Wednesday, July 27, 2005


A party that stands for something. Please.

As I've lambasted and excoriated hard-core conservatives and Republicans repeatedly this summer, I've been nagged by the constant reminder that at least these folks, as extremist as they've become, know what they stand for. We Democrats haven't a clue. We're not quite so bad as we were 40 years ago when our ranks counted such strange bedfellows as Strom Thurmond and George McGovern, the biggest redneck segregationists and the most flaming hearts all united in a great stand for and against nothing. In those yellow-dog days, party allegiance was the end itself, about as empty as rooting for a sports team.

Republicans justly point out that the Democrats never seem to have any alternative plan to the Bush administration's agenda. Obstructionism seems to be the end goal. Social Security certainly comes to mind as an issue where our obstruction has been merited, but not followed up with any meaningful ideas. You can also look at John Kerry's presidential run last year. His platform seemed to be I'm not Bush, so vote for me. A lot of Americans, many of them quite conservative, were highly dissatisfied with our president and actually looked to the Democrats for an alternative. Seeing little there, many held their noses and voted for Bush. What a squandered opportunity!

I bring this up as the Democratic Leadership Committee meets this week to try to figure out exactly what the party should stand for. We've been here before quite a few times. We know we don't want to return to our hippy-dippy wackiness of 1972. We also know we don't want to be the party of union thugs, urban machine crooks and populist pork-barrelers.

President Clinton deserves a great deal of credit in breathing life back into the party. He realized the importance of showing Americans that Democrats can be fiscally prudent, tough on crime and bold on defense, areas traditionally perceived as Republican strongholds. Unfortunately, Clinton was quite cozy with big business. His administration made the world safe for NAFTA, Clear Channel's near-monopoly of the public airwaves and the euphemistically named Freedom to Farm Act, which drove many family farms under and allowed the food giants like ADM and Tyson to grow even more intimidating. Through much of Clinton's administration, many liberals complained that it was like having two Republican Parties. Really, it's a wonder conservatives hate Clinton so much. I fear that as much as Clinton and the DLC helped shake much of the stigma attached to the Democrats over the last 25 years, their conservative approach emboldened and empowered the right-wing wackos to take over the GOP and push it to its current extremist position on the spectrum.

Standing in opposition to the DLC is the Howard Dean wing of the party, which he called the Democratic wing of the Democratic Party. This group is fiery and defiantly liberal. They believe Democrats should take a stand for average Americans and fight for such issues as affordable quality healthcare, Social Security, and tax equity. I agree that these issues should be the core of the party's platform and my heart is often with this end of the spectrum, yet the left wing of the party is where all the ideologues reside, a group of people who can be every bit as tiresome and ridiculous as the kooks on the right. Here you find a bold stand for abortion rights, gun control and affirmative action, huge loser issues for Democrats that have cost us so much. We lost our southern base on these issues, and now we seem to be losing the Catholic vote. If nothing else, we need to ease up on our unyielding stance on these positions and adopt the kind of "big tent" approach of the GOP. Our other problem is Howard Dean, who fires up the base and alienates everyone else.

Although Clinton's actual policies didn't always show it, I think his '92 campaign people had it right when he said "It's the economy, stupid." In the long run, we need to focus on those issues that really affect middle-class America's standard of living and steer clear of unpopular stances on social issues. A renewed opportunity is presenting itself to Democrats. Most Americans remain unimpressed with the Bush White House and Republican Congress. Now the question is this: As the Republicans see diminishing returns from their unpopular platform, will the Democrats be ready to step in and offer anything else?

I agree that while Clinton was on to something with "It's the economy, stupid", let's not forget that the Republican party has been really successful pulling out the Rove bag of tricks. Targeting middle America, they struck a core with subliminal messages such as "The Dems might have your wallet concerns, but look who they are, i.e. fags, atheists, pot-smokers (wink, wink). If they can hit a core with not just the economic concerns but also the social concerns (crime, abortion, ect.), then they might get back on track. The key is appealing to middle America. They already have the coasts.
Well written Mouth. But lets remember that, now, more than ever, you Dems are the party of Ted Kennedy, Al Gore, Michael Moore, Al Sharpton, Strom Thurmond (still)Barbara Boxer, Sheila Jackson Lee, and many other hate sputing far left wacko extremist. Guys like Joe Liberman never stand a chance in your party, and well, the reason Clinton made it was because he could be all things to all people at any given time.

The Democratic party will remain the party of the far left until they start embracing "family values." I can't tell you how happy it makes me every time Howard Dean opens his mouth, and Michael Moore steps up to a podium. With leaders like those, you're sure to take the back seat in American politics for a while to come.
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