Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Litmus Tests


My candidate litmus test, with edits, from James Powell's excellent comment on Gilliard's blog:

Does candidate 'distance himself' from the party and/or its leaders, or is he proud to be a Democrat?

Does he talk like a bureaucrat or like a regular person?

Does she make it clear that she opposes Bush and the Republicans?

Does she back down when the corporate press/media or Republican pundits attack him, or does she stand by her words?

Does he sleepwalk through the campaign, or does he act like he wants to win?

Notice the complete lack of ideology. And if that bothers you, just remember who would control the committees if Democrats took charge.

I agree that some of the items on this list are important, especially the first point, and that virtually any Democratic member in Congress would make for a better committee chairperson. But Kos's apparent willingness to substitute a list like this, and the nominal and temporal satisfaction from gaining party control (if a litmus test like this could even conceivably result in Democrats regaining the House or Senate) for a comprehensive, coherent philosophy about government and the committment to carry that philosophy through the thick and thin of uncontrollable or unpredictable events is just very short-sighted.

I know Kos doesn't advertise himself as an ideologue and that he admits being more of a partisan Democrat rather than a progressive or liberal. And I know and salute Kos's ability to generate cash and attention for unsung candidates, a critical component of any Democratic Party rebuilding effort.

But the move away from ideology that commenced in 1973 and has continued thereafter has been associated with a steady decline in the Democratic Party's influence. To compete again, and more importantly, to change the direction of policymaking, Democrats will need to spell out in more detail and coherence the type of society they want to create and the reasons why voters should identify themselves with the Democratic Party.

Consider, for instance, this item from the litmus test:

Does she make it clear she opposes Bush and the Republicans?

What does this mean? This is an ideological statement but without any substance. Why should Democrats oppose Bush and the Republicans? If Democrats cannot supply a meaningful and consistent response to that question, than Democrats will continue to struggle to win voters' allegiances and recapture the control of government.

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