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Thinking Long-Term

John Kerry has an excellent chance to win the 2004 election but, even if he does (and certainly if he doesn't), Democrats' long-term project of turning their party into the nation's dominant electoral and governing force will still be far from completion.

That long-term project is the subject of an interesting symposium in Boston Review, based around a lengthy essay by Rick Perlstein. Perlstein, author an excellent study of Barry Goldwater and the rise of the conservative movement (Before the Storm: Barry Goldwater and the Unmaking of the American Consensus), is very unhappy indeed with today's Democratic party and offers a prescription for change that is clearly influenced by his own study of the Goldwater phenomenom.

That viewpoint is well-summarized in the last paragraph of his essay, reproduced below (though I certainly urge you to read the entire essay, if you possibly can):

Conservative political ideas are bad, and they have been winning. Liberal political ideas are good, and they can win. But this final message is for all of you who might have been nodding along with the presentation the whole time, smiling in agreement: you shouldn’t have been, at least not if you were following all my points. For this argument is for the objective necessity of political risk for irreversible commitments. And irreversible commitments are not anything to smile glibly at. If risk is not frightening, it is nothing at all. Republicans began their march to an irreversible commitment to the full conservative program in 1964. It led that year to an atrocious defeat. I’m not saying the Democrats need to embrace an economic liberalism superjumbo, and then lose, in order to win. I’m saying that they must embrace an economic liberalism superjumbo, and they must stick with it even if they lose, in order to win big. Dream again, or die.

I am not so sure this is the right prescrption and I am also not so sure the Democrats are in quite the dire position Perlstein says they are. Here's the last part of my reply to Pearlstein in this symposium (you can read the entire reply here and the other contributions to the symposium here):

I certainly agree with Perlstein that [Clinton's] populist approach, particularly in 1992, was part of his success, but so was his New Democrat approach to mending many of the image problems sketched above. Focusing on one without the other won’t do; Clinton’s success depended on a synthesis of the two approaches. As for Perlstein’s claim that his dog Buster could have beaten George H.W. Bush in 1992, I will let this unusually silly—but revealing—observation slide by without further comment.

Perlstein’s focus on the populist side of Bill Clinton without giving due credit to the New Democrat side shows he does not understand the depth of the political problems Clinton needed to deal with and that Democrats still have to deal with today. This is still a country where there is serious concern about the effectiveness of government spending, serious resistance to taxes even for worthy causes, serious concern about Democrats’ foreign policy toughness, and serious worries about Democrats’ association with non-mainstream social values. Democrats cannot overcome these problems simply by wishing them away (let’s not worry about winning, says Perlstein, let’s focus on . . . 2018).

The good news is that Democrats are gradually overcoming these problems. They are making good progress on eliminating Democratic defections to the Republican Party (a huge problem in the 1980s) and winning over political independents (who voted Republican in the 1980s but are now leaning Democratic). Building up the Democratic party-ID advantage is a longer-range project, but I believe progress can be made here too (though I am doubtful, for various reasons, that Democrats will be able to regain their pre-1984 advantage in full). But doing so depends on combining the Clinton synthesis Perlstein disdains with some of the broad, large-scale thinking he so clearly favors. But since he did not take such a nuanced approach, his call for large-scale thinking winds up seeming impractical rather than inspirational. As someone who shares his interest in big ideas and long-range strategizing, I think that’s a shame.

Obviously, I'm a bit more optimistic than Pearlstein and one of the reasons was outlined today in The New York Times Magazine by Matt Bai in an article with the somewhat histrionic title "Wiring the Vast Left-Wing Conspiracy", which you should definitely read, if you haven't already. The article covers an emerging trend among "ideological" big money Democrats (i.e., big donors who have a political agenda around revitalizing the Democratic party, rather than lobbying for parochial economic interests) to give more and give more effectively through forming pools of venture capital to promote new Democratic institutions and ideas. Here's one revealing excerpt from the Bai ariticle:

What makes these meetings [of big donors in different cities] remarkable is that while everyone attending them wants John Kerry to win in November, they are focused well beyond the 2004 election. The plan is to gather investors from each city -- perhaps in one big meeting early next year -- and create a kind of venture-capital pipeline that would funnel money into a new political movement, working independently of the existing Democratic establishment. The dollar figure for investment being tossed around in private conversations is $100 million.

''You're talking about raising a lot of money,'' I said doubtfully.

[Andy] Rappaport [a wealthy Silicon Valley venture capitalist] tilted his head to one side. He looked as if he felt sorry for me.

''A hundred million dollars,'' he said, ''is nothing.''

I like the sound of that! Anyway, check it out. While one must take Bai's breathless tone with a grain of salt (if this doesn't work the Democrats will go the way of the dinosaurs!!!), I do believe that this trend is an important one and holds great promise for the Democrats.

Comments

The reason none of this happens is that *money* is generally allergic to liberal ideas. If candidates want to run as liberals, they have to be willing not to simply use populist themes, but to go out and extract $10 out of every person who pushes the Democratic lever every year without fail. They will further have to run sacrificial candidates in every congressional district to build the base and to get people to the polls for the statewide races.

The reason the Democratic Party is not doing these things is that it would mean giving up control. The DNC is famous for coming into races with cash... the only string being that they have control of the message. They are also famous for losing these races.

I don't think the issue, ultimately, is ideology per se. Many Democrats are not social liberals and many independents and even Republicans are economic liberals. The problem, ultimately, is that the Democratic Party hates the grassroots and does everything it can to kill it.

I know this is a silly question to ask a pollster, but here goes.

Why not attempt to persuade the American people to tolerate non-mainstream values?

Why can't we design a campaign that shows that these minorities are Americans as well and it is in the finest traditions of America that they be included.

I know it'd be harder than just letting them have their prejudicies, but if we aren't even going to try...what's the point?

Democrats are up against some very serious obstacles, which some are not confronting. A critical one is the near-monopoly achieved by the corporate right-wing media combined with the corporate right-wing media's successful use of incompetent journalists.

The Democrats need to introduce some purely factual, informative ads, exposing the general tendency of Bush policies to benefit the corporate bandits, at the expense of everyone else. People don't know, and they will never know, if they have continue to wait for CNN to tell them. Ain't gonna happen, absent some fairly brutal assaults on the corporate right-wing media.

IN a similar vein, "Liberalism Regained: Building the Next Progressive Majority" in the Aug issue of Harper's.

Louis Lapham
Kevin Phillips
Ron Daniels
Frances Piven
Eric Foner
Ralph Nader

Phillips and Lapham come across in the forum discusission as the only ones with a consistently clear-eye vision. Focus on those two...forget Nader...talk about shopworn rhetoric..

Phillips rox!

LiberalOasis.com has an interesting article today on pretty much the same topic. The notion I find most intriguing is that, while the Republicans spend a great deal of time and energy on spreading a coherent philosophy, the Democrats have a set of core principles but no coherent philosophy. For Democrats, you are pro-labor and pro-choice, but the underlying philosophy is, if anything, assumed without being articulated. I believe that better articulation of that philosophy would translate to a more coherent messagethat would help to galvanize voters. Liberal ideas are not rejected because of a basic good or bad quality to them, but because they are not coherently expressed as a philosophical position by the party as a whole. The Democrats always have a platform, but they don't have a vision.

There might be a simpler explanation for the decision to organize outside the Democratic Party that the NY Times observed last weekend. Terry McAuliffe has just been an awful leader. And Clinton, despite his policy successes has been a disastrous leader for the party itself. He entered power with all 3 branches of government under Democratic control and left it with none. And then he appointed Terry McAuliffe who led the party to disaster in 2002.

So donors essentially had a choice: should I put my money at the disposal of someone who's a loser? And it seems most big donors just decided: well of course not! And boy have they been proven right: the investment in the 527s and other mechanisms has gained much more traction than the DNC.

And once McAuliffe is gone, the tide might come back and the big donors can start building the Democratic organization again.

Ruy, excellent post.

I hope more Americans are heeding political ideas and grandiose visions with REAL world concerns that are affecting them today.

Case in Point: The Bush economy has been a RUSE for almost 4 yrs

Recently, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that 80 percent of the workforce has lower wages so how are they going to buy all the stuff that will produce an uptick in economy ? They can't easily borrow more money, because they're already deep in debt plus Greenspin at the Fed has started to raise interest rates, making borrowing more expensive. So, inevitably, consumer spending is going to slow down. And this in turn will further slow job growth and wages.

This is what's really happening - not the fake booming economy that Bushco is trying to promote in stump speeches.

This is the #1 issue for the election and BIG advantage for Kerry/Edwards.

Ruy, I wondered how you'd feel about the Matt Bai article, since it's underlying thesis -- quoting everybody and his brother saying Dems are in the process of shrinking to nothingness -- seems totally at odds with your book's thesis. I like the general idea of the grass-roots pushing the party structure -- the Congressfolk and DNC have in general been way too fearful, and could use a push. But I think the notion that the party is declining in voter representation is belied by the results of the last three presidential elections. There are plenty of Dem voters out there, and the sub-groups seem to be expanding, not contracting.

As for the change in Congress during the 90s, I can't agree with Samuel Knight's implication that the decline was all Clinton's fault. I see it rather as the final turn in the long-evolving shift of Southern voters from Dem to Rep -- a shift they made presidentially as early as 1972, but which took alot longer on the Congresional level, thanks to the many elder statesmen on the Dem side who managed to cling to seats in clear GOP territory. The racial re-districting that preceded the '94 election was the final straw that converted the House to the GOP side.

And, really, I wonder if that's not a blessing in the long run. FDR famously tried and failed to defeat conservative Southern Dems in primaries in the late 30s. The failure left the Southern barons in significant control of the Congress for the next 50 years, so that even while Dems controlled the chambers, they almost never had a truly liberal majority (JFK actually complained about this in one of his debates with Nixon). What we're approaching now is something very like an honest count -- the Dems will probably never approach the super-majority numbers of years past, but when they get a simple majority, it will be a more united one (as even the votes they've cast as the minority in the past year or two have suggested). All these years later, FDR's dream may be coming to fruition.

I agree that the biggest obstacle facing Dems now is the way the press reports ideological conflicts and the way the party structure reacts to that. Obvious case in point: the recent (some would say ongoing) economic softness seems to cry out for federal spending to juice things up. But virtually no one out there is suggesting that -- it's either tax cuts, or balance the budget (the Reagan GOP vs. the Eisenhower GOP, as Clinton once said). If we can't get the idea out there that spending stimulus is occasionally an acceptable government policy, we don't have much chance of success.

One thing the Dems need that the Reps got in 1964 was the Civil Rights Act -- as LBJ said at the time, the Act, while obviously laudable, handed the South to the Reps.

What similar legislation or national sea change needs to happen for the average American to see the Reps for what they are, big-money shills?

Why Perlstein is Right (Warning-Long Post Ahead)

Rick Perlstein's article made two basic points: (1) The Democratic Party should adhere to positions and principles over the "long haul" and be not so concerned if some of the positions seem unpopular now; and (2) the core of these positions should be economic liberalism. Perlstein is exactly right on both counts.

As part of my defense of the first assertion, Id like to address the point made in Matt Bai's article in the NY Times Magazine: since there is now a group of wealthy progressives that are willing to fund organizations that can do everthing that the Democratic Party can do, there is no need for the Democratic Party. However, this point is incorrect. What the Democratic Party still has is a "brand name," which is a crucial political fact. As Perlstein (and others, including Ruy I believe) noted, party identification is the closest indicator of how an individual will vote.

Yet, the Democratic Party "brand" must mean something if it is to attract and keep adherents. The Democratic Party must stand for more than "we are a vehicle to elect people who are not members of the other party." Rather, the Democratic Party must stand for certain principles and policies which we believe are true and stick to them even if, at times, they seem unpopular.

This consistency is especially true regarding questions of policy. Eventually, good policy is always good politics and vice versa. Advocating good policy, even if unpopular for the moment, is always good politics in the long run because bad policy leads to bad results, and the advocates of bad policy will rightly be blamed. Thus, the key for long term success is consistently advocating proper policy, regardless of whether such policy is unpopular at any particular moment.

Perstein's second point, that the core of such policy should be economic liberalism is also exactly right. Just as a pure market economy was shown in the 1920s and 1930s to be an unsuccessful model for erecting a society in which the average person prospers, so today the current reliance of unfettered free trade and globalization is showing to be equally unsuccessful. Globalization is fostering a "race to the bottom" in regard to wages, working conditions and the environment. The conservative economic program of wealthy-oriented tax cuts and reliance of unregulated free trade only worsens the problem of maintaining a decent standard of living for the great majority of Americans. Similarly, the DLC answer that better education is the "silver bullett" that will cure the ills of the 21st century economy is also incorrect. Recent studies have shown that the income of the well educated are being reduced just as are the incomes of the uneducated (Unfortunately, I cant remember the site where I read this, I think it was on the web site of the Economic Policy Institute, but I am not sure).

Only a program of liberal economics can maintain the liberal, Democratic Party-American ideal of a society in which one can improve his or her family's standard of living through through hard work. Here is a list of ideas that the Democratic Party should stand for in order to maintain this dream.

-Pro-Union. As most jobs being created are, and will continue to be, relatively low paying service jobs, unionization of service employees is essential. The example of Los Vegas demonstrates how powerful of an impact this can be. As a result of successful unionization of that city's gambling establishments, resulting in much better wages and health insurance, incomes and economic growth in that region are soaring.

-Steady Increases in the Minimum Wage. The minimum wage does much more then help the relatively few employees who receive such income. It provides a wage floor by which most other incomes will be based. A higher income for the most unskilled of our workers will mean that employers must pay more to attract the employment of those who are "semi unskilled." This in turn will lead to higher wages for those with more skills.

-Tax Policy. Currently, our tax policy acts to discourage wage increases. The most well known way it does that is by encouraging companies to locate abroad. Obviously, this incentive should be eliminated.

Moreover, there is no reason why tax policy can not be used to foster a growth in income. Currently, a business is able to use the part of its revenues paid to its employees as an expense which lessens the amount of its taxable income. There are two ways that this system can be altered to provide a financial incentive for companies to increase the wages of its employees. First, all tax deductions for income over $1,000,000 should be eliminated. Without this financial incentive to pay its top employees more, businesses would pay more money to employees making less then one million dollars. Another way would be to increase the tax benefit for giving a raise. Let's say that a business's revenue that goes to giving a raise that exceeds the rate of inflation as measured by the Consumer Price Index is given favorable tax treatment. Instead of reducing the company's taxable income on a 1 dollar to 1 dolar ratio, maybe the comany can get 1.5 dollars tax credit for every 1 dollar of raise that it provides that is greater then the CPI. Im not sure if this exact idea is feasible, but there must be ways in which the tax structure can be used to encourage businesses to pay its employees better.

Trade Policy. While there are certain advantages to the consumer in unregulated free trade, li.e. ower prices, not enough attention is given to its drawbacks, lower wages and lost jobs. While outsourcing has not resulted in large job losses as a percentage of our economy yet, it still is having a negative impact on wages. The jobs that are lost tend to have high pay and good benefits, and the competition from low wage countries (and the resulting fear of job loss) put downward pressure on wages throughout the economy.

There are two things that the Democratic Party can advocate that will lessen the negative impact of unregulated free trade, while keeping most of its benefits. First, it can insist of "fair trade." For example, both China and Japan keep their currency artificially low against the dollar in order to keep their products comming into the USA artifically cheap. The USA should use the WTO rules to require these countries to stop this practice. Second, the USA should use trade agreements to begin setting certain worldwide standards regarding wages, child labor, working conditions and environmental protection. This will not only protect American wages, but forcing companies that locate oversees to pay its employees a decent wage will also create more consumers for american products to be sold abroad.

Some or all of these policies may be unpopular for the moment. Indeed, if Kerry would adopt them, he might lessen his chance of winning the election. Yet, Perlstein is right when he says that pursuing core policies and principles will eventually lead to more political success then constantly bending to the wind. My biggest fear in regard to a Kerry victory is that he will be too cautious to pursue a liberal economic program. As a result, wages will continue to fall during his term of office, leading to a resurgence of the Republican idea of greater tax cuts.

I am completely unconvinced that presenting essentially the entire liberal package to the American public in each election cycle until, finally, it "wakes up", or until opposing voters just die off in sufficient numbers, must be the only recipe for success.

Granted, progressives need to know what their ultimate goals should be. But why is it not a good thing to try to find an electoral path, which, through gradual acceptable increments, gets to that entire package? Doesn't the progressive movement build up credibility through improvements that the public accepts, rather than chaining those improvements to other things the public, at least for the time being, finds quite unacceptable?

Why on earth should we be bound by the example of Goldwater and the conservative movement? There are so many other things that explain the rise of the conservative movement in the US, not least of which is the correction of the anomaly of American politics, namely, that Southern states, of all places, should have historically voted for the party espousing the most progressive ideas instead of the most conservative. In addition, there was a natural backlash to the extremes of the liberalism of the 60s which did much to create fertile grounds for a Conservative movement.

Now, we may indeed, in the example of the Bush administration, have encountered a conservative movement as loathesome to many Americans as the liberalism of Johnson was to many others. But why we should think that only a purist progressive package will be effective and persuasive in such a context, I just don't get.

There are 2 main reasons that the left cannot and should not follow the Goldwater paradigm.

First, the status quo is different. In 1964, conservatives had nothing to lose. They were a minority viewpoint and could afford to focus on a long term approach. While Republicans control all three branches of government, the margin of control is razor thin. Democrats would be foolish to risk what is a potential victory for the sake of an agenda.

Second, and not unrelated, the costs are too great. Who among us would be happy 12 years from now (it took the conservatives 16 years) if liberals finally won and hundreds of thousands of people were dead because of preemptive wars and terrorism, Medicare is bankrupt and social security has been privatized (or abolished to pay for the war)? That is not a price I'm willing to pay.

I haven't read all of the rejoinders to Perlstein's essay, but I did read Robert Reich's. It was a coherent summary of how the Dems got to where we are now. It deserves to be read and savored.

In reviewing the the position of both parties today, especially in the light of Reich's coments, I'm reminded of FDR's fondest wish, that the Democratic party could be rid of its conservatives and that the Republicans would lose their liberals.

He should have been more careful of what he wished for. It happened but not in the way he wanted. Unfortuneately, the Dems forgot what they were all about and wandered into cultural issues that lost them their base of support; i.e. the working class.

Now the Dems face the daunting task of unifying the party, not just for the upcoming election, but for the longer term, no matter the outcome in November. The GOP is a disciplined organization which speaks with clarity and coherence at all levels of government and public life. The Dems on the other hand are a collection of interest groups who coalesce every 4 years to defeat a Republican presidential candidate.


It seems to me that to win consistently over time, the Dems either have to organize themselves the way the Republicans have; or, they must find a way to break off or splinter the protestant evangelicals who constitute the fighting cadres of the GOP.

Joe Zainea

I apologize for threading here on an off topic subject, but I was wondering whether stem cell research is being discussed this week at the convention.

I know that Congressman Peter Deutsch introduced a bill into congress that would lift the ban on federal funding for this form of in vitro research that President (hopefully not for too long) Bush introduced three years ago. If anyone is interested, visit the website below to urge President Bush to allow scientists to do thier job.

http://www.peterforflorida.com/petition/stemcell.html

Actually, I think the Democratic Party is not having any trouble with its message. I think the strenous arguing, theorizing, propogandizing, and lying on the part of the Republican Party is prima facie evidence that they are having a difficult time getting their point of view to stick!

I think our message is that we will do anything that is effective, underline effective, in bringing about a better standard of living, and peace and security, for all americans. Remember what FDR said:

"It is common sense to take a method and try it. If it fails, admit it frankly and try another. But above all, try something."

One of the most consistant, not to mention telling, results of poll 'internals', is that Democrats get much more credit for 'caring about people like me', and other similar questions. Despite 25 years of Reaganite B.S., americans still know who is the party of the little guy and who is the party of the plutocrats.

P.S. also recall that Gore + Nader == about 52%, and that no Republican has gotten the most votes in a presidential election since 1988. Sensible people are in the majority in this country and all we need is a little TURNOUT!

I agree with the notion of organizing "centers" or "Think tanks" outside the Democratic Party. In fact it is quite enough for the party to do a good job with the mechanics of elections, primaries and all the rest of their tasks -- But what we should be insisting on is vast improvements on the part of the party in the State Parties operations.

I actually don't see the sense in putting more think tanks in DC -- but if those thinking about this can come up with a way to decentralize the effort, getting things started in all regions of the country, and then acquire the media mechanism for sharing ideas, I think they could be into something good.

The weakness of the Conservative Movement since the 60's is that it is top down organization. Try to organize that way among progressives -- and it will fail. Unlike the Evangelicals, Progressives do not take well to shepheding.

What is needed is something broadly participatory that builds the party for the future -- develops both new ideas and leadership, and is very inviting to young adults who are still working out their political identity. I think if we look at which movements over time have helped build the Democratic Party, we'll find many are youthful -- and they account for party growth.

I agree with the notion of organizing "centers" or "Think tanks" outside the Democratic Party. In fact it is quite enough for the party to do a good job with the mechanics of elections, primaries and all the rest of their tasks -- But what we should be insisting on is vast improvements on the part of the party in the State Parties operations.

I actually don't see the sense in putting more think tanks in DC -- but if those thinking about this can come up with a way to decentralize the effort, getting things started in all regions of the country, and then acquire the media mechanism for sharing ideas, I think they could be into something good.

The weakness of the Conservative Movement since the 60's is that it is top down organization. Try to organize that way among progressives -- and it will fail. Unlike the Evangelicals, Progressives do not take well to shepheding.

What is needed is something broadly participatory that builds the party for the future -- develops both new ideas and leadership, and is very inviting to young adults who are still working out their political identity. I think if we look at which movements over time have helped build the Democratic Party, we'll find many are youthful -- and they account for party growth.

I agree with the notion of organizing "centers" or "Think tanks" outside the Democratic Party. In fact it is quite enough for the party to do a good job with the mechanics of elections, primaries and all the rest of their tasks -- But what we should be insisting on is vast improvements on the part of the party in the State Parties operations.

I actually don't see the sense in putting more think tanks in DC -- but if those thinking about this can come up with a way to decentralize the effort, getting things started in all regions of the country, and then acquire the media mechanism for sharing ideas, I think they could be into something good.

The weakness of the Conservative Movement since the 60's is that it is top down organization. Try to organize that way among progressives -- and it will fail. Unlike the Evangelicals, Progressives do not take well to shepheding.

What is needed is something broadly participatory that builds the party for the future -- develops both new ideas and leadership, and is very inviting to young adults who are still working out their political identity. I think if we look at which movements over time have helped build the Democratic Party, we'll find many are youthful -- and they account for party growth.

I agree with the notion of organizing "centers" or "Think tanks" outside the Democratic Party. In fact it is quite enough for the party to do a good job with the mechanics of elections, primaries and all the rest of their tasks -- But what we should be insisting on is vast improvements on the part of the party in the State Parties operations.

I actually don't see the sense in putting more think tanks in DC -- but if those thinking about this can come up with a way to decentralize the effort, getting things started in all regions of the country, and then acquire the media mechanism for sharing ideas, I think they could be into something good.

The weakness of the Conservative Movement since the 60's is that it is top down organization. Try to organize that way among progressives -- and it will fail. Unlike the Evangelicals, Progressives do not take well to shepheding.

What is needed is something broadly participatory that builds the party for the future -- develops both new ideas and leadership, and is very inviting to young adults who are still working out their political identity. I think if we look at which movements over time have helped build the Democratic Party, we'll find many are youthful -- and they account for party growth.

I agree with the notion of organizing "centers" or "Think tanks" outside the Democratic Party. In fact it is quite enough for the party to do a good job with the mechanics of elections, primaries and all the rest of their tasks -- But what we should be insisting on is vast improvements on the part of the party in the State Parties operations.

I actually don't see the sense in putting more think tanks in DC -- but if those thinking about this can come up with a way to decentralize the effort, getting things started in all regions of the country, and then acquire the media mechanism for sharing ideas, I think they could be into something good.

The weakness of the Conservative Movement since the 60's is that it is top down organization. Try to organize that way among progressives -- and it will fail. Unlike the Evangelicals, Progressives do not take well to shepheding.

What is needed is something broadly participatory that builds the party for the future -- develops both new ideas and leadership, and is very inviting to young adults who are still working out their political identity. I think if we look at which movements over time have helped build the Democratic Party, we'll find many are youthful -- and they account for party growth.

I agree with the notion of organizing "centers" or "Think tanks" outside the Democratic Party. In fact it is quite enough for the party to do a good job with the mechanics of elections, primaries and all the rest of their tasks -- But what we should be insisting on is vast improvements on the part of the party in the State Parties operations.

I actually don't see the sense in putting more think tanks in DC -- but if those thinking about this can come up with a way to decentralize the effort, getting things started in all regions of the country, and then acquire the media mechanism for sharing ideas, I think they could be into something good.

The weakness of the Conservative Movement since the 60's is that it is top down organization. Try to organize that way among progressives -- and it will fail. Unlike the Evangelicals, Progressives do not take well to shepheding.

What is needed is something broadly participatory that builds the party for the future -- develops both new ideas and leadership, and is very inviting to young adults who are still working out their political identity. I think if we look at which movements over time have helped build the Democratic Party, we'll find many are youthful -- and they account for party growth.

I agree with the notion of organizing "centers" or "Think tanks" outside the Democratic Party. In fact it is quite enough for the party to do a good job with the mechanics of elections, primaries and all the rest of their tasks -- But what we should be insisting on is vast improvements on the part of the party in the State Parties operations.

I actually don't see the sense in putting more think tanks in DC -- but if those thinking about this can come up with a way to decentralize the effort, getting things started in all regions of the country, and then acquire the media mechanism for sharing ideas, I think they could be into something good.

The weakness of the Conservative Movement since the 60's is that it is top down organization. Try to organize that way among progressives -- and it will fail. Unlike the Evangelicals, Progressives do not take well to shepheding.

What is needed is something broadly participatory that builds the party for the future -- develops both new ideas and leadership, and is very inviting to young adults who are still working out their political identity. I think if we look at which movements over time have helped build the Democratic Party, we'll find many are youthful -- and they account for party growth.

So, Sara, what do you think fo the idea of organizing centers, or "think tanks"?

Yes, stem cell, stem cell research is being discussed at the DN Convention. It was mentioned on opening night and is reported to be the topic of Ron Reagan speech.

MSNBC is reporting that a majority of Americans want to hear what Kerry's positions are and his plans.

What is wrong with these people? They want to know these things but don't bother to find out? One trip to the Kerry web site would provide enough information for them to know what he is about. Paying a little attention would be enough. Although, to be fair, I think the biggest problem is that the public thinks Kerry is not presenting his real positions, whereas it is more a case of the media failing to report substance. Look how prominent Teresa Heinz Kerry's "shove it" became and how quickly it was all over the country. Contrast that with what has been said of Kerry's environmental record in the Senate or his proposals on education reform. If we had an honest media, they'd be apologizing for not doing their jobs.

If anyone is interested I found a great electoral vote predictor it's at http://www.electoral-vote.com/ I think they up-date it every day. Right now Kerry 291 Bush 237.

across the board, bush's approval numbers seem to be up. is this troubling anybody else?

for the last 3 years, this number has trended steadily downward, w/ upticks tied to invading iraq, TV appearances, and assorted jingo. now it appears bush has bottomed out and is steadily improving.

could you address this, ruy?

Parties don't gain a dominant position in politics by coalition-building and 12-point programs. Parties gain a dominant position in American politics when the other party explodes. Examples occurred in 1860, 1896, 1932, and 1968.

The problem with the Democratic ideology is that it is antediluvian and brainless. This has all been done before, failed, tried again, failed...Now that it is infecting some of america like a dose of the clapp, how do you think it will turn out again? We will see. Think of Prussia, USSR, the great English Empire, the Romans. All eventually liberal in their delusion, and POW...gone.
And further, how can Libs believe that there are no absolutes...(I went to a state university, I know what you think..) and then stand on the "montra" that conservatives are wrong in their thinking? HUHH? So what standard of absolute "right and wrong" are you using?
Oh, wait a minute... Maybe Al Gore was right, use your "feeelings" to make your decisions. Are liberals all connected to the inner circle of energy, feel the same thing and then go vote? In unison?

Nevermind.

Bob,

"Libs believe that there are no absolutes"

I know "conservatives" like to believe that, but I don't know anybody who believes in relativistic morality, and I live in the Bay Area, the most liberal/progressive urban area in the U.S. We believe in right and wrong just like you do. I know that Republican lies are very tasty, but try talking to some real progressives once and a while.

"montra"

That's "mantra", and try looking it up in the dictionary and using it correctly.

"clapp" usually "clap"

"This has all been done before, failed, tried again, failed"

A completely meaningless statement since the United States is the most conservative of the industrial democracies in terms of Social Welfare policies, and we were never so successful for the ordinary american before FDR instituted labor protection and Social Security.

And for the rest of my progressive friends here on Ruy's great blog: can you believe how these "conservatives" run down Social Welfare policies that are supposedly failing in Germany, Japan and Finland and elsewhere, while we buy Nokia cellphones from Finland, and Audis, Volkswagons, BMWs, Mercedes and Porshes from Germany, and all of our electronic gear from Japan?

The longer these trolls continue to hold their fingers in their ears, the better advantage we progressives have, since we keep in touch with that nasty reality stuff that gives them so much trouble...

Mencken, here's the Pollkatz big picture for today:

Bush Approval Ratings

That ABC/WaPo poll is the dark blue diamond at the end. There have been many bigger outliers that didn't amount to anything; I don't see solid evidence for an uptick outside the noise.

That said, it's interesting that we don't seem to be seeing a Democratic convention bounce yet. I've suspected for a while that this might be the year that the convention bounce evaporates for good, for both Democrats and Republicans.