren't wimps. Prove that you aren't. Don't treat us as if we were the enemy. We aren't. Your real enemy is standing behind you, twisting that knife ever deeper in your back.


Texas DA Ronnie Earle is a partisan hack who wants nothing more than to use his power to destroy Tom DeLay. Here's the proof:

''The only people I antagonize more than Republicans are Democrats,'' Mr. Earle said later. He said the record showed he had prosecuted 12 Democratic officials and 4 Republican officials, although for much of his time in office, he acknowledged, Republicans were on the outs. ''We prosecute abuses of power,'' he said, ''and you have to have power to abuse it.''

Umm... Never mind.

Fooling the censors

Steve Gilliard is right that the nascent Bush plan to eliminate deductions for state and local taxes is even more outrageous than the plan to eliminate business tax deductions for employer-provided health insurance.

Everyone is freaking out over the plan to elminate the deduction for health care, but that isn't the real kicker. It is the elimination of the state and local tax deduction which will blow the plan up. That's far more important than health insurance and in an immediate way. In New York, that deduction saves thousands a year, directly. Now, that's not a big deal in Texas, but if they want the GOP not to die in the Northeast, well, they might want to reconsider that.

When the news of this reaches New York's papers, the screaming will be as if someone jammed a poker up someone's ass. Unpopular wouldn't be the word. The old age lobby will scream about the health insurance plans, because that would affect pensions as well, that could easily die in committee. But the state and local tax plan will make people go nuts. Because that will be seen in people's wallets immediately. Mind-bogglingly stupid isn't the word for this.

This is an idea that will immediately impact nearly all tax payers in a clear and substantial way. It's one of the biggest political blunders I could imagine the Republicans making. Which is why I don't think they are really serious about it. These people may be insane, but they aren't stupid. They have to know that any suggestion to eliminate state and local tax deductions will be met with fierce opposition, and not just from Democrats. So why would they even float this idea?

Why, to draw the fire away from the plan to eliminate the deduction for employer-provided health insurance of course.

It's an old trick that writers in the TV industry learned a long time ago: If you want to get something risqué past the censors, mask it behind something really offensive. The theory being that the censors will stomp on the really bad thing but leave alone the thing that you wanted all along.

The Republicans can propose both of these measures, give ground on the state and local tax proposal, get what they wanted all along and then publicly pat themselves on the back for being bi-partisan in their approach to tax reform.

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

A good question

If over 1000 insurgents have been killed in Iraq, then where are the bodies?

Monday, November 15, 2004

Stop Howard Dean!

When considering who should be the DNC chair maybe we should consider the motives of those who are vying for the spot:

Gov. Tom Vilsack: "Keep Iowa first" and "stop Howard Dean".

Gov. Jeane Shaheen: "Lay the groundwork for Kerry '08" and "stop Howard Dean"

Gov. Roy Barnes: "Lay the groundwork for Edwards '08" and "stop Howard Dean"

Harold Ickes: "Lay the groundwork for Hillary '08" and "stop Howard Dean"

Howard Dean: "Lay the groundwork for Democrats '06, '08, '10, '12, '14, '16, '18, '20, ..."

Of the leading candidates, only Howard Dean appears to want the job for the purpose of advancing the prospects of the party. The rest are vying for the job in order to protect their own turf (Vilsack), help out political patrons (Shaheen, Barnes, Ickes) and also stop that "disaster" Howard Dean (all the above).

Now  consider this: If Dean becomes DNC chair he would most likely have to give up any dream of "Dean '08". So, Dean is not only the the Democratic party candidate, he is also the ultimate "stop Howard Dean" candidate.

Sounds like a win-win to me!

Dean vs. Anybody-But-Dean

I still caution people not to get dragged into a "let's you and him fight" trap laid by those who would love nothing more than for the Democrats to fight more amongst themselves than against the real enemy, but this post by Kos suggests that there is a real battle-line being drawn in the fight over the DNC chair position.

I always, always laugh when I hear one of these insiders talk about the "disaster" that a Dean chairmanship would wreak on the party.

I mean, disaster compared to what? Being shut out from all levers of government? From the White House, Supreme Court, House, Senate, majority of governorships and majority of state legislatures?

How about the disaster of three straight losing election cycles? That's not a freakin' disaster?

Dean means reform. Simon Rosenberg means reform. There are probably other dark horse candidates out there who would mean reform.

And that's what we need. Reform, not status quo. The status quo is untenable. I'm tired of losing, and that's the only thing the current gang has delivered.

The battle seems to be shaping up to a fight between Dean and Vilsack, but really they are just stand-ins for a bigger battle: grassroots reform driven by a real desire to win against entrenched power with a real desire to protect what little power it still has.

Fortunately for the Dean forces, the forces on the other side appear to be adopting the same strategy they had during the 2004 election. Then it was Anybody-But-Bush. Here it is Anybody-But-Dean. The question is whether a campaign that is primarily driven by a desire to halt progress is more powerful than a campaign that is all about progress.

Kos points out that the Dean forces have a lot of powerful arguments to make on their side. And, ironically, those arguments are also primarily negative: why should we continue to support a power structure that has consistently failed us for the last 10 years?

Kos also points out that the Anybody-But-Dean forces are adopting the same strategy of the Bushies: demonize the opposition by distorting their position to the extreme. Dean is not the candidate of leftists. He is the candidate of Democrats who want Democrats to act like winners.

And all this before we even get any definitive word that Dean is interested in the job.

Saturday, November 13, 2004

Alberto Gonzalez is an honorable man

I had been concerned over the last couple of days that the Democrats were once again going to roll over in the face of the Alberto Gonzalez nomination for Attorney General. Despite the fact that the Gonzalez has so many marks against him there were reports that several prominent Democrats were talking about him as an acceptable alternative to the "lighting rod" that was John Ashcroft.

Perhaps my concerns were unfounded. Blog for America has a couple of quotes from Senators Kennedy and Leahy that suggest that they will be making an issue out of Abu Ghraib and Mr. Gonzalez's memo calling the Geneva Convention "quaint". But their comments are couched in the usual polite language of the Senate.

I don't know exactly what is going on, but it may be that the Democrats are taking an Antony's-eulogy-to-Caeser approach to the Gonzalez nomination. They praise him at first, in order to lull the Republicans into thinking that the Democrats are going to roll over once again. But they will hammer him anyway once then get him under oath.

At least I hope that is what they are doing.

Friday, November 12, 2004

Enough looking for silver-linings!

I'd to add my voice to the chorus supporting this comment by Kos:

I've seen a bunch of diaries "debunking" GOP gains amongst various constituencies -- urban voters, Latino voters, etc

Those gains may or may not be real. But I would actually prefer those gains become accepted conventional wisdom.

We have a lot of work to do as a party. And if we think we need to do a better job selling the Democratic Party to voters in cities, to Latino voters, to African Americans, to religious voters, to suburban moms, to hunting fathers, to young voters, and to everyone else, then GOOD.

Arguing things are all right, or not as bad as we think, doesn't do any of us any good.

People may have needed this kind of "on the bright side" talk in order to pep them up after last weeks defeat. But Kos is right that that kind of talk can lead to a sense of complacency. If we start to think, "well, things aren't all that bad" then we will start to relax and we simply can't afford that.

Because things are that bad. Getting 55 million votes doesn't matter when someone who is obviously unqualified for the position gets 59 million votes. We shouldn't be satisfied until we crush the opposition. No margin of victory is large enough.

All things Dean

From the NY Post:

November 12, 2004 -- BILL and Hillary Clinton are battling behind the scenes to install longtime political operative Harold Ickes as the new chairman of the Democratic National Committee, replacing Terry McAuliffe. "This is the first test of whether the Clintons can keep their grip on the party," said one Democrat. Ickes was an advisor to David Dinkins during his mayoral administration and was close to the Clintons, helping arrange stays in the Lincoln Bedroom for big contributors. "He was the innkeeper when the White House became the Holiday Inn," said our source. But others are vying for the job. John Kerry's circle is talking up Jean Shaheen, the former New Hampshire governor who chaired Kerry's campaign. And both Howard Dean and Donna Brazile, who ran Al Gore's campaign in 2000, want the job, as well as Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack, who wants to make sure his state's widely watched caucus continues to be held before any of the presidential primaries.

First, all of these reports should be taken with a grain of salt because, like the NY Sun, the Post is a rag with a right-wing bias and a vested interested in fomenting hurt feelings within the Democratic ranks ("Let's you and him fight!"). I have no doubt that there is a struggle going on, but whether it is just the usual type of political wrangling during moments of transition or whether it is something that could lead to a bloody fight remains to be seen.

Second, we should all note the early attempt to create a negative narrative for Ickes by the Post's description of him as being a central figure in the Lincoln Bedroom scandal's of the Clinton years. I wonder if that source with the "innkeeper" comment has the initials K.R.?

Third, I would hope that if Vilsack is serious about contending for the position that he has bigger priorities than just simply safe-guarding his home state's position as the first in the nation caucus. If that really is his primary concern then he shouldn't be allowed anywhere near the position. The DNC doesn't need a leader who is more concerned about defending his turf then advancing the party as a whole.


ABC News also has a good run down of what is brewing, including a report from associates of Ickes that says he doesn't want the job.


And here's some words of wisdom from Dean himself.

“There is an enormous amount we can learn [from Kerry’s campaign], but it’s going to be learned privately,” he said.

Democrats have a habit of airing their internal criticisms. Our openness is one of our strengths because it is in our openness that we reveal our ability to adjust to a changing situation. But it is also a weakness because it harms the attempt to portray a united image to the voter. I think Dean is smart to try to and keep specific criticism of Kerry private. He isn't going to let himself get drawn into that kind of battle. Other prominent Democrats would be wise to do the same.

“We need more discipline in the Democratic Party,” he said. “We have to be a little more serious about what we do...We are going to have to work together, stop fighting over who is going to be this and who is going to be that and realize that if we don’t work together, the greater purpose of Democrats won’t be served.”

This is an interesting comment in the context of the discussion of running for the DNC chair. I think Dean is interested in the position, but I don't think he wants if (1) he won't have real power and (2) taking the job will produce an internecine battle within the party. If either condition holds true then I think he would rather work to reform the party from the outside. On that I would agree with him.

This is also an interesting comment coming from a guy who rose to prominence by openly criticizing the Democratic party. But Dean is not your typical rabble-rouser. He throws the bombs only when he thinks it is absolutely necessary and only where he thinks it will actually do the most good. His criticisms of the party in 2003 were to-the-point and much needed. But by this comment he is signaling to both the insiders and his supporters that he is not going to just be a critic. He wants positive results, not just the cheers of a the red-meat crowd.

“Republicans have the ability to put 60 people on talk shows on one day and have all of them say the same thing,” Dean said. “Bush was terrific on the stump. He repeated the same four things three times a day and that’s what dominated television.”

Dean applied this same principle in his own campaign. Deanizens used to joke about how we could quote his stump speech chapter and verse because it didn't vary much from the early days of his campaign to the end. But it was that very consistent message that was one of Dean's selling points. Dean didn't change his talking points at the first sign of a shift in the wind. It usually took a gale before he would change (e.g., towards the end he started making some noise about compromising on his repeal-all-the-tax-cuts idea). But even in that he demonstrated that his consistency was not of the same nature as the stubbornness of George W. Bush.

Where Dean's campaign was sorely lacking was in having those "60 people on talks shows" all saying the same thing. Dean had no surrogates to push his message. Kerry's campaign wasn't much better. He didn't field a consistent team of spokespeople until the last two months of the campaign (God bless Joe Lockhart). Democrats would be well advised to develop a program to train surrogates.

Expressing our values

I talked a while back about how Democrats are making a mistake when we say that Republican voters are voting against their best interests. I argued then that the mistake in this argument is in assuming that economic self-interest is the thing that people should be most concerned about. For many voters, there are concerns of a much higher nature than universal health care and social security entitlements.

I quoted the passage from Luke 9:25 ("What does it profit a man to gain the world but lose his soul?") to illustrate my point. We simply can't assume that what we consider to be in our best interest is what others consider to be in their best interest. I would argue that a source of the lot of distrust directed towards Democrats derives from the fact that many of us simply don't appreciate the different priorities that others have.

Chris Bowers posts in full a TNR article by Brad Carson, the recently defeated Democratic candidate for Senate in Oklahoma. Carson explains the nature of this divide:

For the vast majority of Oklahomans--and, I would suspect, voters in other red states--these transcendent cultural concerns are more important than universal health care or raising the minimum wage or preserving farm subsidies. Pace Thomas Frank, the voters aren't deluded or uneducated. They simply reject the notion that material concerns are more real than spiritual or cultural ones. The political left has always had a hard time understanding this, preferring to believe that the masses are enthralled by a "false consciousness" or Fox News or whatever today's excuse might be. But the truth is quite simple: Most voters in a state like Oklahoma--and I venture to say most other Southern and Midwestern states--reject the general direction of American culture and celebrate the political party that promises to reform or revise it.

We could well argue that these voters are being lead down the garden path by the party that only appears to promise the reform of American culture. But in doing so we risk feeding the stereotype that Democrats are just a bunch of arrogant busy-bodies who presume to know what is best for everyone else.

Let me be clear on this: We don't need to change our values to win. But we must understand that the narrative structure of Republican values does have a logical structure to it that works for the people who follow it. We can't win people over by simply tearing down that narrative structure. When we do so we simply inspire its adoptees to defend all the more vigorously. We must, instead, provide a competitive narrative that celebrates our values.

We can't talk them into changing their perceptions of us. We must show them that our values are good and worth defending. The best way to do that is to stick with them regardless of their political viability. It is when we abandon them in the face of tough times that we most live up to the stereotype of having no real values at all.

We will show our real character when we are willing to lose rather than sacrifice our values. Because it is only then that we can begin to win.

Thursday, November 11, 2004

Changing our approach

Chris Bowers provides some fascinating insights into the demographics of left and right in this country. The basic conclusion he reaches (and I agree with it) is that the political makeup of this country favors the Republicans over the Democrats and that no amount of "move to the left" or "move to the right" strategizing will help:

Moving one-way or the other isn't going to cut it, as our position would remain precarious in both directions. The problem, as I see it, is not that we are too liberal or too moderate, but that the country itself is too conservative. With 34% of the electorate self-identifying as conservative, and 85% of self-identifying conservatives voting Republican in national elections, Republicans only need a little over 40% of the moderate vote to win. In that situation, they could run a horrendous campaign and still win, while we could run a nearly perfect campaign and still lose.

We are in a lot of trouble, and the only way I see out is pretty long term: we need to close the gap between liberals and conservatives. Well beyond any other demographic, that is the heart of our problem. Conservatives outnumber liberals in states worth 459 electoral votes, while liberals outnumber conservatives in states worth only 79 electoral votes. In every southern state except for Florida, conservatives outnumber liberals by at least twenty-one points. That is not a swing region. That is barely a swing nation.

The only way we do this is if all Democrats, including moderate Democrats, start defending liberalism and telling the truth about conservatism. We have to grow liberalism. This does not necessarily mean that we have to adopt more liberal policies, but at the very least we have to start defending liberals. No one does that anymore, which nearly guarantees that liberalism will not grow. When you face a dead end in either direction, there is little point in moving. We have to move the country, or else we are dead meat. Either we defend the ideology of half of our voters--and defend it by name--or we face a generation of irrelevancy.

[emphasis mine]

What Chris is arguing for is that we make a foreground/background switch in our political approach. Much of Democratic strategy over the last few years has been based on the idea of shifting a movable foreground object (the Democratic party) in one direction or another over an immovable background scene (the American political landscape). Unfortunately, it hasn't worked and, as Chris so ably illustrates, it probably never will.

But, if we switch our conception of foreground and background and instead treat American political opinion as the movable object through the landscape of Democratic ideals then maybe, just maybe, we might have a chance.

This is what the Republicans have done so well. They fleshed out the details of their landscape and have taken the American electorate on a storybook ride through that landscape. They have asked the voters to come along for the ride on their Jungle Cruise and have left the Democrats standing at the docks pathetically waving our public opinion polls and demographic studies.

No wonder the Democrats have developed the reputation for being weak-willed and indecisive. It's a reputation that is based on truth.

Democrats must come to understand that they have a landscape of their own. We don't need to change ourselves. We need to change the country. We need to develop a narrative that will allow the electorate to go on a journey through our landscape and see that it has something better to offer them.

Opposition, Not Obstruction

I agree with Matt, the Democrats have to keep their powder dry as far as pulling out all the stops in blocking Bush. They need to register their opposition as much as possible, but they shouldn't rely on parliamentary procedures such as filibusters except in the rare cases where they need to block Bush from doing the greatest long term damage. Supreme Court nominations are obvious candidates for this. Also blocking any serious gutting of Social Security.

Beyond that, the Democrats are just going to have to "allow" the Republicans to have their way for the next two years. It sucks, but it is the political reality we live in. Doing anything else will just make it that much harder for Democrats to win back power in the long run.

Wednesday, November 10, 2004

Letter to the Red States

A Woman from NYC writes a Letter to the Red States.

I wonder if she will get any positive response?

Or will she just get death threats?


I went looking around and found another copy of this letter posted on a blog written by a liberal radio host named Mark Levine. What is interesting is the comments that followed the post (there are a lot of them, but I urge everyone to check them out). It's about an even mixture of both liberal and conservative responses and an even mixture of harsh invective and thoughtful discussion. What's especially interesting is that the cross-over between those two axis of attitude is about 50-50. There are an equal number of idiotic posts by both conservatives and liberals as well as an equal number of thoughtful posts by conservatives and liberals (the most thoughtful are exchanges between Mark Levine and two conservative posters named Mid-Mo and Vicky).

I find many of the thoughts expressed by both sides in this thread to be disturbing, but fascinating at the same time. What is clear is that both sides have wild views of the other sides point of view and many are absolutely convinced in the correctness of their conception of what the other side really is all about.

In other words, there's a lot of misunderstanding on both sides of the fence. There's also a lot of positions upon which neither side will ever be able to compromise. But that has always been the case throughout human history. It is my judgment that societies begin to crumble when the only options available to people are two rigidly opposed points of view. The vast number of people in the muddled middle need an alternative to two unacceptable choices. If they do not have that alternative then society will tear itself apart trying to reconcile the irreconcilable.

The real danger of the program represented by Bush and his people is not the specifics of their particular political philosophy. It's the attitude they bring to the table that only their particular political philosophy is acceptable.

Civilization belongs to those who can't really decide what is good, only what is good enough.

It's the ideologues who always spoil the party for everyone else.

That's The Fact Jack!

I understand that several prominent bloggers are being added to some people's shit list because they either aren't taking the allegations of voter fraud seriously enough or are openly asking those pushing those allegations to back off on the more extreme allegations until stronger evidence is found.

Well, I may not be a prominent blogger, but I guess I'm going to join them on those lists.

Now, there most definitely were many questionable things about what happened in this election. All of those things must be investigated. But just because some things smell funny does not mean the entire system is nothing but a load of crap.

I understand the emotions are high on this issue and I agree completely that ensuring accurate vote counting should be one of are major priorities. The people must have faith that their electoral system works. But there is a bigger issue that is getting obscured in all the minutiae of voting machine confabulation.

To borrow a from the sporting world: Bad calls are part of the game.

The trick to avoid getting into a situation where bad calls can be decisive.

In all the talk about 500 votes here or 7,000 votes there we are losing sight of the fact that over 59 million people voted for Bush! Even if we assume some of the worst about possible voter fraud, its unlikely that that could account for more than 5 million of Bush's vote total (and I think I'm being generous here). That would still mean that Bush was close enough to Kerry that fraud (bad calls) could be decisive.

This is bad folks!

A guy who is obviously unqualified to hold the position of dog catcher, a guy who has lied consistently to the American people on a whole range of issues, a guy who has systematically turned the engine of government over to a small band of cronies, a guy who has destroyed nearly every vestige of international credibility this country has spent 200 years building up, still somehow managed to convince over 55 million Americans that he was the better choice for the most powerful position in the history of the Earth!

No amount of cleaning up our electoral system is going to compensate for The Fact that we are getting our asses kicked by an idiot!

Some people may not like to hear this, but its The Fact. We claim to be the party that governs based on the facts, but we seem unwilling to confront The Fact. We must confront The Fact and deal with The Fact if we are to turn this thing around.

Flame away if you must, but no amount of yelling will make The Fact go away.

Final word on the tanks (for now)

When this story first came to my attention it disturbed me greatly. Were we really getting to the point where military vehicles were being used to intimidate those who opposed Bush's policies? I didn't know if such was or was not the case, but I considered the possibility disturbing enough and just within the realm of possibility that it should not go un-investigated.

David V. did a superb job of hunting down information on what happened. ollieb posted word from Rep. Waxman's office on what happened in this response to a duplicate of the original thread over on The DailyKOS:

They said that the tanks had driven up from Camp Pendleton in San Diego (up the freakin 405 Freeway by the way!) for a Veteran's Day event today at the Veterans Affairs Center on Sepulveda, just up the street from where the protest was.  Word was that they were lost (indeed, there was no need to pass the protest on their way to the VA Center) and were asking for directions. We both sort of chuckled at that when she told it to me, but that's what she was told. Also, it was suggested to her that the protesters actually prevented the tanks from moving on. Anyway, it still seems a bit fishy and she'll get back to me on Friday with any info she gets (they have Veteran's Day off.)

Wild Democracy Ride has even more.

And Politics in Zeros has what appears to be comments from one of the actual tank drivers who claims they were lost and had pulled over to ask for directions. You would think they would be smart enough to know that asking for directions from anti-war protesters while driving around in tanks was not the smartest thing in the world. But then who among us hasn't pulled a bone-head maneuver every now and then?

I have seen no evidence to suggest that they were there to deliberately intimidate the crowd of protesters. So, barring further information on this episode, I'm going to conclude that it was simply a case of bad timing.

On a side note, I was a little bothered that some of the protesters in the video were yelling "Shame! Shame!" at the soldiers in the tanks. That's just a little to close the 60s era rumors of people spitting on soldiers returning from Vietnam and calling them baby killers. But then I have to consider that the protesters thought the tanks were there to intimidate them, so their reaction was not unsurprising.

In hindsight, it's a good thing nothing worse happened. The protesters could have stormed the tanks and attacked the crewmen. Then this story really would have been all over the evening news. It looks like everyone involved remained civilized enough to keep it from getting out of control. Kudos to the protesters, the soldiers and the cops for keeping their heads.

It's all just a sign of how bad things have gotten that we have to wonder if what we saw in that video wasn't an example of our worst fears coming true.

And to think I used to wish I had been able to experience the 60s (I was born in '65).

I guess I've learned better.

The election is over! You can stop worrying now.

Homeland Security lowers threat level in financial sectors

Terrorist threat levels were lowered in the financial sectors of Washington, New York City and Northern New Jersey Nov. 10.

Threat levels were raised from elevated to high in these areas in August because of specific intelligence relating to five buildings in the three regions.

Since then, law enforcement has strengthened security around the buildings and locations, according to a Nov. 10 Homeland Security Department statement.

The department remains concerned about potential terrorist attacks despite lowering the threat levels, said Deputy Secretary James Loy.

“We are as concerned today as we were a month ago,” Loy said. “The whole notion of taking a deep breath and saying, ‘Wow, we got past this and now we’re OK for a while,’ is a very dangerous train of thought.”

Loy said, “That threat stream of general concern remains, but there is nothing out of the ordinary that we have read in the last weeks and months.”

Intelligence officials had unspecific information that the terrorists wanted to disrupt the country’s democratic process up until the Nov. 2 presidential election.

What? Me cynical?

Lots of new information on those "tanks"

An enterprising individual named David V. has been doing a lot of leg work to find out what was going on with those "tanks" that stopped at an LA peace protest last night. Here's what he's sent me so far:

1st e-mail:

Couple of things.

- I called the West LA station house. They say the tanks were indeed
there. So we can put an end to the 'Photoshop' claims.

- The watch commander corrected that those are not tanks because they
have no 'tracks'.

- The watch commander has no idea who the armored fighting vehicles
belong to.

- The watch commander has no idea who called them in.

- The watch commander suggested to me that perhaps the 'vehicles were
lost in getting back to the armory'

- I called the National Guard Armory on Federal. Lt. Jeff Kramer laughed
uncontrollably at this suggestion that these vehicles were there because
they were 'lost'. He also has no record of them having been there. I'm
still waiting on an email back from him.

I can't reply to diaries yet- just thought you'd want to know.

David V.

2nd e-mail:

No reply from the Lt. yet.

You might also add that when I asked the watch commander for an incident
log he said that there wasn't one.

3rd e-mail:

Just got this from the Lt.:


These vehicles are called "LAVs" which is short for Light Armored Vehicles.
The California National Guard does have two of them but they are not (and
were not) anywhere near the Los Angeles area last night. One is in Northern
California and the other was not near LA. Most importantly, ours are painted
black and have a very specific mission that would not be employed in an
urban environment.

The Marine Corps has LAVs as does DEA and the Dept of Justice.  I cannot
imagine that the Marine Corps would send LAVs by themselves all the way from
Camp Pendleton or Twenty-Nine Palms (in the desert near Barstow) to Los
Angeles unless they had been officially called out to deal with an
emergency. This protest clearly was not that.

I cannot identify the people riding on the LAVs. They only appear to be
wearing generic vehicle crewman helmets that allow in-vehicle communication
and other non-specific (to military service) clothing.

I wish I could be of more help but that's all I can discern from the photo.

LTC Jeff Kramer

4th e-mail:

The DEA says "..no way. With reasonable certainty I can say they aren't

So that leaves the FBI and Marines. Calls are out.

5th e-mail:

The Marines at Pendleton say:

"Well that's the first I heard of that. We are not running any exercises
in State at this time. They could not have been ours."

Hmmmmmm. The FBI is all that's left.

So, exactly what was going on here still remains a mystery. Thanks a lot to David for tracking this stuff down. I'll relay more if I hear anything.

By the way, I know that technically these vehicles aren't considered "tanks" because they have wheels instead of tracks. But I am using the layman's definition of a tank which is a big, military style, iron plated vehicle, weighing several tons, with a big f*cking gun on the front and more than capable of crushing you if it drove over you.

The people on the receiving end of such a weapon would hardly to quibble over its technical name.


A commenter over at MyDD had this to say on this story:

I live next to the Fed Bldg.  Called the Times, got someone who basically didn't care. She thought it wasn't a big enough story for downtown to care to print it this morning.

So I called the Army Guard.  According to a sergeant I called at HQ 40th Inf. Div M Arty (which I assume means artillery) I was told they were NOT tanks, but Amphibious Personnel Carriers that were going to be part of a static display at the VA facility on Wilshire.  Why these APCs were in front of the Federal Bldg. is another matter, since the VA is on the other side of I405 from the Federal Bldg. and the APCs were headed east, away from the VA facility, not west, toward it. And there you have the "official" line from the Guard.

My opinion is that this was most likely an accidental meeting of two groups that should never get within half a mile of each other. I have seen no evidence that there was anything intentional about the appearance of these "tanks" (what is it with this political correctness when it comes to identifying military vehicles?)

A definitive explanation would still be nice. Let's not start throwing up the barricades quite yet.

More Tanks

Here's a few updates on the Tanks in LA story.

Correct me if I'm wrong, but I believe this occurred outside the Westwood Federal Building.

Here's the members of congress that represent that area:

Member Name DC Phone Email
Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D- CA) 202-224-3841 feinstein.senate.gov/email.html
Sen. Barbara Boxer (D- CA) 202-224-3553 boxer.senate.gov/contact/webform.cfm
Rep. Henry A. Waxman (D - 30) 202-225-3976 www.house.gov/waxman/email.htm

I'm sure Waxman would be a good person to bring in on this.

Also, I think this is the web site of the group that organized the protest.

Here's an account from someone who was there that suggests that it might have just been a case of unfortunate timing. The two tanks may have just been leaving the nearby Army Reserve Center and got caught in the traffic. I'm not sure. Again, this needs to be investigated.

Gonzalez: Bush's double-dare

I agree with this commenter over on the DailyKOS.

Bush did the same thing when he nominated Ashcroft. The entire purpose of this nomination is to test the resolve of the Democrats. If they fail this test then it will be open season for Bush to do pretty much anything he wants in the next two years.

Democrats MUST understand what is at stake here. Letting Gonzalez through without a serious bloodletting will only cement them into their weak position.

Beware Republicans reporting Democratic news

Via Political Wire comes this report from the New York Sun about a brewing internecine fight within the Democrat party over who will lead it. According to the Sun, the fight is primarily about Howard Dean:

With a grassroots effort to make Howard Dean the next head of the Democratic Party, the fight "risks becoming acrimonious, with Democrats already engaged in angry exchanges over who is primarily to blame for last week's defeat in the presidential election and heavy losses in Senate and House races," the New York Sun reports.

"Moderates maintain that the party is increasingly out of touch with the values of mainstream America, and liberals are arguing that the party made a mistake in failing to nominate the former Vermont governor for president."

Hold it right there!

The Republicans would love nothing better than for us to get into a fight with each other over our future direction. They would love it so much it would be in their interest to foment such a fight. The New York Sun is a rag launched in 2002 by Conrad Black, a conservative magnate in the Rupert Murdoch strain. It was probably created because Black and others thought the NY Post and the Wall Street Journal editorial page were insufficiently conservative.

So we should take any report from them about an "acrimonious" debate within the Democratic party within an enormous grain of salt.

My suggestion to everyone is to essentially ignore the comments on this from any Republican leaning source. This is a debate that Democrats should hold on their own terms.

Everyone else should just butt out!

Tanks in the streets of LA!

Is it really coming to this?

LOS ANGELES, November 9, 2004 - At 7:50 PM two armored tanks showed up at an anti-war protest in front of the federal building in Westwood. The tanks circled the block twice, the second time parking themselves in the street and directly in front of the area where most of the protesters were gathered. Enraged, some of the people attempted to block the tanks, but police quickly cleared the street. The people continued to protest the presence of the tanks, but about ten minutes the tanks drove off. It is unclear as to why the tanks were deployed to this location. Uploaded here is video from the event.


Did Bush just make a serious mistake? Bush has apparently tapped White House counsel Alberto Gonzalez to succeed Ashcroft as Attorney General. Gonzalez was the author of several memos that tried to justify some of the more extreme measures used at Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib. By nominating Gonzalez, Bush has offered the Democrats the opportunity to re-introduce the subject of Abu Ghraib into the political dialog. If every discussion of Gonzalez over the coming weeks results in the display of this image then the Democrats could inflict some serious damage on Bush right out of the gate.

That fighting spirit

Now this is the kind of spirit I like to see:

(CBS/AP) Congressional Democrats have returned to Washington vowing to battle President Bush on Iraq, Social Security, the federal budget deficit and other important issues.

The Republican election sweep again gave them the White House and strengthened the GOP hold on Congress, but members of the minority party do not appear to have lost their taste for combat with the GOP.

The party's defeated presidential nominee, Sen. John Kerry, appeared to be saying that the glass was just a little less than half full.

"Fifty-four-plus-million Americans voted for health care, they voted for energy independence, they voted for unity in America, they voted for stem cell research, they voted for protecting Social Security," Kerry said.

Gore made several mistakes in 2000. But I think one of his biggest mistakes was in deciding to fade into the woodwork after the election out of a misguided notion that the country needed to unite after the divisive recount battle. It was a betrayal of the majority of the voters who through their support behind him. He could have adopted the role of leader of the opposition, but chose instead to go on vacation.

Kerry has at least one advantage over Gore: an actual public position (his Senate seat) to use as a bully pulpit. It looks, at least from his initial comments, as if he is going to use it.

But Democrats need to be realistic. We are going to lost a lot of battles in the coming months and years. But I think the Democratic leadership is finally waking up to the notion that losing individual battles is not necessarily a bad thing. Those battles can lay the groundwork for eventual victory because it is in those battles that Democrats will define for the public just who they actually are.

The Donkey ain't dead yet.

Tuesday, November 09, 2004

Howard Dean for DNC Chair!

Ezra Klein makes the best argument yet for Howard Dean as DNC chair. It has persuaded me to throw my support behind it.

I still have my concerns about Dean being "promoted to obscurity". But if that concern can be address then I think this would be the best move for Dean, for the party and for America.


Hmmm... Just after I posted this I read Liberal Oasis' counter-argument that Dean would be better as an outside Strategist and Ass-Kicker At-Large (SAKAL) than as an insider who might have to mute his arguments in order to appease all sides. This gets to my previously stated concern that becoming DNC chair might effectively neuter Dean. But I don't think that such a result would necessarily follow from taking the job. Dean is certainly the type who could be an Ass-Kicker within the party as well as without. And if he could do it inside he'd have even more power behind those kicks.