Mostly rational politics, with occasional rants about how a few crazy Republicans are ruining the country.
Support The Jaker
Tuesday, November 30, 2004
Joe Trippi writes in today's WSJ what Democrats should learn from 2004, and what we need to do going forward. While I somtimes think Joe is a bit of a fame-grabber, I think his analysis here is spot on. It's all about the grassroots. There is a substantial block of progressive people in this country, who have good ideas, and the money to back it up. Trippi's goal is to have the Democrats find 7 million small donors by 2008. To me, that seems so achievable. If 7 million people gave $50 each, that's $350 million. And if country do hold Democratic summits regularly, that's that many more people with a vested interest in the party and its success.
Tip O'Neal said "All politics is local". He's absolutely right. Let's keep at it.
One current situation really signals to me the way we regular citizens can change the country. Right now cities across the U.S. are considering making their cities fully wireless (internet), which will help bridge the digital divide that restricts lower income people from internet usage. Philadelphia is one such city, but Verizon, whose interests lie in keeping its paying internet customers, is fighting this and other efforts. Their lobby recently succeeded in inserting a provision into a Pennsylvania telecommunications bill that makes it illegal for cities and other "political subdivisions" to offer low-cost Internet access without companies' (like Verizon's) permission.
Governor Ed Rendell has until tonight to decide on signing or vetoing the bill. In the political age that is currently on the way out, politicians were compelled to sign egregious laws like this or face stiff opposition from powerful, moneyed corporations that would withhold contributions. Now, Howard Dean has showed us that normal people giving $25 each are more important and more powerful than any corporation, so politicians do not have to and should not bow to corporate lobbies like Verizon's.
Lots of talk always about the gender gap, but check out the marriage gap... it's much more likely a predictor of who Americans vote for. Like most things, it's the shift that's interesting... really shows that unmarried people went even more for the Democrat this time, and married people went even more for the Republican.
Okay, the article's a couple days old, but Republican House leaders (specifically Hastert) have now decided that only bills supported by a majority of the Republicans will be able to come to a vote in the House, effectively making the presence of any Democrats in the House unnecessary. For example, let's say a bill had the support of all Democrats and 125 Republicans - if voted on it would pass overwhelmingly (probably would be a really great bi-partisan law, as most things that attract large groups from both sides are). But such a law would never come to a floor vote, because of Hastert's new rule.
It's arrogant and corrupt. It circumvents the will of the people that Congress(wo)men are tasked to represent - it says an idea is only valid if it is a Republican one, so to the 49% of the country that supports Democrats... too bad. Might as well go take a nap.
Joe Conason of Salon wrote a great article about how to talk to your Republican relatives in the wake of the election about the plans that are starting to come out of the White House, specifically their disastrous (unless you're super-wealthy) ideas to eliminate taxes on investment and shift that burden to income tax, for example eliminating the deductability of state/local income taxes, which is a huge deduction for us New Yorkers (as expected, this is a tax on blue states, that have higher state tax rates).
And, if you're relative is getting health insurance from their employer right now, tell them about how Bush wants to eliminate corporate deductions for offering insurance, making it easy for companies to decide not to offer it anymore.
The last point is truly remarkable - they want to reform Social Security but don't have the money... what we pay in now curently goes to our grandparents, so in order for us to save for ourselves in the future, as they propose, they have to find a new way to pay current retirees. The Bush people studying this literally said this week that they propose to do that by NOT COUNTING toward the deficit the money they'd have to borrow to fill the gap.
Let them eat poundcake How to take the gloat out of your Republican relatives over Thanksgiving dinner
Avoiding political arguments with Republican relatives may be the best way to enjoy Thanksgiving. But what's best isn't always what's possible. In the election's immediate aftermath -- and following a big meal and a few drinks -- your most dearly beloved conservatives may not be able to resist the urge to gloat. They may even begin to lecture you about the bright future that awaits us all as George W. Bush fulfills his "mandate."
Rather than start screaming about the bloody debacle in Iraq, the nasty campaign against gays, or the pillaging of the environment, just smile and nod until your favorite 'winger pauses for breath (or a bite of pie). Then say, "I hope you're right, of course, for everybody's sake. But have you heard about the President's economic plans?"
As soon as you have everybody's attention, politely explain what Bush and his administration plan to do to the gullible middle-class voters who re-elected him. Remind them how the President promised to make taxes "fairer" and "simpler," to make health care more widely available and to cut the deficit in half.
Nod your head and say yes, you agree, the forthcoming White House tax plan is pure simplicity. It will transfer the tax burden from the wealthy to the workers, from families with high earnings to those in the middle. That means creating new shelters for the richest taxpayers, who will be rewarded with various schemes for tax-free savings and medical accounts. Pretty fair, eh?
Assuming that your Republican relatives despise Hollywood liberals, misbehaving athletes, foul-mouthed hip-hop artists, and George Soros, it's worth pointing out that the Bush tax scheme will greatly benefit such pampered "elitists." And thanks to Bush's repeal of the estate tax, the children of those elitists may never have to pay any income taxes, let alone do any work, for the rest of their lives!
Of course, since the nation's accounts are already in the tank and the President has promised that his tax "reform" won't make matters worse, someone has to pay the difference. And unless your Bush-friendly family member drove to dinner in a Bentley, that duty will fall on him or her. To offset those generous new breaks for Soros, Barbra Streisand and Eminem, the White House wants to eliminate the deductibility of state and local tax payments. For most middle-class taxpayers that will constitute a far larger burden than any benefit from the Bush plan. (Urge everybody to check last year's tax return if they don't believe you. Have them compare the piddling interest from their savings to the amount they deducted in state and local taxes.)
Incidentally, this clever plan will shift an even greater burden onto the blue states, which already pay a disproportionate amount in federal tax revenues while getting less back. It's always good to note that those Republican red states are America's true welfare states.
And while your listeners are still chewing over that piece of gristle, gently inform them about the President's other plan to compensate for the next round of regressive tax cuts. He wants to take away their employer-sponsored health insurance.
Although he neglected to discuss any such proposal during the presidential campaign, when he emphasized his commitment to expand health coverage, Bush reportedly plans to eliminate corporate deductions for health insurance coverage. With company health plans already under tremendous pressure from increasing costs, the elimination of deductibility will make insurance unaffordable for most companies (and will certainly give all employers an excuse for eliminating those benefits). That will leave wage and salary earners to fend for themselves against the big private insurers. Take a generous sip of chardonnay and say, "What a deal!"
Finally, don't forget to mention the President's Social Security "reform." According to the Washington Post, Bush and his advisers have finally figured out how to pay for the trillion-dollar cost of privatizing the system. They're just going to ignore it by taking the costs "off-budget." Or, as one of the plan's proponents at the Cato Institute explained, the White House economists will use "creative accounting" to hide enormous holes in future budgets.
So smile again, a bit sardonically, as you sum up what middle-class Americans, red and blue, can expect as the second Bush regime begins: Higher taxes, exploding deficits and the end of health coverage as we know it.
There's just so much to be thankful for, isn't there?
For those who don't like u2, sorry for the diversion.
Nick Kristof's op/ed today in the Times, and some of the other news about Iran's nuclear program, etc. have gotten me thinking again about Americans' perception of America. We take it for granted that we will be the most powerful country in the world all our lives, and will be able to act like it and reap all the spoils thereof.
What if that were not the case? What if it was possible for another country to invade the U.S., or to send bomber planes to our cities and level buildings indiscriminately like in Fallujah? What if another power had a nuclear bomb, and truly believed they were justified in using it, like we believed we were in Japan? Would we then finally realize the importance of accepting differences, and the unfairness of imposing your will on others?
Update: This afternoon I went to a free U2 show at the Brooklyn Bridge - announced about 3 hours in advance. It was incredible. Here are a few of my pictures. I've got some movies that I don't know how to put on the web...
Update: Until I learn how to use the web better, I'll just put up this Reuters picture. I need to upload mine tonight directly from home, so check back in later or tomorrow.
Set List, as best as I can remember:
All Because of You
Sometimes You Can't Make it On Your Own
City of Blinding Lights
Original of the Species
She's A Mystery To Me
I Will Follow
U2's new album, How to Dismantle an Atom Bomb, comes out tomorrow in the U.S. They've been working on this one for awhile - there were studio difficulties including Bono's absence while trying to save the world and dissatisfaction with the product, but having listened to the whole album (as you can), my preliminary sense is that it's pretty damn good, very much a continuation of what they started on All that You Can't Leave Behind. Reviewers have been throwing praise at the new album left and right, and you can read those on all the conventional sites. For a different perspective, here's a good review from an unlikely source: The Wharton business school paper. Follow the link below for the full text.
New U2 album delivers hope, faith, and love By Jacob Garlan Miller, WG'06
Without a doubt, U2 is the biggest musical act in the world. Everyone knows them and most like them. They are the rare ensemble who can command legions of fanatical devotees, as well as an enormous web of casual fans, by producing tunes that are both accessible and technically excellent. Nonetheless, U2 has their detractors, who claim the band has grown too big and too distant from their fervent roots. With them I must disagree: like antlers and cheese, U2 only gets sharper with age.
Some folks want every album to sound like The Joshua Tree. Yes, some smaller niche acts or flashes in the pan can put out essentially the same album several times to challenge the public's diminishing marginal satisfaction. However, the musicians that transcend generations and genres, including the Beatles, Marvin Gaye, Sting, and Beethoven, must evolve to maintain their relevance. Otherwise, they end up looking like washed-up cover bands imitating their own songs (sorry, Aerosmith).
I, for one, count myself among the dedicated fans that thoroughly enjoyed U2's foray into techno beats and groovier grooves throughout the 1990's in Achtung Baby, Zooropa, and Pop, but many others pleaded with the band to step away from the edge. Tomorrow U2 will release an album that will please both sides: How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb reflects the band's maturity in its polished craftsmanship as it returns to the sounds and feelings that originally "made" U2 a quarter-century ago. If you liked All That You Can't Leave Behind, you will really like this new offering. If you loved All That You Can't Leave Behind, you will be lining up at Tower Records tonight to get your hands on this gem when the clock strikes midnight. It's in the same vein, but flows deeper into the bloodstream.
The album starts out with the now-familiar (thanks to iPod ads) "Unos, dos, tres, catorce" to open "Vertigo," which channels the energy of past U2 rockers such as "Elevation" and "God Part II." This fun little ditty is immediately contrasted by Bono's sincere longing for an advance in the global fight against AIDS in "Miracle Drug." Next comes "Sometimes You Can't Make It On Your Own," a classic power ballad whose passion will stir goose bumps à la "One" and "All I Want Is You." My favorite thus far is "Love and Peace or Else," which sets a riproarin' bass line and R & B rhythms (pleasantly reminiscent of Stevie Wonder's Higher Ground) to our prayers for lasting peace in Jerusalem and beyond.
If it weren't for its refreshingly upbeat and lighthearted lyrics ("Don't think before you laugh...Look ugly in a photograph"), "City of Blinding Lights" would sound at home squeezed between "A Sort of Homecoming" and "Pride" twenty years ago.
"One Step Closer" is a sincere heartstring-tugger about Bono's father, who recently lost his battle with cancer. It will surely become an anthem for believers in the divine potential of the human soul. After delicately shedding a positive light on death, the following song, the beautifully melodic "Original of the Species," addresses the newborn crowd, glorifying the uniqueness of every new soul. Bono's advice to the next generation: make joy a lifetime goal ("Baby slow down...The end is not as fun as the start...Please stay a child somewhere in your heart").
Finally, as good and faithful Irishmen, the most powerful band in the world finishes off their album as they traditionally do: with a prayer. "Yahweh" elegantly begs the Lord for help in self-improvement. The hopeful message delivered by the boys from Dublin in How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb assists that cause.
The Washington Post has an article on how some Democrats think we should look to Colorado for an election-winning model; after all, Dems won a number of races in a red state and a red year.
Rather than seeing a shining precedent to follow, I think we got lucky in Colorado - Pete Coors was a poor candidate for the GOP, and Salazar was a fantastic Democrat candidate, who proved to have coattails that extended into some of the smaller races.
The implications for Gov. Bill Owens are significant - he definitely has been trying to up his profile for a dark-horse run at the 2008 GOP Pres nomination.
(Ed Note: this was posted as a comment, and I've elevated it to the main page because it's good... see the links in the last paragraph for more)
FROM: A REFORM DEMOCRAT
RE: MODERNIZING THE DNC
Over the next two months, you will be bombarded with suggestions on how you should vote when it comes time to decide the direction of the Democratic Party. As you consider who should lead our Party, please keep in mind the following observations:
Read More Evaluating 2004 The Democratic Party did not "come close" to winning in 2004. This is a zero-sum game and we need to measure our position against that of the GOP. Democrats would have needed a 10 point across the board increase in support to have done as well as Republicans. True, Kerry came close to scraping together an electoral vote win, but Democrats did poorly and Kerry lost. We lost. We are in worse position than we were before the election. As Mayor Gavin Newsom is fond of saying, "Do what you've done and you'll get what you've got."
Choosing a new DNC Chair When choosing a new leader for our Party, please make your choice based on your own decision of who will take the steps necessary to modernize the Party. We must have a full-time leader with the vision necessary to restructure our organization. We can't let our Party serve as a golden parachute for those who lost in 2004 -- we need the DNC staffed by the best and the brightest not the oldest and best connected. Our next Chair needs 100% dedication to the effort and must put the Party before any other concern. Recently there has been talk of a candidate running to protect his home state's antiquated primary tradition -- we can't afford to elect somebody with a conflict of interest and ulterior motives. We need reform
Accountability Only by deciding our goals and quantifying our methods can we determine what is working and what isn't. We need to hold programs and people accountable. We lost and we can't be afraid to fire losers. The campaigns of tomorrow are far different from the campaigns of a decade ago -- we need to evaluate individuals by their value in a modern campaign. The railroads didn't hire the fastest Pony Express riders; they hired people who made good railroad engineers. Campaigns have gone through a similar sea change and our Party's future depends upon intelligent reaction to the new rules of politics.
Reform We are reforming our local central committees but we need your vote to reform the Democratic National Committee. We are waiting for systematic reform, but the Party needs the grassroots more than we need the Party. We want to win and we will support the best vehicles for victory. We would like to continue our support for the DNC, but we're also members of Democracy for America and Moveon and the New Democrat Network. If the Party won't stand up for us, we know they will. We know they were built as modern organizations and a far more efficient than the Democrat Party. DNC members need to elect a new Chair who can compete with DfA, Moveon, and NDN or the party will be relegated to only hosting the convention. We are Democrats and we don't want the most moderate or least controversial Chair, we want a leader. So lead us or we will follow the visionaries at the reform organizations.
I've changed one feature on the site... some of you told me you couldn't read articles on websites of which you weren't a member. When the site I'm linking to has membership requirements, I'll now post the full text of the article under a "Read More" label after the post summary... as follows:
E.J. Dionne points out the hypocrisy of the Republicans ignoring "the rule of law" now, whereas 6 years ago they argued the exact opposite points in support of impeaching the President.
Recall how Republicans dismissed any and all who charged that the investigations of President Bill Clinton by special prosecutor Ken Starr were politically motivated. Ah, but those were investigations of a shady Democrat by a distinguished Republican. When a Democrat is investigating a Republican, it can only be about politics. Is that clear?
This President is reckless.
1) getting rid of taxes on investments rewards wealth, not work. John Edwards talked about this in the primaries. The lower and middle class works hard to make ends meet, and gets taxed, and can hardly ever save anything. Meanwhile, the upper class, though taxed more, can save a lot, and just get richer as that savings grows tax-free. Again, it says to us: once you're rich you're all set. Good luck trying to get there. Bush says it promotes growth? The only thing it promotes growth of is rich people's fun money. Corporate tax breaks and incentives encourage businesses to grow, which increases GDP, creates jobs, etc. John Kerry's plan was to reduce corporate taxes by 5% across the board.
2) taking away incentives for employers to provide health insurance? John Kerry's plan was to do the exact opposite. Why would we want fewer people to get health insurance from their employers?
This is frickin ridiculous stuff and I just can't believe it.
Salon has a thought-provoking piece about how the European Union has more or less become the world's superpower - not militarily obviously, but the union now has a larger population and a slightly bigger economy than the U.S.
Also interesting is Jeremy Rifkin's assertion that much of American productivity...
is accounted for by economic activity that might be better described as wasteful: military spending; the endlessly expanding police and prison bureaucracies; the spiraling cost of healthcare; suburban sprawl; the fast-food industry and its inevitable corollary, the weight-loss craze. Meaningful comparisons of living standards, he says, consistently favor the Europeans. In France, for instance, the work week is 35 hours and most employees take 10 to 12 weeks off every year, factors that clearly depress GDP. Yet it takes a John Locke heart of stone to say that France is worse off as a nation for all that time people spend in the countryside downing du vin rouge et du Camembert with friends and family.
I've often said this same thing - that the American economy relies on wastefulness and excess.
The piece also notes that the EU is currently working on a Constitution that
bars capital punishment in all 25 nations and defines such things as universal healthcare, child care, paid annual leave, parental leave, housing for the poor, and equal treatment for gays and lesbians as fundamental human rights.
Reading this, I question, is it really worth staying here?
Welcome to the new cold war
It's Chirac vs. Cheney, SUVs vs. minicars, and pommes frites vs. freedom fries in the new transatlantic culture war. But here's what you don't know: In the global conflict for moral and economic supremacy, Europe is winning.
- - - - - - - - - - - -
By Andrew O'Hehir
Nov. 15, 2004 A specter is haunting America, and it ain't the specter of communism (however much George W. Bush and company might like to describe it that way). Barely a decade after the definitive collapse of the Soviet bloc, the United States finds itself in a new cold war, one being fought simultaneously on economic, political and cultural fronts, and one it is by no means certain to win. The unipolar world of uncontested American hegemony that we were told to expect into the indefinite future has come to an end; it lasted just about long enough for us to scratch our heads and wonder what was happening next.
Yes, "Old Europe," to borrow Donald Rumsfeld's famous quip, is back, and it's looking pretty spry for its age. As Americans are finally beginning to notice, Europeans (or most of them, anyway) have reconstituted themselves into an enormous transnational superstate of 25 nations, 455 million people and an $11 trillion economy. This is, of course, the European Union, and its aims have become much broader and deeper than the stuff you've probably heard about, like allowing citizens to drive from Seville to Sicily without a passport, or to use the same anonymous-looking currency to buy a pint of Guinness in Cork and a glass of ouzo in Crete.
American heavyweights like Alan Greenspan and Henry Kissinger, by the way, publicly predicted that the euro, now the common currency of 12 European countries (with many more to follow), would never work. This week the euro is trading at an all-time high of about $1.30 against an ever weaker Bush-economy dollar. Other confident-sounding things that you hear Americans say about the EU -- that it's plagued by a sclerotic bureaucracy, that it squelches entrepreneurship and initiative with overregulation, that its cradle-to-grave welfare states are dragging down its economy -- should be viewed with similar skepticism.
It might sound alarmist to use a freighted term like "cold war" to describe our relationship with an entity whose raison d'être is to avoid all war and resolve all conflict. The political leaders of the European Union are certainly willing to be partners with the United States, and potentially to be friends as well. (Realpolitik dictates that both sides will continue to insist that the relationship is warm even when, as now, it is anything but.) But elites on both sides of the pond now know what the stakes are, and they are also willing to be competitors, even fierce rivals. If the original idea behind a united Europe was to redeem the old continent from poverty, devastation and centuries of self-destructive warfare, more recently the goal has been to build a "good superpower," one that stands as an economic and ideological counterweight to the American colossus.
Once you grasp that this transatlantic cold war is not only happening but rapidly intensifying -- as Jeremy Rifkin and T.R. Reid, the authors of two almost simultaneous books on the European conundrum, agree -- you see the major news events of the last year or two in a different light. Both the Iraq war and this year's presidential election, for instance, start to look like key symbolic episodes in the U.S.-Europe conflict.
What was the contest between Bush and John Kerry, after all, if not a proxy war between pommes frites and freedom fries, a referendum on Europe conducted among the American electorate? Kerry, we were told, spoke French and "looked French." These gibes might have played as humor on Fox News, but they were in deadly earnest.
The French, of course, sank Bush's hopes for a truly international coalition against Iraq and became the American right's chosen exemplar of global treachery and cowardice. (Frenchness, you might say, is the new communism.) The French are also the principal architects of the European Union -- suddenly, clearly, our greatest rival for economic and moral supremacy in the world -- and if Karl Rove and Karen Hughes weren't thinking about that consciously, the thought wasn't far below the surface.
Kerry was an internationalist and a secularist (at least by American standards) running against a man who wrapped himself in the flag and was guided by divine inspiration. Bush didn't just run as an American; he pretty much ran as America, which Rifkin calls a nation "living in two seemingly contradictory realms at the same time," those being the evangelical Protestant faith in salvation and the rationalist drive to accumulate wealth and build industry. That cast Kerry in the role of Europe -- intellectual and irreligious, faintly stained by the ghosts of socialism and Catholicism, with a belief in universal human rights and negotiated solutions, but not much in the way of a transformative spiritual vision.
That might be all anyone needs to know about how close the election was, or how it turned out. There is a large class of people in this country who are sympathetic to the "European dream" of a managed market economy in which cooperation is emphasized over competition, leisure is privileged over work, and the social costs of capitalism are closely regulated -- and you know who you are, gentle readers. But to most Americans "freedom" still means untrammeled private-property rights, open markets, workaholism and the belief that somehow we'll all die rich.
Going back 18 months, one of the strategic considerations driving the Bush administration's 2003 invasion of Iraq was surely the opportunity it presented to drive a wedge between pro- and anti-American politicians in Europe. By peeling away Britain's Tony Blair, Spain's José Maria Aznar and Italy's Silvio Berlusconi from the antiwar EU consensus, the Bushies may have hoped to disrupt the idea of a Europe that spoke with one voice on foreign policy and military action (an expressed EU goal) for a generation to come.
As Reid, a longtime Washington Post correspondent, discusses in his book "The United States of Europe," the strategy seemed to work, at least at first. Those three prime ministers agreed to go along with the American war, and various other European leaders hemmed and hawed, trying somehow to split the difference between the Bush-Blair position and the vehement antiwar stance of French President Jacques Chirac and German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder.
But then surprising things started to happen. When it came time to twist arms on the U.N. Security Council over the vote to authorize military action, the Americans were outfoxed. Most of the poorer nations on the council received substantial foreign aid from Europe -- the EU gives almost three times as much aid to developing countries as the U.S. does -- and proved more amenable to lobbying from the French and Germans than from the British and Americans. Bush and Blair needed nine votes and could never get more than four; at least in that limited arena, Reid writes, "Europe's political clout proved stronger than American military might."
Furthermore, the Iraq war became a galvanizing and radicalizing event for an entire generation of younger Europeans and, in Reid's judgment, led them to see themselves as Europeans, above and beyond their national identities. While the European political elites dithered in the spring of 2003, the European people streamed into the streets by the millions, in a nearly unanimous rejection of the Iraq war in particular and the interventionist Bush foreign policy agenda in general. (And, for good measure, what most Europeans perceive as America's promiscuously wasteful culture of burgers, SUVs and obesity.) Opinion polls revealed an explosion of anti-American sentiment, even in nations like Britain, Italy and Poland that remained officially within the "coalition of the willing." In several European countries, the United States is viewed as more dangerous to world peace than Iran and North Korea, and George W. Bush may be even less popular in Scandinavia, for example, than he is in the Arab world.
These young Europeans, Reid believes, now have a sense of their own political and economic power, and they have built a pan-continental "Euroculture" that borrows what it likes from American pop culture but now stands independent of it. "For many Europeans today," he writes, "the familiar concept of 'the West,' the transatlantic alliance with shared values and common enemies, is a relic of the last century." In this century, their goal is to challenge the American claim to global supremacy, at least in moral and political terms.
Indeed, what struck me on a recent visit to Germany is how un-American Europe still feels, despite all the stories we hear to the contrary. Sure, you can eat at Pizza Hut or shop at Wal-Mart in Hamburg, and teenagers affect last year's hip-hop fashions and wear Yankee caps. (Sorry, Boston -- your triumph has not penetrated the Old World.) But those things, removed from their original context, have become, like Madonna or David Beckham, floating signifiers of a global culture that transcends nationality. The organic rhythms of the place feel nothing like the fevered consumption overdrive of American cities and suburbs: Bars and cafes remain busy long past midnight seven nights a week, but if there's any place in Hamburg where you can buy groceries or children's toys or paperback books after lunchtime on Saturday, I didn't find it.
"Europe's time is almost here," Reid quotes current EU President Romano Prodi as saying. "In fact, there are many areas of world affairs where the objective conclusion would have to be that Europe is already the superpower, and the United States must follow our lead." It's stuff like that that has Rumsfeld, Dick Cheney and the rest of the neoconservative cohort gnawing on the executive branch's fine European furniture late at night. They're smart enough to know that Prodi has a point -- even if they'd scoff at him in public -- and there isn't much they can do about it.
After adding 10 new Eastern and Central European nations last May, the European Union now has a much larger population than the United States, and a slightly bigger economy. As Jeremy Rifkin argues in his dense and contentious new research-driven tome "The European Dream," the United States remains ahead in per-capita GDP, but the difference is not as significant as it looks.
Much of American "productivity," Rifkin suggests, is accounted for by economic activity that might be better described as wasteful: military spending; the endlessly expanding police and prison bureaucracies; the spiraling cost of healthcare; suburban sprawl; the fast-food industry and its inevitable corollary, the weight-loss craze. Meaningful comparisons of living standards, he says, consistently favor the Europeans. In France, for instance, the work week is 35 hours and most employees take 10 to 12 weeks off every year, factors that clearly depress GDP. Yet it takes a John Locke heart of stone to say that France is worse off as a nation for all that time people spend in the countryside downing du vin rouge et du Camembert with friends and family.
"The European Dream" is the richer of the two books, as Rifkin -- the author of such previous big-idea volumes as "The End of Work" and "The Biotech Century" -- mines deep lodes of history and sociology in search of the origins of the cross-pond cold war. But if you just want a reader-friendly survey of how the European Union was born (out of a modest Franco-German coal and steel accord after World War II), how it grew into the titan we see today, and what it's really like, Reid's personable "United States of Europe" is the better choice.
To the question of what the European Union actually is, neither author offers more than a conditional answer, largely because Europeans aren't quite sure themselves. I called the EU a "superstate" earlier, but it isn't a nation-state in conventional terms. It doesn't physically control any territory, it has no authority to tax its citizens, and it has only very limited police powers. It does, however, have an elected legislature and an executive branch, a court system and a central bank, all of which can override the laws of its 25 member nations. (It also now has its own military, the 60,000-strong European Rapid Reaction Force, or "EuroArmy," a development that led to much gnashing of teeth in Washington.)
At least some of this ambiguity is intentional; the EU looks different depending on who's looking. To the Euro-enthusiasts of France, Germany and the Low Countries, the EU is a grand federal state capable of transcending age-old problems of nationalism and sovereignty. To more standoffish nations like Britain and Sweden (neither of which has adopted the euro), it's a loose confederation of countries that remain largely autonomous. Rifkin calls it "the first really post-modern governing institution," amplifying that at another point to "the first post-territorial governing region in a network-linked global economy." (Much as I enjoyed his excursions through the historical and philosophical framework of the U.S.-EU clash, his tendency to wax lyrical with business-school buzzwords made me want to check whether I still had my wallet.)
If the EU has no intention of confronting America's military supremacy, that, Rifkin and Reid would agree, is actually Europe's ace in the hole. Let the Americans pour endless billions in taxpayer dollars down the Pentagon's money sink, the Europeans reason. As they see it, the key to future peace and prosperity lies elsewhere, in constructing complex webs of social interaction and economic cooperation that will undermine nationalism and fundamentalism of all stripes. While the United States foots the bill for the intractable conflict in Iraq and piles up huge budget and trade deficits, Europe has spent money on other priorities.
Whatever your intellectual and emotional responses may be to this burgeoning transatlantic conflict, it's difficult for any American to read Rifkin's book and not feel ashamed. The U.S. has fallen significantly behind the EU's Western European nations in infant mortality and life expectancy, despite spending more on healthcare per capita than any of them. (While 40 million Americans are uninsured, no one in Europe -- I repeat, not a single person -- lacks some form of healthcare coverage.)
European children are consistently better educated; the United States would rank ninth in the EU in reading, ninth in scientific literacy, and 13th in math. Twenty-two percent of American children grow up in poverty, which means that our country ranks 22nd out of the 23 industrialized nations, ahead of only Mexico and behind all 15 of the pre-2004 EU countries. What's more horrifying: the statistic itself or the fact that no American politician to the right of Dennis Kucinich would ever address it?
Perhaps more surprisingly, European business has not been strangled by the EU welfare state; in fact, quite the opposite is true. Europe has surpassed the United States in several high-tech and financial sectors, including wireless technology, grid computing and the insurance industry. The EU has a higher proportion of small businesses than the U.S., and their success rate is higher. American capitalists have begun to pay attention to all this. In Reid's book, Ford Motor Co. chairman Bill Ford explains that the company's Volvo subsidiary is more profitable than its U.S. manufacturing operation, even though wages and benefits are significantly higher in Sweden. Government-subsidized healthcare, child care, pensions and other social supports, Ford says, more than make up for the difference.
The new EU constitution, currently being considered by the member states, is an unwieldy, jargon-laden document that runs to 265 pages in English (and even more in Spanish and French). It should also serve as an inspiration to progressives around the world. It bars capital punishment in all 25 nations and defines such things as universal healthcare, child care, paid annual leave, parental leave, housing for the poor, and equal treatment for gays and lesbians as fundamental human rights. Most of these are still hotly contested questions in the United States; as Rifkin says, this document all by itself makes the European Union the world leader in the human rights debate. It is the first governing document that aspires to universality, "with rights and responsibilities that encompass the totality of human existence on Earth."
While Rifkin and Reid are unabashed Euro-boosters, both would urge Kerry voters rendered starry-eyed by the EU dream to ponder long and hard before pleading for asylum at the nearest consulate or scouring your family tree for relevant European ancestry. (Speaking as a dual-passport holder myself, I'm sticking it out -- at least for now.) For all the grandeur of its new vision, Europe still has relatively high unemployment and relatively sluggish economic growth. The continent faces major structural problems, most notably a declining birth rate and a long-standing hostility to immigration, which has led to a population that is aging much faster than America's. While the European welfare state is certain to remain generous by American standards, significant renegotiation of rights and benefits will be necessary unless this demographic time bomb can somehow be defused.
Despite its deepening inequality, the United States remains to a large extent a more dynamic and less class-bound society, and it still offers individuals that opportunity for constant reinvention that lies at the heart of our national dream. Rifkin in particular believes that the new cold war with Europe will be good for America in the long run and may help rejuvenate the American left (even if the next four years are likely to get pretty ugly). Americans may need to be taught, by example, that unfettered corporate capitalism, regressive taxation and a bare-minimum social safety net are not the only way to guarantee prosperity -- and perhaps that our definition of what constitutes prosperity could stand some scrutiny.
While America has been gnawing on its own innards for the last decade or so, feuding internally over White House blow jobs, flawed elections, the threat of terrorism, the ill-fated war in Iraq and an angrily polarized public discourse, Europe has quietly been cohering into an impressive whole, the world's newest superpower. For all its layers of bureaucracy and all the challenges it faces, the EU has forged a harmonious society on a continent that spent most of history at war with itself.
The rise of the European Union may in fact, as Rifkin says, represent a new phase of history, and we barely saw it coming. While the outcome of this new cold war between Europe and America is far from clear, we should feel humbled by the way it's gone so far. The EU has succeeded so dramatically in its ambitious goals that the utopian dreamers of the last century who dared to imagine a peaceful, prosperous, united Europe seem eerily prescient now. If nothing else, it's an object lesson in the power of vision.
"I am a democrat," James Joyce wrote in 1916, while an entire generation of Europe's young men were slaughtering each other in the fields of Flanders. "I'll work and act for the social liberty and equality among all classes and sexes in the United States of the Europe of the future." People read that and laughed bitterly. Europe seemed poisoned by mustard gas and history; America was the land of liberty, democracy and the future. Nobody's laughing now.
- - - - - - - - - - - -
About the writer
Andrew O'Hehir is Salon's books editor.
Newsweek has a very thorough behind the scenes look into the campaign, on both sides, starting with the primary. Here's a link to Chapter 2 (where you can also go to the other chapters) about Rove's strategy if Dean was the nominee... gives us an idea of what that campaign season would have looked like.
HOW FDR SPOKE ABOUT VALUES.
by Andrei Cherny
Post date: 11.14.04
Issue date: 11.22.04
n February 24, 2004, as John Kerry was winning another set of primaries on his way to becoming the Democratic nominee, George W. Bush went to the Roosevelt Room in the White House to announce to the nation that "the defense of marriage requires a constitutional amendment."
During this same period, Kerry's campaign was putting together the building blocks of his general-election message strategy. It was proposed that Kerry not cede marriage and family to the Republicans but rather that he unveil and run on an unabashedly "pro-family values agenda." By laying claim to this political terrain, Kerry could argue that the real threat to the American family was not gay marriage, which--whatever one's opinion about it--only affects a relatively tiny number of couples, but rather the daily strains affecting all couples and families. It would enable him to discuss proposals like expanding health insurance not only through an economic prism, but as ways to support basic values. At the same time, it would provide a rubric for speaking about ideas that would help families succeed and parents raise their children, such as after-school care and paid family and medical leave. Finally, it would send a powerful--and accurate--signal that he personally believed in family values and sought to defend them.
The idea was rejected. The decision was made that it was "unnecessary" for Kerry to talk about marriage and family values since Bush's anti-gay-marriage amendment was "already backfiring" by turning away swing voters with its divisiveness and supposedly upsetting the conservative base with its infringement on states' rights.
But exit polls in swing states indicated the extent to which moral and values issues influenced voters. While some, in the days after Kerry's loss, have argued that the "values" phrase in exit polls served as an overly broad catchall, the fact that voters who selected it as their most important issue went overwhelmingly for Bush (80 to 18 percent) indicates that it was a phrase with some meaning.
The question of that meaning has occupied Democrats' thoughts since Election Day--and will continue to in the months ahead. That is necessary. What is not necessary is that Democrats walk away from their core beliefs in tolerance and freedom to assuage those who disagree. Aside from the fact that Democrats cannot convince the country that they stand for something by compromising on their convictions, there is no political imperative for such a compromise. The same Election Day exit polls indicated that 55 percent of voters believe abortion should be "always" or "mostly" legal, and 60 percent of voters supported either gay marriage or civil unions.
Democrats need not--and should not--adopt the agenda of social conservatives, but we need to do a better job of speaking to the moral and spiritual yearnings that have always characterized the American experience. Since Election Day, many Democrats have griped about the fact that, in supporting Bush, so many middle-class voters failed to vote in their economic self-interest. That is entirely true--and completely beside the point. Americans do not enter the voting booth in the manner of accountants calculating take-home income. They have historically voted on hopes and resentments--slavery and civil rights, freemasonry and free love--that have nothing to do with the bottom line. The values inculcated by family and community--such as hard work, personal responsibility, patriotism, faith, and integrity--are not only religious in origin. Yet they are part of the nation's civic creed, and Republicans can no longer be allowed to have a near-monopoly in running on them.
Once, Democrats did talk about their vision in explicitly moral terms. In accepting the Democratic nomination in 1932, during the massive unemployment of the Great Depression, Franklin Delano Roosevelt pledged to "put men to work," not just because it would bring them "security for themselves and for their wives and children," but because of the "moral and spiritual values that go with" work. The following year, in his inaugural address, Roosevelt told the nation it must "face the arduous days that lie before us in the warm courage of national unity; with the clear consciousness of seeking old and precious moral values; with the clean satisfaction that comes from the stern performance of duty by old and young alike." He appealed not only to the values of Americans' pocketbooks, but also to those in their prayer books.
But somewhere in the "I'm OK, You're OK" 1970s and the "Me Decade" 1980s, many Democrats became uncomfortable passing judgment and issuing calls to action. The notion of politician as moral leader became subsumed by politician as wonk, proposing technocratic policies to address every problem. In 1992, Bill Clinton self-consciously rejected that idea and sought both to call on Americans' better angels and to call wrongdoers onto the carpet. Whereas Walter Mondale never used the word "responsibility" in his nomination acceptance address, Clinton used it seven times. In setting forth the ideas behind his candidacy in his first "New Covenant" address in October 1991, he said that, under Republican rule, the middle class had seen not only "their economic interests ignored" but "their values literally ground into the ground." He said that, under Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush, "Responsibility went unrewarded, and so did hard work." He declared that "responsibility is for everybody," and, during his campaign, he showed Americans that he actually believed it. In April 1992, he went to Wharton Business School--the home of junk bonds--and told students and faculty that their school was "a powerful symbol of where our country went wrong in the 1980s." In June 1992, more famously, he went to Jesse Jackson's Rainbow Coalition and decried the rapper Sister Souljah's call for killing "white people."
This month's election results should serve as a powerful reminder to Democrats of the need to set forth their vision in starkly moral terms, to address Americans' longing for a sense of spirituality and community. Most people are not religious right-wingers, but most people are religious. Democrats need to do a better job of listening and speaking to them in explicitly moral and spiritual terms.
The first step for Democrats in the months and years to come is to stop thinking of "values" as a discrete topic--with an encomium to the concept shoehorned into a speech or a set of policies listed alongside health care and education on a candidate's homepage. Instead, just as Bush sold his policies on Iraq and tax cuts, as well as abortion, through the prism of values, Democrats need to see values as an overarching umbrella for their agenda.
Democrats should hold Americans to an ethic of personal responsibility; a demand for moral decency that stretches from crooked CEOs to common criminals. Think of the way most Democrats discussed the Enron scandal: with a combination of a lawyerly denunciation of financial impropriety and a social worker's concern for the livelihoods of the harmed workers. Then consider how Roosevelt spoke of an earlier round of corporate misconduct: "[T]here must be an end to a conduct in banking and in business which too often has given to a sacred trust the likeness of callous and selfish wrongdoing. Small wonder that confidence languishes, for it thrives only on honesty, on honor, on the sacredness of obligations, on faithful protection, on unselfish performance; without them it cannot live." It is the thunder of a prophet. In 2004, Democrats should have decried the values of WorldCom with the same passion that some Republicans criticized the values embodied by "Will & Grace."
In fact, discussing economic issues in the context of values is the rule, not the exception, in U.S. history. Visiting the United States in 1889, Rudyard Kipling noticed that Americans felt extremely strongly about the tariff--especially if they were Democrats and especially if they were drunk. Barroom boozers argued about import duties not because of a deeply held Ricardian faith in free trade, but because of a conviction that the tariff was fundamentally unfair to average workers while favoring those who lazed about in great mansions.
This popular disgust with the protective tariff was fueled not by class resentments but by irritation at those who violated the civic faith in hard work. The same notion animated John Edwards's discussions of "wealth versus work" in the primary campaign. And, despite claims among some pundits that Kerry resorted to old-fashioned populist appeals in order to win the primaries, he in fact aimed for what might be called "values-oriented populism"; not "the people versus the powerful," but the favoring of "those who are doing the right thing over those who are doing wrong to their employees, their companies, or their country."
It is not just on economic issues that Democrats need to find their moral voice. Environmental degradation is a sin against nature's God--and we should not hesitate to say so. Persistent poverty among children and working parents is a moral outrage--and we should be prepared to do something bold about it. And if, on the Sunday after the election, Karl Rove can go on "Meet the Press" and call global aids a values issue for the Republican base, then surely Democrats can say the same.
Many Americans see Democrats as part of the culturally different "other" that Republicans have had so much fun and success castigating since the late '60s. This is, in large measure, due to overt GOP campaign ploys. But Democrats too often have seen values, such as work, family, responsibility, and faith, as Republican buzzwords rather than as part of their own party's DNA.
Democrats need to speak directly to the yearning that Americans feel for a sense of spiritual fulfillment and community. There is a natural reticence to do so. The separation of church and state is well-enshrined and important. A community, fully realized, can be stifling. A community involves a set of demands we make of one another as citizens. When these sometimes subtle obligations become too harsh or demanding--when there is pressure to dress the same way or to worship the same God--they create authoritarianism or conformity. Yet, without these obligations, we witness the very atomization of American life and civic culture that so many voters fear.
The sociologist Alan Wolfe has written of "top-down" and "bottom-up" cultural issues. Republicans prey on voters' fears with top-down issues--such as gay marriage--hot buttons and wedges that get partisans' blood boiling on both sides of the aisle. In contrast, the bottom-up issues are the ones that actually affect Americans on a daily basis. These include the difficulties faced by parents trying to balance work and family and the coarsening of a popular culture that often degrades women and makes it difficult to raise honorable, decent children. It is on these issues that Democrats should speak out and act. By strengthening the hand of community institutions, by insisting on a widespread spirit of national service, by standing proudly on the side of parents struggling to raise their children, Democrats will not only win over the "values voters," they can strengthen the moral fabric of the country they seek to lead.
Andrei Cherny, a visiting fellow at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, was the director of speechwriting and a special adviser on policy for the Kerry for President campaign between February 2003 and April 2004.
The party needs a radical change. We can't have more of the same. Tom Vilsack is a good guy, but his primary goal is to preserve the status quo (specifically the first-in-the-nation caucuses in his state of Iowa), where the Democratic nominee is given a headstart by a homogenous, white, rural population.
Let's choose someone who's proven he's willing to speak frankly and can energize the grassroots.
Wow. This surprises me. He was so evasive in the recent senate re-election campaign (using the age-old line about "the senate is the only thing on my radar screen right now") that it's very surprising that he's come out so definitively so quickly after the election. A chance he's angling for the nomination in 2008? That's really the only reason I can think of. Or else Spitzer scared him off somehow.
So the nomination is Spitzer's. I have to say, I see this as a great development. He gets to avoid a real primary fight (anyone who steps up won't be able to beat him), can fundraise primarily for the general election against Pataki or whoever runs, and basically gives him a great shot to be the next NY Gov. Democrats who seek to become the party of the people again have to like Spitzer.
Don't get your hopes up, but the Green party is now saying that they have the funds to pursue a legal recount in Ohio. Obviously, nothing is likely to change, but isn't it strange that the exit polls (rather than the actual vote) seemed to more closely match the direction of the opinion in the last week?
Here's an article summarizing the second wave of election theory, that the moral values argument has been blown out of context and that more obvious things like the war and terrorism were the real drivers of votes.
Even if we accept the exit poll results as flawed, it's clear that the Democratic Party needs an overarching vision anyway, so let's find it.
Some big elections are coming up in New York in the next two years.
In 2005, Bloomberg runs for re-election, probably against current City Council speaker Gifford Miller. This one interests me because, honestly, I like Bloomberg a bit. I love the smoking ban. I like his fighting for a sensible allocation of homeland security funds based on where the threat is (check out how much money Alaska gets per person versus New York... I know the nominal total is much bigger in NY, but remember this is for defense against terrorists, not regular federal funding). I even somewhat like the West Side stadium idea, while I'll admit I have done no research on the financing of it. But I hate that he's a Democrat turned Republican. So it will be interesting.
In 2006, Pataki runs for re-election (probably) and the Democrats will likely have a primary pitting Senator Schumer against Attorney General Spitzer. Frankly, I think they're both pretty great, but I'm inclined to support Spitzer at the moment because he's shown he's willing to take on entrenched power, and Albany needs shaking up more than anywhere. Spitzer started a website. Sign up for updates.
Brad Carson, the Democrat who ran for and nearly won the Senate seat in Oklahoma, wrote a really inciteful piece on The New Republic. If you're not registered at TNR, you can read it here. An excerpt:
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.
Not sure what to make of this argument. Like Chris Bowers at MyDD, I basically see it as a tragedy that these people have these beliefs, and so strongly. We really are two different countries. No matter what we do to pander and get votes and hopefully win, the real battle is, if we believe our views are right, to spread them and to convince the people described in that article. It is a monumental task that could very well take decades.
I'm going to start to feature on this site some of the young Democrats that should make us hopeful about the future of our party.
The first is Cory Booker, the former Newark City Councilman who narrowly lost the race for Newark mayor in 2002 to an incumbent who's held the office for 20 years. Cory was an All-American football player at Stanford, class President, a Rhodes scholar, and a Yale Law grad. Despite being a successful lawyer since 2002, he continues to live in a housing project in Newark. He has taken his politics to the street - at one point living in a motor home for 5 months and parking it on the most dangerous Newark street corners to draw attention to his fight against drug dealers and street crimes.
Cory has been hearing all his life that he could be "the first black President", and it's definitely possible. Personally, I wish he would run for NJ governor next year, but he's committed to running for Newark mayor again in 2006, and I think he should win.
So learn about Cory - you may be hearing a lot more about him in the future:
Daily Kos brings up something that's been discussed for at least a couple years now - the problem of having the Democratic presidential nominee presumptively chosen by two "overwhelmingly white, small, rural states". It's definitely a problem, but of course Iowa and New Hampshire are not eager to let go of the influence they have.
The so-called "California Plan" is an idea that works (see here for a more succinct summary) to rotate the responsibility while still preserving the close contact with the candidates. The only drawback to it that I see is the possibility of giving a lot of weight to places like American Samoa, Guam, Puerto Rico.
My friend Jessica got me thinking - with all the talk of Hillary Clinton being a front-runner for the Democratic nomination in 2008, what is the comfort level among the American public with the possibility of a woman president? A quick google didn't produce much in the way of opinion or study. Obviously there are / have been female heads of state in other countries, though I believe Margaret Thatcher is the only one in a modern democracy.
I imagine in the next year more people will undertake this question, and I want to keep on top of it. A lot of people think the first female president will have to be very macho and not at all feminine - able to prove that she can make decisions free from emotions (this horrible piece thinks women are incapable of doing that). Thatcher clearly fit that mold.
If Hillary doesn't make it, Janet Napolitano (AZ Gov) is a rising star in the Democratic party. She's young (47), meaning she could run as late as 2020. I think she'll have a good shot at being at least a VP nominee in '08 or more likely '12. She's very moderate, as you would expect from an Arizonan, so she's not my superhero, but in the name of progress I hope we start to see more female and minority candidates in the years to come.
Who should be chair of the Democratic National Committee?
This person will likely have significant responsibility for capturing and articulating the Democrats' new platform, based on a moral vision, etc. Who do you think will do it best?
Daily Kos goes through the options. Personally, I think it's the ideal spot for Howard Dean. He showed, with Democracy for America after his campaign ended, that he truly believes in starting the movement from the ground up, with grassroots support of progressive local candidates, and building the party of the future.
And he says he's considering it. It would preclude him from running in 2008. Much as I think he would have been a good president, I accept that he proably will never win, so I hope the Dr. decides to take this job.
Here's the article people are talking about today - where apparently Kerry hinted over the weekend that he may run again. I think, as long as the party does indeed embrace some kind of fundamental change in attitude or vision, that Kerry will wisely see that his nomination would be seen as resisting that wind of change, and JFK will choose not to run again in 08.
Howard Dean, if he doesn't get/take the head of DNC job, might well run again, and depending on how the party's change manifests itself, he could be in the running again, though I doubt would emerge with the nomination.
A friend of mine (who neglects his blog) thinks the ticket should be Richardson/Obama. It's a good one, though Richardson would need to REALLY raise his national profile over the next couple years. We cannot have another situation where voters say they don't know the guy well enough.
My rundown of the candidates is as follows:
The front-runners Clinton - primary front-runner just b/c of recognition. Obviously polarizing, but if she can get some good press for doing something moderate in the Senate, she could cruise
Edwards - needs to find something to do in the next 4 that sees him gain foreign policy experience, but as the Slate article said, he's right up there with Clinton if he can stay on TV
The 2nd tier Evan Bayh - needs to raise national profile, but he's the perfect demographic
Tom Vilsack - same as Bayh, but not as pretty
Ed Rendell - not sure he's likeable enough
Howard Dean - can he recover? will he turn down the DNC?
Bill Richardson - positive guy, well-liked by Hispanics.
The long shots Russ Feingold - well-liked, and a good liberal. A good voice for us. I'd love to see it
Jeff Bigamon - NM senator, Harvard/Stanford. But nobody's heard of him
Ben Nelson - freshman NE senator. Maybe VP?
Harold Ford - The Barack Obama of 4 yrs ago. Rep from TN. If not Obama, I think he's got a good shot at being the first black VP.
Rod Blagojevich - Gov IL. Could we elect a guy named that?
Mark Warner - Gov of VA. I think he'll be one of the 5 finalists for Prez if he runs.
Dick Durban - Sen IL. A great liberal, but can he parlay minority whip into a prez run?
Chuck Schumer - probably will run for NY gov in 2006.
Joe Biden - too old. 2004 was his year if he wanted it.
Wes Clark - probably won't run.
Al Gore - probably won't run.
The wild ideas / Long-range candidates Wes Boyd - founder MoveOn.org
Gavin Newsome - SF mayor
Cory Booker - Newark city councilman
Gifford Miller - NYC city council speaker
Election week saw a bunch of stories about how "values voters" pushed Bush over the top, signaled the conservative-leaning nature of the country, and the Dems' need to articulate a moral vision for the future.
Beginning on Friday, some have started to reject that narrative. They argue that the morals theme is overstated, that it was actually terrorism and a desire to see Bush finish what he started in Iraq that gave him the clear victory. Personally, I think this second theory doesn't explain the trouncing Democrat senate and house candidates took nationwide. But in the interest of information, here are some articles on the latter theory. If I had the time, I'd do an analysis of the numbers in all of these, but I don't.
A NYTimes editorial makes the case. Obviously, to someone whose only residences in the U.S. have been CA, MA, and NY, I like the idea of actually having a chance that a candidate for president will someday consider me a worthwhile target. Problem is abolishing the EC requires a Constitutional Amendment, and an amendment requires 2/3 of the states for ratification. There are a lot more states that stand to lose from the amendment (Iowa, New Mexico, Ohio, etc.) than stand to gain (Calif, NY). Unless Kerry had managed to pull out Ohio, and create another situation like in 2000 (wins EV, loses Pop Vote), looks like there won't be a big movement this time around.
I recommend reading this, while not entirely endorsing the ideology, which I'll summarize as: Dems need to demonize the evangelical right (the same way they have demonized "liberals"), by labeling them homophobes, anti-freedom, etc.
An important data point to consider as we move forward, but not sure that a negative attack stance is the correct jumping-off point for the movement.
Chris Bowers at MyDD has written an excellent post about Dems needing to improve the party ideology, rather than simply seeking attractive candidates with cross-over characteristics. Definitely worth a read for anyone who plans to be active in shaping the Democratic Party of the future.
Joe Trippi cites this article in the Globe by a Kennedy School associate director about the youth vote. Not sure what his source is, but he says the youth did vote in record percentages, just couldn't overcome the evangelical Christian turnout operation. If true, this bodes well for the future and we have to make sure these young people (ourselves included) stay comitted to progressive values.
Robert Reich, former Labor Secretary under Clinton, states the task of Democrats perhaps most clearly of all.
My recommendation to Democrats is not to become more religious. Religion is a personal matter. Nor should Dems move toward Republican positions on matters of personal morality, such as gay marriage or abortion. (One caveat: I do think Democrats should be clear that they want fewer abortions in America—not by prohibiting them, but by making sure young people have access to contraceptives and family-planning counseling, and other social services.) My recommendation is that Democrats offer somewhat fewer plans and policies and have more moral conviction.
My problem with the Christian fundamentalists supporting Mr. Bush is not their spiritual energy or the fact that I am of a different faith. It is the way in which he and they have used that religious energy to promote divisions and intolerance at home and abroad. I respect that moral energy, but wish that Democrats could find a way to tap it for different ends.
"The Democrats have ceded to Republicans a monopoly on the moral and spiritual sources of American politics," noted the Harvard University political theorist Michael J. Sandel. "They will not recover as a party until they again have candidates who can speak to those moral and spiritual yearnings - but turn them to progressive purposes in domestic policy and foreign affairs."
Here's an interesting thought from Chris Bowers of MyDD. I need to think about it more, but it's a compelling argument. It's about how 33% of voters identified themselves as Conservative, but only 21% as Liberal. Liberal has become a dirty word, and we have to reverse that.
The solution to our problems, the only solution that actually addresses our problems rather than criticizes us for not doing well at tasks where we actually excel, is to increase the number of liberals in this country at a more rapid pace than the number of conservatives are increasing. We must grow liberalism.
We have to define liberalism according to positive semiotic frames. We have to be willing to take these frames to every corner of the nation, and run candidates in every single race in every single district (preparation for which begins today). We have to be willing to spend tens of millions of dollars not to win elections, not to help "worthy causes," but simply to sell liberalism. We cannot be reconciliatory, since the conservative reactionaries never have been, and never will be. This has worked to their advantage. Being conservative must become a dirty word.
As a start, I'm going to buy and read Thomas Frank's book "What's the Matter with Kansas", and try to determine where we lost the moral highground in middle America.
All the talk post-election seems to center around the same theme: Democrats' secular arguments don't resonate with a deeply religious country. Somehow Dems need to seize the discussion of morals and articulate their vision in a more moralistic way.
From Josh Marshall. Today for disappointment. Tomorrow for action. I challenge all of us to commit to making more of a difference, starting tomorrow. Join a discussion group. Sign up for email lists. The change will come from our generation.
Well, here we are. And this is the test for people who care about this kind of politics and these sorts of values -- making sure that what has been started is not allowed to falter. This isn't 1964 or 1972 or 1980. This wans't a blow-out or a repudiation. It was close to a tie -- unfortunately, on the other guy's side. Let's not put our heads in the sand but let's also not get knocked of our game. Democrats need to think critically and seriously about why this didn't turn out 51% for Kerry or 55% for Kerry (and we'll get to those points in the future). But it would be a terrible mistake to stop thinking in terms of those ten years Simon described.
Take time to feel the desolation and disappointment. But I remain confident that time is not on the side of the kind of values and politics that President Bush represents. It took conservatives two decades to build up the institutional muscle they have today. Though I was always nervous about the result, I thought we could win this election. But it was always naive to believe that that sort of institutional heft could be put together in 24 or 36 months.
President Bush and the Republicans now control the entire national government, even more surely now than they have over the last four years. They do so on the basis of garnering the votes of 51% or 52% of the population. But they will use that power as though there were no opposition at all. That needs to be countered.
Leave today for disappointment. Tomorrow, think over which of these various groups and organizations you think has made the best start toward what I've described above, go to their website, and give money or volunteer. After that, okay sure, take a few more days for disappointment, maybe a few more weeks. But this takes time. And you shouldn't lose heart. The same division in the country remains, the same stalemate. The other side just got the the ball a yard or two into our side of the field rather than the reverse. And we have to deal with the serious consequences of that. Tomorrow's the day to start.
Kristof's op/ed in the NYT today makes a good point about the Democratic Party: somehow it has lost touch with the working people of the heartland who seemingly vote against their own economic self-interest, voting with a party that gives tax cuts to billionaires because they agree with the party's "values". The Dems have totally lost the country's values, or rather (which I believe) the country has shifted dramatically to conservative values.
We need to change this, and I really want to start a discussion about how. How can we teach people not to be scared of something different from them?
Just like four years ago, when I supported a different candidate in the Dem primary than finally won, I can't help but think what could have been if we had nominated a different guy. It's impossible to know, and I'm interested in what you all think (post in the comments below), but given what you learned, how would Dean have done against Bush yesterday? What about Gephardt?
All along one of my major arguments for Dean was that he neutralizes Bush's main strengths - plainspokenness and steadfast commitment to an idea. Dean did the exact same thing, just to the totally opposite side on most issues. So rather than being about trust and decisiveness, the election really would have been about the war - and I always felt that that's where the Dems win. What do you guys think?
Some yesterday said if we had nominated someone likeable like Gephardt, we also wouldn't have had a race here. I don't know.
So sad. As it turns out, the difference was clear all along: Ohio and Florida.
The task going forward is going to be huge. We have to open up the reality of the world to people who have not and do not want to see it.
Where to start? How about Howard Dean for DNC Chair. That's a start. It's going to take an amazing organization of young people to change this country. Not until we can say that ALL of our friends care deeply and volunteer plentifully will the Democrats be in power again.
I'm trying to stay unemotional about this. Here are the major suprises/issues that I see from last night:
1) Where was the turnout? Where were the legions of new registered voters? 106 million people voted in 2000, and with population growth the same percentage turnout would have meant 114 million in 2004. Yet the popular vote tally is currently right at that 113-114 million. So where were all these new people energized by the most important election of their lifetime? They didn't show up. Predominantly the young people. And that killed Kerry.
2) Democrats weren't as solid on Kerry as Republicans were on Bush. It looks like Dems went 89-10 for Kerry, but Reps went 93-7 for Bush. Is that a reflection on the candidate? The war? I don't know.
3) Seniors went 6 pts better for Bush in 2004 than 2000. I don't understand that. I guess they really think the Prescription Drug Benefit that passed is helpful to them.
4) As Bob Novak said, this country is conservative and getting more so. Democrats have to accept that now. Our last president was a centrist. Democrats will be the underdogs for the forseeable future, decades probably, unless dramatic demographic shifts occur. We're always going to be fighting uphill in huge parts of the country.
5) What's up with exit polls? They forecasted Kerry wins in Florida and Ohio. Why are they such bad predictors? Did they impact the turnout at all - people staying home because they thought it was locked up. Don't think so, but who knows.
Zogby just posted his final prediction. He agrees with my scenario below (minus Colorado). Zogby says Kerry 311 - Bush 213, with CO and NV too close to call.
Interestingly he also says Bush will win the popular vote. This is definitely possible, with Kerry winning the EV (much more likely to go this way than the other way based on how the states are shaping up). If that happens, we'll have President Kerry and probably a bipartisan move to scrap the Electoral College.
Exit polls are basically done as follows: someone standing outside the polling place pulls over every 20th person or so and asks how they voted. Early votes (25% of the electorate in FL) are not counted, and I believe there is no science done to even out the sample by party identity. So don't read much into the numbers below, although big leads are probably indicative of which way the state will go if not the final numbers.
These are more realistic. The OH and FL numbers are the kind that will make the decision take weeks. I believe and hope that those states will be more like 51-48, 52-47 rather than 50-49, but we'll see. Remember, exit polls aren't very accurate.
The anecdotal evidence is coming in... NY turnout was extremely high. People waiting for a long time. Got a call from a friend in Ohio who said the lines are 3 hours long and filled with students. Experts are projecting 120 million - I think that number, and anything higher than it, means Kerry will definitely win.
The only state in my 320-218 prediction I'm not confident in is Colorado. Kerry might lose that state, and win 311-227. Anything else would surprise me.
Today I voted for President of the United States for the first time. I voted for John Forbes Kerry, and it felt great. I truly believe in my mind and in my heart that he will win tonight, and that we can then begin four years of holding him to the things he promised, like securing the homeland at the ports and nuclear facilities, like bringing world cooperation into Iraq, like relentlessly pursuing terrorists in Afghanistan and elsewhere, like working towards a more equitable healthcare system for all, like restoring fiscal discipline to the federal budget by taking back the tax cut given to the rich in wartime.
If you haven't voted, please do. No matter where you are. In New York, every vote we give Kerry is a higher margin of victory in the popular numbers, and confers a larger mandate on the President-elect to enact the things he spoke about.
Remember what it felt like to be proud of your country? Let's do that again.
The key number is 110 million voters. If we get above that number, we will be seeing far higher turnout than recent elections, and that will mean people are coming out to vote against the incumbent. If it stays under 110, lots of the new registrants will be staying home. I'm betting we get towards 115 million. But watch indications early in the day. High turnout means Kerry is coming.
Wisconsin. I firmly believe my prediction below. It's optimistic, but I think voters will be too. However, if I'm wrong, it will be a very close election, and it may come down to Wisonsin. Here's the scenario:
Solid and leaner states right now give Bush 218, Kerry 225. If Bush wins CO, NM, IA, and somehow pulls out OH; and Kerry wins PA, FL, MI.... then it comes down to Wisconsin. If Bush were to win Wisconsin, guess what we'd have: 269 - 269. Which is bad news - the House of Reps would select Bush president.
So let's not let it happen. Talk to your friends/relatives/acquaintances in any of those states and tell them to get their friends/relatives/acquaintances out to vote.
I'm confident Kerry will win. All the sentiment is flowing his direction, as we thought it would close to the election. But we've all got to do our part to make it happen.