Tuesday, April 26, 2005

I Hate Liberals

I hate liberals. Well, no, not really! I am a liberal. Most of my friends are liberals. I just hate the reactionary purists who are trying to hijack the term "liberal" in the same way their rightwing counterparts hijacked "conservative."
I used to believe I was as liberal as they come. (My in-laws still think so!) But then I met the litmus testing reactionary purist-type liberals who, without trying, convinced me I'm a moderate. A moderate liberal, yes. A moderate Democrat, YES! But still a moderate. This blog entry was based on this post by William Pitt at the left's greasy truckstop, Democratic Underground:

I hate liberals

It's funny.

Find me a liberal cause and I'm probably behind it.

Save Social Security? I'm there.

Save ANWR? I'm with you.

Equal rights across the board for tax-paying freedom-loving American citizens who happen to be gay and want to get married just like every other tax-paying freedom-loving American citizen gets to do without a second thought from anyone? I'm there.

Find me a liberal policy initiative and I'm probably behind it. Health care is a right easily attained by each and every single American once health care no longer exists as a for-profit business? Yo.

The military and their sucker-fish defense contractors don't need eight billion gazillion dollars for a missile shield in space that can stop exactly no rogue airplanes in metropolitan airspace while millions go hungry all across the land? Yup.

Public schools need billions of dollars to stop the wretched fact that millions of children gratduate without knowing what the Supreme Court does for a living, to stop the push towards teaching our kids that creationism is the only truth, to stop the creation of stupid people as a matter of policy, said policy holding that stupid people make obedient consumers and compliant workers? Indeed.

Find me a cause, a policy initiative, a white paper, an idea, a belief, a theory or a protest that stems from the liberal philosophy. Chances are huge I'm on your side.

But man. Man o man. I hate liberals.

I agree with so much of what other liberals believe. All day, every day. But it seems like all I do is fight with liberals. I can't have a mildly divergent opinion on a matter of import without being called a Republican, or a Freeper, or a sellout, or a whore. If I'm a Christian, I empower the fundamentalist Right. If I'm an atheist, I'm bashing, period.

Two examples of this happened tonight, though I could give 200 examples if I felt like writing all night. These two will do. Example One: I was honored tonight to introduce Dahr Jamail at a talk in Boston. Jamail, if you don't know, got sick of the corporate news coverage of Iraq and went there himself. He got into Fallujah and let the world know what happened there. He is an amazing human being.

They gave me 15 minutes to say my thing and then introduce him. In my wee speech, I dared to forge beyond the self-righteous boundaries of 'Out Now!' to suggest the bare outlines of a plan on how to get out as soon as possible.

I used Howard Dean as a foil; he recently said we have to stay there, voicing the well-reasoned but argument-I-disagree-with 'Pottery Barn' argument. I think we can get out, we have to get out, but some kind of coherent plan/timeline is needed, because 'Out Now!' makes a good slogan but slogans don't make coherent policy.

I called Dean a hero before I went into this, because he is, but this is more to do with example two, to follow. The point for now is that I called him a hero before I said I disagreed with him. We need to get out of Iraq, I said. As soon as possible.

About halfway through my bare outline - somewhere between getting the Houston contractors out so Iraqis can actually work for pay and invigorate their economy, and get the UN and the Arab League to create a massive mostly-Arab force to take over security/police duty so the Americans can be cycled out en masse and sent home - I met the hecklers.

They were both white, both around my mid-30s age, both with those white-and-black Palestilian militatnt scarves wrapped around their necks. One of them yelled "Shut up with your pro-war bullshit!" Another wadded up the program and threw it at me. They kept this up for a while. As this wasn't my show, but Dahr Jamail's show, I worked through the last two minutes of my introduction of him without starting a shouting match with these two. It galled, yes, but wasn't appropriate to deal with it.

Example number two happened when I went out to have a smoke. A nicely dressed suburban fellow followed me out, and proceeded to scold me. Don't call people heroes, he said with index finger a-wavin'. I had called Dean a hero, you see. I had described the life and death of Marla Ruzicka in my speech, who went to Iraq to count the civilian dead and died there, and called her a hero. When I introduced Jamail, who went to the most dangerous place on earth so we could get the truth, I called him a hero.

Don't call people heroes, he said with index finger a-wavin'. It makes other people feel bad.

Liberals complain. They go to meetings with other liberals and listen to speeches filled with facts they knew before they got there, and complain to the person sitting next to them who already knows what they know and is ready to rock and roll with their own complaining.

All too often, liberals would rather complain and feel good about themselves than choke down the hard stones that sometimes have to be swallowed when seeking a solution that might actually work.

Liberals like to fight. They get into a room, either real or electronic, and wind up in huge, epic arguments about this or that while skating past the fact that the person they are arguing with and insulting agrees with about 90% of what they agree with. They forget the old rule: If you find yourself screaming in rage at someone who agrees with 90% of what you agree with, you might just be a zealot and therefore no good to anyone but yourself.

Conservatives used to be like liberals. They were out of power and fighting amongst themselves, the Birchers v. the Rockefellars v. the Nixonites v. the Reaganites v. the Fundamentalists v. the Internationalists. Somewhere along the line, they figured out how to quell all that, and whoosh! they were in power. I enjoy disliking conservatives and do not enjoy hating liberals, but since they both apparently share so many common characteristics these days, I am helpless before the tide.

I hate liberals. They do not get along, they enjoy disagreement for the sake of disagreement all too often, they are so hard to meld into a coalition that no one has ever, ever, ever managed to meld them into an effective coalition for any significant period of time. Liberals are the reason liberals lose elections nowadays.

I'm a liberal. I believe in the cause, the causes, the policy ideas. We ran the country for years once upon a time while winning World War II and salvaging the national economy by coming up with ways to help the helpless. Imagine it. The things we can do for the good of this country and the world positively boggle the mind.

But I hate liberals, because they won't let that happen. They make me absolutely crazy.

Sunday, April 24, 2005

Bill Clinton, Ross Perot, and the Fringe Neoleft

The Moderate Donkey travels the political off ramps of the information superhighway on a daily basis. I have for several years now. What I find on the backroads in the tourist traps are fringe political revisionists who create "facts" to fill in the holes in their political theories.

Now, I could raise a few eyebrows at least and at most have you rolling in fits of laughter at some of the things posted at Free Republic, the far right Christian Taliban's favorite stop on the net. But many blogs do that (and do it better) and since the goal of The Moderate Donkey is to reveal the fringe elements attempting to hijack the Democratic party, I'd rather point out examples of this at our greasy truckstop - Democratic Underground.

Democratic Underground, to be fair, isn't really the antithesis of Free Republic. It's a big tent full of people with varying degrees of leftness. But sometimes (well, often) the neoleft dispenses some of the "facts" I mentioned above and reminds the rest of us why we can't allow them to hijack the Democratic Party.

Let's examine one thread there and some of the claims made in it.

Almost any Democratic candidate would have won the Presidency (in 1992), because of the spoiler effect of the Ross Perot candidacy. Although he became President, Bill Clinton only took 43 percent of the vote in 1992, 3 percent less than much more left-wing Democratic candidate Michael Dukakis had taken in 1988.

Here, the poster attempts to downplay Bill Clinton's popularity. His purpose is to show that a further left candidate would have done as well or better than Clinton. His entire premise is based on his belief that Ross Perot played spoiler for George H.W. Bush in the '92 election. The fact is he didn't.

Check out these two incredibly researched articles on the '92 election and Perot's effect on it:


Clinton didn't run as a "new democrat"....They have kept a low profile for many years and really didn't stick their neck out until Gore told them to take a hike in 2000.

This is some of the political revisionism I mentioned above. This poster tries to downplay the importance of the DLC in Clinton's politics and in general by claiming he didn't run as a 'new democrat.' Further, he claims that Al Gore broke with the DLC during the 2000 election. The former is completely untrue. There is no evidence to support the latter.

Here are some sources that "disagree" with the poster's first assertion:

After losing a re-election bid in 1980, he came to win four more terms as governor gaining a reputation as a centrist, pragmatic New Democrat. In October 1991, Clinton announced that he was a candidate for the democratic nomination for president. source

He insisted on pragmatism and moderation in government programs, a centrist platform that emphasized opportunity, jobs, law and order, and responsibility. This meant that the government should provide opportunities for all citizens when the free market failed, but individuals had to accept the responsibility to work and to contribute to the common civil order.
This linking of the time-honored American enshrinement of work and individualism to a progressive view of the role of government became for Clinton a "New Covenant" - the philosophical perspective behind his reference to himself as a "New Democrat." source

As for the Al Gore claim, I've never seen any evidence of it through my research or in asking those who make the claim. In fact, just as with the far right Christian Taliban, asking the neoleft McGovernites to prove their claims ignites an unending array of spinning, dodging, and flat out refusal to "divulge sources." I imagine the Gore "rumor" began when Gore ran away from Clinton during his campaign and the neoleft's belief that the moderate Gore is actually one of them.

The DLC literally wrote the 2004 Democratic Platform...

No, they did not.

... and, well, you get my point. The fear the neoleft McGovernites have of the DLC is quite irrational and often forces them to, a Al Franken would say, pull facts out of their asses to fill in the holes in their theories.

Friday, April 22, 2005

Clinton impeachment was retaliation for Nixon, says retiring Rep. Henry Hyde

I mentioned in an earlier post that President William Jefferson Clinton was impeached on unconstitutional grounds. In the past, on other blogs and among mixed ideological company, such a statement has drawn at least a few protests. The biggest one being that Clinton's impeachment was justified based on his personal "malfeasance." However, as I would always point out, personal malfeasance isn't constitutional grounds for impeachment. Of course, most Republicans realized this when Clinton was acquitted of the perjury and obstruction of justice by the Senate. In other words, the Ken Starr investigation, which cost taxpayers more than $50 million, only revealed a consensual affair. Again, NOT constitutional grounds for impeachement.

I always commented to friends, foes, and family that the impeachment charade was revenge by the GOP over two legitimate impeachable scandals that the Republicans were caught in. The first being Watergate in which President Nixon resigned rather than face impeachment. The second being the Iran-Contra affair that almost brought down the Reagan administration. In fact, Speaker of the House Tip O'Neil once considered bringing impeachment charges against Reagan.

Francis Boyle, Professor of Law at the University of Illinois College of Law, said "our system of government was in jeopardy in the Reagan Iran-Contra scandal." The White House had "basically set up an underground government. But no one really made an effort to impeach Reagan over that -- though documents show that Reagan and his people were concerned about impeachment." They grew concerned, it's rumored, after O'Neil assured Reagan the grounds for impeachment were there.

Now, why the brief history lesson? Because, as the title of this post indicates, The Moderate Donkey was right. According to ABC News, Republican Congressman Henry Hyde made some surprising comments Thursday on the impeachment hearings of President Bill Clinton. He now says Republicans may have gone after Clinton to retaliate for the impeachment of Richard Nixon.

He said, among other things, he might not try to impeach President Clinton if he had it to do all over again.

When asked if he would go through with the Clinton impeachment process again, Hyde said he wasn't sure. It turned into a personal and political embarrassment for Hyde when an extra-marital affair he had in the 1960's became public amid accusations of hypocrisy. He called the affair a youthful indiscretion.

Of course, the Moderate Donkey must point out that Richard Nixon was never impeached. He resigned the night before the House vote on the Articles of Impeachment.

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Honorary Moderate Donkey Status for Sen. Jim Jeffords

Senator Jim Jeffords, a moderate independent who defected from the Republican Party four years ago and handed control of the senate back to the Democrats, has decided not to seek re-election in Vermont next year. As the Boston Globe said, this announcement has ricocheted through Vermont political circles Wednesday and quickly set up a scramble for the 2006 elections.

Because Vermont is a somewhat liberal Northeastern state, the Democrats have a great chance in officially capturing Jefford's seat. I say "officially" because when Jeffords dumped the GOP, he began voting with the Democrats but was not officially a Democrat.

You really have to respect Jeffords. He had the balls to do what other moderate Republicans like John McCain and Lincoln Chafee haven't. Back in 2001, he had a crisis of conscience. Having watched the Republican Party drift to the right for years, he finally had enough of the extremism that was beginning to take control of the party.

But there is the pivotal moment when he made his decision that you may not be aware of. Jonathon Alter wrote about it in Newsweek in June of 2004:

He woke up screaming in the middle of the night, yelling to his wife: "Watch out! The machine guns are firing!" Jim Jeffords's nightmare then was about impeachment. As a friend of Bill Clinton's, he was tormented by his duty to sit in judgment of the president, voting first with his GOP colleagues to move ahead with the trial, then with Democrats against Clinton's conviction and removal from office.

Two years later the senator's sleepless nights were back. In anguish, he informed a group of longtime Republican colleagues last week that his differences with his party on fundamentals were so great that he was leaning toward leaving the GOP.

Even if he hadn't tilted the balance of power, he told aides, it was time to go. Peering across the aisle at Democrats talking about using the surplus for children's health and early education while Republicans like Phil Gramm sought even deeper tax cuts, he felt hopelessly out of place.
I've always found this account to be amazing. I can see it so vividly. The impeachment trial of President William Jefferson Clinton is underway. Perhaps the decision against removing the President from office has been reached. Then the doors swing open, armed soldiers storm in, and begin firing "machine guns."

I'm not an expert at interpreting dreams, but maybe Jeffords' subconscious realized that an extreme fringe was encroaching on his party - one that would try any means necessary to seize and hold power. Perhaps he realized it was his duty as a civil servant to combat it.

And the wisdom? Listening to Democrats plan to use Bill Clinton's budget surplus for education and children's healthcare while his Republican colleagues schemed to give the wealthy deeper tax cuts... well... anyone with a heart would have chose the path he took.

Senator Jeffords is by no means the perfect politician. He's made some questionable votes in his career, including the vote to impeach a President on what was clearly unconstitutional grounds. But he went a long way in redeeming himself by voting with Democrats on many important issues.

Senator Jeffords may have been a Republican for most of his career, but the Moderate Donkey is fairly certain that if he had to do it all over again, he would perhaps choose the Democratic Party. If he wants to send one last clear signal to the GOP that they've been hijacked by the Christian Taliban, my suggestion would be he endorse a Democrat for his Senate seat.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Blogger Calls Out Moveon's Hypocrisy on Hoyer

I believe Moveon.org, the often effective neoleft PAC, lost some marbles in the last several days when it was revealed they were raising money and running commercials to help defeat Democratic Congressman Steny Hoyer (D-MD) for his yes vote on the bankruptcy bill. I suppose they want to chance a Republican winning? I dunno... BUT... this is the kind of neoleft litmus testing that keeps kicking the Democrats back into the dirt. Now, though, organizations like Moveon invest thousands of dollars to push through their agenda and if it it benefits Republicans that Moveon is sticking to their principles, well, so be it I guess!

However, a blogger has called out Moveon for their hypocrisy in this matter. It's really an eye opener. Here are some quotes:

Moveon defended its attack on Steny Hoyer in an interview with Raw Story, saying, “It’s not acceptable for a Democratic leader to take
a position opposed to protecting the middle class.” Really? Then what does Moveon propose to do with the $833,000 recently raised for Sen Byrd? He voted for the bankruptcy bill as well.

Not only that, he voted to confirm Gale Norton and John Ashcroft. He voted against ending timber company subsides to build forest roads and has a 68% LCV rating.
He’s voted against numerous abortion bills and only has a 43% rating from NARAL.. He voted for DOMA and only recently came around to voting yes to adding sexual
orientation to hate crimes legislation.

Steny Hoyer, on the other hand, has a 100% NEA rating, 100% APHA rating, 100% NARAL rating and an 85% LCV rating, Steny Hoyer is responsible for the passage of
the Americans With Disabilities Act and has been fighting the weakening of the law since Bush took office. He gets it right a lot of the time...

So what is Moveon’s problem? Maybe it has more to do with egos and
the recent snubbing from some quarters. That couldn’t have gone down well after Moveon’s outlandish statement, “ Now it's our Party: we bought it, we own it, and
we're going to take it back.”

Funny how a few months changes everything, because today they said:

“We’re not the party,” he said, when asked about charges that the ads were poorly timed, “We are going to take positions on issues... before we
acknowledge any sort of notion of Democratic fealty.”

Read more here.

Monday, April 18, 2005

Expansive Foreign Policy/Defense Survey - Important news for Democrats

The newly-launched Security and Peace Institute (a joint project of The Century Foundation and the Center for American Progress) have released a survey conducted for them by the Marttila Communications Group, with an extensive accompanying report. This lengthy survey has a large sample size (1600 voters) which was split-sampled through most of the survey so that an exceptionally wide range of questions and alternative wordings could be tested.
The survey's key findings (summarized below) indicate that, while Republicans retain a substantial lead as the party best able to deal with national security issues, voters' broad foreign policy and security goals should provide a very significant opening for Democrats in the years ahead.

Several key findings:

* As a result of the Iraq war, a majority of Americans are now more reluctant to support the use of U.S. troops. However, there are several specific circumstances under which a majority do support the U.S. use of troops, including disrupting an attack planned by a foreign country or terrorists, to support NATO or UN peacekeeping, and to halt genocide.

* Large majorities of Americans believe that America’s international reputation has deteriorated since President Bush took office. Most believe that the absence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq badly eroded U.S. credibility and that this loss of status is a serious concern.

* Voters strongly support U.S. action to protect human rights abroad, prevent genocide, and check the spread of AIDS. They generally agree that the United States has a moral role to play in world affairs.

* Solid majorities of Americans believe that the United States should be active in world affairs and continue to play an active role in the UN.

In short, these survey data give every reason to suppose Democrats and progressives can compete effectively with Bush and the GOP on the terrain of foreign policy and national security. It would be an act of political malpractice to ignore this opportunity and cede these areas to the GOP.


The DLC, the Neo Left McGovernites, and the 1994 Mid Term Elections

Like their rightwing counterparts, the Neo Left McGovernites and their younger ideological heirs love to attack the DLC because they feel the Democratic Leadership Council directly caused the massive Democratic losses of 1994. No amount of reasoning and presentation of facts and southern voting trends will convince them otherwise.

Recently, as I was sloshing through yet another debate with them on this very topic (they make the claim, I ask for proof, they dodge and spin and change the subject), I realized that I did not have the facts handy all in one place. So I decided to write a little piece on the 1994 elections.

There's an old saying that goes, "if something is repeated often enough, it will become true." The DLC's role in Democratic losses from 1994 on is a prime example of that saying in action on Democratic Underground specifically and the neo-left in general.

I used to believe there were two schools of thought among the more progressive Democrats when it came to recent losses for the Democratic Party, the first being that it was the fault of the Democratic Leadership Council that the Democrats lost in the 1994 mid term election cycle, setting up further Democratic losses in subsequent elections. The other school of thought being the last three elections were "stolen" through a combination of voting machine rigging, voter intimidation, and other forms of fraud. However, It didn't take me long to realize that those putting forth these seemingly conflicting theories were often the same people. If the DLC were the focus of the discussion, the first theory would be espoused. If the discussion dealt primarily with the elections and not the DLC, then the second theory would be put forth. I tend to believe the latter theory myself. At least there is evidence to suggest voter irregularities in the last three election cycles.

But those aren't the only pieces of conventional yet conflicting wisdom among some Democrats that gnaw at me.

Another gem often offered up when discussing Democratic losses in recent election cycles is the Democratic party has moved too far to the right, courtesy of the DLC, and that when people have to pick between a Republican and what they perceive as “Republican-lite," they'll pick the Republican. People who believe this often quote Harry Truman, a great moderate Democrat, who said "When given a choice between a real Republican and an imitation, the people will choose the real thing every time." I believe this only if the people in question are Republicans! What is being implied here when this thought process is applied to Democrats is they will either vote for a Republican if they feel the Democratic choice isn't liberal enough or they won't vote at all. Either way, if we follow this line of thought to its logical conclusion, Democrats throw elections to Republicans if they aren't happy with the liberal "purity" of the candidate.

I'd like to see some polling data to confirm that. Gallup does polls for just about everything else. Surely there must be one that asks something like, "If you're a Democrat, why do you feel the Democrats lost in the most recent election cycle" - with choices that range from "they just didn't get their message out" to "they were too close to Republicans on some issues so I just went ahead and voted for the Republican."

Until I see that polling data, I'll continue to seriously doubt the claim that the DLC caused losses in any election cycle.

In my estimation, the blame being cast upon the DLC for Democratic losses is nothing short of modern neoleftist McGovernites (the peace, love, and dope crowd as some call them) frustrated that they cannot garner more power and influence in the Democratic Party and blaming moderates for that. I can understand and sympathize. I get frustrated that the Democratic Party can't regain the power it once had over the Republican Party and I am just as passionate in my quest as neoleftists. But their task is even more formidable because they feel they have to overcome two barriers - the DLC and moderate wing of the party and then the Republican Party. Although the DLC doesn't have the gravitas it once had, it is still a formidable force when it comes to fielding candidates and raising money. I can understand how this can infuriate people who don't subscribe to the DLC's point of view. And with the Democratic Party losing elections, the faction that seemingly leads the party is an easy target to blame.

But is it fair?

It could just as easily be surmised that if it weren't for the DLC's brand of centrism the Democrats would be losing more often and by larger margins. Polling data on issues indicate that the DLC's positions are often closer to that of mainstream America 's in most areas. Indeed, the purpose of the DLC's formation was to serve the national interests as opposed to more special interests. Granted, this may not always be the best way, but national elections are won on national issues. But the underlying question remains: Was the DLC responsible, fully or partially, for Democratic losses in 1994 and beyond as some on the left claim? Historians and Democratic strategists say no.

Ideological Bankruptcy… Or Ideological Drift?

An article in the Boston Globe took up the issue of Democratic losses a week before the last presidential election. When a party holds power for too long, Adrian Wooldridge, reporter for The Economist, said in the article, "it grows fat and happy, [and] it also grows corrupt." The classic example, he pointed out, is the Democratic Party of the 1970s and `80s, which, spoiled by generations of congressional power, "became a party of insiders and deal makers without any sense of the principles they stood for and eventually collapsed" when they were turned out in 1994.

The more common explanation for the 1994 Republican Revolution, though, is that liberal Democratic ideals -- or at least the way they were presented -- no longer resonated with the majority of Americans. According to Ruy Teixeira, a fellow at the Center for American Progress and at the Century Foundation, the danger for the dominant party isn't ideological bankruptcy but ideological drift. "Certainly you can make the argument that, if a party's far enough away from the mainstream, if they don't lose they don't get enough impetus to correct their behavior."

Interesting that the point in the Democratic Party where the more liberal elements of the party held the most sway – the post McGovern era to the late 80s – is the time described by Wooldridge as our “fat, happy, and corrupt” period. Even more interesting is Teixeira, who has solid Democratic credentials, states the party had moved too far away from the mainstream during the period of massive electoral losses for McGovern, Carter, Mondale, and Dukakis.

Court and Country in American Politics: The Democratic Party and the 1994 Election

Philip A. Klinkner, author of "Court and Country in American Politics: The Democratic Party and the 1994 Election," presents a very interesting and expansive theory concerning the major Democratic losses in 1994 that Wooldridge and Teixeira only touched on. Klinkner explains the circumstances surrounding the 1992 election provided ample evidence of a radically changed political environment. Several observers have commented on the growing volatility of the electorate since the late 1980s (Greider 1992; Phillips 1990, 1993, and 1994; Germond and Witcover 1993; Greenberg 1995). By most accounts, this phenomenon reached a new high in 1992, as voters expressed growing disgust with the federal government, elected officials, special interests, and politics in general, and a greater willingness to support outsider candidacies, even those of such diverse figures as Jerry Brown, Pat Buchanan, and Ross Perot.

The author continues by writing that current American politics is best understood in light of the "Court versus Country" dynamic that has been a recurring theme in Anglo-American politics over the last 300 years. The label was first used to describe the intense political conflict in English politics from the Revolution of 1688 until the mid-eighteenth century. Historians have also used the Court versus Country framework to describe the politics of America ’s early national period, roughly from the Articles of Confederation to the election of Thomas Jefferson.

Politics in both of these periods revolved around the scope and legitimacy of governmental power. On the one side was a Court persuasion, which firmly believed in the necessity of a powerful central government to ensure prosperity, domestic order, and international prestige. "Court apologists were intensely statist . . . . They tried to endow the government with the resources and vigor necessary to command great respect abroad and maintain order at home" (Murrin 1980: 379) To achieve these ends, Court proponents advocated increased taxation, expanded government expenditures, a funded public debt, government guidance of nation’s economic and financial systems, and a bureaucracy large and powerful enough to ensure the attainment of the government’s objectives.

In opposition stood the Country advocates who saw the Court proponents as a corrupt elite, antagonistic to the economic interests and cultural values of the nation and striving to increase the power of government to serve their own evil ends. Moreover, Country supporters believed that the Court faction, through its links with financial elites and political manipulations, had managed to entrench itself into the office, upsetting the political system’s natural balance. Once free from the usual checks and balances, they claimed that the Court elite would then set out to further aggrandize power and debase the natural rights and liberties of the people. In response, the Country supporters advocated limited government, reduction of government debt and spending, reduction and/or reform of taxes, and structural and procedural reforms of the political system as a means of restoring the proper control and accountability to the government.

These Court versus Country themes are readily discernible in contemporary American politics. To a large extent, with their emphasis on a powerful federal government to provide direction and leadership on a range of issues, from macroeconomic management to civil rights to environmental protection, modern liberal ideology reflects the Court tradition of earlier times. In addition, the liberals’ tools of increased expenditures and government debt were also used by the English Court supporters and their American descendants, the Federalists.

The Country attitude, with its "plain distrust of government as such, and a considerable sense of apprehension at its ever spreading tentacles" (Holmes 1987: 121), is readily apparent in current popular attitudes. Like their Country predecessors, current critics of the political system oppose excessive government, as reflected in debt, high taxes, increased spending, and extensive regulation. In particular, they share the traditional Country concern for governmental corruption, especially the ways in which elected officials, bureaucrats, and special interests combine to create an entrenched governmental elite, unresponsive and unaccountable to the public interest. In the words of Ross Perot, "The British aristocracy we drove out in our Revolution has been replaced by our own version: a political nobility that is immune to the people’s will. They have created through our campaign and lobbying laws a series of incentives that corrupt the intent of the Constitution" (Perot 1992: 24). Criticisms of entrenched congressional incumbents echo the attacks of English Country advocates on the corrupt placemen and courtiers whom they believed were destroying the House of Commons. In fact, proposals for congressional term limits closely resemble the Place bills advocated by English Country members for "purging the House of Commons from the dead weight of court officers and dependents" (Holmes 1987: 130). ...

The rise of these Country attitudes in contemporary America seems to have resulted from a number of forces, one of which was the civil rights movement of the 1960s.. and many began to question the scope and legitimacy of the governmental power on a range of issues from taxes to welfare to the criminal justice system (Edsall and Edsall 1991; Dionne 1991; Horowitz 1986).

By the early 1990s, Country sentiments were evident among much of the public. In 1964, over 70 percent of the public said that they could trust Washington to do what was right most or all of the time; by early 1994, only 19 percent expressed similar confidence (Phillips 1994: 7). In 1964, when asked, "Would you say the government is run by a few big interests looking out for themselves or that it is run for the benefit of all people," nearly 40 percent more people agreed with the latter than with the former. In 1992 that sentiment had reversed itself, with 60 percent more people believing that the government was run for the benefit of special interests than those who believed it was run for the benefit of all. (Stanley and Niemi: 169).
Again, this period was largely dominated by the Democratic Party and the counterculture that was associated with it.
The emergence of Court and Country politics spelled trouble for the Democrats. As the party of governmental activism, the Democrats were bound to suffer from the rise of popular cynicism toward government. At the same time that Bill Clinton was winning the White House, voters preferred having "government cost less in taxes but provide fewer services" to having "government provide more services but cost more in taxes" by 54 to 38 percent (Milkis and Nelson 1994: 395). source

This was no better exemplified than by Bill Clinton's healthcare plan, which support for collapsed, which set back his presidency and figured in the Democrats' loss of control of the House of Representatives in 1994. They've never recovered from the loss.

Soon after Clinton took office in 1993, he promised health insurance for millions of Americans who had no coverage. But before long, the plan was a shambles, derailed by concerns that it would cost too much and create a huge new bureaucracy. "People have not gotten over 1994 yet," Karen Pollitz, the project director for the Georgetown University Health Policy Institute, said of the Clinton plan. "President Clinton tried to fix everything at once. It was not well received. And not only that -- the Democrats got turned out at the next election." http://www.freep.com/news/politics/issue27_20040127.htm

So, technically speaking, Clinton's attempt to enact a left-liberal policy partially contributed to the Democrat's downfall in 1994. A two decade long move to the left by the Democratic party - capped off by the failed healthcare plan (which I was for and still am) - brought us down. NOT movement to the right.

Who Gets The Blame For Prior Losses?

Of course, Democrats have suffered losses before - years before the DLC was even in existence. Surprisingly In 1938, Republicans gained 81 House seats running against Franklin Roosevelt. Again In the mid-term election of 1942, the Democrats lost 44 seats in the House of Representatives.

George McGovern, Jimmy Carter, and Walter Mondale suffered huge defeats in their 1972, 1980, and 1984 presidential runs.

The Republicans won control of the Senate in 1981 and retained it for six years - until the midterm elections of 1986 when the Democratic party picked up 5 seats in the House and eight seats in the Senate to regain power. Interestingly, this was the first election cycle after the DLC was formed in 1985. The Democratic Senators elected and who gave the Senate back to the Democrats included moderates Barbara Mikulski (a participant in the DLC's National Service Tour), Harry Reid (who recently said Democrats have to "swallow their pride" and move toward the middle), Conservative Democrat Richard Shelby, DLCer Bob Graham, DLCer Kent Conrad, and DLCer Tom Daschle.

Just as the Democratic Party was voted out of power in 1994, so is it inevitable that the same fate will befall the Republican Party. And if the current public mood is indicative of how they will vote, the GOP will find themselves out of power sooner than later for the same reason the Democrats lost power in 1994 – falling too far away from the mainstream of American thought and opinion. The difference is the GOP will have moved to the right of the American mainstream to cause the backlash. From the late 60s to 1994, the Democrats moved left.
But the evidence is lacking to even suggest the DLC caused the Democratic losses in 1994. If anything, their presence may have prevented even more losses. - end

Now, I had this piece presented at a message forum known for extreme left views. There were plenty of responses, but a few stand out:

There is absolutely no sense going back before 2000 to understand TODAY'S politics. Everything changed after a stolen election AND when both parties used 9-11 to advance their careers and agendas.What's important NOW is that America and the Democratic party is in trouble and too many Democrats seem to think that enabling and appeasement is the way to get back into power.

FUNNY! THAT guy is one of the biggest neo-lefties there. He posts a weekly diatribe against moderate Democrats and pitches literary temper tantrums when you point out that absolutely nothing in his posts are sourced and documented. He's one of the chief proponants there of the "DLC caused Democratic losses" school.

But someone else gets it:

Some people will argue that this was the period when the TV media began going downhill giving the GOP a big edge. In many senses this is the period where this started but we all know it's not NEARLY as bad as it is today. Ted Turner (I believe) was still running CNN and FAUX news hadn't been created yet. Then again the internet wasn't very popular back then and so TV was really the only game in town.

Clinton's lack of a popular mandate and a rough first two years in office certainly didn't help. Some of the Democrats in congress were almost as hostile to his agenda as the Republicans. The healthcare battle was a prime example of this. It's not necesarilly that he didn't push for universal single-payer healthcare (although I wish that he had listened to Wellstone and done that), it's that he continued to compromise and compromise and compromise until finally the bill was filled with so much crap that it was too costly and too hard to understand.

How Gingrich got his people to the polls in 1994 is an interesting question. Clinton's lack of progress in his first two years was definately part of it, but in the end I think it was because Gingrich was framing the debate, not the Democrats. And you know what the debate is always about when the GOP frames it: Guns, God, and Gays.

I consider myself a progressive but that doesn't mean that I automatically condemn the DLC. I would rather have more progressive people running the party than Lieberman, Bayh, and Hillary Clinton but I don't deny that the DLC has pulled out some key victories.

So, blogospherians, what are YOUR thoughts?

Sunday, April 17, 2005

General Wesley Clark Announces 2008 Presidential Run

Acording to several Wes Clark message boards, the General announced his intentions to again run for the Democratic nomination for President yesterday at the Figueroa Hotel in Downtown Los Angeles.

This is great news. By all indications, Clark is the type of Democrat this country needs. FDR-like in his appeal, he is social liberal, a fiscal conservative (wait! conservatives aren't that fiscally sound anymore. But he is!), and his national defense bona fides are impeccable.

This is great news for my party and moderates on the other side of the aisle should really consider crossing over to vote for him. It would be a major blow to the Christian Taliban infecting your party. Reagan Democrats, can I get a high five for just one election?

Speaking of Reagan, Wes Clark seems to be taking a page from his playbook. The DailyKos is reporting that Clark has said "Americans will believe that a Democratic Commander in Chief will defend them when they first become convinced that "Democrats will defend other Democrats." The Dailykos is known for slamming Democrats who don't meet certain litmus tests so I hope he/she is paying attention.

Oh, I was saying something about Reagan's playbook? Well, the technique was called Reagan's 11th Commandment: "Thou shall not speak ill of a fellow Republican"

I think it's time for Democrats to quit their silly "Democratic Party Moral Purity and Political Correctness Tests," forbid the cirular firing squads that have hindered then for so long, and get back on the winning track.

Saturday, April 16, 2005

Do Elitist Attitudes Toward Religion Undermine Democratic Prospects?

DonkeyRising, a blog at The Emerging Democratic Majority, makes this observation:

"Taking Faith Seriously: Contempt for religion costs Democrats more than votes" by Mike Gecan reasons that Democrats who disparage faith make the party appear elitist to many. As Gecan notes,

the contempt of the progressive elite for ordinary people—for their faiths, their speech patterns, their clothes, their hobbies, their hopes, and their aspirations—has driven scores of millions of Americans out of the Democratic Party and into either the Republican Party or a no man’s land between the two. The willingness of many Republicans to simply show respect for the habits and interests of these mixed and moderate Americans has paid growing political dividends. The Republicans have understood that communicating respect is more important than offering programs or incentives. The Democrats have failed to realize that multiplying programs or policies designed to meet people’s needs is doomed to fail unless and until those people sense a fundamental level of recognition of who they are, not just what they need.

In "Losing Faith: The Democrats called, but they didn’t call back," Ari Lipman describes an incident revealing a clueless disrespect for local religious leaders at the Democratic convention. Lipman concludes,

We transform our private religious values into public action at the ballot box. As the Democrats are now discovering, parties ignore this fact at their peril. Engaging religious Americans does not necessarily mean altering the fundamental values and platform of the Democratic Party...Democrats need more than a pious new vocabulary. Party leaders must drop their thinly veiled scorn for religious Americans and seek to engage them sincerely around common interests, both in houses of worship and on convention floors.

Where do I begin? My answer to the initial question raised in this post's title is yes! Rank and file Democrats are just as religious as rank and file Republicans. However, the neoleft does have an "elitist" view of religion and openly scorns those who profess their faith. In all fairness, this is a reaction to the Christian Taliban on the right who feel their faith should trump everything - including the US Constitution - and who openly scorns science, reason, and logic.

What results is the impression that The Democratic party is a party of athiests and the Republican party is a party of religious extremists which isn't quite true. (to my GOP readers - you've got to admit your party has been overrun with zealots. Fortunately, the antithesis of those haven't gotten a foothold in my party - yet.)

When we give in to the stereotpes, we're left with a nation that appears to be polarized on religious grounds. it isn't. The truth lies in the center. We're a nation of people with varying degrees of faith. Some have none. Some have waaaaay too much. But most of us are in that murky middle.

Disclosure - I'm an agnostic as are many people.

Now you know. I'm sure you were wondering.

I read literally 50 to 100 political blogs a week on both sides of the political spectrum and in between. I ran across the perfect example of agnosticism this morning: Link

DLC, PPI and Family-Friendly Tax Reform

The DLC and Progressive Policy Institute are right on in their statements concerning the GOP's drive to reform our tax system:

Republicans have been false friends to middle-income taxpayers, saving their real affection for the most privileged Americans, from corporate executives to trust-fund babies. The GOP is engaged in a determined campaign to shift the federal tax burden from wealth to work, even as it piles up the largest deficits and debts in U.S. history. And there is every indication that the current talk in Republican circles of a "tax reform" initiative in the near future will lead in exactly the same direction, through reduction or elimination of progressive income tax rates; vast new shelters for investment income; or even an abandonment of income taxes altogether for a national sales tax that would hit middle-income families even harder than the current system.

They go on to list several aspects of a tax plan they advocate:

The four family-friendly incentives include:

  • A College Tax Credit to replace five current tax incentives, providing a credit against tax liability (and refundable for low-income families with little or no tax liability) of up to $3000 per year for four years of college and two years of graduate school.
  • A Universal Home Mortgage Interest Deduction that would expand the single most important middle-class tax break to people who don't itemize deductions (which would also reduce the number of taxpayers who have to file the "long form").
  • A Family Tax Credit that would replace the incredibly complex set of our existing incentives (the Earned Income Tax, the Child Credit, the Additional Child Credit, and the Child and Dependent Care Credit) with a simple, single credit that would provide as much as $7,000 for families with three kids. This proposal is similar to one proposed earlier by Rep. Rahm Emanuel (D-IL).
  • A Universal Pension incentive, replacing 16 existing IRA-type tax-preferred accounts with a single retirement account, portable from job to job, and benefiting from a $500 start-up credit.

This is a stellar plan compared to what the GOP wants. Of course, the Neoleft perpetrates the myth that moderate Democrats in general and the DLC in particular are anti-labor. This plan, I believe, puts that to rest.

read more here.

Why I am what I am

I believe it's common knowledge among those in the political sphere that the Republican party has been hijacked by religious extremists. What isn't often discussed is that the Democratic party has a vocal fringe element vying for control of the party. My goal is to simply point this out and comment on it.

At one time I ran a successful liberal blog where I gave the rightwing hell everyday. But I often found myself battling with other liberals over basic policy issues. That's when I realized that I was a center-left liberal.

In a recent speech, President Bill Clinton said, "America has two great dominant strands of political thought: conservatism, which at its very best draws lines that should not be crossed; and progressivism, which at its very best breaks down barriers that are no longer needed or should never have been erected in the first place."

I'd like to see that remain true in defiance of the fringes in our political system.

I believe that fringe elements in both parties will be the downfall of our society regardless of which side wins unless moderates on both sides of the aisle turn back the tide of extremism.
Just as I hope traditional Republicans reclaim the word "conservative" from the Christian Taliban in our country, I will do my best not to let the Neoleft hijack the term "liberal."