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Monday, April 25, 2005

Past, Present and Future, Part 3

Well, you all know why we're here. Thanks again to everybody who's taken the time to add their two cents. You've made me proud of being a faith based Democrat.

The Three F's

"What now?" we ask. It's not a small question. If all the previous efforts of building up structure, of cementing a middle class, and of righting social injustices are reaching fruition or becoming moot, Democrats are at the biggest crossroads in forty, quite possibly ninety, years.

The most glaring problem with the 2004 election was the spinelessness of it all. Trying to reach out to each sub-group, with each small agenda, left us looking disorganized and unsure. You know, I HATE writing that. There are so many things I believe Democrats routinely do better, and so many facets of the country best served by Dems that it is painful to admit we don't have it together. However, nasty medicine that works is better than cherry flavored failure.

We are a party of wide reach and vision. Our problem is in articulation and delivery. In a nutshell, we need to streamline and develop more focus. Whether it's racial, gender, or mobility equality, gay and lesbian issues, education, environment or worker protection, we need to stop compartmentalizing these subsets and form a single, simple platform that can be stuck to and argued effectively. They picked us off in the fringes, folks. While they did it our base, and our country, got screwed.

I think we can find our way back. We need a program. Perhaps not a 12 step program, three might be enough. Let's call it the 3 "F" program:

Take FAITH, for example.

"An enormous public misrepresentation of Christianity has taken place. . . Many people around the world now think Christian faith stands for political commitments that are almost the opposite of its true meaning. How did the faith of Jesus come to be known as pro-rich, pro-war and only pro-American?" -- Jim Wallis

The comments and emails I've received from this corner of the blogsphere tell me that this is NOT how Liberals define faith. They talk about looking at what Christ actually said. There is an openness to learning about faiths beyond the one they were raised with, and teaching the faith they embrace to others. This is not the stuff of Godless heathen immorality that the Dems are being portrayed as publicly. This is active spiritual growth.

In the responses, suspicion was voiced as well; some worried that the lines of church and state were being deliberately blurred as part of a political agenda. Others were concerned that their faith would become vulnerable if such lines were diminished. I think there is cause to be concerned, and to watch diligently.

During the 2004 election campaign, Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson virtually said Christians could only vote for George W. Bush. Many of you, along with other Christians and people of faith, responded with letters to the editor, newspaper ads, and even bumper stickers reminding America that "God is not a
Republican...or a Democrat." Then the Republican National Committee circulated lists of "duties" to local churches, which included turning over their congregational membership lists. The RNC also sent postcards to voters in some states with images of a Bible being banned and a man putting a wedding ring on another man - warning that this was what "liberal" politicians planned to do.

Now the Religious Right is saying that supporting the president's judicial nominations is a test of orthodoxy. This is a dramatic new and serious breach in the relationship between faith and politics. -- Jim Wallis

This, to me, is a big savvy kid (read Politician), setting up the little new kid (read Religious Right), for personal payoff. When the big kid gets bored, he's not going to want to play anymore. He could care less if the little kid got a turn.

Our second "F" is a dynamo: FOUNDERS.

Thomas Jefferson believed that the people, no one else, are the sovereign in our republic. We've strayed a long way from that. In today's political world, the sovereign is those with the money. Mull that for a minute. Campaign contributors and lobbyist have way more input on our laws than the people. Think of it as transactional politics.You can get a tax cut for your vote; you can get mandatory health care for your vote. It's transactional; and frequently, there's no way to pay for it. Neither party is asking Americans to sacrifice for the good of the nation. To me, the obvious thing to ask for immediately after 9/11 was to rescind the balance of the tax cut and use the money to create and fund Homeland Security. This simple sacrifice was one most Americans would eagerly make. That gesture could have provided an opportunity to the nation for healing itself and set the tone for constructive national dialogue.

Instead, they told us to go shopping.

The big problem with transactional politics is that the people, the sovereign of our republic, remain outside the actual work. We are not actively engaged in our governance. Transactional politics puts us on the consumer side of the counter. Our representatives are, (you see where I'm going here), on the side with the cash drawer.

There is a truly unique opportunity here for our party. These crossroads offer us a chance to renew American politics. We need look no further than our founders for inspiration. What we seek is nothing less than the restoration of our public dignity. Dignity in how we see ourselves, our civic responsibilities and the role of our elected officials. We need, as a party, to embrace civic virtues:

Individual rights
Liberty
The public or common good
Self government
Equality
Diversity
Openness and free inquiry
Truth
Patriotism

It's asking a great deal, to shake down the Dems and rise again as a party of the people. Think about everything that is making you crazy about the "moral mandate", "privatization", personal this and individual that. The solution is not more of the same in terms of traditional Democratic structure, but insisting we strip down to the bare bones of dignity, of civic virtue, of serving and protecting each other and America. When we fight for accountability to ideals and principles that result in no private gain for us, we do it because of our dignity as citizens.We do it because we believe in something greater than our individual self.

The third "F" is for FOCUS.

We know we want to trim the dead wood, shed the winter weight, blow this cocoon, hit the road, take up slack, insert your euphemism here. We're all fired up. We've read a little history, ate a little crow, talked a little faith. So, what now?

The 2006 elections loom, and there will be countless theories tossed out about the direction of the Dems. Stay focused on where you believe YOUR party needs to go. Talk about faith on the left. Think about what you can do as a New Democrat. Flex your civic virtues. This is the time to encourage change to the party. Nobody is more receptive to the power of grass roots internet that DNC chair Howard Dean. Take the revolution to him. Every subgroup within the party can benefit from this simple platform.

Say it with me, people: TOLERANCE! REFORM! PROTECTION!

Feels pretty good, doesn't it?

Dem straight.

21 Comments:

At April 25, 2005 10:11 PM, Blogger John said...

Very well written post! Thought provoking. I know many democrats who are good Christians, and as a right winger, I disagree with this generalization on all of the left. Part of the problem however does come from the far left, who the general left allow to speak for their party too often. Radical groups like the ACLU from the far left scares many away from the cause. You guys need to take your party back.

I've got a post over at my site I'd love to hear your opinion on.

 
At April 26, 2005 5:46 AM, Blogger Gun-Toting Liberal said...

Jet, as usual, you've so eloquently taken the words right out of my mouth. As my archives will show, I've been blogging about this same topic on and off long before it became a Democratic talking point. The difference is, you pause to take a breath and think long and hard before posting whereas; I get pissed off and just start typing 80 words per minute then press "send" and whatever ends up on my blog as a result IS what it is.

Be careful my friend, or both the left and the right will start accusing you of being a "right-winger". It happens all the time to me. Great post (as usual)... blog ON.

 
At April 26, 2005 8:35 AM, Blogger TrueJerseyGirl said...

Another beauty. I only hope the proper people (read: democratic strategists) are reading you!

 
At April 26, 2005 9:33 AM, Blogger Brother Kenya said...

You're absolutely right, Jet, and though I'm not a faith-based Dem, I agree that we need to come to grips with that element, reclaim its definition.

The left has been disorganized for so long, though, that I have a hard time envisioning a meaningful short-term turnaround. Too easy to get distracted by everything from medical marijuana to the pledge of allegiance.

Oh, and by the way, Jay, the far left has little or no voice in this country. The ACLU isn't far left, and most Americans don't know Noam Chomsky from Charlie Sheen. What's happened is, we let the right define what "left" means.

 
At April 26, 2005 10:07 AM, Blogger ~Betsy said...

Jet, your Past, Present and Future series of posts is an excellent discussion in progress, with many heartfelt comments from the left and right. I agree with brother kenya, that "we let the right define what left means."

It's unfortunate that most political pundits and media in general simply repeat what the Right is saying, thus making it seem true, rather than thinking about the statements and deciding if they should be given weight. We all know that what we see, read and hear from mainstream media is merely the tip of the iceberg. And there it sits, without the digging necessary to uncover the truth. Thank you for your efforts toward that end.

As truejersygirl wrote, the democratic strategists need YOU.

 
At April 26, 2005 2:38 PM, Blogger Jet said...

You guys are extremely kind. One big-headed woman, comin' through!

Seriously, I think Brother Kenya makes a valid point. CAN we engineer real change? I think hoping for a short term turn-around is naive. This may take two election cycles, maybe more. The question we need to keep asking ourselves is "what will happen if we DON'T demand and work towards reform within our party"?

That's a scary contemplation.

The right fired up their base. In ten years the face of their party changed COMPLETELY. "Bring It On" over on the sidebar has an excellent post by Tom Harper about the changed face of the Republican party. They are virtually unrecognizable. They built this neocon horror show in two election cycles.

I no longer believe we have the luxury of waiting for a better time. Where do YOU think we'll be in 2015? Still putting up more of the same reactionary candidates and losing or striving for visionary and winning?

High stakes game, kids.

 
At April 26, 2005 4:24 PM, Blogger frstlymil said...

As usual, FABULOUS and eloquent post, with equally thoughtful and respectfully put comments from all "sides" as it were. I think what Brother Kenya stated about the left allowing the right to define what "left" means hits the nail on the head - I also think that it extends to what Tom Harper spoke of, namely the "New Right" being allowed to completely redefine and obliterate the meaning of the traditional Republican party. We've ended up with a bunch of people who have no idea who they are but ready with a shaking fist to say who the other guys are all about. And like you said, we need to articulate better. I think the fact that you've posted on this issue three times now and actually gotten some pretty good comments from Dems, Reps and Indies that, dare I say, are constructive is very heartwarming and yes...I hope that the strategists are reading.

 
At April 26, 2005 4:24 PM, Blogger frstlymil said...

As usual, FABULOUS and eloquent post, with equally thoughtful and respectfully put comments from all "sides" as it were. I think what Brother Kenya stated about the left allowing the right to define what "left" means hits the nail on the head - I also think that it extends to what Tom Harper spoke of, namely the "New Right" being allowed to completely redefine and obliterate the meaning of the traditional Republican party. We've ended up with a bunch of people who have no idea who they are but ready with a shaking fist to say who the other guys are all about. And like you said, we need to articulate better. I think the fact that you've posted on this issue three times now and actually gotten some pretty good comments from Dems, Reps and Indies that, dare I say, are constructive is very heartwarming and yes...I hope that the strategists are reading.

 
At April 26, 2005 7:52 PM, Blogger Unadulterated Underdog said...

Bravo! Well-written post. I agree that the Democrats face a cross-roads. The crisis is not whether there are more good deeds to do for America for that will not happen for a long time. The crisis we face is to reorganize and redefine what we stand for. WE have to cut the crap of trying to please everyone all the time and remind people that we are the reason that everyone has electricity, phone lines, social security, corporate competition, the family medical leave act, medicare and a whole long list of things we have done. There is more to do and we are the ones who will do it. Republicans could but they won't. That's what we need to do.

 
At April 27, 2005 5:46 AM, Blogger Gun-Toting Liberal said...

Exactly Joseph! The Democrat Party used to be the all-inclusive party that was made up of and looked out for the common man.... that's ME - I work hard, I drink beer, I love God, I want immigrants to use the FRONT door and I welcome them, I look at the occasional porn site, etc., just like 80% of the other guys I know.

But the Democratic Party has slowly become a party of elitists who wouldn't socialize with a guy like me and they make no bones about it. How did we let THESE people take over for we, the common folks? Actually, they didn't even take over for us, they kicked us the hell OUT is what they did!

No beer allowed at THIS party anymore... now it's all about fine French wines and caviar with the little finger lifted from the wine glass.

 
At April 27, 2005 8:51 AM, Blogger Jet said...

Hmmmm. I'm not quite on the same page as you on the "kicked us out" concept, GTL. I have to accept some responsibility on this. I hardly looked up during the Clinton years. We had the Whitehouse, the deficit was down, and other than an eyeroll and a muttered "Shut UP, already" over the whole Monica deal (remember, Ike kept a mistress during his presidency) I really didn't concern myself. I did not pay attention. The problem with transactional representation is that when it's good, you don't care. Guilty as charged.

This is why I think we must argue for radical change within the party. We know that we can raise the money from the little people to support ourselves. Moving from transactional representation or corporate funded/influenced polcy making is a step Dems should make. Republicans don't have any impetus to move away from it, but this kind of representation is hurting the country.

Any real change to the Democratic party is going to happen because the base, the beer drinkers if you will, agitate for change. We've got sheer numbers on our side, and a history of being the voice. What our party has become isn't working anymore. It's not working on the state level, and it's certainly not working on the federal level.

The first step in changing anything is believing that you can.

 
At April 27, 2005 2:39 PM, Blogger Gun-Toting Liberal said...

Jet, I guess what I'm trying to say when I say "kicked out" is kicked out of the debates and discussion in the main stream media. The Democrats who stand for the average, Christian working person have hardly any voice in the Party anymore. It's the Hollywood idiots and the snobbish elitists who are presenting their faces to the American People on TV and saying "Look at me. I am a Democrat". This is what we liberals (TRUE liberals) face today.

It's an uphill climb but it can be done. I'd sure like to stop calling myself an "Independent" again, like in the good old days. I truly do not feel welcome in the Party right now. But I will SAY - lately there are more Dems speaking up for their belief in God and that is a good thing.

Of course, the pompous, religious right is judging the faith of their brothers and sisters on the left but they might want to look out for that.

 
At April 27, 2005 3:43 PM, Blogger Clublint said...

Then there's the fourth "f"

Far out that was a well written post.

Deb

 
At April 27, 2005 4:46 PM, Blogger Jet said...

Thanks clublint. That's a groovy little forum you have going on over there.

I agree that the "face" of our party doesn't seem representational of the bulk of the members, GTL. I think a big question on many Dem's minds is WHO, exactly, best represents the soul of the party. I'm interested in who is connecting with the base and why. Thoughts?

 
At April 27, 2005 7:46 PM, Blogger Gun-Toting Liberal said...

Joe Leiberman connects with me. And I hate to say it but John McCain, Ahhnold, Rudy Giuliani, and Hillary Clinton connect with me also. To ME, these folks should all be in the same party and I should be drinking beers with them... but that's just ME. I know that doesn't help much but that's the fact of the matter when it comes to me and how I feel.

They're all (in slightly varying extents) pro-God, pro-military, pro-America, pro-family. But what sets Senatory Hillary Rodham Clinton apart from the rest is her concern over our pourous border situation at hand.

So far, in the '08 crowd, she wins my vote hands DOWN because of that one issue - our borders. I am a warrior in this war on terrorism and I am a volunteer. As a troop, I appreciate a commander (In Chief?) who shares my concerns when it comes to this war against radical Islam and the serious security issues we are having at our borders.

So you KNOW... the people I drink beers with, right OR left... ALL share this same concern, regardless of the side of the aisle. And not all of them are military either. We all think it's REDICULOUS that the Minutemen are being ridiculed by the MSM and the POTUS.

So, to answer your question...

I like Barak Obama.... Hillary... Joe Leiberman... Even Zell Millar (not as POTUS, but maybe as the Sect'y of Defense). But then again, I'm a liberal troop and you've gotta take that into account ;-)

 
At April 28, 2005 10:17 AM, Blogger Unadulterated Underdog said...

Yes, Giuliani, the Clintons, McCain, Liberman... these are REAL American politicians. They fight for and believe in compromise, defending our freedoms, defending our nation, defending free choice and in effect they are the kind of people we SHOULD vote for. Not people like Bush, a whiny spoiled brat-of-an oil baron and certainly not a stuffy aristocrat like Kerry (whom I voted for as the lesser of two evils.) We need real people, not snobs, elitists and the greedy.

 
At April 28, 2005 1:40 PM, Blogger Jet said...

I like Obama, I'm not certain he's ready though. Hillary has the ability, but is severly handicapped going in. She's an absolute walking flashpoint. McCain lost a lot of attraction for me after he chose to stump for Bush. How short is that guy's memory anyway? Did he forget what George said about him? My memory is a bit longer, apparently. Lieberman is a good man, but he makes Kerry look lively. Gah! Haven't we got ANYBODY who can lead us out of this freakin' desert? Any good Governers? Anybody?

 
At April 28, 2005 4:39 PM, Blogger windspike said...

That's it! I'm Blogrolling you Jet. Anyone who uses the word "dynamo" in a post is aces in my book.

Fabulous post. Blog on!

 
At April 29, 2005 8:58 AM, Blogger Lina Maria said...

"You know, I HATE writing that. There are so many things I believe Democrats routinely do better, and so many facets of the country best served by Dems that it is painful to admit we don't have it together."

This is exactly how I feel Jet. I hate writing that the conservatives "have it together" more than us, when I am sure that Democrats are better at handling the economy and international relations. Unfortunately, the Democratic Party fell into "complacency" and instead of working to have a solid structure that works with "whomever" is their leader, we have one where we are entirely dependent on a charismatic candidate to win. We did not need Bill Clinton to run again to win against Bush... We needed the Democratic party to stand firm on its principles and put forth their ideas better.

 
At April 29, 2005 10:44 AM, Blogger Jet said...

Lina, you are pretty smart. We need the political equivelent of Bill Belichek and the mindset to play within that framework.

 
At April 30, 2005 8:54 PM, Blogger windspike said...

Dear Jet and others,

I just posted on my blog the five fundamentals of organized religion. I think the topic could be, while different from the one above, salient. I would be curious for feedback from folks interested in such a topic. Click on over and have a look. Leave a comment and let me know what you think.

Thanks

 

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