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Thursday, March 09, 2006

The Eternal Search for a Message


To call Slate's lazy hatchet-job of Republican conventional wisdom "bullshit" would be a compliment to the fecal matter of male bovines. Nevertheless, if you look beyond the Pelosi, Reid, and Dean bashing, there's a tiny bit that's worthwhile :
But more important than what the three stooges do wrong is what they can't seem to do at all, namely articulate a positive agenda for reform and change. Voters have grown disenchanted with Bush's mishandling of the war in Iraq and the country's finances, and with the evangelical tilt of many of his policies. But there remains a baseline mistrust of Democrats on security, the economy, and values issues. For a sweep big enough to recover both houses of Congress, the party will almost certainly need an affirmative message as well as a negative one.
Granted this is a summary of the same hackneyed "What's the Democratic message?" question that journalists have been writing in a tag-team fashion for a few years now, but it does hint at an important point.

If the Republicans lose in November, that doesn't necessarily mean the Democrats won.

I've been hard on the Democrats for being spineless cowards who aren't even willing to defend themselves, but this whole obsession with coming up with the "message" is way overblown. Yeah, you guys need to get your shit together, be on the same page, and offer a compelling alternative to the GOP culture of corruption, but there's no rush. The "Contract with America" came out only six weeks before the 1994 midterms. If you guys are still entertaining fantasies of having a similar victory, you should keep your cards extremely close to your chest until it's close enough to election day for the country to remember your ideas.

As far as what those ideas should be, I'd suggest taking a cue from FDR. Something like this from his final State of the Union address would make a good foundation for the future of the Democratic party :
This Republic had its beginning, and grew to its present strength, under the protection of certain inalienable political rights—among them the right of free speech, free press, free worship, trial by jury, freedom from unreasonable searches and seizures. They were our rights to life and liberty.

As our Nation has grown in size and stature, however—as our industrial economy expanded—these political rights proved inadequate to assure us equality in the pursuit of happiness.

We have come to a clear realization of the fact that true individual freedom cannot exist without economic security and independence. "Necessitous men are not free men." People who are hungry and out of a job are the stuff of which dictatorships are made.

In our day these economic truths have become accepted as self-evident. We have accepted, so to speak, a second Bill of Rights under which a new basis of security and prosperity can be established for all regardless of station, race, or creed.

Among these are:

The right to a useful and remunerative job in the industries or shops or farms or mines of the Nation;

The right to earn enough to provide adequate food and clothing and recreation;

The right of every farmer to raise and sell his products at a return which will give him and his family a decent living;

The right of every businessman, large and small, to trade in an atmosphere of freedom from unfair competition and domination by monopolies at home or abroad;

The right of every family to a decent home;

The right to adequate medical care and the opportunity to achieve and enjoy good health;

The right to adequate protection from the economic fears of old age, sickness, accident, and unemployment;

The right to a good education.

All of these rights spell security. And after this war is won we must be prepared to move forward, in the implementation of these rights, to new goals of human happiness and well-being.

America's own rightful place in the world depends in large part upon how fully these and similar rights have been carried into practice for our citizens. For unless there is security here at home there cannot be lasting peace in the world.
Maybe you could borrow some of the wording from FDR's "Four Freedoms" speech as well. If the Democrats came out with their "Freedom Agenda" that focused on pursuing a freedom from want, freedom from fear, etc., it could go a long way towards ending the myth that the Republican party is the only one that has any ideas.