Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Talking Points Tuesday: A Declaration of Progressive Principles

Last Dec. 8th, Governor Dean gave a speech at George Washington University on the future of the Democratic party. The following passage really stuck with me:

There is a Party of fiscal responsibility... economic responsibility.... social responsibility... civic responsibility... personal responsibility... and moral responsibility.

It's the Democratic Party.

We need to be able to say strongly, firmly, and proudly what we believe.

Because we are what we believe.

I liked this passage so much that I adopted "We are what we believe" as the motto of this blog.

There has been a lot of talk since the election about messaging, framing, talking points, etc. But most of those are just tools. The tools are important, no doubt. But they are pointless if they aren't used to express something deeper. What it comes down to is that, if Democrats are going to be able to convince the electorate to buy into their positions, then Democrats are going to have understand what they believe at a deep and profound level.

This is the primary advantage Republicans have today. They are so in tune with their "values" that they can express them in a reflexive manner. They don't need to second-guess their own pronouncements. Thus they come off looking "comfortable" talking about their beliefs. And you know what they say about sincerity. If you can fake that, you've got it made. There are some Democrats who can do this, Dean among them, but it is a skill that has atrophied within the general Democratic leadership.

With that in mind, I'd like to direct your attention to The Principles Project. The stated goal of the project is to tell Americans what progressives believe and why they believe it. The people involved in the project (anyone who signed up on the web site) cooperatively drafted a Declaration of Progressive Principles.

As stated on the declaration page:

The Principles Project aims to capture the common goals and shared beliefs of a diverse but like-minded group of people with a Declaration of Progressive Principles.

Creating such a document is not an exercise in group think, nor is it an effort to try to convince everyone else that you alone are right. It is an exercise that attempts to determine what unites a group of people and then to find a way to express that common vision in just a few hundred words.

Here you see the results of our work to date.

The four corners of the declaration are these: Defending Dignity, Strengthening Democracy, Promoting Progress and Embracing Leadership. The Declaration goes into more detail about what each of these mean, but it avoids specific policy language, which has bogged us down in the past. The overriding message of the Declaration is one of "shared responsibility".

I recommend reading the Declaration. It should not be viewed as the end point in this discussion. But it may provide you with the framework for drafting your own personal declaration. Do so. Memorize it. Live it. Express it in political action. Eventually it should become second nature to you.

And then you will be the ones who can speak with sincerity and conviction.

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