How Marginal are the Blue Dog Districts?

The reason often given for why the Democratic leadership is so reluctant to try to whip more aggressive Iraq war withdrawal legislation is a concern over hurting Democrats in "Marginal" districts. The logic is that a vote for such legislation could be used against a those representatives, resulting in lost seats, a lost majority, and another generation of meaningless debates over gay marriage and flag burning. While the majority of the American population wants to end the war, gerrymandering causes these"marginal" districts to be more conservative and less opposed to the war than the nation in general.

The natural assumption is that many of the 43 members of the Blue Dog Coalition would be from these "marginal" districts and constantly legislating in fear of whisker-close elections. However, most of these legislators had large margins of victory in 2006 (including three that ran unopposed) and many have been members of the house for significant periods of time (allowing them the almost insurmountable advantage of incumbency).

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The Protect the Troops and Bring Them Home Act of 2007 (H.R. 455)

On January 12, my congressman, Jerrold Nadler (NY-8), introduced H.R. 455, the Protect the Troops and Bring Them Home Act of 2007, a simple bill that limits the use of funding in Iraq for force protection, troop withdrawal and Iraq reconstruction. We spoke with Congressman Nadler's office last week and verified that he is still quite actively promoting this legislation.

Although the bill is not currently the most well-known of the numerous congressional war proposals, H.R. 455 has a number of attributes that make it a distinctive and politically viable option for bringing the Iraq conflict to a reasonable conclusion...

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Is Canvassing a Waste of Time?

I did a bit of election-day GOTV canvassing for Craig Johnson's successful NY state senate campaign. While I have a strong aversion to being yelled at by strangers and long ago gave up on phone banking, I was asked to canvass targeted Democratic-registered voters a neighborhood and decided to give it a try. While the experience was not without interesting moments, it was, on the whole, extremely unpleasant. It also got me wondering whether the traditional, intrusive GOTV tactics of canvassing and phone banking in a media-saturated world may be ineffective at best and strategically detrimental at worst.

I'm curious whether anyone in the MyDD community has hard, empirical evidence about the effectiveness of canvassing and phone banking. While there are a wide variety of anecdotes of individuals who seem to have responded positively to calls or visits, I wonder whether there is any data that can isolate the contribution of canvassing/phone-banking to actual votes within the context of a larger campaign effort and larger social and political forces. It's something we just seem to accept as part of politics without ever asking whether it makes a positive contribution toward the larger goal.

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NYC Voting Machine Preview

As required by the Help America Vote Act (HAVA)(or the Help Republicans Get Elected Act), New York City is in the process of finding electronic replacements for the venerable old lever machines that have nobly served for over half a century. This week, the NYC Board of Elections is providing two demonstrations of the proposed new equipment in advance of a public hearing on November 21 (strategically timed two days before Thanksgiving) and a series of public vendor interviews that will precede the final order in March.

I attended the session on November 15 in Queens with a group from Democracy for NYC and, far from alleviating my concerns about the new machines, it raised even more issues that aren't always fully discussed when the contentious topic of voting machines arises. For anyone in New York City concerned about voting machine issues, I highly recommend that you find a way to attend the final demo session at 5PM on Friday, November 17 at Hostos Community College in The Bronx.

An overview of the proposed machines and some observations from the November 15 session follow the fold.

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Freedom, Fairness, Security, Competence

Many progressives have had concerns that the recently unveiled Democratic agenda for 2006, the New Direction for America, lacks a strong narrative that can resonate with the electorate and motivate them to support Democratic candidates in the Fall. This reflects the bigger issue that Progressives have yet to find a distillation of their core beliefs that can be clearly and succinctly expressed as an answer to the question, "What Do Progressives Stand For?". Something similar to the "Smaller Government, Lower Taxes, Individual Empowerment" narrative that the Republicans have touted successfully (if somewhat disingenuously) for almost three decades.

I heard Rachel Maddowtalking about ideas she had for rewriting the New Direction and I woke up with Freedom, Fairness, Security, Competence ringing in my head. I include policy examples (many derived from the New Direction) that make clear distinctions with Current Direction. I'm putting this out there to continue what will, hopefully, be an ongoing dialogue that leads us to something we can use to take back our country for its people.

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The Evolution Distraction

We on the Left should be concerned that the Right is using the current debate over the teaching of evolution as one more culture war distraction to polarize and pull focus from their militaristic and corporatist agenda. They have identified a strength (secularism) that is exploited as a weakness to unify their base through manufactured fear of repression. It is also used to divide the Left's traditional social coalition into warring camps of deists and atheists. As such, we on the Left should tread carefully and respectfully on this battlefield lest our focus be pulled away from the unifying elements of economic populism and responsible foreign policy that can be a formula for returning control of our country to its people.

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Could Fox Go Liberal?

On Friday, Rupert Murdoch's son and heir apparent (and publisher of the NY Post), 33-year-old Lachlan Murdoch, abruptly resigned as deputy chief operating officer of News Corp, leaving his younger brother,James Murdoch, as the new heir apparent at News Corp. While this may seem like a rather trivial bit of business news to most Progressives, the long-term implications of this change at the premier Republican propaganda outlet could be quite significant. While Lachlan Murdoch is even more conservative than his father, James Murdoch is rumored to be a liberal.

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What Would You Say To A Red-State Friend?

I recently got pleasant surprise e-mail from a long-lost college roommate who stumbled across my personal website. He's a rock musician in Dallas that pays his bills as a motorcycle mechanic. Single, white, mid-40's. I think he served a stint in the Army. Turned me on to Van Halen. Good guy, or at least he was 24 years ago. Just an ordinary fella going to work and trying to get through life.

He made the following comment after noticing a counter I have on my home page giving the exact number of days, hours and minutes until Bush leaves office...

I like the Bush countdown, never had a head for politics, I know rabid liberals and conservatives, lost on me, pretty much a middle man. Never could take anything seriously enough to have an opinion. Seems to me to be a hopeless mess, gonna go on like it is until everything collapses. Nihilist, I guess.

I feel the need to respond with something brief, yet compelling, as red-state outreach but am not sure exactly what to say. Since we may never speak again, I want it to be thought-provoking while allowing us to part as friends. My initial instinct was to mention the 1,500 dead soldiers, 10K wounded solders and 100K dead civilians in Iraq, but given the bipartisan support for the Iraq debacle, I'm not sure that draws a clear enough distinction.

So, I'm curious how some in the blogosphere would respond. What would you say?

Kristof Goes Nuclear

Dick Cheney should be delighted with Nick Kristof, who in a April 9th column in the NY Times picked up the energy company talking point:

Every year that we continue burning carbon makes it worse for our descendents. ... Only one immediately available source does not cause global warming, and that is nuclear energy

While the argument is superficially sensible, the details are full of significant scientific and political flaws. As with Social Security Privatization and Iraq, the Right is attempting to magically transform legitimate concerns about the future into support for policies that benefit a select group of their cronies while doing little to deal with the original issue...

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Lynne Stewart @ Riverside Church

On April 3, radical human rights attorney Lynne Stewart spoke at New York'sRiverside Church at an event sponsored by Riverside's Global Justice and Peace Ministry. On February 10, Stewart was convicted for providing material aid to terrorism and for lying to the government. Like many Americans, I was only vaguely familiar with the case from the headlines and it was both fascinating and alarming to hear her side of the story and to realize the implications for all of us.

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