• on a comment on for an era of good governance over 7 years ago

    I don't think it is your argument. I do think, however, that making this argument reinforces conservative stereotypes about us. That's my beef with this approach.

  • on a comment on for an era of good governance over 7 years ago

    A better way to communicate . . .

    I'd start with a liberal version of this:

    Language: A Key Mechanism of Control

    . . . one of the key points in the GOPAC tapes is that "language matters. . . . as a key mechanism of control used by a majority party . . .

    . . . you could have a significant impact on your campaign and the way you communicate . . . That is why we have created this list of words and phrases. . . . to use in writing literature and mail, in preparing speeches, and in producing electronic media.

    The words and phrases are powerful. Read them. Memorize as many as possible. And remember that like any tool, these words will not help if they are not used.

    . . . we have attempted to keep it small enough to be readily useful yet large enough to be broadly functional. The list is divided into two sections: Optimistic Positive Governing words and phrases to help describe your vision for the future of your community (your message) and Contrasting words to help you clearly define the policies and record of your opponent and the Democratic party.

    Optimistic Positive Governing Words

    active(ly), activist, building, candid(ly), care(ing), challenge . . .

    Contrasting Words

    abuse of power, anti- (issue): flag, family, child, jobs, betray, bizarre, bosses . . .

    Basically, the message is "we're great and they suck." Which, in our case, has the significant benefit of also being true.

    Not, "We know we suck but we've changed now. No, really we have!" What could be more pathetic than that?

    How about:


    hope, unity, honest, trustworthy, honorable, principled, courageous, patriotic, faithful, dedicated, committed, dependable, openness, tolerant, reasonable, wisdom, commonsense, long-term, farsighted, forward, progressive, advance, create, creative, build up, preserve, protect, defend, the people, the middle class, the poor, working people, prudent, saving, investment, security, community, compassion, capable, equality, fairness, freedom, education, popular, internationalism, common good, middle class, fair trade, smart growth, commonsense internationalism, rule of law, open, democratic government


    fear. division, deceitful, corrupt, immoral, opportunistic, cowardly, treacherous, disloyal, unreliable, secrecy, intolerant, closed-minded, arbitrary, irresponsibility, recklessness, out of control, short-term, shortsighted, backward, regressive, decline, destroy, destructive, tear down, decay, abuse, predatory, harass the privileged, the comfortable,the well-off, wasteful, squandering, speculation, insecurity, selfishness, callousness, hard-heartedness, incompetent, inequality, unfairness, injustice
    domination, tyranny, indoctrination, elitist, imperialism, selfish special interests, affluent elites, unconstrained corporate power, unchecked environmental destruction, reckless imperialism, abuse of power, unaccountable, corrupt, secret, arbitrary authority

    The narratives almost suggest themselves. Use the words, combine them into broader themes that contrast our approach to politics, the economy, and society with theirs. Combine the themes into a narrative or series of narratives that is basically "we're great, they suck." Lather, rinse, repeat. Over and over again.

    Screw this "we finally understand what losers we are" garbage. People don't want that. They want strength, self-confidence, and people who are secure about who they are and their values. That's what Republicans project, and we don't.

    I remember somebody asking Cary Grant about how he became the epitome of elegant self-confidence. His answer: "I started acting like the person I wanted to become, and eventually I became that person."

    So, what kind of person do you want to become? What kind of party do we want to become? Then start acting like it.

  • on a comment on for an era of good governance over 7 years ago

    I'm saying make the central message that we Democrats "GET IT"...that we understand that Americans think that we are a party of ideological, corrupt, party-loyal liberals who are beholden to special interets and "constituency groups" and don't share the desire of the American public for a "post-ideological" era of good governance where legislators do what's right and put party second

    Yeah, that sounds like a great message: "Hey America, we're losers!"

    Geez, k/o , haven't you figured out by now that this kind of whiny navel-gazing is exactly what people hate about us in the first place? Fuck, that's what assholes like Evan Bayh and Barack Obama are saying every goddamn day!

    I really can't believe I'm hearing this from you.

  • comment on a post for an era of good governance over 7 years ago

    With all due respect, k/o, I think this misses the boat.

    Not that I'm against good governance. And not that it isn't important for liberals, above all others, to evoke a commitment to making government work better, be more representative and as efficient as possible.

    But "good governance" as a central message, by itself, is a proven political loser. Ask Mike Dukakis ("it's not about ideology, it's about competence"). Ask Francine Busby how well her "culture of corruption" issue worked.

    It's aiming for the head when we need to be aiming for the gut -- just like the Republicans do. Everyone's for good governance, but what are you going to do with it once you get it? What are your values? What do you believe in? It's got to go beyond just making the trains run on time.

    Sure, let's seize the mantle of reform. But that doesn't obviate the need to spell out what we are going to do with it when we get it.

  • comment on a post Democracy Corps Versus MyDD over 7 years ago

    This is right. We need to stop aiming for the head and start aiming for the gut.

    Like Paul Waldman said yesterday:

    If there's one thing Republicans have understood and Democrats haven't, it is that politics is not about issues. Politics is about identity. The candidates and parties that win are not those aligning their positions most precisely with a majority of the electorate. The winners are those who form a positive image in the public mind of who they are (and a negative image of who their opponents are). Issues are a vehicle to create that identity, one that combines with symbolism and narrative to shape what the public thinks about when they think about Democrats and Republicans.

    Think about what happens in campaign after campaign. The Democrat comes before the public and says, ``If you read my 10-point policy plan, I'm sure you'll vote for me. Let's go over it point by point." The Republican then comes before the public, points to the Democrat, and says, ``That guy is a weak, elitist liberal who hates you and everything you stand for. I'm one of you and he's not." And guess who wins.

  • on a comment on The Burden of Power over 7 years ago

    Something along the lines of the Apollo Alliance or Energize America plans that combine R&D investments in sustainable energy sources and energy-efficient vehicles and applainces, upgrading infrastructure, offices and factories, and housing with an eye to saving energy, and subsidies for "smart-growth" metropolitan land-use and transportation planning reforms.

    A new Democratic congress ought to explore how we can get started on this kind of program.

  • on a comment on The Burden of Power over 7 years ago

    While we are on the topic of investigating, how about we do a comprehensive audit of the defense budget?

    . . . would be well advised to focus less on increasing our defense expenditure, and, instead, worry much more on how, where and why we utilize our existing resources (and who profits) - especially in the light of the fact that, as of right now, and for many years in the past, the Government Accountability Office has been unable to audit them. The latter point, expressed bluntly, is not a technical matter. It means we really, truly, and absolutely do not know where our hard earned taxpayer dollars are going. . . .

    If all expenditures relating to National Security (the real Defense Budget in most people's minds) are added to the official Pentagon originated Defense Budget [about 4% of GDP] - which conveniently fails to include War Supplementals, Department of Energy spend on nuclear matters, Homeland Security, the Veterans Administration, Black Budgets, and much else besides, then the true spend figure quickly climbs to about $750 billion, or about 5.5% of GDP; and that may be optimistic.

    This widespread lack of awareness of the scale and significance of our true spend illustrates the point that this Administration, and the Department of Defense, are quite remarkably careless with the taxpayers' money; and/or have a tendency to be less than honest with the American people. . . .

    In fact the situation is so appalling that, according to the Controller General, over 3,000 different financial systems are in use, audits have been impossible for years, and the most recent Pentagon proposal gives 2016 as the nearest achievable date for an audit. . . .

    We are not taking about a few clerical errors here and there. We are talking about decades of gross financial mismanagement and negligence - blended with large quantities of obfuscation, outright lying and malfeasance. . . .

    Here's what one analysis found:

    Without diminishing America's ability to fight terrorists, America can safely trim $60 billion (15 percent) from President George W. Bush's proposed fiscal year 2006 Pentagon budget, freeing up much-needed funding for America's broader national security needs.

    Here's where these savings would come from:

    • About $13 billion would be saved by reducing the nuclear arsenal to no more than 1,000 warheads, more than enough to maintain nuclear deterrence.
    • About $7 billion would be saved by cutting most of the National Missile Defense program, retaining only a basic research program to determine if this attractive idea, which has proven to be an utter failure in actual tests, could ever work in the real world.
    • About $26 billion would be saved by scaling back or stopping the research, development, and construction of weapons that are useless to combat modern threats. Many of the weapons involved, like the F/A-22 fighter jet and the Virginia Class Submarine, were designed to fight the defunct Soviet Union .
    • Another $9 billion would be saved by eliminating forces, including two active Air Force wings and one carrier group, which are not needed in the current geopolitical environment.
    • And about $5 billion would be saved if the giant Pentagon bureaucracy simply functioned in a more efficient manner.

    If Congress and the president make these cuts, not only would they have more money to spend on other priorities, but they would also make our military stronger, allowing our soldiers to focus on the weapons, training, and tactics they need to do their jobs and defend our nation.

  • on a comment on The Burden of Power over 7 years ago

    Did I mention reversing all of the Bush initiatives to increase secrecy in government should be one of our highest priorities?

    From the first days of his administration, President Bush has taken steps to tighten the government's hold on information and limit public scrutiny of its activities. Expansive assertions of executive privilege, restrictive views of the Freedom of Information Act, increasing use of national security classification, stonewalling in response to congressional requests for information - all these were evident even before the September 11 attacks. Since then, the clamps on information have only tightened.

    Regulatory Deception

    . . . the Bush administration has worked assiduously to monkeywrench the regulatory process through a variety of means . . . One of the biggest obstacles to effective regulation and mitigation of hazards, however, is the White House's obsession with secrecy. This takes the form of distortion of information needed to effectively deal with threats to health and safety; the outright censorship of scientific data generated by regulatory agencies; and the suppression of facts that don't fit the administration's political and ideological agenda.

    Executive Privilege

    The Bush Administration, by contrast, has taken up the banner of executive privilege with a vengeance. Expressing a determination to halt what they see as an "erosion" of the prerogatives of the Presidency (and even the Vice Presidency), Bush, Cheney, Ashcroft and other administration figures have asserted a sweeping view of executive privilege to impede public access to historical records of prior Presidents and Vice Presidents, to completely block public release of large numbers of Justice Department documents, and to thwart congressional investigators and public interest groups from even learning who was a part of the Vice President's Energy Task Force (let alone what they did).

    Restrictions on the Freedom of Information Act

    . . . the Administration, as a matter of policy, has announced that it views the exemptions in FOIA as . . . excuses to withhold information from the public. . . . The Ashcroft memorandum . . . expressly encourages agencies to look for reasons to deny access to information, and to rely on FOIA's exemptions from disclosure even when no harm would result from disclosure.  And it assures the agencies that if they have even an arguable basis for withholding a document, the Justice Department will back them up in litigation.

    In other words, hide the ball if you can get away with it.

    The Ashcroft memorandum has been followed up with memoranda from White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card and from the director of the Information Security Oversight Office, encouraging agencies to attempt to use FOIA exemptions to find ways to withhold "sensitive but nonclassified" information--that is, information that doesn't qualify for FOIA's national security exemption.  Again, the Administration's objective seems to be to use FOIA exemptions as an excuse not to release "sensitive" documents.

    Abuse of the "National Security" Excuse

    With the Administration's emphasis on national security has come an increased tendency toward restricting of information through national security classification. . . . provisions that make it easier to reclassify documents that were previously declassified and to classify previously unrestricted information. . . . significantly delay the "automatic" declassification of historical documents that was called for in a prior order issued by President Clinton. . . . expanded the number of government agencies and officials who have classification authority.

    . . . Federal agencies, such as the National Archives and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, have restricted public access to formerly open materials in their reading rooms and have pulled information from the internet.  The White House and the Information Security Oversight Office have encouraged agencies to withhold "sensitive but unclassified" information from FOIA requesters.  And the Homeland Security Act, in addition to creating a new federal department, has also given birth to a vaguely defined new category of information that is exempt from release under FOIA: "critical infrastructure information" that is voluntarily submitted by private businesses to the Department of Homeland Security.

    The Administration has also invoked national security as the rationale for even more troubling forms of secrecy:  Secret detention and deportation of aliens, and indefinite, incommunicado detention of foreign citizens and U.S. citizens alike when the government has concluded--based, of course, on secret evidence--that they are "enemy combatants."  While these actions may be unlikely to touch most Americans directly, other actions, such as secret surveillance, may hit closer to home.  In particular, the Patriot Act has given the government powers broad new powers to engage in domestic surveillance, including the ability to issue secret subpoenas to libraries and bookstores to check up on the reading habits of citizens--subpoenas whose recipients are forbidden, on pain of criminal punishment, from disclosing their existence to the individuals they target.  And increasingly, the issues arising from these powers are decided in secret by courts in sealed proceedings in which only one side--the government--can meaningfully participate.

  • comment on a post The Burden of Power over 7 years ago

    We should think about reversing some of the most egregious crap that Bush has passed since 2001:


    Environment and Public Health

    • Strengthen civil rights laws to end discriminatory environmental outcomes
    • Establish Bureau of Environmental Statistics charged with generating information about toxic chemicals, creating guidelines for collecting environmental data, collecting and analyzing comprehensive statistics on environmental quality, and disseminating the results.
    • Require EPA to conduct regular and public evaluations of how well state environmental agencies are meeting their obligations, based on a uniform set of criteria.
    • Require environmental impact assessments whenever private corporations do something that could produce a major effect on the environment.
    • Get the environmental cops back on the beat by increasing the number of inspectors and prosecutors dedicated to enforcing environmental laws.
    • Require companies to disclose any corporate activity that poses a significant threat to public health and the environment, whether or not the activity is regulated.
    • Revisit Bush administration decisions on global warming; mercury contamination of fish; aging, high-polluting power plants; auto-emissions standards; opening up environmentally sensitive places to oil and gas drilling; permitting steady destruction of wetlands; "mountain-top removal" mining; clean air deadlines for cities; logging in national forests, etc.

    Foreign Policy and Defense

    • Homeland security - enact the Turner recommendations for biodefense, port, aviation, chemical plant, rail security, and enhancing first responder capabilities (full .pdf report here).
    • Re-establish a national commitment to the War Powers Act and the right of Congress to declare war, the Geneva Conventions for treatment of military prisoners, prohibition of torture, the rights of the accused in terrorism cases.
    • Fully investigate potential Bush administration abuses in the use of intelligence agencies for domestic spying, contracting in Iraq and Afghanistan, failure to properly plan for the Iraq war, misuse of intelligence, etc., etc.
    • Revisit the Patriot Act, keeping provisions essential for national security while limiting incursions on civil liberties. Fully investigate potential abuses of the provisions of the act.

    Political Reform

    What, you say this list is too long? You want priorities? Pick your favorites!  These are mine:

    1. Minimum wage increase;
    2. Fix the Medicare prescription drug plan;
    3. Re-establish the Clinton ergonomics standard;
    4. Reverse egregious Bush environmental decisions;
    5. Establish Bureau of Environmental Statistics;
    6. Enact the Turner homeland security recommendations;
    7. Enact comprehensive voting reform.

    Actually I love them all, but let's start there.

  • comment on a post The Burden of Power over 7 years ago

    Don't forget to check out this:

    What Do You Want from a Democratic Congress?

  • More supporting evidence for the conservatives-as-extremists thesis.

  • It's eye-opening how much more homogeneous the Repugs are than the Democrats. No wonder it's so much easier for them to agree on principles and agenda. And no wonder people often have a hard time figuring out just what Democrats stand for. It's really much harder to get all of us on the same page.

  • Sounds like a job for Lincoln 1860.

    Good to see you back here by the way, Paul. Don't be a stranger!

  • Seems like he's trying to preserve his "political viability":

    Many Democrats don't like what they hear. Ruy Teixeira, a fellow at the Center for American Progress, a party think tank that once employed Sirota, says his message is simplistic, with too much "backward-looking alarm" and not enough "forward-looking optimism" to appeal to middle-class Americans.

    "As a strategic framework it is sadly lacking," says Teixeira. Many of the ills that American workers suffer are brought on by an historic transformation of the global economy. "It's not just the result of corruption," he says. "It's the result of change."

    Ruy's dead wrong on this -- and he's the one being simplistic. Sure economic change is real, but so is the unaccountable corporate power that Sirota is talking about. "Change vs. corporate power" is a classic false dichotomy -- there's nothing new about economic change, the question is why does it benefit so few these days compared to earlier periods like the post-World War II New Deal/Great Society era?

    The answer, of course, is that the institutions that used to make sure that the benefits of economic change were fairly shared - full employment, strong unions, labor and financial market regulations, the welfare state, social norms of fair treatment of workers and communities - have been decimated by several decades of business and conservative war against them. Corporations, unchecked by the state or civil society, systematically manage economic change to distribute income and wealth upward, increasing inequality and reducing the rate of investment and job creation.

    The only way to re-create an economy that meets people's aspirations for economic advance is to re-build these institutions for the 21st century, and that won't happen without a full frontal assault on excessive corporate power in the economy and the conservative ideology that justifies that power.

    That means public investment, job upgrading, and corporate reform,   making the economy more family-friendly, and ensuring that globalization works for everyone.

    The issue is how to manage economic change so it benefits everybody. Which requires a message of economic populism and a critique of unaccountable corporate power, just as preserving our political democracy requires a rollback of unaccountable executive power.

  • comment on a post What Do You Want from a Democratic Congress? over 8 years ago

    Nathan Newman has a post on this at TPM Cafe:

    How about making our workplaces more family-friendly, so that a sick child doesn't mean a crisis for a parent having to beg for time off?

    Or, how about providing paid family leave so that a parent can actually afford to stay home with their kids when they're born or can take the time to care for a sick family member?

    And there is an article in the Nation:

    The Motherhood Manifesto

    § M = Maternity/Paternity Leave: Paid family leave for all parents after a new child comes into the family.

    § O = Open, Flexible Work: Give parents the ability to structure their work hours and careers in a way that allows them to meet both business and family needs. This includes flexible work hours and locations, part-time work options and the ability to move in and out of the labor force without penalties to raise young children.

    § T = TV We Choose & Other After-School Programs: Offer safe, educational opportunities for children after school doors close, including a clear and independent universal television rating system for parents along with technology that allows them to choose what is showing in their own homes; quality educational programming for kids; expanded after-school programs.

    § H = Healthcare for All Kids: Provide quality, universal healthcare to all children.

    § E = Excellent Childcare: Quality, affordable childcare should be available to all parents. Childcare providers should be paid at least a living wage and healthcare benefits.

    § R = Realistic and Fair Wages: Two full-time working parents should be able to earn enough to care for their family. And working mothers must receive equal pay for equal work.

    This dovetails nicely with the public investment, job upgrading, and corporation reform agenda suggested above.


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