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November 13, 2005
Thinking Out Loud

Do the Democrats have a vision?


Can they find one in time?

Does anyone know...or care, how crazy this makes me?

There are tens of millions of us out here who have a very clear vision of what the Democrats stand for...or should stand for.

Liberty and justice for all.

There are tens of millions of us out here who have a very clear vision of what the Democrats should be preaching as the domestic* party platform.

Labor rights. Civil rights. Health care. Social security. Clean energy. Clean government.

These are where they should start. Fix this.

If the elected Democratic Party officials in Washington can't figure out who the Democrats are, I suggest that they resign and let someone who does have a clue take their place.

All that follows is just my opinion, of course, but I got tired of typing, "I think" constantly.

Most of those issues traditionally thought of as the Left's domain have been mainstreamed over the last 30 years, making those issues more "centrist" than Left (in spite of the Reactionary Right's furious attempts to roll back the tide of civilization).

Okay, arguably the "leadership" of the Left never was that thrilled about a lot of issues but the mid-level and ground-level support for them were strong enough to push through the necessary legislative and social changes without top-tier Washington cooperation. So, we have (limited) women's right's, racial equality, concern for the environment, and at least lip service to developing clean, renewable fuels. We even have (very limited) gay rights.

Today, do we have any hot ticket issues, things people feel passionately enough about to agitate their legislators about, support receptive candidates over, and argue with their in-laws for? To do all of the other things needed to bring something front and center in the public's awareness?

Social Security is critically important but it's not sexy. Medicare is another vitally important program and it suffers from the same problem. Not sexy. Poverty, crime, and education are all too intertwined for any "solution" that doesn't address all three to be successful. Complicated problems aren't sexy and they don't lend themselves to solutions that can be expressed as catchy, six-word slogans. Are the domestic problems that face us today simply too complicated for the "average citizen" to be able to offer any substantive input?

These are important issues that are going to affect every single person in the USofA. (Except those insulated by their wealth, so let's just say 90% of the country.)

Of course, there's Iraq. There's the prisoners we tortured, not to mention the ones who died. And the reports that the intelligence was "fixed" to make the war seem necessary. And the revelations that we started bombing Iraq long, long before the invasion was a mote in the public's eyes. And the healthcare problems of returning veterans. And the "stop-loss" that's keeping us from seeing many returning veterans. And the recurring aroma of a draft. And the contracting fraud, the money wasted, the money vanished, and the civilian body count.**

We could get people marching in the streets over Iraq. But should we?

I don't doubt the slaughter can sink the Bush Administration, but what are we going to replace it with? What's our plan for this country's future?

Is there any point in agitating against the Bush Administration (aside from our dislike of their hypocritical authoritarianism) if we don't actually have a better plan?

If we have a plan, do we know what it is? It's 2005. If we have a vision for the country, it's really not too early to start telling people about it. '08 is closer than you think.


* If I had a foreign policy platform idea, I'd post it here.

Unfortunately, the corrupt application of USofA military might and foreign aid programs to push USofA corporate interests over the past decades, along with the quite justified perception that we're arrogant, hypocritical bullies is going to take a little more work to correct.

To begin with, I'd suggest not vilifying and tearing down Kofi Annan, the man who is currently the U.N.'s best hope for meaningful reform. Yeah, he dissed the Bush Administration over Iraq. They had it coming and even if they didn't, this is not the kindergarten playground, so they can just grow up.

I've said it a hundred times. The U.N. is what we've got. We need to work within the framework. We already erased (League of Nations) and started over once. If we do it again, we eliminate any possibility that any subsequent organization will be able to effect meaningful change in the world.

And, you know, multilateralism. In war and peace. I'm not a universal fan of "globalization" because all that really means is that if I ever get to visit Paris, I'll be surrounded by Wal-Marts, but there are areas in which globalization, properly regulated and kept in check, is useful. Countries with solid economic ties are less likely to go to war with each other, for instance.

Also? For the last half-century, the CIA has been running arms- and drug-smuggling operations under the pretense of using them to "gather intelligence." They should knock it off because that's just one more way in which we are a large part of our problem.

** They said we had to outspend the Soviet Union to protect ourselves from the Red Menace and we did, and I guess we "won" but the spending never stopped.

Colin Powell once said that the USofA was "running out of enemies." If I'm not mistaken, it was shortly after that that the 'military-industrial complex' started looking for some enemies to justify the ever-more bloated annual defense budget.

I'm sick of it. No one else should have to die to keep Halliburton's stock price healthy.

"No Blood For Oil" is a good slogan, but so is, "Make Work, Not War."

(Or, "Benefits, Not Body Counts.")

Posted by AnneZook at 12:00 PM


I agree with you. But I don't think that the Democratic party can solve the issue. I don't think the Republican party had a "vision"; they had a (sometimes contradictory) collection of slogans and simplicities which they marketed with brutal efficiency and relentless vigor. If they had a vision, it was of power.

And, as loyally as I vote Democratic, it's a big tent party which has to be at least a bit vague about things for fear of ticking off a major constituency or two. Now, you and I would probably say "tick them off and let's see if we get real people instead of one-dimensional interest groups in exchange" but party hacks don't work that way.

I think a vision, as you or I would see it, will have to come from a candidate, perhaps one with a strong but small intellectual/policy support system (think tanks, or small scale virtual organizations of some kind). It will have to be a kind of internal insurgency, Dean-esque (without the fulminating centrist personality, perhaps, though "enraged moderate" isn't a bad description of me, either) but with considerably more focus and clarity of message.

Posted by: Jonathan Dresner at November 13, 2005 11:35 PM

You're right about pissing off a major constituency being what party hacks fear, of course. Which is sort of what I've been saying all along. What the Democrats lack today is an actual leader.

If what the Democrats stand for is what a "major" constituency can't get behind, then the "major" constituency will have to vote elsewhere, won't they?

Yes, the Democrats are a big tent, but they can't be all things to all people and I think it's the attempt to do so that's turned them into a sort of vague fog on the political landscape.

Sooner or later, the Party's "leaders" are going to have to take a stand. If the idea is really that scary to them, they're in the wrong jobs.

As for the voters...well, it's a matter of deciding what's most important. What can we support in return for help with our own most important issues? What can we not support at any price?

I'm feeling very obnoxious today. This country needs a viable alternative to the current crop o'wingnuts and the Party that's running along behind them begging them not to be quite so crazy, quite so publicly.

I think it's time for one of those periodic party-realignment upheavals. I'd like for the Democrats to be the ones defining where the new lines will be, but if they're trying to draw the lines to scoop in voters rather than to address issues, they're going to remain impotent and incoherent.

Posted by: Anne at November 14, 2005 01:26 PM