Sunday, November 28, 2004

VOR Advice for the Democrats Part 1

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After my brief hiatus, I return to VOR energized and hopeful. In the aftermath of the 2004 election, the Democratic Party faces numerous challenges, many of which I hope to address in the coming months. Ironically, the Republican Party is also undergoing serious changes as well, but their November 2nd victory has masked internal dissent on several major issues thus far (keep an eye on intelligence reform and immigration). Both parties have a lot of work to do in 2005, and I thought I would offer my own New Year’s Resolutions for both parties, beginning this week with the Democrats.

10. Resolve not to vote for Hillary Clinton in the 2008 Democratic Primaries.

This one is really critical. Hilary is the early frontrunner, and has the unique and nearly unbeatable combination of a moderate voting record and tremendous grassroots support. Unfortunately, she has unusually high “negatives” in terms of poll numbers. In short, that means she is much better known than any other Presidential candidate, but a lot of people have already decided that they don’t like her. Many observers assert that the Democrats could not possibly be so stupid as to nominate a candidate that has no chance to win (See Dean, Howard), but Hillary will have the institutional support and financial backing that Dean never had and will easily win Iowa and New Hampshire. With the help of President Clinton, his former staff, and energized Democratic women, she will be the establishment candidate and the grassroots favorite rolled into one. What’s more, even her biggest detractors admit she is an impressive policy wonk and skilled political street fighter. But anyone who thinks she could win any of the states that John Kerry lost still has a Dennis Kucinich for President bumper sticker on their car. Please remove it.

9. Resolve to recognize that the GOP won the 2004 election, fair and square, despite the numerous conspiracy theory emails you receive every day.

Democrats have to face facts. They lost by a narrow but real margin, and despite Bush’s four years of failure, John Kerry wasn’t good enough to win the most important election in a generation. If Bush is really as bad as liberals say (I think he’s much more skilled than Democrats give him credit for), than what does that say about the Democrats for getting beat all over the country by him? Bush improved his vote share in 45 out of 50 states. Hispanics went 44 percent for Bush. That’s damning evidence that Democrats did something wrong.

8. Resolve to be genuinely happy when xml:namespace prefix = st1 />Iraq has relatively free and fair elections in January even though it will be a validation of Bush’s policies.

I know too many liberals who skim the front pages headlines of the NYT looking for bad news from Iraq so they can justify their view that the war was wrong. I observed similar reactions to successful elections in Afghanistan, where my liberal friends had been telling me for months that the nation was falling apart due to our negligence (The NYT ran numerous stories as well), only to be completely blindsided by the historic events that actually took place. We should all now recognize that President Bush and the U.S. accomplished something very real and significant in Afghanistan, despite the fact that more work needs to be done. When the Iraqi elections go off well, what will be your answer? Will you question the legitimacy of the results like you did in the U.S.? Or will you be forced to admit that the Bush administration did exactly what they said they would do, by handing over power in June and securing the nation for free elections less than a year later? (Keep an eye on the Sunni proposal to delay the elections. Shiites are eager to solidify their power, but the minority Sunnis are of course reluctant to give control up)

7. Resolve to realize that Europeans have their own interests in foreign policy and we don't need to be popular with France and Germany to do things in the world.

A common refrain from liberals is that the world is against us. First off, looking at how the Europeans have shied away from dealing with Sudan and have been fooled once again by Iranian promises to “freeze” their nuclear program, maybe being on the other side of them isn’t such a bad thing. Instead of using the Europeans as our moral reference point, let’s realize that their roles and ambitions in the world are conditioned by a wholly separate set of historical, political, and economic factors, and that the Europeans (correctly) act in their own interests, just as we do.

6. Resolve to recognize that we use divisive social issues to energize our base the same way Republicans do.

Abortion and gay marriage? Democratic voters are motivated by the same issues, just in the opposite direction. The Democrats have used pro-choice appeals in the past to raise millions of dollars and to secure votes. Democrats also benefit from strong support from the gay community because of our positions. Sure, Democrats think they are “right” and that the GOP is “wrong”, but the feelings are just as strong on the other side. Democrats should keep fighting for these things, but let’s not fool ourselves into thinking that Democrats would prefer to avoid social issues.

5. Resolve to recognize that the sanctity of marriage is important and children do best when they have two parents in the household.

Democrats should develop a broader set of family values to include gay families, single parents, etc. Democrats are in a wonderful position to articulate a much more inclusive set of family values but I do not see it happening unless major changes are made inside the Party. When I see J.S. label the concept of marriage (historically) as “little more than a way to swap women for property without their consent.”, I fret about the future of the Democratic Party. Statements like that may be historically accurate in his view, but it demonstrates a blatant disregard for how important marriage is today, when it is not discussed in the proper context. Gay marriage is obviously not a threat to heterosexual marriage, but something is very wrong with marriage in this country, and we need to have an alternate set of policies to address it. Democrats will continue to lose the values war if they ignore marriage as a serious issue, because it clearly matters to many voters.

We all know that children grow up better when their parents are in a stable, happy, relationship and we must concede that marriage, despite J.S.’s characterization, is a good (may I venture the best?) way to cement this.

4. Resolve to take the degeneration of culture, entertainment, and sports more seriously.

After the raucous brawl between the Indiana Pacers and the Detroit Pistons’ fans recently, I felt that the time has come for more Democratic politicians to talk about these issues. As any parent will tell you, there is a lot of bad stuff on TV and its on earlier than ever before. Some of antics on recent football telecasts like the Super Bowl and Monday Night Football have been scandalous for families with children. Instead of laughing at these oversensitive, sexually repressed, hicks, can liberals just accept that this a serious problem with detrimental effects on our kids, just like violence in video games? Democrats confronted with this issue often point the very real violence on TV, citing images from the Iraq War. But would they rather that footage not be shown? Americans should be confronted with the somber consequences of a war, even a war of liberation. Children of are certain age should learn that tyranny exists in this world and needs to be confronted, sometimes with force. But mindless violence in video games like Grand Theft Auto has no positive lessons for 12 year olds. Seeing professional athletes act like thugs by going into the stands to attack fans also has no positive benefits. Many parents worry seriously of these issues, and Democrats should too.

3. Resolve not to vote for Hilary in 2008.

I know. I just had to remind you. You can love Hilary on the issues. But do you want to win? Choose Evan Bayh, Bill Richardson, or some unknown governor from Tennessee, North Carolina, Virginia, or Kansas instead. (I will profiling them all on VOR soon) By the way, whatever your feeling about Howard Dean, the way he energized the base and spoke to Democratic hearts was one of the most amazing stories of the 2004 election. I disagreed with him on many issues, but his stump speech was by far the most passionate and genuine of all the candidates. Other candidates should study him.

2. Resolve to be for something, instead of against everything.

Liberals have been recently defined by being against the war, against No Child Left Behind, and against the tax cuts. And their plan is to basically reverse all of them, without addressing any of the underlying problems with new solutions. Their solution to the war on terror is some vague notion of multilateralism combined with a global law enforcement regime. Liberals still hate vouchers and have offered no solution other than spending more money in our worst schools, even when it doesn’t work. They repeatedly avoid discussions about reforming teacher pay, installing accountability measures, or discussing the impact of culture on student performance. On taxes, we all agree that the tax code needs to be simpler and fairer, but Democrats just want it to go back to the way it was under Clinton. See what I mean? Of course, many entrepreneurial Democrats have tried to speak out, but they are often drowned out by entrenched special interests.

Let’s take these upcoming years in the political wilderness to develop positive ideas to improve America, rather than just being contrarians. We certainly have the time.

1. Resolve not to lose hope and not to withdraw from public discourse.

After the election, I sensed depression and disbelief among my liberal friends. Now, with the passage of time, they have seemingly insulated themselves with the basic mantra of “well, people are going to get what they voted for. It won’t affect us in the blue states. They got to learn the hard way.”

That’s a bad attitude. Don’t become disengaged. The passion we generated this time around was tremendous but just not enough. If our ideals are really worth fighting for, we cannot give up after losing just one battle.

Some of my future posts may be entitled:

“How Democrats can save the Republican Party… electing Arnold.”

“Social Skills: Democratic Ideas to Win the Culture War.”

“Mistaken Identity: The Fallacy of Race Politics and the GOP’s new commitment to diversity.


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