Democrats: a Message Problem?

Click to Listen to the Show (24 MB MP3)

Forgive Buckner

But can they forgive Kerry? [kenyee / Flickr]

Everything in this office comes with a Red Sox analogy, and today we’re looking at the Democrats the way Red Sox nation looks at the All-Star break. Boston may be in first place. They may be five games up in first place. They may look great, they may be hitting well and there may be five good Yankees on injured reserve and yet we still can’t shake the feeling — the conviction borne of experience — that somehow, some way, before the end of September, the Sox will find a way to screw it all up.

Things seem to be going well for the Democrats, or, rather, they’re going poorly for the Republicans, but as we know that in no way guarantees that the Democrats will re-take the House, the Senate or, really, anything this fall. Rove is going on the offensive about the war, but what do Democrats have in response? Is there a message that we’re missing? Is it a tired media cliche that the Democrats have no message? If so, how come we don’t know about the Democrats’ new message? What are the Democrats running on this fall, and how are they not going to miss this grounder?

Sidney Blumenthal

Former senior adviser to President Clinton

Washington bureau chief, Salon.com

Andrei Cherny

Co-Editor, Democracy: A Journal of Ideas

Former Speech Writer to Vice President Al Gore

Author, The Next Deal

Michael Huttner

Executive Director, ProgressNow.org

Joel Wright

Founder, Wright Consulting Services

Extra Credit Reading

Kenneth Baer and Andre Cherny, A Message to our Readers, Democracy: A Journal of Ideas, Issue #1, Summer 2006.

Marshall Wittmann, Ideas and Attitudes, Bull Moose Blog, June 22, 2006.

Josh Marshall, I’m a bit confused…, Talking Points Memo, June 22, 2006.

Also TPM Reader PT, Talking Points Memo, June 25, 2006

Jonathon Chait, Bad Idea: Why big ideas won’t save liberalism, The New Republic, June 26, 2006.

In the 60 years since FDR’s death, Democrats have won more than 51% of the vote exactly once. We’re flying in the face of a long history of being unable to put together a long standing governing coalition in this country… one that we haven’t been able to put together since the new deal.

So, what from the past can we take inspiration from, instead of going back to it? If we take the supposition that America is now changing again in very radical ways, what are the ideas that can be as radical in our time as those that Frank Roosevelt put in place in his time? That’s a conversation that needs to happen going forward… taking those lessons and applying them to our time.

Andrei Cherny on Open Source

Related Content


  • woodhull

    Only one guest?

  • jdyer

    The Democratic party needs to reaffirm the priniciples it held before they were taken over by the McGovenites.

    They need to go back to the Roosevelt legacy as ammended by succeeding Presidents such as Truman, Kennedy, and Johnson.

    Re-incorporating the ideals of Hubert Humphrey and Scoop Jackson won’t hurt either.

    What they can’t do is allow neither the Republican (neo or old cons) to define them nor give in to the mindless leftist activists such as the Kos bloggers. These are the folks that have kept us in the wilderness for too many years.

  • EmptySet

    If we, as Democrats, really believe in democracy, we can’t believe that false consciousness or brainwashing can prevail. As such, we should stand up for what we a common set of principles and plans that believe are true and right, and make sure the public know how much more right we are than the other side.

    Then again, living as many of them do in maedia stew, how much contact with reality _do_ the People have?—they observe a world in which murders are common and torture gets you good information in dire circumstances, for two. Do we have to become Straussians and pander?

  • EmptySet

    Duh:

    “for what we a common set of principles and plans that believe are”

    —>

    “for what a common set of principles and plans that we believe to be”

  • I will not vote for the democrats again. After Kerry’s wednesday morning departure with too many questions remaining, I felt betrayed, hurt, and yes, even suspicous. The democrats can go stew in their weak kneed politics, and get circled by the nasty republicans. Why haven’t they stood up and questioned the election problems raised by Kennedy in RS? Why haven’t they stood up against Alito? Against secret NSA wire tapping? Against the war? I voted for Kerry reluctantly because I didn’t want to vote for someone you voted for the war (before he voted against it.) I am tired, and nauseous with choosing between the two. Excuse me, but I will vote my concience, I will vote Green or Red (as in socialist not states).

  • I agree with Andre. The only way the democrats can be vibrant again is if we fight and argue togeather. Think 1968! I want to see the mess of Chicago again in 2008. I want to hear the scream of Dean. I want to hear passion, anger. We have been insulted, lied to, mocked and laughed at. Why are our elected politicians not furious. Why are they not yelling like Dean did in Iowa?

  • Old Nick

    Perhaps the Democrats are hampered by being spread too thin: by trying to be a widely appealing centrist ‘Christian Democratic’ party at the same time their core activists are ‘Social Democrats’. If so, their problems are insoluble since the Constitution mandates a national legislature elected not by party but by individual: forcing political aspirants into two ‘big tent’ parties. The Democrats’ big tent holds two different parties who can’t agree on a unified message.

    The Republicans meanwhile aren’t so disadvantaged because the system mandated by the Constitution was created by men mistrustful of government in general and of a powerful central government in particular. These men created a national government whose branches aren’t unified but at odds (the vaunted ‘checks and balances’), making the overall machinery needlessly hostage to compromises, and thereby inefficient.

    To top it all off, the already shackled national government must vie in the courts for purview with (13, then 50) state governments.

    The Republicans, then, are the ‘natural’ or ‘indigenous’ party in the political ‘environment’ of this Constitutional Republic: mistrustful of the national government and able to capitalize at the polls by equating their mistrust with the mistrust of the Founders (embodied in the Constitution). And they’re right – even though that ideology is better suited to the agrarian America of the 18th century instead of America in the inextricably interconnected world of the 21st.

    Gerrymandering, pork-barrel pandering, and the politics of character-assassination are then the expected ‘natural’ behaviors within the political environment mandated by the Constitution.

    Good luck, democracy.

  • John

    No Direction Home. That should be the Dems new slogan.

    The Democrats are so weak they are not even the opposition party. They blew it with Gore. Blew it with Kerry. And they have no clear challenger to these hacks and amateurs. Stop equivocating. Stop looking at polls. Attack. How can any party be handed Nixon 2 and still not ‘get’ how to stop this ur-fascism? Russ Feingold is the only one worth his salt. The rest of the Democrats are just as much at fault for the death of democracy in this country as Bush is.

  • The problem with the Colorado senator (though I am not very familiar with him) is the Lieberman effect; are they still democrats if they are only Dems by name? I want a politician who represents my views, not just the “right” party… Maybe the answer is to get too spread out, to get into arguments and “wings” and settle it all at the convention…

  • This from DailyKos writing about the Virgina campaign of Jim Webb (d, Sen.)

    “George Felix Allen Jr. and his bush-league lapdog, Dick Wadhams, have not earned the right to challenge Jim Webb’s position on free speech and flag burning. Jim Webb served and fought for our flag and what it stands for, while George Felix Allen Jr. chose to cut and run. When he and his disrespectful campaign puppets attack Jim Webb they are attacking every man and woman who served. Their comments are nothing more than weak-kneed attacks by cowards. George Felix Allen Jr. needs to apologize to Jim Webb and to all men and women who have served our nation,”

    Now thats a beginning! Fight the swift boaters with a bow mounted machine gun of words!

  • If the democrats can’t get a convincing message out in this election with Iraq, Katrina and global warming as monster failures of the present administration, then they never will be able step up to the plate, let alone get a hit. Do they sell political steroids anywhere?

  • CaptainN

    The democrats seem to be loosing the term “Progressive” to the conservatives, who seem happy to use grassroots buzz phrases to bolster their own position. The democrats seem to be suffering from a “not invented here mentality”. They really need to wake up and start to cultivate the communities that rally around them, and should feel free to borrow their popular terms, and self labels (if they are really progressive – so no Hillary Clinton). I feel much more comfortable identifying myself as Progressive than I do as Liberal (for more than the fact that liberal was taken away by conservatives – I actually think the progressive movement is just different than the liberal ideal), and it would be a shame to have to come up with yet another term, and build another word of mouth campaign out of it – from scratch.

    Anyone for a Progressive Party? It would be a lot harder for them to steal the branding of an official party.

  • DrDan

    To John at June 27th, 2006 at 6:41 pm — while I have no argument with the truth of your words “…And they have no clear challenger to these hacks and amateurs. Stop equivocating. Stop looking at polls. Attack. How can any party be handed Nixon 2 and still not ‘get’ how to stop this ur-fascism? Russ Feingold is the only one worth his salt. The rest of the Democrats are just as much at fault for the death of democracy in this country as Bush is.”

    … I don’t think that what you posit is the whole truth. Many Democrats, e.g., Feingold and Dean and Kennedy and Byrd and Obama and Conyers and Levin and many others I’m forgetting, HAVE been attacking… but have the Great Unwashed of America heard those attacks? And if not, why not? I’ll tell you why I think not: Because the mainstream media have bought into the meme, well-framed and sold by the Republicans, that the Democrats have no credible opposition to offer to the ur-fascists. Which is just patent nonsense.

    What I think needs to happen is enough just plain Democratic Liberal-Progressive attacking, conspicuous attacking, loud enough and sound-bitey enough and compelling enough, to break through the great muffling that has descended to suffocate our political discourse.

  • jpeffer

    All this talk about message strategy is important. But it means very little if the message never gets out.

    Despite the hype about “liberal media” repeated nonstop by the dittoheads at Fox, the reality (as anyone who has driven accross america knows) is that there is no liberal media in this country. Talk radio “infotainment” dominates the airwaves in most states, and most of this is monopolized by pro-republican commentary distributed by media conglomerates like clearchannel. The FCC has given up its job under the Bush white house, and there is not much chance that Democrats, or anyone, can get their message out anymore. Add to that the kinds of gerrymandering and ballot stuffing that is now notorious in Ohio, Florida, and Texas, and it is an uphill battle indeed.

    IN short, if Democrats want to defend themselves from Rove’s wickedness, or persue an alternative message to the Republicans, then they will need a new media strategy.

    All this talk about “not defending themselves adequately” is simply bogus if media monopoly is not taken into account.

    JP in Cleveland

  • They’re their own worst enemies: See Murtha, Times self-destruct

    Murtha and The New York Times have done more to aid the fight for Republicans to retain their House and Senate majorities in the last couple of days than Republican National Committee Chairman Ken Mehlman could possibly do all year.

    But no one, not even the guys who are so devoted to the GOP that they wear elephants on their ties, should be cheering.

    What has been lost by Murtha’s rantings and the Times’ irresponsibility can never be regained by electoral victory in the fall. But nor will they regain what they have lost by their own words and actions – the moral high ground.

    http://news.bostonherald.com/columnists/view.bg?articleid=145655

  • The Democrats’ Problem

    From what I read on the blogs these days, most Democrats believe that their party’s single biggest problem is that it is not tough enough. Their solution is to be ever more shrill and hysterical in attacking Republicans. As a Republican, I think this is wonderful. It just makes Democrats look like kooks, and forces moderates to vote Republican.

    Actually, I think the Democrats’ biggest problem is simple ineptness — they just aren’t very good at coming up with politically attractive ideas and marketing them effectively. I even have a theory about why this is the case.

    http://www.realclearpolitics.com/articles/2006/06/the_democrats_problem.html

  • I’ve just got a few observations:

    2000 Pres Election – whether you beleive Bush actually beat Gore or not the most obvious thing is that it shouldn’t have even been close. After all, this after the hottest economy in 5 generations, Clinton was at an average 60+% approval ratings and Gore was his hier apparent. Andf Liberman was his running mate.

    2002 Repubs gained a historic number of Congressional and Senate Seats

    2004 In the middle of a bloody war, that all pundits said most all pundits / analysts said would make it impossible fore Bush to be reelected, Kerry ( who “reported fir duty”) increased his popular vote over Gore’s by ~ 20% yet Bush increased his by over 26%. (Note the abscence of the 2 previous Dem candidates from this).

    In the interim, the Dem Nat Comm elected Dean, the phoenominal loser of the primaries of the previous election cycle to chairman.

    Now, Gore and Kerry are at the same naitonal popularity levels as Bush and Liberman might be beaten in his Dem primary but all polls show that if he runs an an independant.

    Now, polls show that the Repubs have 2 pols (McCain and Guiliani – who admittidly will problems getting thru the Repub primaries) who who, polls show, can easily beat the highest polling Dem, Hillary.

    I will say this, it may be message, it may be the structure or whatever you want to blame it on. If the Dems don’t win back the House and or Senate then it is iver for the Dems for this generation or maybe even the next.

    That will give them a long time to work on thier message.

    P.S. And I don’t nessesarily think that this is good for hte country. The Repubs don’t really have an effective opposition and this leads to exesses.

    And the same is true of Kos’s implosion – they are unrestrained so they get whacky and hurt themselves. “Just keep the kiddies away from the sharp knives”.

  • And, I just clicked on Marshall’s “more of the same” article above. Yes, please take his advice, get Murtha and Moma Moonbat and Kos out in front and have them say whatever they want!!!!!!

  • Jer

    Unfortunately the Democratic response seems weak this evening. Personally, I don’t believe a either party is all that appealing. It’s really bout having a strong likeable personality.

    Whoever that is, they should say “You can’t believe a word the rebulicans say. For them it’s all about oil, and for us it’s all about you. When a natural distaster hit a town with a democrat in charge, FEMA came through. When a democrat was in charge 911 never happened. When a democrat was in charge gas was around $1.25 a gallon. You can’t afford the republicans anymore.”

  • To win an election, obviously you have to stake out the middle ground. So what do you do when the middle, (through the influence of corporate media, the death of unionism, a longing for lost community, and for other reasons) shifts to the right and you have to move your ideological base or risk becoming irrelevant? Well, you move and sound more like the other guys, also fighting for the same turf.

    In a more flexible and open electoral system (for example, Canada’s), a new party would find the open space on the left inviting and fill the oppositional void and provide a home for the real progressive forces in society. Since this is not likely in American politics, we have to suffer a party stumbling over itself to figure out how to turn the duplex into a one-family home.

  • Hmm. From “finances” to “astrology” into “politics” in a seemingly easy progression. What is the common element in Armstrong’s blogging efforts in these three successive areas? Answer: BS! Armstrong defended bad stocks, then he defended junk theories of the universe, then he conned a generation of Democrats into thinking they were going to win the 2002 midterms! Now he’s promoting Mark Warner. … Edwards supporter Neil Sinhababu’s forceful post stresses that it was more than BS. It was BS dispensed “to people who trusted him.” [via Chris’ double-secret hidden blog] … 9:59 P.M. link

    http://www.slate.com/id/2144571/?nav=fix

  • DrDan

    Aaaah… life without reading winston_dodson’s posts… it’s good… it’s calm… 🙂

    “The scroll-bar is your friend…” eh winston_dodson? I’m sure you use yours on me, too. Well, fine.

  • The ultimate success or failure of the Democratic Party will rest solely on the elbow of its fund raising arm. It’s startling to think what a small subset of the American populace votes in general elections, and yet a still smaller subset of that group actively follows the intellectual traffic signals of the American political complex. More money pays for more sound bites, which, in turn, bombard the decision levers of an increasingly soccer mom-erized and NASCAR dad-ified public. The threefold challenge for the Democrats in ’06 and beyond will be to: (A) define the message; (B) synthesize the message; and (C) make a run for the banquet halls of the disenfranchised elite. This is the shortest circuit to victory.

  • Old Nick

    Captain N & Dr. Dan

    The emergence of a third party is probably the only event that will save our aging Republic from evolving into a quasi- or fully authoritarian state. So, Captain, if you build a Progressive Party website – or even just a preliminary discussion forum – we will come, (at the very least to complain about the system we’ve now got).

    However, the current constitutional system is de facto rigged against third parties. See my tangential comments here on how the country’s constitutional architecture renders impotent all but the most charismatically led third parties.

    Meanwhile, Dan (@ 8:29 PM, June 27th) is sadly right about the conventions of the mainstream media. They are professionally habituated to the Two big parties. They rely, for their ‘newsmaker interviews’ and other coverage, on the leadership of the Two. They even allow the leadership to channel the voices of their parties’ rank-and-file through party organized focus groups and party sponsored polls.

    The MSM haven’t the professional imagination to ask the electorate for opinions or policy preferences not already pre-framed by the leadership of the Two. This effectively creates an electorate with binocular tunnel-vision: we can’t even imagine policies or governmental possibilities beyond the usual Two party conventions because the press awards nothing but scorn to alternatives.

    It’s reminiscent of Europe in the mid-18th century: the idea that a big Old World kingdom (England, Spain, or France, to name but three) could lose its monarchy in favor, of, say, a republic, was laughable. Then came a certain tumult in France…

    The media landscape that inexplicably allows propaganda outlets like FOX News equal credibility with the NYT, Washington Post, and LA Times (not to mention the ever-so-cautious NPR), makes slim the odds of a citizens-movement third party receiving fair coverage.

    This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try it, however, Captain N. After all, the French shook the world in the 1790’s, and it hasn’t been the same since.

    See thisfor an example of the sort of discussion-forum you could create to foster conversation and stimulate a grass-roots movement.

  • bkf

    Sort of a sidebar here, but did anyone else notice Sidney Blumenthal discussing Rove’s strategy, right at the five minute mark, and saying, “Rove always has a base strategy. And of course we know what the base is in Arabic. It’s al-Qaeda. But that’s Roves strategy.”

    Huh?

  • lara

    Ok. You have to try…. McDonald’s french fries with wasabi….it was a pregnancy thing, but you must try. Truly something different, delicious.

  • Dr Dan I read yours. And I read other’s on MyDD and DailyKos and TalkingpointMemos etc. A producer here showed me that fantastic world of RSS readers so I can quickly and effiently do that.

    That is why people like me are kicking people’s like yours asses by knowing the reality of what a farce the Dem party is and being able to state the facts.

    DrDan – Think that you said, in another post, that you are a professor of philosophy? Is that how you got there and why so many people who can’t compete in hte real world of ideas retreat to where they are protected by thier position.

    Well, I’ve got news for you, out here in the real world ideas matter. So scroll on by. HAHAHAHA

  • Old Nick – I hate to throw facts in your way but while the “French were shaking the world” they also shook a few heads loose. Or don’t you remember the “Reign of Terror”? Then afterwards there were a fwe decades of dictatorship followed by a return to monarchy then many fialed attempts at a government. Don’t you know that it’s officially called the “Fifth Repubic”.

  • Dr Dan- here is something more for you to scroll on by

    “on a very strange speech by Howard Dean, chairman of the Democratic National Committee:

    “We’re about to enter the ’60s again,” Dean said, but he was not referring to the Vietnam War or racial tensions.

    Dean said he is looking for “the age of enlightenment led by religious figures who want to greet Americans with a moral, uplifting vision.” . . .

    Alternating between references to the “McCarthy era” of the 1950s, which he accused the Bush administration of reviving, the decade of the 1960s and the current era, Dean explained that he was “looking to go back to the same moral principles of the ’50s and ’60s.”

    That was a time that stressed “everybody’s in it together,” he said. “We know that no one person can succeed unless everybody else succeeds.” . . .

    Before leaving Tuesday’s conference, the DNC chairman thanked those in attendance for giving him “a big lift.”

    “I came in the wrong door when I first got here,” Dean said. “I came in the back, and everybody was talking about praising the Lord, and I thought, ‘I am home. Finally, a group of people who want to praise the Lord and help their fellow man just like Jesus did and just like Jesus taught.’ Thank you so much for doing that for me.”

    Dean did acknowledge that some aspects of the War on Poverty were misbegotten, and said “we have to make sure that we don’t make the same mistakes.”

    But there’s something bizarre about the head of the Democratic Party yearning for a return to the 1960s. After all, 1968 marked the beginning of the Republican ascendancy in American politics. Richard Nixon’s narrow victory in that year’s presidential election began an impressive 7-for-10 GOP streak, and of course the Republicans eventually broke the Democrats’ congressional majority too. For a Democrat to long for a return to the ’60s is the equivalent of a Republican looking back wistfully on the glory days of the Hoover administration.”

    WSD – PS The Repubs are 7-10 in Pres elections since and no Dem candidate has won over 50% of the popular vote sense.

    Does that indicate a problem with thier message?

  • Murtha’s Anti-War Role Could Imperil Him at Home

    Rep. John Murtha (D.-Pa.) appears to be suffering “Daschle-itis,” a figurative disease which makes entrenched incumbents become national celebrities and, in the process, risk alienating the voters that put them in office.

    Since seizing his party’s anti-war mantle, Murtha has become a great draw for Democratic fundraisers, helping his party boost its prospects for a congressional takeover. Naturally, this helps his party-leadership bid as well.

    But at the same time, his outspokenness made him a huge target for the Internet right. His district went for John Kerry with only 51% in 2004. What originally seemed like a long-shot bid by Diana Irey (R.) to unseat Murtha has taken on new credibility as she raises money from the Internet and as Murtha makes more and more outrageous statements.

    In fact, by stating that he had high-level confirmation that a massacre occurred, Murtha may have set a trap for himself. As the court martial begins, he is likely to be subpoenaed in the pre-trial hearings to testify to allegations of inappropriate command influence on the trial. He risks having his high-level sources of information exposed, or exposed as flimsy — or even non-existent.

  • A producer on ROS once asked me why the Repubs went after Daschle (remember him the Dem Senate Minority Leader who last his seat at hom in an election because he was too much like Dr Dan’s type of politician).

    The answer for Daschle, now Murtha and in the future Reid (of Navada) is the same reason why a dog licks his own scrotum – ’cause he can!

    Poll: Reid approval rating in Nevada stands at 48 percent

    The poll also found 35 percent of those surveyed think Democrats have a workable agenda under Reid’s leadership and 43 percent disagree.

    And according to the poll, 36 percent think Reid has the leadership qualities to guide Democrats to control of the Senate this year and 46 percent disagree.

    Reid is not up for re-election until 2010.

    http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/13033827/

    WSD – 48% in 2006 and in won in 2004 with 54%. Extrapolating that forward means that he’ll have about a 36% approval rating by then!

  • malcom z

    Hi, Winston. Here’s a conspiracy theory for you. I belive the republicans secretly infiltrated the democratic party and now run it. It’s been dying for years and they, out of mercy, kept it alive so that the hand-wringing new-agers on the left would still have a place to voice their ideas.

  • DrDan

    winston_dodson (2:), I acknowledge seeing your name scroll by.

  • worths1

    Progressives need authentic big picture messages to capture the imagination of mainstream America. Movement conservatism has succeeded long term by positing broad, fundamental propositions. For example, thanks to Rush Limbaugh, et al., Americans have internalized the idea that liberals seek power through your dependence on government for financial help. This point resonates because it actually has some merit. And so firmly lodged is this notion that Joe Anybody now rejects progressive social programs and accepts regressive tax schemes without knowing the first detail.

    Though liberals disagree on details, there is fertile ground here for progressives to agree on similarly broad propositions. For example, conservatives, who whip up our fear of being bombed and then build a police state to rock us to sleep, are making the same grab for power attributed to liberals.

    So find a copy of The Way Things Ought to Be — the beef-engorged Rush of 1992 looks cherubic when compared to the Viagra-engorged Rush of today — and mine the BS for those isolated truisms that we can restate to our advantage.

  • Old Nick

    The blurb for Geoffrey Nunberg’s forthcoming Talking Right: How Conservatives Turned Liberalism into a Tax-Raising, Latte-Drinking, Sushi-Eating, Volvo-Driving, New York Times-Reading, Body-Piercing, Hollywood-Loving, Left-Wing Freak Show (Hardcover)

    A captivating and outraged account of “The Great Relabeling” of American language and thought, by the well-known “Fresh Air” commentator and author of Going Nucular

    Geoffrey Nunberg breaks new ground with this fierce and funny narrative of how the political right has ushered in a new world order, aided unwittingly by the liberal media.

    Democrats are well known for their “lousy bumper stickers,” as Joe Klein puts it. As liberals wade through the semantics of “social security lockbox,” “single payer,” and other wonky locutions, the right has become harder, meaner and better at getting out the message: the estate tax became the more menacing “death tax” and a contentious education initiative was wrapped in the comforting (and memorable) blanket of “No Child Left Behind.”

    But Nunberg shows that the real story is more subtle than just a bumper sticker war. Conservatives’ main goal wasn’t to win voters over to their positions on healthcare, education, or the environment. They had a much more dramatic ambition. By changing the meaning of words like “values,” “government,” “liberal”; “faith,” and “freedom,” conservatives have shifted the political center of gravity of the language itself to the right.

    “Whatever our politics,” Nunberg observes, “when we talk about politics nowadays, we can’t help using language that embodies a conservative world-view.”

    http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1586483862/qid=1151556620/sr=2-1/ref=pd_bbs_b_2_1/102-7220365-2474518?s=books&v=glance&n=283155

    and http://www.powells.com/biblio/61-1586483862-0

    Progressives have before them the mother of uphill battles to reclaim our future from the political and rhetorical agents of the newest American age of Robber Barons.

    Starting a new party–or at least threatening the Dems with the specter of a new Progressive Party as suggested above–would be a interesting opening gambit.

    The current roster of Democratic leaders hardly appears up to the challenge.

    If anything, they seem sullenly resigned to the prospect of becoming the nation’s permanent and ‘official’ opposition party.

  • Potter

    Old Nick- I remember the elder Bush’s successful but nasty campaign against Dukakis and more importantly, as it turns out, his campaign to make “Liberal” a dirty word. This business started with Reagan and Bush kept up the mantra. He rolled and emphasized his L’s when he said it.

    After awhile the public gets brainwashed, as they do with everything else that they do not have the time to think about like “death tax” “pro-life” and get sold on bills that are named for instance the “clean air act” and phrases like “we have to fight them over there so we don’t have to fight them hereâ€?.

    Someone on another thread took me to task for accusing the Republicans of being divisive. Oh are they! And in such a mean-spirited devious way by working on the language. They took the flag and patriotism. They redefined and used words to play on base emotions all the while mocking anyone who thinks (in other words the eastern “llliberallll� establishment).

    George Lakoff goes on about this too.

    I felt that Gore did not have the stomach to fight in 2000 and I feel that now more than ever- that Democrats in general just do not have the stomach for the nasty fight on these terms. Part of the “problem� is also because of the inherent nature of the party, the big tent, inclusive of many voices and nuanced positions. Yet the ingredients are there, waiting for that voice that will distill and project that message. Maybe we would then see the wisdom of the crowd and it would not be close.

  • It’s not the “message” it’s the substance!

    Calling it a “message” problem implies that the difficulty is in the communication. This is like saying that the problem with GM’s cars is how they’re marketed, or the problem with the Iraq war is how it’s spun.

    The Democrats are failing to communicate with the public because they don’t HAVE anything to communicate. The first thing they need to do is make up their minds who they are, what they stand for and what their program is. If this results in a smaller party that jettisons part of their big tent, so be it. They may lose certain interest groups, but they will also GAIN people who abandoned them because of their wishy-washiness.

  • “By changing the meaning of words like “values,â€? “government,â€? “liberalâ€?; “faith,â€? and “freedom,â€? conservatives have shifted the political center of gravity of the language itself to the right.”

    But this assumes that people are just media sheep. So what does that make US in this discussion group? We can see, and discuss, how language is used to paint a picture, evoke a response, color a debate, and so forth. Isn’t it a bit elitist of us to assume that WE are autonomous individuals with free-agency while all about us are mindless, manipulated automatons?

    We all make choices. We not only choose candidates and positions, but we choose our news and information sources; we choose how deeply to research a topic; we choose how skeptical to be. A recent study by the McCormick Tribune Freedom Museum found that 22% of Americans could identify all five Simpson family members while only 1 person in 1000 could identify all five rights guaranteed in the First Amendment. That kind of ignorance is not the result of brainwashing; it’s willful. No one holds a gun to anyone’s head and forces them to watch Fox News or the Simpson’s or American ‘Idle’.

    This is not a marketing problem that you can fix with better packaging, slicker slogans, an a new ad agency. This is a problem of substance – the substance of the Democratic Party and the American Voter. Both have some serious deciding to do.

  • Peter Schulte

    Someone please recommend a book with an overview of liberal positions, at least as recent as 2002. I just read a collection of essays “The Neoconservative Reader.” What do we have on our side that fills the same need for talking points and an overview for liberals/Democrats?

    I have “The Nation,” Amy Goodman, et al for the progressive perspective. I’m more interested in 2008 and “What is Liberalism today?” — Thanks for any suggestions.

    peteschulte@yahoo.com

  • “Someone please recommend a book with an overview of liberal positions”

    What does this have to do with the Democrats? This thread is about the Democrats’ message problems. Are you implying that the Democrats, as a party, are liberals? Do you have any evidence to support this? Look at the voting records of Joe Lieberman or Hillary Clinton and try to tell us with a straight face that that the Dem’s are liberals.

  • rc21

    As a former democrat who grew up in an extremly liberal family. All I can say is that the dems seem to have been hijacked by the far left. They just dont represent my values anymore. They seem to be soft on crime. They have never seen a tax they didnt like. There views on immigration are quite disturbing. But more then anything it is this feeling I get when I talk to liberals that they really just dont like America. They seem to have a knee jerk reaction to blame the US for every problem in the world. And I never hear a liberal praise the US for any contribution that we make.

    The other disturbing thing I find about liberals is there total intolerance of the first ammndt The one area that is almost totally controlled by liberals are our college campuses. Yet these are the places where free speech has been silenced.

    The right to free speech has been totally trashed on most campuses today. It is scary to hear some of the things that go on. Look at Pres Summers at Harvard. He was forced to resign for merly stating that there might be a difference in the way men and women use there brain. He wasnt even supporting the idea. He just brought it up for a topic of disscusion.I vote gop now because Ive seen what happens in enviornments that are totally controlled by liberals. It kind of reminds me of germany circa 1936.