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Harold Meyerson Argues Dems Can Find New Message in Challenges of Global Economy

In a November 17th Washington Post column Harold Meyerson argues that the Dems can find an appealing electoral message by proposing solutions for the profound insecurity created by the global economy. Here are some excerpts from his piece:

Democrats are good at policies. But all too often the campaigns lack a message -- a sense of what the candidate's about and what he aims to do…

Time was when the Democrats were the party of economic justice and opportunity, the party that championed emerging constituencies as well as classes: Catholics, blacks, women…

But, with the signal exception of Clinton's '92 campaign -- a brilliant mix of economic progressivism and cultural centrism -- the Democrats haven't been able to persuade enough voters to choose them as their champions for a very long time. And Clinton's ability to deliver on that promise once in office was a sometime thing. Full employment made life better for the people at the bottom of the economy. But the erosion of the decent jobs of the old industrial economy never really stopped (and, of course, has escalated greatly under Bush), and the jobs that replaced them more often than not offered lower pay, fewer benefits and less security…

[T]he Republicans have developed a clear response to these changes: They are the party of risk, which they call "opportunity." This is most certainly not why Bush won reelection; Americans are not pining to pay for their health coverage or retirement or college tuition with no assist from their employers or their government…

Historically the Democrats have been the party of security, but that's an identity they need to reclaim. ….The challenge of a global labor market demands more of them than a commitment to mid-career retraining; defending the American middle class means creating the kind of global standards that the Democrats created on the national level during the 1930s and '40s, the time of their greatest popularity. That's a daunting challenge, one that requires the Democrats to think and develop a story about the new threats to the American dream. If they do they'll come up with a more plausible list of culprits -- and solutions -- than the Republicans ever will. They may even come up with a new sense of self, with a purpose, with a theme.


Meyerson's column is an excellent start on how the Dems can return to a morals based vision for the nation. The theme is justice. The issues; national security, jobs, education health care etc. need to be framed in the context of justice.

Justice is given a moral dimension when any of the issues listed above are infused with a language that resonnates against sacred writings.

I'm not kidding here. A week ago Richard Cohen, also writing in the WaPo, talked about how American Jews were also hard wired to vote against what might be thought of as their self interests because of the religious and social culture from which they sprang. They vote their moral values.

If America's voters are really responding to moral reference points, and I think they are in a culture that is growing ever more coarse and in the absence of any evidence that the Dems haven't been anymore effective in the recent past in rectifying social and economic problems, then it becomes clear that competing with the Repubs on morals and values is imperative.

If America is divided beteen people of faith and people of reason, and I think it is, Nov. 2nd showed that, try as you might, you can't win an election based soley on reason. To win, a candidate and its party must speak with a prophetic voice.

The "Democrats" won't follow this advice and they can't really follow this advice. Progressives must stop thinking in terms of the "Democratic Party" and start thinking in terms of the progressive movement.

Therefore, this advice needs to be taken up by progressive thinkers, activists, and politicians, who then must pressure the Democratic party. This is what the Right did. People frequently forget that it was the conservative activist/legislator Newt Gingrich who led the 1994 revolution, not the moderate, old-guard Bob Michel who had higher "party rank" at the time.

In America political parties don't lead change. They are just not institutionally designed to do so. Cange has to come from without. Conservatives understood this. They won. Progressives don't appear to get it. They lost.

"...The challenge of a global labor market demands more of them than a commitment to mid-career retraining; defending the American middle class "

How many economists, lawyers, doctors, executives (MBA types), journalists, professors and other champions of (free falling wage) trade have retrained in the course of their lives?

Compare that with retraining experieced by machinists, carpenters, electronic technicians, millwrights, welders, mechanical engineers, seamen, software writers, fishermen, seamstresses/patternmakers, nurses, farmers ect.

Training takes time, cost money and is often outdated before it produces income. When the Democratic Party abandoned these skilled workers to their own devices, it lost the moral floor and as a result has not had a cognitive message since.

I know what I am talking about, I have retrained three times in my life. I'd love to get the chance to square off verbally against one of the pontificators of this so called "free trade".

S Brennan

We must fight for the word, MORAL.

We must make taking back the word an objective.

HATE is not a moral value.

PREJUDICE is not a moral value.

BIGOTRY is not a moral value.

RELIGIOUS EXCLUSION is not a moral value.

SHUTTING DOWN FACTORIES and shutting down towns is not a moral value.

We must turn the dialogue around, we must make the Republicans play defense on moral issues. We must show the immorality of their alleged morality.

We have to define ourselves better, we have to define ourselves as reasonable and moral.

Democrats need to start talking about the value of hard work, compassion, tolerance, etc. It is really hard for me to fathom as a man who grew up in the rural south how so many of the folks I know back home vote against the economic interest. We need to start talking to folks about the values that we have. Values that are shared by the vast majority of Americans. We need to force the Republicans to expose their wedge issues for what they really are, nothing more than distractions intended to divide the American people.

Tell it to Ted Kennedy, who's picked this moment to decide that this would be a really great time to reverse his long stance in opposition to lifting the cap on H1B visas.

Please tell me exactly how this stance helps the Democrats?

THE ELEPHANT IN THE ROOM KEEPS BEING IGNORED, first during the campaign and now in the post "election" analysis:

The two factors MOST likely to have cost Kerry the election, along with possible fraud in the election process, are, AGAIN, the flipflop spin UNANSWERED in either the media or by the Kerry campaign in a forceful timely way, AND the similar media-and-campaign failure to answer the Matt Bai distortion from the Oct 10 NY Times Magazine that painted Kerry as soft on terror and formed the main basis of the last three weeks of the campaign. The Democrats either address the issue of justifying the lying, and getting with the program of letting the Republicans win elections (also visible in the logo, analyzed in the Oct 9 NY Times oped) or they don't. Obviously, the same forces that made for packs of hounds that didn't bark (even in the face of seemingly irrepressible news about election fraud, including the justifying of the lying regarding exit polls) BEFORE the election, determine how the "reading" of the election takes place AFTER the election.

It is the very forces that keep observers from frankly facing up to the 'getting with the program' on the part of both the Democrats and the media on the key issues mentioned above (outlined at length MANY times on this website and others by me) also completely determine a distorted view of why the election results were whatever they really were. Kerry should have had this one in a landslide, and it is the factors unaddressed before and unaddressed now that were decisive. Either you have REAL Democrats fighting to win or you don't. So far, we don't.