Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Ideas and Voters

I welcome the addition of Democracy: A Journal of Ideas to the public square and land of the Internets. As the Washington Post mentioned this morning, many Democrats share the conviction that:

...for too long Republicans have been winning the battle of ideas (and often campaign strategy) in American politics, in part because conservatives invested in what is now a well-funded infrastructure of organizations that have produced ideas, thinkers, publications, strategists, and politicians who now control the White House, Congress and increasingly the federal judiciary.

So welcome, Kenneth Baer and Andrei Cherny. And a big Bulworth shout-out to William Galston, Stanley Greenberg and Ruy Teixeira who have founded The Democratic Strategist. We can alway use more ideas, commentary and data to chew on.

While I recognized the founders of The Democratic Strategist and suspect it will look a lot like The Emerging Democratic Majority, with its emphasis on polling data, I hadn't heard of Democracy's founders. So I paid the site a visit.

Appreciated the book reviews by former Congressman Brad Carson of Robert Remini's The House and Michael Lind of Michael Beinert's The Good Fight. Good stuff.

And while I don't object to views that I object to, this was a strange piece.

For example, what does this mean?

The deaths of those on United 93, as well as those who died elsewhere, have not yet been avenged...

What? The 19 men with box-cutters that carried out the attacks killed themselves in the process. It would be pretty hard to avenge their acts since they were incinerated. Meanwhile, the government and country that provided a sort of safe haven for the attackers was bombed, invaded, and overthrown (however incompletely). And the dude who by most accounts engineered the attacks was also captured and is in some secret prison somewhere not in the U.S. Of course Osama bin Forgotten is still at-large. But if Cherny meant Osama, he didn't say so specifically. What else does he want the country to do? Bomb and invade another country that wasn't involved in the attacks?

The reference to United 93 was actually at the tail-end of a reference to the movie United 93, which Cherny is very disappointed that we didn't all go see. Cherny is disappointed and embittered about a lot of things, mostly how let down he feels that his country has failed to rally to the war on terrorism cause like our ancestors did in enlisting to fight Germany and Japan and later in erecting bomb shelters during the Cold War.

Cherny criticizes the president for not calling for national sacrifice after 9/11 and liberals like Kos for counting the number of times Bush and his officials mention 9/11 in speeches and for thinking that the Republicans have been using 9/11 for political gain over the last five years (imagine that).

There is a real agenda to respond to September 11 that neither party has touched: demanding that Americans make sacrifices in a breakneck transition to energy independence; ending America’s game of footsie with anti-democratic Middle Eastern despots, and actively demonstrating to people around the world that democracy and economic opportunity can provide a better future; making the war on terrorism and homeland security a higher priority than either tax cuts or domestic spending programs; asking millions of Americans to volunteer part-time in modern-day civil defense force that would help watch over our vulnerable ports, borders, and chemical and nuclear plants; strengthening our democracy and addressing grave inequalities in opportunity at home to show the world how fair and just a free nation can be for all; and calling on hundreds of thousands of young people to serve in a military whose size must be greatly increased in order to effectively meet the threats we face.

Dude, take a chill pill. And you want "hundreds of thousands of young people to serve in a military whose size must be greatly increased in order to effectively meet the threats we face"? What enemy or country do you propose these extra hundreds of thousands of troops be sent to wreck havic in? And what about you? You were 26 at the time of 9/11? That would make you, what, 30 or 31 now. That would make you young enough to serve. Go for it.

Right now you're just a scold.

OK, enough of that.

Oh yeah, ideas. I welcome more ideas. Ideas are good. But Democrats haven't lost the majority because of a lack of ideas. We have ideas, as so do our members of Congress.

What we're missing us is some voters. The old New Deal was based on two major voting blocs--labor unions and white Southerners. Labor unions are dead and the white Southerners packed up and moved in with the Republicans. On top of that, Republicans added a major voting bloc known as conservative evangelical Christians. Democrats basically don't have anybody like that. What we do have are several inter-related activist groups, like environmentalists, feminists and bloggers, the types that show up at Take Back America conferences. But we activists are a lot less in number than the audiences for these Justice Sunday events, just to give an example. A third type of voter is the one that ain't very active, doesn't know much or anything about politics, but responds primarily to symbols and angry rhetoric about immigrants, gays, and the flag. Democrats don't get most of these voters either.

So what to do? From where and how do Democrats get more voters? I imagine The Democratic Strategist will focus a lot of attention on polling data designed to bring some sort of majority together, but the downfall of this is a fallback on "swing voter" strategies, that vary from election to election and the type of "competency over ideology" politics that has so many people wondering what the party stands for.

No comments: