Monday, November 29, 2004

Gluttony- My Favorite Deadly Sin

Hope everyone's Thanksgiving was as enjoyable as mine (which, if you knew me well, you would conclude was intended to be a curse). The holidays in general, and this holiday in particular, have always struck me as uniquely American, consumption (in all its varieties) being our true national pastime. Eating and buying. God Bless America.

I've been thinking some more about the process of persuasion. Merely being right is not enough- in fact, it's not really anything at all. Republicans understand this (and they don't even have the benefit of being right). Much of the so-called Contract With America, the ideological genesis of the Republican revolution, actually lacked popular support. Rather than alter the goals of the contract, and thus back off their policy goals, Frank Luntz (evil, weird haired genius) found the langauge necessary to sell. If people have a problem with your policies, simply change the rhetoric.

This is a fundamental left-right wedge. People on the left frequently approach problems from the language of need. Why do you need a (Barret M-82 sniper rifle/Hummer/ 5,000 square foot McMansion)? Parse out the words- "Why do you need..." First of all, it's apparent that we are talking about you and that I know better than you do. Second, we approach from the perspective of need- no one needs a Hummer, but many people want a Hummer.

People on the right approach the same problem from a different paradigm- Why can't I have a (Barret/Hummer/McMansion)? Whether we care to admit it or not, for a good number of our countrymen, these things are cool. That alone justifies the need (what microeconomists would call a preference), and any attempt to restrict our access to such things amounts to an attack on what we want itself. This is one reason why the language of need fails to resonate. (I am remided of Phil Gramm's famously asinine quote, "I have more guns than I need, but fewer than I want.")

If we are to make inroads among fiscally responsible RINO's, we need to co-opt some of this language. Why can't I have clean water? Why can't we have safe schools? Why can't we all enjoy the benefits of marriage? Of safe, legal reproductive care? It's a subtle shift away from our traditional paradigm, but one I think it is necessary to make. After all, the Wobblies wanted not only bread, but roses as well.

Wednesday, November 24, 2004

Sometimes It Makes Me Wonder How I Keep From Going Under...

A medical marijuana case presently on appeal to the Supreme Court of these United States has the Bush Administration engaging in tortured, almost inconceivable legal logic. The government appealed from a circuit court ruling that held that entirely local, non-commercial marijuana use was beyond Congress' power to regulate interstate commerce. In its brief on the merits, the government argues that local use "substantially affects interstate commerce."

Meaning that local, non-commercial (and legal) distribution and/or use has an impact on the interstate (and illegal) distribution and/or use of marijuana. So, if you want to smoke your medical marijuana, you're just going to have to buy it on the street same as everybody else.

I'm almost tempted to file an amicus brief supporting the government on behalf of "unnamed independent pharmaceutical distributors."

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

File Under "You've Made Your Bed, Now Lie In It"

According to a New York Times poll, a majority of Americans support some form of legal recognition for same sex couples, believe it is more important to cut the deficit than to cut taxes, support a woman's right to choose, and believe that the country is headed on the wrong direction. So naturally Bush won. How does this work?

Listen up, people- if you have all these concerns, you should have voted for the other guy.

Like All Good Progressives, I've Been Quoted Out Of Context

So my open letter has begun to appear on conservative blogs, and they have responded predictably. Namely, they only focused on the most salacious parts while ignoring the rest. What can I say- at least they're consistent.

File Under "I Was Busy, So Sue Me"

I haven't updated in a few days, mostly because it was a weekend of unexpected surprises. I had planned to rundown the Sunday papers, but a trip to the Emergency Veterinarian made that unlikely (incidentally, it cost $230 to learn that Oscar, my sweet, laid back boy kitty, had a tummy ache). Anyway, here are the big stories.

File Under "Ron Artest Is A Punk- And That's News?" The sheer amount of ink spilled over a brawl at a basketball game is simply astounding. Google News shows about 4,050 stories written on this non-event, dissected from every angle: The problem is African-American culture, the problem is "the civility gap" (whatever that is), the problem is the drunken louts in the stands, the problem is all of us. To hell with that- the problem is that Ron Artest is a thug with no self control. Can we please turn to news that matters?

What Is The Sound Of One Hand Giving The Bird To A Divided Party? Mitch Frank writes that what the Arlen Specter debacle demonstrates is that social conservatives want their agenda pushed forward now. He notes, however, that social conservatives are not the only ones who want their agenda pushed.

And the Christian right isn’t the only uneasy constituency in the Republican party. Fiscal conservatives unhappy about the deficit, isolationists and foreign policy realists unhappy about the war and libertarians hostile to the Patriot Act all held their tongues during the fight against John Kerry, but may be ready to start talking.

David Brooks also notes the beginnings of fracture. As he succinctly puts it, many Republicans feel that the expanded majority gives them the chance to finally win on issues they are passionate about, but they have fundamentally different views on what winning means.

This is a wedge I think Democrats would be wise to exploit. With our debt ceiling recently raised to $8.18 trillion (that is, $8,180,000,000,000 in debt), many people- left, right, and center- are skeptical of Bush's call for more tax cuts. Think about it, with almost 295 million people living in this country, each and every man, woman, and child, citizen and alien alike, is on the hook to the tune of $28,000. Of course, since we don't pay for it now our unfathomable national debt is handed off to future generations- a classic economic externality. Our debt load amounts to a tax on the unborn- utterly shameful.

Just that one issue alone- properly framed- could tilt some center-to-right leaning people away from the GOP. It needs to be very carefully positioned, somewhere along the lines suggested by Sandeep Kaushik suggested last week, but the divisions can be exploited. Remember, the divisions noted are among self-described Republicans. How many Bush voters are there without partisan predelictions?

File Under "How Do You Prove A Negative?" Iran claims it has suspended its nuclear activities- Bush says, "Prove it." Oh, boy. They're not even subtle about it. Play out the scene, people.

Iran: Look, Mr. President, the reactors are shut off.
Dubya: That's not proof.
Iran: We have no uranium.
Dubya: You have no uranium here, but you could have it elsewhere. That's not proof.
Iran: We have discontinued our missile program.
Dubya: For now. You leave us no choice but to to INVADE... um, liberate. Yeah, that's the ticket.

And they say statesmanship is dead.

"Please, No Wardrobe Malfunctions This Time" Finally, from the land of the non-story (which subtly incorporates last year's biggest non-story), Paul McCartney will headline the halftime show at the Super Bowl. What, no Lindsey Lohan?

Friday, November 19, 2004

Continuing The Dialogue

Democrats, for all of our failures, are excellent when it comes to one thing- sniping at each other after a big loss. I, myself, am guilty of this. The criticism is not unfounded, however. We are adrift. Which brings me to Derek Kilmer.

He is the progessive Democrat who unseated a Bible-thumping right winger, albeit for the relatively small office of Washington State Representative. He beat her in a district that is middle-to-right- and he beat her by framing his message of economic justice in simple hearth and home terms.

He avoided ideological labels, but he put forward a positive message of progressive change, in the best sense of the term. The gospel according to Kilmer was about strengthening the community and its families – through economic development, infrastructure improvements, taking care of the elderly. He broadened his base by talking about boring bread-and-butter stuff. It just so happens, though, that his voters considered boring bread-and-butter stuff to be relevant and important: job creation, transportation (residents of his district have long commutes on congested roads), education, health care.

Sandeep Kaushik on Alternet suggests that Democrats can take lessons from his election.

There is a natural, bottom-up language (or a vision, or a narrative, or whatever)..., about the Democratic Party as the party that stands for strengthening family and community by making sure that the economic playing field is not stacked against the average working stiff. And that language flows, quite naturally, into a set of progressive policy ideas.... There is the potential for a family and community agenda that idealistic Deaniacs and Clintonian realists might agree on: a living wage, restricting mandatory overtime, paid family leave, reasonable vacation time.

The frame for this, of course, is that economic justice IS a family value- that by promoting fairness for all, from the poorest up to the top, we all can have a better home life and stronger communities. Something to think about.

Just Take Out The "Q," And Write In An "N"

So, hawkish neocons on the Hill and in the House have "intelligence" about a rogue Middle Eastern nation hoarding weapons and posiing a "threat." Iraq? Close. It's Iran. Told you about this one already.

In an eerie repetition of the prelude to the Iraq war, hawks in the administration and Congress are trumpeting ominous disclosures about Iran's nuclear capacities to make the case that Iran is a threat that must be confronted, either by economic sanctions, military action, or "regime change."

For what it's worth, Iran denies that it is developing a nuclear program. We all know, however, that it's not worth much. Things that only Godless types care about, such as facts or evidence, do not deter our Great and Divinely Ordained Leader from his Holy Mission to rid the world of whatever draws his ire. We will bring freedom to the world, even if we have to ram it down their heathen throats.

Thursday, November 18, 2004

The Daily Disinformation

Well, as I have argued before, No Child Left Capable Of Remotely Coherent Thought is "succeeding" because the tests are artifically simple. The Brookings Institution unveiled a study showing that about 40% of the eighth grade test covers material covered in the first and second grades.

The test for fourth-graders also has "false rigor...." More than 40 percent of questions gauge first and second grade skills, two levels below the students tested.

File this one under "Countdown to Armageddon" Lame duck State Secretary Colin Powell told reporters at an economic summit in Chile that Iran is trying to adapt its missles to deliver nukes. This bald assertion comes from "intelligence." Like the intelligence about the WMDs in Iraq? It is only a matter of time before we invade.

More on Tom DeLay- House Republicans have begun to defend the indefensible. Representative Henry Bonilla, who led the effort to benefit his fellow Texan, said, "This takes the power away from any partisan crackpot district attorney who may want to indict" party leaders, writes the Boston Globe.

The Times quotes Bonilla, "Attorneys tell me you can be indicted for just about anything in this country, in any county or community," said Mr. Bonilla, an ally of Mr. DeLay. "Sometimes district attorneys who might have partisan agendas or want to read their name in the paper could make a name for themselves by indicting a member of the leadership, regardless of who it may be, and therefore determine their future. And that's not right."

More from The Times- House Republicans did not dispute the idea that the change had been brought on by the events in Texas but said most of the majority's lawmakers had also concluded that the rule was simply unfair. "In my sincere opinion, it only provoked the timing" of the change, Representative Trent Franks of Arizona said of the Texas inquiry. "When you look at the rule, it is an outrageous rule."

I couldn't agree more- it's a complete outrage to expect our Nation's leaders to remove themselves from power simply because a prima facie case of corruption has been found by a grand jury.

Of course, some Republicans are in fact not complete morons. The Times story also quotes Rep. Christopher Shays of Connecticutt who said simply, This is a mistake.

File Under "No, Mr. President, A Coup Is Not A Buick" Alternet columnist Robert Scheer describes the purging of reality based advisors as The Neocon Coup. Incompetence begat by ideological blindness has been rewarded. The neoconservatives who created the ongoing Iraq mess have more than survived the failure of their impossibly rosy scenarios for a peaceful and democratic Iraq under U.S. rule. 'Nuff said there.

File Under "No Pardon For This Turkey" Really, just a bizarre thing.

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

File Under "No Child Gets Out Alive"

Shoring up the yes men in his new Cabinet, the President announced today that he is nominating Margaret Spellings to be his new Education Secretary. Is she a scholar of pedagogy? Nope. Is she the superintendent of a large, urban school district? Negatory. Is she a principal? Unh-unh. A professional teacher? Ummm, no. So what precisely qualifies her to be the Secretary of Education?

She was a lobbyist for school boards back in Texas. And she is responsible for the better part of No Child Left Behind.

Yup- she's a deal cutter. And, perhaps more important than anything else, she's very close to the President. (Perhaps, too close. Good God, they actually look like they're going to make out.) In any event, he promoted yet another from within- first Alberto Gonzales, then Condie, and now this person. As the Christian Science Monitor puts it, She also has the quality most valued in the Bush White House: unquestioned loyalty. Great.

Between the purging at the CIA, the public humiliation of Arlen Specter, and the rally around Tom Delay, it appears that Republicans really only require one thing of its members- do what you're told. Remember way back during the (I think) '88 Republican convention, when Tom Kean (a man I despised at the time, but now I only wish there were more of him) described the GOP as a "big tent," with room enough for all points of view? Either the tent has shrunk, or Frank Luntz has managed to redefine "room enough."

On another note, the President has pardoned a turkey. The turkey in question was held at Camp X-Ray without access to its attorney until it was discovered that the turkey was, in fact, a bird. No word on whether Zacarias Moussaoui will also receive a pardon.

The Morning Roundup

Let's see, we've got the usual assortment of murders, corruption, nuclear proliferation, and politicized junk science. So what were the big stories on the morning talk shows?

Terrell Owens, K-Mart, and Michael Jackson. It seems that real news is so passe.

The story about Tom Delay should get absolutely EVERYONE'S blood boiling. He's the House Republican Leader- possibly facing indictment for financial chicanery- and his loyal lemmings want to change their rules so that he can remain their fuhrer. What would they have said if- GASP- Democrats had done this kind of stuff? There would be a hue and cry to wake the dead! Where is our response? Where is our righteous anger?

Also making the rounds is a story about Iran having a nuclear weapons facility, but I'd file that one under "Check The Source." It would appear that an Iranian opposition group is the only group with "proof." Were I one to speculate, I'd say that they might be fishing for a U.S. invasion...

Alternet reports that Republican moderates are on the outs. Toe the line, or get out. Lincoln Chafee, Olympia Snowe, Susan Collins, maybe even you too, Arlen- come on over, we'd love to have ya!

Barbara Ehernreich advises Progressives to "act like Christians." Not in the sense that the DLC advises, but like Christians in Rome- stand you're ground, some of you are going to get eaten by lions, but you prevail in the end. Principles, my friends- without our principles we are nothing.

Finally, you can file this under "There's One Born Every Minute."

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

File Under "What An Assclown"

I am sorry.

File Under "Someone Needs A Timeout"

Fuck the South. Fuck 'em. We should have let them go when they wanted to leave. But no, we had to kill half a million people so they'd stay part of our special Union. Fighting for the right to keep slaves - yeah, those are states we want to keep.

Blunt, but then again so is the truth.

You and your Southern values can bite my ass because the blue states got the values over you fucking Real Americans every day of the goddamn week. Which state do you think has the lowest divorce rate you marriage-hyping dickwads? Well? Can you guess? It’s fucking Massachusetts, the fucking center of the gay marriage universe. Yes, that’s right, the state you love to tie around the neck of anyone to the left of Strom Thurmond has the lowest divorce rate in the fucking nation. Think that’s just some aberration? How about this: 9 of the 10 lowest divorce rates are fucking blue states, asshole, and most are in the Northeast, where our values suck so bad. And where are the highest divorce rates? Care to fucking guess? 10 of the top 10 are fucking red-ass we're-so-fucking-moral states. And while Nevada is the worst, the Bible Belt is doing its fucking part.

The vitriol detracts from the argument, but the facts clearly support the ranter, here. On the other hand, "facts" mean nothing anymore, this is "Faith Based America," where reality frequently interferes with "resolute and decisive leadership."

I wonder if they'll have any books in Dubya Presidential Library- 'cause, y'know, he can barely read them.

File Under "Know Your Role And Shut Your Mouth"

It would appear that Dubya has ordered his new buttboy at the CIA, Porter Goss, to "purge" the Company of anyone who has been disloyal.

"The agency is being purged on instructions from the White House," said a former senior CIA official who maintains close ties to both the agency and to the White House. "Goss was given instructions ... to get rid of those soft leakers and liberal Democrats. The CIA is looked on by the White House as a hotbed of liberals and people who have been obstructing the president's agenda."

A hotbed of liberals? The CIA? The same CIA that tried to bump off Castro? That may have been years ago, but, jeez, they make it sound like friggin' Berkeley! Seriously, I can understand why Dubya wants to purge the Company- after all, they told there were WMD's!

I Guess Thomas Jefferson Was A Blue Stater

"Christianity neither is, nor ever was a part of the common law." Thomas Jefferson, letter to Dr. Thomas Cooper, February 10, 1814.

Thanks to The Blue States' (Soon to Be) Official Secession Movement for turning me on to this quote.

Moral Values? C'Mon!

The always-on Frank Rich completely debunks the Moral Values myth.

File Under "Well Duh!"

George Lakoff, a Berkeley linguist and Kerry advisor, argues that Republicans have been winning elections because they have done a better job at framing the debate. Hmmmm, I seem to recall saying something similar not too long ago...

I like one idea that he has, and it could be manipulated into a wedge issue. Enviromental regulation promotes "poison-free communities." No one wants their kids playing in Love Canal, right? Pro-greed Bushies want to poison your kids! Like they say in the Guiness ads, "Brilliant!"

File Under "In A Handbasket"

Five words that should put the fear of Jesus in any Blue Stater.

Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice.

I'd say that Condie is a yes man, but of course she is no man. So what would that make her? In any event Colin Powell, a man who was frequently cut out of the foreign policy picture by the more hawkish advisors to the President is about to be replaced by one of the more hawkish advisors to the President. At least they're on the same page.

As secretary of state, the woman who has long been Mr. Bush's single closest foreign policy adviser and confidante would be charged with resolving the clashing views of the world itself - on behalf of a boss whose sentences she can finish, and who trusts her totally to carry out his wishes.

Of course, Condie can finish the President's sentences- he can't finsh them himself! Duh?!?

On another front, as if to verify my argument that we have to give the WWC the heave-ho, The Times notes that West Virginia, where Dems outnumber Republicans 2-to-1, is turning culturally conservative and increasingly evangelical.

The difference this year, Democrats and analysts said, was the fervent activity of conservative churches. For months, Bush campaign workers recruited support from pastors, registered church members and distributed literature after Sunday services. It was the kind of work unions have long done for Democrats, only this time the church vote outpaced the labor vote, Democrats said.

"Some say the religious right is more powerful than labor ever was, and I think there's a lot of truth to that," said State Delegate Mike Caputo, a Democrat who works for the United Mine Workers of America.

Mr. Casey and other leaders of the state party said the Democrats had already begun an outreach program to churches, arguing that most Democrats are as much against abortion, gay marriage and gun control as are Republicans.

Actually, we're not. We shouldn't be afraid to be who we are- principled, proud, and progressive (would someone kindly explain my recent fascination with alliteration to me). I don't understand how believing that all people have a fundamental right to live in accordance with their own consciences is dangerous. I don't understand how limiting the right of all people to do so is "conservative."

But then again, I'm a Blue Stater. This knuckledragger thinks that the Blue states should be forcibly ejected from the Union. My reply? Could we, please?

Monday, November 15, 2004

File Under "Oh Shit"

Arlen Specter, the pro-choice moderate Republican from my current home state, was due to to assume the chairmanship of the Senate Judiciary Committee. Then he shot his mouth off about a woman's right to choose being "inviolate," and that pro-life judicial nominees would face a tough fight.

Well, it would appear that Arlen himself will face a tough fight.

"Arlen made some statements the day after the election," [Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist], of Tennessee, said on "Fox News Sunday" in an interview with Chris Wallace. "They were disheartening to me; they were disheartening to a lot of people."

Ummm, not to me.

Now begins the fallout- Republicans expect their people to fall neatly in line. The only problem is that politicians have agendas, personal and political. It reminds me of "The Stackhouse Filibuster," when an aging middle-of-the-road Senator filibusters a broad, bipartisan health bill because it left out funding for autism research.

They may talk a good game about unity, but reduced to its essence, the Senate is a group of 100 people who want to be President- and they all have an agenda. Stick to yours, Arlen- we need you now. Just don't count on my vote in six years.

Wednesday, November 10, 2004

A Stunning Victory In The War On Terror

Our resolute and decisive leader has struck a key victory in the War on Terror! Yes, the FBI executed warrants obtained under the PATRIOT Act to search the homes of members of an insidious and vile terrorist organization- one so heinous and cruel that mere mention of their name will send shivers down your spine and cause your skin to crawl...

Hugs for Puppies.

Next, they'll be deporting the guy who wrote "Peace Train." Oh, shit.

Friday, November 05, 2004

An Open Letter To My Party

It's a few days after Election Day. Kerry has conceded. Let me say it- Bush won, fair and square. He won over 50% of the popular vote, and will probably finish in the 272-276 range in the electoral vote. Congratulations- to the victor go the spoils, and the Republic survives (yet again). Let us shake hands, and let us harbor no ill will, because that is what we do. Democracy is like baseball, George
Will once said- it's not about winning all the time.

However, I do not have to like it. We Democrats have now lost the last two Presidential elections, as well as the 2002 midterm elections. Three consecutive campaigns down the toilet. Why? Because we refuse to recognize what is obvious- it's time to rewrite our partisan mythos.

We are no longer the party of the White Working Class.

It seems almost absurd- the Republicans are the party of the mega-wealthy and the corporate oligarchy. Bush gave tax breaks to millionaires and incentivized outsourcing. Republicans have tried to undo welfare, Medicare, and Medicaid. Leave No Child Behind is a phenomenal failure- in order to pass the required tests, states are lowering the score necessary to pass.

In almost every major bread-and-butter issue, Republican policy keeps the WWC down. The rich, meanwhile, get richer.

We Democrats have lost the WWC, the so-called "base" of our party. Moreover, they ain't coming back. Even the voters who say that the economy is their number one issue cast votes that ultimately undermine their own interests. The reason is clear- the Democrats have become the party of social change- pro-gay, pro-abortion, pro-environment, anti-gun, anti-church, anti-military, and anti-family.

Modern Democrats are increasingly well-educated, highly paid, and urban to suburban- college educated professionals, employed in science, finance, and the "Information Economy." We drive Volvos and Saabs, listen to NPR, and buy books at Borders. The WWC is generally not college educated, generally not well paid- probably living
paycheck to paycheck- and exurban to rural. They drive Fords and Chevys (pickups, most likely), listen to AM talk radio or country music, and buy books at Wal-Mart or the supermarket (if at all).

The WWC thinks that Modern Dems are egghead snobs who insist on imposing their values on the nation. The WWC is right. And you know what I say?

Screw the White Working Class.

Hard as it is to admit, especially since I am from WWC stock, it's time to leave them behind. They've made their choice, but then againso have we. Our priorities are different now, and if we are to move forward and build a new progressive coalition (and maybe return to power) just need to acknowledge it. The days of the New Deal are over- Kansas, Oklahoma, and Nebraska long ago left our column. However, we can win without them. Here's how.

CONTROL THE TERMINOLOGY Since Reagan, the GOP has forced to us to debate on their terms. Literally. They have been controlling the terminology. When you dictate the terms of the debate, you will emerge the victor. This year, Kerry decried the "Bush tax cuts," defended "partial birth abortion," and denied "flip-flopping." No matter how much the facts were actually on his side, the fact that he had to respond in their terms only reminded the voters that Bush cut
taxes (albeit for billionaires), that abortion killed babies (albeit not yet born), and that Kerry flip-flopped (albeit after careful consideration).

How much different would this election have been if Kerry had attacked the President as promoting "wealthfare," called "intact dilation and extraction" a life saving medical procedure, or admitted that changing circumstances require "flexibility" and "reconsideration."

The only Democrat who has understood this in recent years is James Carville. When he said "It's the economy, stupid," he forced Bush 41 to respond to a crisis that didn't exist- we were not in a recession in 1992, and everytime GHWB said so, the voters came to the conclusion that we must be in a recession.

And while we're on the subject of controlling the terminology, know that we're going to get called "liberal." I used to think that the best response was, "Yeah, so what?" Then I realized that "liberal" meant profligate, effete, and immoral to some voters. Contrast with "conservative," which voters interpret as thrifty, cautious, and solid. Control the terms- we are "progressive." Calls to mind high ideals, new thinking, and bold plans. The other side- they're "inflexible reactionaries," or "backwards right-wingers," or "obstructionist." Whatever you like- one of them will stick. Just put them on the defensive.

DIVIDE AND CONQUER Political parties are non-ideological in America; unlike in other countries, where the Conservatives are conservative, and the Liberals are liberal, parties in America are organizational entities. They raise money, find candidates, and get out the vote. If you can deliver your district, you don't necessarily have to see eye-to-eye with the written party platform.

Just like the White Working Class have left the Dems, the GOP has a unsatisfied wing. Fiscal Conservatives- socially liberal, anti-wasteful spending, and well-educated- are on the way out. The Republicans are increasingly the party of hand-wringing moralists and evangelical Christians. The WWC fits very well into the new
Republican paradigm. Fiscal Conservatives do not, and they are ripe for the picking.

How do you steal Fiscal Conservatives from the GOP while keeping another key constituency, the Urban Poor, in our column? Believe it or not, these groups have interests in common. Both Fiscal Conservatives and the Urban Poor understand that the way out of poverty is education; moreover, Fiscal Conservatives tend to be urban
to suburban dwellers, and have actual interaction with the Urban Poor. They know it's a real problem.

Fiscal Conservatives don't mind paying their taxes as long as it is well-spent. We can rope them in by rolling back wealthfare (see, I didn't call them the Bush tax cuts). Increase spending in education and infrastructure, but cut spending elsewhere.

Defense? Modern warfare no longer requires the two front doctrine (have a big enough Army to fight WWII style on two fronts); hell, modern warfare doesn't even really have fronts, anymore. The fight is fluid, mobile- as should be our military. Scale it back, make better use of special forces and airborne power. No need for Cold War spending (or thinking) to respond to today's threats.

Farm subsidies? Corporate welfare? Redundant government agencies? There are lots of things that can be streamlined, reduced, or altogether dropped. End unnecessary spending, and we can pick up some disaffected Republicans.

POLICY, POLICY, POLICY John Kerry lost this election not because he couldn't communicate his policy ideas clearly- he lost because he didn't have any policy ideas to communicate. Rightly or wrongly, there was no doubt what the President believed, why he believed it, and what he intended to do about it. Presidential malapropisms aside, he communicated his ideas in short simple declarative sentences.

Kerry, on the other hand, ran a campaign that really only attacked the President. The people will not elect a candidate whose sole paltform is "The other guy sucks."

We need to get back to basics- what do we believe, why do we believe it, and what are we going to do about it. These three things are the necessary elements of policymaking. You need all three.

"What we believe" is the first step- it's the abstract statement of broad policy goals. "All people have the right to marry whomever they want" is a good "what we believe" idea. It's not complete, though.

"Why we believe" is the second step, the intellectual justification. All people have the right to marry anyone they want BECAUSE marriage is, among other things, a legal status that bestows rights and responsibilities on the couple. To deny these rights and responsibilities to willing people solely because we are not comfortable with the sexual makeup of the couple is arbitrary. If equal protection of the law means anything at all, it is that we do not make arbitrary distinctions. (Can you imagine if someone actually had the balls to say that?)

"What are going to do about it" is the necessary third step. It's the concrete implementation of the first two. "If elected President, I will fully support the rights of all persons to marry. I will encourage Congress to pass legislation to that end, and I will...." This is how you win elections.

Al Gore was great at "what I believe" and "what I will do about it," but he never really got a handle on the "why I believe" part. John Kerry Was far better at "why I believe" than he was at the other two- the most frequent criticism thrown at him was that you could never tell quite what he believed. Of recent Dems, only Bill Clinton could communicate all three elements of policy (and he did so in a way that
was easy to follow but never condescending).

What do we believe, why do we believe it, and what are we going to do about it. Spell those things out, and we can win elections.
This is just the first part in a larger discussion, one side of a
dialogue. It is an idea, not a manifesto. We only have one year
before it's time to start thinking about state and federal elections
again. We can do this. Please forward to anyone who might have an