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Democrats: Still Losing the Message War

7:50 am in Uncategorized by Anthony Noel

Many here (myself proudly included) get pretty tough on Ed Schultz from time to time. Mainly because he’s an idiot. Still, I keep spoiling an otherwise perfectly good lunch hour by switching to his show on “America Left,” because doing so invariably helps me home in on another of the myriad reasons the Democrats lack anything resembling a clue.

Yesterday, that took all of 15 seconds.

The Edster welcomed Katrina vanden Heuvel, part owner and therefore editor-for-as long-as-she-says of the purportedly Lefty rag, The Nation.

Ed and Kat were discussing the bad bad GOP and how it may well succeed in calling the shots now that it has the House (no mention, of course, that conservatives called the shots when they didn’t have the House…). Following is my shorthand and anything-but-verbatim version of what the Big Dog and Kat screeched yesterday noon:

Ed: The midterms were all about the economy!

Kat: Mostly about the economy, a little about throw the bums out, a little about lack of enthusiasm (blah blah blah) we need to enlist not just Progressives but people from all across the spectrum who have been wronged by bad management even bad government management (which occurs in red states red states red states only) like people who have lost their civil service pensions and we need to unify them and make people aware that when one of us suffers all of us do and boats and tides and justice and whatever other peace. And civil rights, and love – a, and flowers.

Of course: No.

The cause of the Democrats’ midterm defeats is much simpler. But Schultz, vanden Heuvel and other neolibs are averse to uttering it, because they are unwilling to part with their unfounded, oh-so-up-in-their-reputedly-bright-little-heads-sounding rationales for the Party’s losses figurative-only wins during the last 30 years. How averse? So much that they are willing – borrowing a phrase from a former Alaska governor – to MAKE STUFF UP.

Voting demographics from the Midterm elections clearly show what cost the Democrats seats: The fact that LEFTIES STAYED HOME. Not NEOliberals; REAL-LIFE liberals. From the kids upon whose backs Obama crowd-surfed into office to old Bohemians – which word the sage Kat might well need a dictionary to even begin fathoming – like me, all of whom swallowed Obama’s bluster hook, line and sinker, we stayed home. Because, President-wise, HE HAS SUCKED.

Pundits like to try to tease out midterm voting from presidential election voting. But we vote in a dualistic system, and the notion that party and president are two different things is a nice idea. But that’s all it is.

We’ve watched for thirty years – thirty freakin’ years! – as neolibs have dutifully chanted mantras of peace, love and understanding, though their annointed have consistently been neither peaceful nor loving nor understanding when it’s brass tacks time. Barack Obama has quickly proved to be just the latest in that long (not)Left line of establishment Democratic Partiers.

Moreover, when one looks at the Right’s rise to dominance across those thirty years and considers the reasons why, the differences between the parties’ approaches are stark.

Abortion is MURDER!

STRONG on defense!

Tax-and-Spend LIBERALS!

Free-Market CAPITALISM!

Conservatives have kept their messages simple, provocative and consistent. Frank Luntz taught them the lesson a long time ago and they’ve been kicking Lefty ass ever since.

I made passing note of this truth in a post several months ago and suggested we take a lesson from it. So righteously indignant was one commenter that s/he jerked her/his knee along these lines: “There’s NOTHING I want to learn from conservatives!”

Of course, that is terribly shortsighted. A good Lefty friend of mine, after Al Gore waved the white flag, asked me what I thought happened.

“I’ll tell you exactly what happened,” I said. “People saw Gore as a wooden egghead that they couldn’t relate to – enough of them that it called the results into question and allowed Howdy Freakin’ Doody to claim the prize. When will the Left learn that it’s one thing to be smarter than the other side and something else entirely to come off looking too smart for your own good?”

I’m not arguing for the dumbing down of politics. On the contrary. It is the fact that on an issue-by-issue basis, Progressive values win, and that the Left seems unable to consolidate that truth into policy that I’m concerned with. How do we change it?

Rather than re-inventing the wheel (or continuing the fruitless and 30-years-and-counting refrain of kumbaya) couldn’t we maybe come up with and advocate – fiercely and consistently – for a few simple, provocative ideas of our own?

FULL Employment!

Medicare for ALL!

CIVIL Rights! HUMAN Rights! Civil LIBERTIES!

FAIR Trade!

End the Wars NOW!

Each of these have been shown again and again to be of far greater concern to Americans than any of the base-rallying, culture-warring bullshit consistently spouted by angry old white-collar criminals conservatives.

We Lefties are always saying how smart we are. Are we smart enough to build a new movement focused on issues instead of identities? On sworn dedication to clearly stated and sworn-to ideas like those above – instead of campaign promises, the subsequent ditching of which produces no consequence?

Some of your fellow FDLers think the time has come. We’re assembling right now on the ground floor of a movement we call the New Progressive Alliance, and we invite you to join us. If you’d like to help, write me, Anthony Noel: admin_at_themalcontent_dot_com

Thanks – and Happy New Year!

Challenge 2012: Ending Identity Politics

10:33 am in Uncategorized by Anthony Noel

We did it again.

In 2008, the American electorate bit – hook, line and sinker – on the promises of a charismatic orator who promised us everything and has failed not just to deliver, but even to remember what he promised. (Please, those of you who didn’t bite, save your keystrokes. I’m employing the collective “we,” and recognize that not everyone did.)

There’s no doubt: Our electoral process is perfectly – some would argue purposely – poised to place personality above principles.

This is nothing new, of course. If we valued principles and the ability to lead based upon them, we’d have elected a long line of eminently capable, honest leaders. But any objective review of the last thirty years shows that, with perhaps one exception, it’s been all about personality and promises on the campaign trail and – upon election – to Hell with adherence to universally recognized principles of fair play, let alone concern for the basic welfare of those being governed.

From Reagan to Clinton and Bush2 to Obama, we’ve been bamboozled but good. But it goes beyond that. If democracy is really about what we’ve been told – if it really means choosing leaders who will represent the people based on our expressed desires, in order to help us actualize the nation and world we envision – we’ve been far more than just poorly led.

We’ve been RULED.

Like the despots and their people who we have so regularly starved and killed and refused refuge, we – the increasing numbers of Americans who are downtrodden to an extent heretofore unseen since this country’s organization – are starving and dying and being denied refuge and the basic welfare-providing services which any nation calling itself great should be ashamed NOT to offer.

And why?

Because the ruling class has decided – despite clear evidence from those they rule that it is not of concern to them – that the national debt and budget deficit suddenly MATTER.

Even though these were of no concern to our rulers when they decided to go after one more despot.

Even though these remain of no concern to our rulers when they are drawing up “defense” (read: WEAPONS) budgets.

And even though REAL people in REAL streets in this increasingly UNREAL land are losing opportunities for health, education, and personal welfare – each and every day of the week.

What would happen, I wonder, if we began to do democracy as it was meant to be done? If WE picked the issues – and the STANCES on those issues – that WE care about FIRST – then recruited candidates who must pledge to represent us on those issues?

Without corporate money.

Without concern for party affiliation.

Unless and until we have driven a stake through the heart of the political practices that are killing this country – and Identity Politics is at the top of the list – America will never again be a truly great nation.

An effort has coalesced here at MyFDL over the past three months that aims, first and foremost, to hold candidates accountable to issues and principles. Readers like you have named it the “New Progressive Alliance” and identified five irrefutably progressive policy concerns around which we are building the movement. They’ve also developed a list of 10 prospective candidates to challenge Barack Obama in the 2012 primary and run as true progressives in the general. Beyond the 10 you’ll find at that link, other prospects include Cindy Sheehan, Jan Schakowsky, Joe Stiglitz, Patrick Fitzgerald, and Raul Grijalva.

Volunteers are stepping up, giving whatever time they can to spread the word and organize the effort in their individual states, and I invite you to join us. If you agree Identity Politics is at the root of what ails us, and you are ready to take positive action in waking people up and offering a real alternative, I hope you’ll contact me. Please write Anthony Noel at admin_at_themalcontent_dot_com.

Thanks.

New Progressive Alliance: Our Manifesto

11:30 am in Uncategorized by Anthony Noel

Voting took place last week here at MyFDL to choose a movement name and platform topics in the effort to mount a primary challenge to Barack Obama in 2012.

The results are now tabulated, and “MyFDL” commenters chose “New Progressive Alliance” as the effort’s name, and rated the following five topics as those most important to the Progressive cause:

1) Full Employment
2) Medicare for All
3) Civil Rights/Human Rights/Civil Liberties
4) Fair Trade
5) End the Wars Now

I congratulate all of you on these fine choices. A clearer manifesto – or more concise statement – of the principles and issues Progressives hold dear, and from which the Democratic Party has shrunk over the past 30 years, is difficult to imagine.

Of course, our goal is for the New Progressive Alliance to be a lasting force, one that can reinstate to American political discourse the uncompromising, unapologetic voice of the Left which the national Democratic Party has so thoroughly and completely ceased to be.

Challengers
Just five weeks ago, readers chose their top 10 preferred challengers to Obama (results here).

Since then, I’ve begun approaching prominent Lefties, seeking their membership on a steering committee to help (1) guide our effort and (2) bring under its umbrella the full range of groups espousing Progressive principles. Both prospective members I’ve approached thus far have agreed, and because of the delicate nature of trying to bring together prominent people of such diverse opinions, I am keeping their names confidential while those efforts continue.

What’s Next
What’s needed most at this stage is volunteers. While the work of seating a steering committee continues, we must spread word of the New Progressive Alliance throughout the blogosphere. We also need “State Founders” all across the country, to establish the New Progressive Alliance and begin seeking volunteers at the state level. A few people have already come forward, but we need many, many more.

Bloggers can make a difference in just an hour or two per week, by posting the link to this diary and future ones in comments at other sites. They’ll also help spread the word through letters to the editor in their local newspapers.

State Founders need about five free hours per week during the first half of 2011, during which they will promote and facilitate organizing meetings in order to recruit a corps of volunteers within their state. Promotional literature and tips to ensure good attendance at organizing meetings will be provided to State Founders, along with a PowerPoint presentation designed to engender enthusiasm and excitement among prospective volunteers, and to encourage them to enlist their friends and colleagues in the effort as well.

The America that FDR and LBJ worked so hard to begin building lies in ruins. Common concern for the welfare of our fellow citizens has been abandoned; corporate solvency predominates over individual rights and liberties; and – just as it never was – war is still not the answer.

The groundwork has been laid. Now the real work must begin.

Are you ready to join the fight for what you believe in?

If you are, please e-mail admin_at_themalcontent_dot_com, and encourage other readers to join you with your comments below.

Thanks, one and all, for everything you’ve done so far, and for all we still hope to achieve.

A Line Too Bright to Ignore

5:23 pm in Uncategorized by Anthony Noel

Many of you have been active participants in the effort, begun here in September, to craft a long-term response to the utter selling out of average Americans by the Washington and Wall Street elite.

jeffroby has called it “Dump Obama.” I prefer Primary Obama/New Progressive Alliance. (And the really optimistic call it pointless!)

Beyond the names (and name calling) comes a clear choice, and how we choose might very well determine whether we succeed or fail.

jeffroby is of the opinion that a challenge to Obama is the main thing, and that it might well push the Democratic Party to the Left. He further believes in a “two-track” approach, where a populist (i.e., well-known) candidate would be the primary election challenger, leading what he’s called an independent entity within the Democratic party. Upon that challenger being denied the nomination, the independent entity would then break away from the party and put up a different opponent in the 2012 general election because, as Jeff wrote a few days ago:

In any event, whoever primaries Obama will likely sell us out. I go into this with eyes wide open, you don’t have to warn me about being sold out. It comes with the territory.

I believe, since we know this already, we should take steps to counter it right from the get-go. Rather than a two-track approach, I favor a comprehensive one, whereby our challenger – in order to become our challenger in the first place – must not only agree to run against Obama in the primaries, but to run as the new party’s candidate in the general as well.

Call it a loyalty vow.

This difference in approach may seem small; something we can deal with later. There is already much agreement that the main thing is the platform on which the challenger runs. That we must get away from identity politics and focus on the issues – the Democrats’ approach to which, even as I write, is promoting militarism, destroying what’s left of the middle class, and utterly ravaging the poor.

But even at this early stage, strategy is not a small consideration. Whether we like it or not, there is a bright line between those who believe the Democratic Party – and more broadly, the two-party system itself – is utterly and finally bankrupt, and those who believe some sort of meaningful, results-for-the-victimized duality can be restored by reforming the Democratic Party.

Whichever of these beliefs you might hold, that bright line exists nonetheless – and if we are serious about changing things, we ignore it at our peril.

Here’s why.

Over the past few weeks, I’ve been working on seating a steering committee of prominent, respected Lefties for this effort. So far I’m batting 1.000 – the first two people I’ve approached have agreed. They are names you will immediately recognize, and while I am not ready to disclose them just yet, here’s the key point: One is willing to participate only if the goal is the establishment of a new party which seeks to bring together the disparate factions of the Left, toward the greater objective of giving the Left a real voice again. This person is even averse to a primary challenge, but would be willing, I think, to support it as a strategic first step – provided the ultimate goal is to give Lefties a unified voice which is not tied to the Democratic Party.

The ultimate form of political revolt is taking the very rules which the ensconsced powers believe protect them and turning them to the advantage of those seeking change. Our electoral process, as now operated, offers just that kind of opportunity.

Nothing is stopping us from both challenging Obama in the primaries AND running THE SAME candidate against him in the general, thereby leveraging the support that candidate – and with them, our platform – has generated throughout the primary process. Nobody is deluding themselves into thinking we can win, whether in the primaries or the general – unless “winning” is defined as launching a real Lefty counterpoint to the Right (Democratic), further-right (Republican) and daftly right (Tea) factions which now comprise our one-party system.

Moreover, naming a new candidate for the general means throwing away months of hard work in the primaries – work that could be focused on telling voters the truth: “We know we will be denied the nomination. When we are, if the movement we are building is to last, we will need your support. Won’t you become a charter member of the New Progressive Alliance, and help us provide a real voice for the Left in this country, long after the 2012 election is over?”

Insisting on the candidate’s loyalty right from the outset would also avoid the “tradition” of the challenger “throwing their support” to the nominee. This (outdated, ridiculous, anything-but-democratic) notion of “rallying ’round the victor” has clipped the wings of countless fledgling third-party efforts in the past. But by holding our challenger to a higher standard – namely, of putting our platform and its survival first, by agreeing not to “sell us out,” as Jeff puts it – we can assure that, this time, things will be very different indeed.

If the past two years have not fully and finally convinced us that the Democratic Party – and with it, the (so-called) two-party system – is irretreivably broken, I can only wonder: Are we really that stupid?

UPDATE: Voting Deadline Extended!

7:14 am in Uncategorized by Anthony Noel

It’s been a big news day. Elizabeth Edwards’ passing; the detention of Julian Assange; President Obama’s capitulation on tax cuts for the rich.

So we’re extending until Thursday morning your opportunity to vote for names and platform topics in the growing effort to Primary Barack Obama and create an alliance of the American Left.

Consider Your Vote Thoroughly
The below list of names for our effort is straightforward, but the topic list is arranged a little differently. Some folks are writing-in topics, and while write-ins are certainly permitted, you should know that there is little chance they will register in the final tabulations; that’s why we had a nominating process which resulted in the list below. So if there is something you feel strongly about, I’d suggest choosing something from the topic list below that’s close to ensure your overall concern is registered.

Topics are grouped (as much as was possible) by category. Speaking purely for myself, the topic names leading off each category are the kind of succinct phrases I think we are looking for, for now. Policy specifics will be discussed and debated as we work on the text for each plank. That being said, if you feel any of the other phrases are better – or even if you want five phrases from the same category – that’s your call. The main reason I’ve grouped things as I did is that, as I tried to arrange this list, it seemed the easiest way to consider the many topics nominated while also capturing the general sense of the beliefs that commenters expressed in each category. That’s gotta make the next step, writing each plank’s text, a little easier.

We Need Your Help
We are at a crucial point. In addition to your votes, we need volunteers to continue building the organization around which these voices can coalesce, unify, and become established in every state. The Left is often criticized as being a “circular shooting squad.” We must change that. If you can give just an hour per week – that’s right – per WEEK – you can help put that organization in place.

Please write to me directly at admin_at_themalcontent_dot_com if you can help. And please recommend this post and vote, as directed below, before 6 p.m. Pacific today!

Thanks again, everyone, for your passion and participation.

How To Vote
Begin by copying/pasting the following in the comment box:

EFFORT NAMES
1.
2.
3.
PLATFORM TOPICS
1.
2.
3.
4.
5.

From the two lists below, enter your three preferred names and your five preferred platform topics. VOTE ONLY ONCE, and please VOTE ONLY; do not include comments. Your cooperation is greatly appreciated, and please recommend this thread to keep it prominent through the new deadline of Thursday at 4 a.m. (PST)

EFFORT NAMES
<250K
250K And Unders
American Citizens Party
American Peoples Party
Commonwealth Party
Federal Dollar Liberation Movement
Labor Party
Law and Order Party
Main Street Alliance
Main Street Party
Make-Work Protectionist Party
Most Of Us Party
New American Labor Party
New Deal Party
New Progressive Alliance
Party Alliance
Progressive Patriotic Alliance
Real Democratic Party
Red-Green Party
Rent Is Too Damn High Party
Rule of Law Party
Sticky Greens
Sustainable Democracy Party
Teapot Party
Workers Party
Working Families Alliance

PLATFORM TOPICS
Full Employment
Full Employment Guarantee
Living Wage
Lower Retirement Age

Peace
End the Wars Now
No Pre-Emptive Wars
Strong Defense

Civil Rights/Human Rights/Civil Liberties
Choice
Medicare for All
Citizen Empowerment
Electoral Reform
Equal Access to Education
Democratize All Institutions
Justice and Accountability
Labor Rights
Legalize Marijuana
Political Equality
Prosperity for All
Rule of Law

Environmental Stewardship
Bee Habitat
Energy Farming

A Real Social Safety Net
Economic Equality
Economic Sustainability

Federal Policy
Balanced Budget
End the Federal Debt
Bottom-Up Democracy
Campaign Finance Reform
Cut the Cost of Health Care in Half
End Torture
Presidential Powers
Progressive Taxation
Prosecute U.S. War Criminals
Sociable Urban Planning
Transparency

Commerce
Control Bankers’ and Financiers’ Greed
Corporate Regulation
Fair Trade
Financial Regulation
Hemp Reform
Exclude Corporations Who Export Jobs from the American Market
Manufacturing
Regulation of Constitutional Rights of Corporations

Let’s Find a Name, and Platform Planks

5:11 pm in Uncategorized by Anthony Noel

A week ago we voted on preferred primary challengers to Barack Obama in 2012 who might also agree to run as the nominee of a new third party in the general election.

There seems general agreement that the overarching goal of this effort is to build a broad, viable third party representing core progressive values, by using the period when Americans – and the media – pay the most attention to politics: The election cycle. An actual victory for the presidency in 2012 is not the focus, but that said, if we campaign as if it were, we greatly increase the likelihood of building a broadly based movement that is welcoming to the full range of those disgusted with the total co-option of our democratic process by profiteers and power seekers.

Our effort is being birthed under a variety of monikers, from “Dump Obama” (jeffroby) to “the movement” (Jim Moss) to Primary Obama/New Progressive Alliance (me), each of which has served its purpose. But, if we are sincere about building a new party, we’re going to need something that neatly describes our initiative – or alliance or movements – for the long term, so it can grow and prosper well beyond 2012.

We also need to build a platform. Jim Moss’s diary here floats some core platform principles, and welshTerrier2 has written that “political equity” – a hallmark of FDR’s ideology and appeal, and an overarching tenet of progressivism even before FDR – is key.

I believe the final platform should include an opening statement that covers our basic principles, followed by the platform itself, of no more than 10 planks. With this thread, I’d like us to “nominate” two different sets of things: Possible names for the movement, and titles for platform planks.

Two suggestions:

1) Remember that party names are often abbreviated into acronyms, so when you have a name you love, you’ll want to google it to check on any additional (and potentially negative) references before nominating it.

2) For platform plank titles, think as broadly as possible: Titles such as “Jobs” or “Defense” or “Environment.” As I’ve noted on other threads, one lesson we can – and I believe must – learn from the Right is the power of simply and forcefully stating where we stand. The best way to start is by keeping the plank title as direct as possible.

As you nominate party names or plank titles, read through others’ lists to avoid duplicates. There is no need to nominate 10 planks if some of those on your list are already posted. Also, when posting your ideas, please denote your lists as “PARTY NAME” or “PLANK.” Don’t worry for now about writing the text of the planks; we’ll tackle that after we’ve settled on titles.

Compared to the candidate selection process, I see this being much quicker; let’s shoot for wrapping it up over the next week.

Thanks as always, all!