Sure, in depth 20-bullet policy platforms by themselves don't win elections, but policy proposals like, say, support of a national clean elections law can reinforce strategies to brand yourself as a reformer. Or support for an increase in the minimum wage or stronger labor laws can signal "worker-friendliness"
Further, what do you plan to do once you've won? Do you just hash out proposals on the fly once you're in office (you know, like Clinton's health care fiasco in '93-'94)? Successful big policy departures (like Medicare, say) were pushed by Democrats in the 1950s, a decade before they ever got passed. How can you develop political momentum in favor big policy changes like, say, universal health insurance, if you don't campaign on them?
Even if this stuff doesn't get through to the public at large too easily, it does influence the media and political elites who set the national agenda in large part.
Can't we walk and chew gum at the same time? Put together an agenda that helps us brand ourselves to the public at large while setting the stage for big changes we want to make once we acquire power?
I'm afraid if we ignore this we'll just be spinning our wheels even if we do end up back in power.
A few years ago Theda Skocpol argued for an approach she called "family populism," which emphasized policy ideas like expanding social security to finance improved education and training and child support for single working parents, universal health insurance, universal paid family leaves, and expanding access to child care for working families (both inside and outside the whom).
The philosophy behind the initiative:
to look for ways to build cross-generational and cross-class alliances through shared . . . systems of social support for all working families; to provide new protections to citizens who are serving the nation as workers and parents; and to find ways to generate additional revenues through economic growth and returns on investments, even as new protections are extended to younger Americans
seems like just the thing that might help develop a coalition among different groups of women by honoring traditional values like work and family in a way consistent with progressive values.
What do you think of this approach? The policies are all obviously things that most of us support, but the politics of it - cross-generational, focusing on benefits in return for work and parenting, and the emphasis on improved social programs as a prerequisite to future prosperity rather than a drag on it - seem to be pretty compelling in terms of building themes that could win elections.
Many people perceive that what happened was that Hackett (rather graciously) waited for Brown to make his decision, and Brown first said he was not going to run, and only then did Hackett enter the race. Then Brown changed his mind.
I think even vocal Brown supporters like David Sirota agree that Brown, not Hackett, did not handle this very well.
As if the Bushs' showing up was not some kind of political act in itself, designed to show moderate whites how racially "sensitive" they are? I doubt many conservative Bush supporters, or even Bush himself, really think of King as a "national hero," as the freeper posts indicate. The very act of Bush showing up was political.
Coretta Scott King's whole life was dedicated to fighting the kind of politics represented by Bush and conservative Republicans. If some conservatives think that it's not going to be mentioned at a memorial service for her, they need a head check. Nobody forced Bush to go. If he can't stand the heat, get out of the kitchen. Don't use our funerals to score cheap political points with white moderates and think you're going to get away with it.
When it comes to articulating our overall philosophy and values, and finding an approach to dealing with cultural decline as an alternative to the current right-wing narrative, I think revitalizing the idea of "enlightened self-interest" is the key.
Maybe it needs to be put into modern terminology, and I'll leave that to those better qualified, but the basic idea should be to recover the balance between freedom, equality, and solidarity.
People will pursue their self-interest - it is an inherent aspect of being human. But, people, by nature, do not pursue only their narrow short-run individual self-interest. It is within the fundamental nature of people also to care about others and accept the responsibilities of humanity. Rethinking does not require that people deny their self-interest. Instead, it will require that we rise above the economics of greed to an economics of enlightenment. The invisible hand can still translate the pursuit of self-interests into the greatest good for society, but only if each person pursues an enlightened self-interest - a self-interest that values relationships and ethics as important dimensions of our individual well being.
Enlightened self-interests includes narrow self-interest (which focuses on individual possessions) but it includes also interests that are shared, in which one has only partial ownership (which focuses on relationships, community, and social values) and interests that are purely altruistic (which focuses on interests that are solely others', which one pursues only out of a sense of stewardship, ethics, or morality). All three - self-interests, shared-interests, and altruistic-interests -- contribute to one's well being or quality of life, but not in the same sense that greed might enhance one's material success. Each contributes to a more enlightened sense of quality of life - which explicitly recognizes that each individual is but a part of the whole of society, which in turn must conform to some higher order of things or code of natural laws. . . .
This enlightened self-interest is a product of balance among narrow self-interests, community or shared-interests, and altruistic or other-interests. Enlightened self-interest means that we cannot simply maximize or minimize any one particular aspect or dimension of our lives. We cannot be driven solely by greed, by altruism, or by concern for community. Instead we must pay conscious attention to whether we are adequately meeting our needs as individuals, as members of some larger community or society, and as moral, ethically responsible humans. Quality of life is a consequence of harmony or balance among the three.
For example, it is now mostly forgotten that Adam Smith's invisible hand is propelled not by selfishness or mere individual opportunism, but by enlightened self-interest.
So, in The Wealth of Nations:
Every individual endeavors to employ his capital so that its produce may be of greatest value. He generally neither intends to promote the public interest, nor knows how much he is promoting it. He intends only his own security, only his own gain. And he is in this led by an invisible hand to promote an end, which has no part of his intention. By pursuing his own interest he frequently promotes that of society more effectually than when he really intends to promote it.
But also, from the Theory of Moral Sentiments:
How selfish soever man may be supposed, there are evidently some principles in his nature which interest him in the fortune of others and render their happiness necessary to him, though he derives nothing from it except the pleasure of seeing it. Of this kind is pity or compassion, the emotion which we feel for the misery of others when we either see it or are made to conceive it in a very lively matter.... By the imagination we place ourselves in his situation. We enter, as it were, into his body and become in some measure the same person with him.
Tocqueville also talked about "interest rightly understood"
the concept that people working together can not only serve their own interest, but can also serve the community as a whole. . . . Americans voluntarily join together in associations to further the interests of the group and, thereby, to serve their own interests. . . . combined the right of association with the virtue to do what was right.
From Democracy in America:
The Americans, on the contrary, are fond of explaining almost all the actions of their lives by the principle of interest rightly understood; they show with complacency how an enlightened regard for themselves constantly prompts them to assist each other, and inclines them willingly to sacrifice a portion of their time and property to the welfare of the state.
This idea of enlightened self-interest is what is missing from modern political discourse. On the right, we see this as the "greed is good" philosophy, but we see this on the left too in the balkanization of different social movements and the seeming inability to come together on a common philosophy and program that furthers our mutual interests and the common good.
This idea is what American liberalism has historically been about - a balance among the values of individual freedom, equality, and community/solidarity that permits all of us together to achieve a higher quality of life.
"On abortion, I myself, by belief and upbringing, am opposed to abortion but as a legislator, as one who is called on to pass a law, I would find it very difficult to legislate on something God himself has not seen fit to make clear to all the people on this earth. . . .
seems like exactly the kind of nuanced position that you are calling for. But it didn't help him win.
And the fact that both the Senate Democratic leader and the Democratic governor who just gave the rebuttal to the state of the union address are both, as you say, "anti-choice," suggests that leading Democrats are already doing what you advocate, and it's not helping us win elections.
Further, it's pretty clear the Republicans are not winning elections by being nuanced on the abortion issue -- their platform says:
Ban abortion with Constitutional amendment
We say the unborn child has a fundamental right to life. We support a human life amendment to the Constitution and we endorse legislation that the 14th Amendment's protections apply to unborn children. Our purpose is to have legislative and judicial protection of that right against those who perform abortions. We oppose using public revenues for abortion and will not fund organizations which advocate it. We support the appointment of judges who respect the sanctity of innocent human life.
The fact is, Democrats are not losing elections because of the abortion issue. By 66-25 the public does not want the Supreme Court to overturn Roe v Wade. By 57-40 the public thinks that abortions ahould be legal in most or all cases. By 59-38 the public believes that abortion laws should be made either less strict or remain the same as they are today.
The problem for the Democrats is much larger than just abortion. We have an anti-health care reform Congress and President, and we have an anti-minimum wage increase Congress and President so by your reasoning we have not convinced "a whole lot of people of the wisdom of the pro-Democrat way of thinking" on these issues. And yet the public largely supports universal health care and increases in the minimum wage.
The problem is larger than just abortion. On any number of issues public opinion is far closer to the Democrats than it is to Republicans, yet we are still losing elections. Figuring out the reasons why will get us a lot farther than another round of tedious hand-wringing over the abortion issue.