Wednesday, June 20, 2007


Thanks to Stash for the invitation - and the prodding.

I had an epiphany.

Well, actually the author of "Being Right is Not Enough" - Paul Waldman, had the epiphany and I'm getting a contact high from it.

The basic premise is that we progressives don't get anywhere by talking about policy. We should learn from conservatives, for whom details are anathema. The lesson to be learned is: talk about basic principles and our moral code. This basic principle, the "master narrative" is; we're all in this together.

From this first principle (which compares favorably to the darwinian conservatism which rules today) all other progressive values flow. Further, these progressive values have broad support. What has been missing from progressives isn't good policy, it's communication of a good ethical framework.

Further, conservative ought to be a dirty word. The word should be spoken only to disparage it. Republicans don't try to appeal to those who are hard to attract - they ridicule them. Here's an example from the book;
...consider this television ad, aired in Iowa by the conservative Club for Growth during the 2004 primary season:
Announcer: What do you think of Howard Dean's plans to raise taxes on families by nineteen hundred dollars a year?
Man: What do I think? Well I think Howard Dean should take his tax-hiking, government-expanding, latte-drinking, sushi-eating, Volvo-driving, New York Times-reading...
Woman: Body-piercing, Hollywood-loving, left-wing freak show back to Vermont, where it belongs.
Man: Got it?

You may have heard of this ad; its appearance was a minor story, discussed by cable anchors with amused smiles. But imagine for a moment the outrage that would have resulted had a liberal group aired an ad telling George W. Bush to "take his tobacco-chewing, trailer park-living, NASCAR-loving, Field & Stream-reading, grits-eating, right-wing freak show back to Texas, where it belongs".

It's okay to disparage both coasts - in fact, for Republicans it has proven to be a winning strategy. It would be equally effective for us to disparage the south. We won't win there anyway, and we don't want to pander to the chronic racism that being effective at it would require. True progressives in the south (like conservatives on the coasts) know that it isn't them who are being addressed.

Does this conflict with the 50 state strategy? Not at all. The 50 state strategy requires a grass roots effort. Running for the presidency requires mobilizing one's base, and calling ones self "a fiscal conservative" as if it were praise does nothing for the party. Is this writing off the south? In the short term, yes. Progressives won't change hearts and minds from the sidelines.

Another example of the author's point is provided by Bill Clinton. Did he win election because he expanded EITC? No. We elected him because he "felt our pain" - the EITC was an outgrowth of those values.

One last thought. At one time, I thought that taking the high road was the better long term strategy. I rationalized the idea that if we only communicated our policy better, eventually voters would see the light. It's been 25 years now. "Eventually" ain't ever gonna get here.

In politics, it's not useful, productive, effective or moral to roll over and take it. To succeed in politics, we need to hit hard and not just in retaliation, and certainly not to turn the other cheek. Everything depends on it.

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At 3:07 PM, Blogger Stash said...

No more wedgies. You've been initiated.

Oh, and btw, great post! Those namby, pamby-milktoasts need to get the hell out of the way so there can be some serious a$$-kickin'!


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