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.

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