Thoughts about...Democrats

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A Back to the Future Ideology
for the Democratic Party.

A re-branding. A new "L" word.
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Root of All Evil?

The Root of All Evil?
Money won't turn
political garbage into gold.

| Octopber 29, 2010

My tart-tongued mother, of Scotch-Irish mixed-with-German descent, and with Southern Illinois wisdom to boot, would have had some good advice for President Barack Obama’s political message consultants had she lived to see the craziness of 2010 politics: "You can't turn shit into Shinola." And not just this bizarre year but every year, her son tells his political journalism students, "Money follows message. Not the other way around."

To summarize: No amount of dirty Chamber of Commerce foreign money—conjured up by the White House a few weeks ago in a vain attempt to fire up left-liberals—could create the crappy set of electorally damaging facts that Barack Obama, Nancy Pelosi, and Harry Reid visited on both the Democratic base and the relatively apolitical center of American politics over the past 22 months.

In other words, "It's the policies, stupid!" that have created the forthcoming November disaster for Democrats, not some failure to communicate.

In "White House Goes Into Bunker Mode," written October 25 from his new position as Washington bureau chief for The Daily Beast, former Washington Post media critic Howard Kurtz quotes White House communications director Dan Pfieffer: "There’s an alternative story here that we’re trying to tell. But there’s an element of spitting in the ocean."

In his piece, Kurtz raises the question of whether, in our data-wired world, a U.S. president is just another guy salivating in the political meme stream or whether Obama’s best and the brightest are only making excuses for their poor messaging.

The answer is neither.

Former George W. Bush press secretary Dana Perino gets it pretty much right, also quoted by Kurtz: "I remember being in a meeting where someone said, 'We have a communications problem with Iraq.' I said, ‘No, 89 soldiers were killed this month in Iraq. That's your problem.'"

The Democratic Party’s problem is that the leader it elected to end a war is keeping 50,000 "non-combatant" troops in the country George W. Bush elected to attack, sacrificing the lives of over 4,000 Americans and 100,000 Iraqis. Obama also decided to wage his own elective war in Afghanistan, complete with a George W. Bush-style speech at West Point last December, further demoralizing his liberal base.

After dissing his most reliable supporters, Obama added insult to the Great Recession injury with a big government health care takeover. Pelosi and Reid joined him in a politically tone-deaf assault on centrist voters, many of whom helped elect congressional Democrats in 2006 and Obama in 2008. Already furious with Bush's bailing out of bankers, and scared to death about losing home equity and retirement fund value, the center reacted with Tea Party vengeance to ObamaCare’s corporate welfare for Big Pharma, Big Insurance, and Big Hospital.  

In denial, the K Street wing of the Democratic Party now pats itself on the back for Great Legislative Achievements, and claims that secret Karl Rove/Chamber of Commerce money is keeping their story from being told to those stupid, gullible voters—conveniently forgetting their own big bucks patron saint of a few years ago, George Soros. Not at all stupid, Soros refused to throw his good money after the Democrats’ bad policy message, proclaiming a few weeks ago, "I can't stop a Republican avalanche."

There's also the inconvenient truth about which party has actually spent the big money in 2010. As Politico's Jeanne Cummings reported on October 27, "The money race totals come to $856 million for the Democratic committees and their aligned outside groups, compared to $677 for their Republican adversaries, based on figures compiled by the Center for Responsive Politics."

It remains to be seen whether Obama stays in the bunker after November 2nd. Will he receive the message that Democrats and a majority of independents are tired of the  liberty-infringing, permanent state of warfare that one of the party's co-founders, James Madison, warned against two hundred years ago? Will he follow Bill Clinton, himself brought back to earth from a failed healthcare "reform" in 1994, and re-proclaim that the era of big government is over?

As a libertarian Democrat, I'm going to hope—perhaps against hope—that Obama will. It’s time to pull Democrats kicking and screaming into the 21st century by returning to the classical liberal philosophy of the party’s founders, Jefferson and Madison.

Transported across time, those Virginia gentlemen might offer this advice to their wounded Democratic Party leaders: "Assure liberty by keeping government as far away as possible from the balance books, the bedrooms, and the bodies of those you represent. Nurture pluralistic democracy and free markets on this earth by example, understanding that neither can be planted by armed force on political ground lacking indigenous human cultivators for growth. Affirm the moral authority of the inalienable rights we are guaranteed by fashioning public policy for individuals, not tribal identity groups."

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In Defense of Libertarianism
An open letter to left-liberals

| May 28, 2010

To my left-liberal Democrat friends:

As you engage in intellectual dishonesty using Rand Paul’s silly comments on the 1964 Civil Rights Act to misrepresent libertarianism, perhaps you might want to consider a little history of the political philosophy of the founder of our party, Thomas Jefferson, the original libertarian. Let me help you escape your ignorance about libertarianism without a capital L, a political philosophy far from conservatism.

As a child of the 1960s, I was one of you. I wore a “Madly for Adlai” button, delivered Kennedy brochures on my newspaper route, and defended Medicare in speech class. Growing up in the Bible Belt, I was the only kid in town to subscribe to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, a near-communist rag according to neighbors who read the St. Louis Globe-Democrat, for which a young Pat Buchanan was writing editorials.

After three years of reporting, I became a press secretary, arriving in Washington in 1975 with Rep. Paul Simon who embodied the Progressive Era. He believed programs, regulations, and social “science” expertise could lift the poor and end corruption.

By the mid-1980s, I was press spokesman for the Democratic National Committee, when “centrist” Democrats began to repair the damage that led “Reagan Democrats” to desert the party. I joined other “New Democrats,” rejecting tax-and-spend excess and the group-outcomes mentality that advocated preferences based on race rather than focusing on individual opportunity.

Then, by the middle of the 1990s, I made the logical progression to libertarian.

My own evolution might help inform those of you who think libertarians are a bunch of self-centered, conservative, anti-poor ogres—unless, like some liberals in the cable babble and op-ed page commentariat, you wish to willfully mischaracterize the word libertarian and use the philosophy as a whipping boy. I’m talking to you, Joe Klein of Time magazine, who wrote that “Tea Party libertarians” would “expose the utopian foolishness of their ideology.” And you, Eugene Robinson of The Washington Post, who informed readers that “Paul lives in Libertarian La-La Land, where a purist philosophy leads people to believe in the purest nonsense.” Surely, Mr. Robinson, you know the difference between capital L Libertarian Party members, and those of us who are members of the two major parties, or of no party at all. The Tea Party is not a libertarian movement. It’s a hodgepodge of populist beliefs, like those always accompanying economic downturns.

Classical liberalism, on the other hand, has lasted centuries. It was a natural fit for an Agrarian Era, with self-sustaining farmers, frontiersmen, and shop keepers. When the Industrial Era arrived, these individualists railed against “wage labor.” They wanted no part of centralized industry and its abuses. Corporate excesses fed Progressive Era reformers, who promoted one-size-fits-all government to address the sins of the Robber Barons.

With adoption of the income tax and world wars, a depression, and a big tax-paying middle class after World War II, Big Government was in full bloom by the 1960s, complete with a tax-hungry Cold War military industrial complex, entitlement programs that devoured revenue, and government dependency by both an impoverished underclass and a corporate welfare class.

Then came the push-back that brought Ronald Reagan to power. With about twice as many Americans calling themselves conservative as liberal, Democrats abandoned liberal and used the wimpy mush-word progressive.

Concurrent with abandonment of the New Deal and Great Society by large blocks of voters, there arrived the third great economic wave, the Information Age, which intellectually empowers individuals, allowing them to enjoy more control over their own economic lives.

If you made it this far, left-liberal friends, you’ll see why many of us consider you reactionary when in comes to one-size-fits-all government. But we know you make common cause with us on cultural concerns like gay rights, and you share our non-interventionist views on foreign policy—though many of you avert your eyes as Barack Obama places young men and women in harm’s way in Afghanistan.

Of course, Rand Paul was ridiculous questioning four-decade-old settled law that recognized slavery and segregation as conditions justifying the coercive power of the state to prohibit discrimination. We libertarians could give you a long list of things, like fighting crime and enforcing contracts, we regard as appropriate for state intrusion. We just insist the use of government power be minimal, consistent with individual liberty and responsibility.

If you want a short explanation of a what a libertarian really is, here’s one from a self-described “libertarian Democrat” who used to be one of you: Get the government out of my bank account, out of my bedroom, away from my body, and out of the backyards of the rest of the world (we should lead by example, not military force.)

And now, please have enough intellectual honesty—which Rand Paul had to a fault—to call yourselves liberals, instead of hiding behind that bullshit progressive euphemism!

Terry Michael is director of the Washington Center for Politics & Journalism, which he founded in 1988 to teach journalism students about politics. His writing is collected at “thoughts from a libertarian Democrat.”

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A Back to the Future
Jeffersonian Liberalism

How the Democrats can thrive
in the Information Age

by Terry Michael | January 25, 2010

Hopes dashed by the first-year bumblings of Barack Obama and three big GOP victories in Virginia, New Jersey, and Massachusetts, Democratic campaign strategists, policy-mongers, and populist fire-breathers are touting formulas for party renewal. Nothing new here. Re-branding has been a cottage industry for Democrats since Lyndon Johnson dashed liberal dreams of wealth redistribution with his war in the 1960s, and mush-mouthed Democrats abandoned the toxic “L” word and started calling themselves “progressives" in the 1970s and 1980s.

While short-term thinking, focused on the November election, will dominate Beltway chatter about re-tooling Obama's legislative agenda, Democrats desperately need a new informing ideology to replace the 19th and 20th Century brand of statist programmatic liberalism rejected by the political center, in a choice-demanding information age.
..... Read all here:
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Illinois' Culture of Reform
Inspired by Paul Simon


By: Terry Michael
December 16 , 2008

If Illinois politics has been a hotbed for corruption, it has also benefited from a culture of reform, a meme stream that flows directly to President-elect Barack Obama from the late Sen. Paul Simon, through generations of journalists and politicians Simon has inspired.

Like most everything in life, politics is physics. Every action has an equal and opposite reaction. And the patronage, vote-buying and bribes that were hallmarks of the Cook County Democratic machine and the corruption in Springfield stimulated a Progressive Era-inspired reform movement led by a young weekly editor and future state legislator, lieutenant governor, U.S. representative and U.S. senator.

Among those whom Simon has mentored and influenced have been Obama himself, plus two of his inner circle: Sen. Richard J. Durbin (D-Ill.), a Simon protégé, and Obama’s chief strategist, David Axelrod, a former Chicago Tribune political writer who was press secretary for Simon’s first U.S. Senate campaign in 1984.

The bow-tied senator began battling corruption in 1948, at the age of 19, when he dropped out of Dana College in Blair, Neb., to buy a failing Southern Illinois weekly newspaper, the Troy Tribune, with a $3,000 loan from the local Lions Club. It was the same year Illinois elected the blue-ribbon reform ticket of Adlai Stevenson for governor and Paul H. Douglas for the U.S. Senate. Holding the Senate seat to which Simon was eventually elected in 1984 and to which Durbin ascended after Simon’s retirement in 1996, Douglas, known as the conscience of the Senate, became a close friend and mentor to Simon in the 1950s and 1960s.

Simon used his weekly to challenge organized crime and the local Democratic machine in Madison County, across the river from St. Louis. His crusade drew the attention of Stevenson and the Kefauver Committee on organized crime in the U.S. Senate, before which Simon testified in 1951. Simon’s profile as a crusading editor helped launch a 40-year political career when he was elected, at the age of 25, to the Illinois House of Representatives, defeating the Madison County Democratic machine candidate.

He aligned himself in the Legislature with anti-machine “lakeshore liberals,” (a reference to Lake Michigan), including then-State Rep. Abner Mikva, who, like Simon, mentored Obama and encouraged his run for the U.S. Senate. Simon was just about to endorse Obama for the 2004 nomination when he died on Dec. 9, 2003, of complications from heart surgery.

Obama acknowledged Simon’s role as a mentor in an interview with PBS’s Gwen Ifill after his keynote speech to the 2004 Democratic National Convention: “Dick Durbin, I think, [in his introduction of Obama] appropriately mentioned Paul Simon as somebody who was a mentor to me, and one of the things that he always talked about is being able to disagree without being disagreeable. ...”

As a young state representative, Simon authored Illinois’ first open meeting law, guaranteeing press and public access to official proceedings. In 1963, he blew the whistle on corruption in the Legislature in a piece for Harper’s magazine, for which his colleagues “jokingly” gave him their Benedict Arnold Award.

In 1968, Simon was elected lieutenant governor. He selected as his legal counsel a recent graduate of Georgetown Law School, Durbin, who had been an intern in Paul Douglas’ Senate office when he was a law student.

I began my own association with Simon in 1968, when I chaired his student support group at the University of Illinois. After five years as a newspaper reporter and then press secretary to the Democrats in the Illinois House, I became Simon’s first U.S. House campaign press secretary in 1974 and then his press spokesman in Washington. One of my duties was to prepare and release his annual statement of personal income, assets and liabilities, which he voluntarily provided for every one of his 40 years in office. He required similar statements from his principal staff — including this 28-year-old in 1975, when I was earning a paltry $18,000 (Paul was a frugal employer) and my net worth was deep in the embarrassingly negative range.

After the recent disclosures about Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich, I heard a TV talking head refer to Obama as a “product of the Cook County Democratic machine.” That cable-babbler got it exactly wrong. Political geography was definitely not destiny for the new president. His political lineage winds its way back through Axelrod, Durbin, Mikva and others to the man who inspired many of us to public service and progressive journalism.

A former press secretary for Paul Simon, Terry Michael is director of the Washington Center for Politics & Journalism, a college political journalism internship program modeled after one Simon founded at the University of Illinois-Springfield in 1972.

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Self-defeating myths
Democrats must dispel

(it wasn't Willie or the Swift Boat Vets
that defeated us, Barack)


By: Terry Michael

June 2, 2008

As Democrats prepare to do battle with John McCain this fall, we need to dispel two comforting but self-defeating myths about recent failed White House campaigns.

These canards are also shared by many editorial page pontificators, who ascribe 1988 and 2004 losses to crafty Republicans working their negative-advertising black magic, Willie Hortonizing Michael Dukakis and swift-boating John F. Kerry, who were either excessively noble or maybe too slow or too wimpy to fight back.

Evil may have lurked in the souls of those GOP operatives, and Democratic consultants may have been constrained by nominees unwilling to dirty their hands. But it wasn’t why we lost.

What the Republicans really did was to rope a couple of dopes. That’s the lesson Barack Obama should learn from the fate of Dukakis and Kerry. Engage with McCain on things voters care about and talk honestly about what they don’t like about Republicans. But don’t make excuses about dirty GOP tactics to explain why the electorate rejects Democratic candidates, when what voters really eschew then and now is failure of judgment, lack of common sense and intellectual dishonesty.

The 1980s saw a bigger than usual glut of aggressive young males. Motivated by profits from the black market created by a brainless drug war, urban gangbangers were scaring aging children of the Depression known as Reagan Democrats.

So Lee Atwater and Roger Ailes, aided by minions in the basement of the Republican National Committee, dredged up a resonant metaphor for everything Reagan Democrats loved to hate about crime-coddling liberals: Willie Horton, the murderer sentenced to life in prison, who pillaged his way through Maryland on a weekend prison pass.

Yet that’s not what really happened.

The Massachusetts program, a rehabilitation effort signed into law in 1972, was applied to convicted murderers by the commonwealth’s Supreme Court, and Dukakis, in his first term as Massachusetts governor, vetoed an attempt to overturn the court. After scores of Pulitzer Prize-winning stories by the Lawrence (Mass.) Eagle-Tribune, the law that allowed Horton his pass was overturned in a bill signed by Dukakis himself on April 28, 1988, after the issue was raised in presidential politics at a Democratic debate April 12 in New York by ... Al Gore! Yes, the same Nobel laureate Hollywood liberals adore, not some fire-breathing, right-wing nut.

But to this day, in the left-liberal imagination, it was Republican racists who did poor Dukakis in.
No. It was Michael Dukakis who did himself in, because he seemed more interested in the privileges of criminals than the rights of victims. If Horton had been a blond, blue-eyed Minnesotan, letting him out on a pass still would have struck voters as taking rehab theory to its illogical conclusion.

That first comforting myth attempts to mask Dukakis’ lack of judgment and common sense (not uncommon in über-rational, otherwise decent men) by demonizing motives of the opposition. The Swift Boat canard goes directly to Kerry’s intellectual dishonesty in trying to have it both ways on the fundamentals of war and peace.

The Beltway Democratic geniuses who gave us Kerry were convinced they needed a military hero to carry an anti-war banner against a war-making weekend warrior.

The best and the brightest among the party elders did their best to push Howard Dean off the stage and nominate Lt. Kerry, who reported for duty in Boston with a speech performance that told the nation everything it needed to know: He was for the war in Vietnam. He was against the war in Vietnam. Just as he voted for the war in Iraq but now he was against the war in Iraq.

Or was he? Because, just weeks later, Kerry said he would have voted for authorizing the war, even if he’d known there were no weapons of mass destruction.

Enter Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, with its smarmy TV spot asking whether Kerry deserved those medals. Hapless voters must have wondered: “If he’s trying to be on both sides of two war debates at the same time, is he really a hero? Is he any better than the dolt who got us into this mess?”

So, Obama, don’t you delude yourself into thinking you win just by being quick to defend yourself against nasty demagogues. Take it right to them. Show no fear. You were right in 2002; McCain is still wrong in 2008. You’ve got judgment. He’s a stubborn old man.

Nobody wins an election, or leads a nation, by talking down to the collective common sense of citizens or by trying to split every difference. Take no comfort in those myths.

Terry Michael, the director of the nonpartisan Washington Center for Politics & Journalism, is a former Democratic National Committee press secretary and writes for his blog, www.terrymichael.net.

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The Party of God, The Party
of "Reform" and Hypocrisy

by Terry Michael
September 9, 2007

The Party of God, we are shocked to learn, seems to have a libido. And, equally amazing, the Party of Reform apparently covets a little mammon on occasion.

When will self-righteous Republicans and holier-than-thou Democrats learn that hypocrisy, not sex and greed, is the original sin for which voters, and certainly cynical journalists, hold them accountable?

The anti-gay, pro-"family values" party, held captive by its Southern-based, evangelical wing, is repeatedly embarrassed when its David Vitters and Larry Craigs exhibit interest in 'hos and 'mos (translation for Beltway types: "whores" and "homosexuals.")

Likewise, the party of campaign finance "reform," intellectually imprisoned by the Washington ethics industry and its handmaidens in the ivory towers of liberal editorial pages, is caught with its Progressive Era pants down when a big pile of hot Jacksons ends up in William Jefferson's freezer, or when a financial supporter facing a felony indictment ends up on Hillary Clinton's donor list.

There is a solution to the demagogic payback resulting from these self-inflicted shots in the foot.

Republicans might want to review the Democrats' mid-20th Century divorce from their morally bankrupt, also Southern-based, segregationist wing, with which the party's northern liberal branch made a deal with the devil for decades, and which proved a constant embarrassment to its civil libertarian sensibilities.

GOP alignment with the sexual orientation bigots continues to drive millions of gay voters, many of whom share Republican economic values, into the arms of Democratic candidates, just as the party of Lincoln had a lock on poor black voters, who probably would have deserted the GOP sooner had Democrats not cozied up to the Theodore Bilbos and Ross Barnetts of the political underworld.

And Democrats, every time they are tempted to take a cheap shot at big-spending "special interests," would do well to consider that average voters have nothing against being rich and believe both parties succumb equally to the lure of campaign cash.

Democratic efforts to muzzle money with authoritarian "reform" measures carries with it the high price of infringement on First Amendment free speech values, which millions of us share with our party's founder.

Those of us who consider ourselves Jeffersonian Democrats want to gag every time we witness reactionary left-liberal rules junkies who try to legislate morality by suppressing monied speech they find inappropriate to their vision of the public good.

So beware you Republican and Democratic candidates, whenever the phrases "family values" or "special interests" find their way into your talking points. Prepare to cover your behinds, because those words will come back to bite you in the bottom when one of your own is found to value an interest in sex and greed.

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Pious Democrats, meet your maker
(Mr. Thomas Jefferson, who would advise you to keep that church-state wall intact)

by Terry Michael
June 6, 2007 - Politico.com

If you publicly pious candidates for the Democratic presidential nomination could look up from your talking points for a moment, I'd like to introduce you to the founder of our party -- our earthly father, if you will, Thomas Jefferson. Consider some of President Jefferson's views on religion and politics, which he expressed in an 1802 letter to the Danbury Baptist Association:

"Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between man and his God, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship, that the legislative powers of government reach actions only, and not opinions, I contemplate with sovereign reverence ... a wall of separation between church and state."

Apparently, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (N.Y.), Sen. Barack Obama (Ill.) and former Sen. John Edwards (N.C.) all decided they did, indeed, owe an accounting of their personal religious beliefs -- a televised recitation, in fact -- to an audience assembled Monday at George Washington University by the left-liberal-worthy Rev. Jim Wallis and channeled through a television anchor aptly (or at least euphoniously) named Soledad O'Brien.

The front-runners' pandering to "people of faith" is the latest expression of Religion Lite advocated by the consultant wing of the Democratic Party.

After several decades of the religious right's attempt to trash the First Amendment and Christianize America via the GOP (God's Own Party?), we are now treated to the religious left and its heavenly claims on behalf of social justice.

The worst offender in the trinity of poll-directed faith hailers was, of course, Edwards, a trial lawyer to the underclass (he represented the middle class in 2004) and now the political servant of his "Lord Jesus Christ."

Yes, he actually used the whole coded-for-evangelicals phrase -- though, for some reason, those three words, which revealed just how much this former-Baptist-turned-Methodist was willing to prostrate himself before the pious, were omitted from news coverage of the affair in both The Washington Post and The New York Times.

Clinton takes second place in the pander-fest, claiming to the Wallis multitudes discomfort with wearing religion on her sleeve, but then she did just that, revealing how her conversations with the Methodist deity helped get her through that unpleasant Oval Office incident.

Least noxious of the three was Obama, who, with less Methodist in his madness, had the good grace to recall Lincoln's remarks regarding the greater wisdom of the Union's choosing God's side rather than expecting the Heavenly Father (as Edwards would put it) to play political favorites.

Having worked as press spokesman for the Democratic National Committee 20 years ago, when the late Rev. Jerry Falwell's Moral Majority was in full flower, I am appalled at how little these possible future leaders of the free world have learned from decades of mixing "faith" and politics.

I came to Washington in 1975 with the late Paul Simon, working for five years as his House press secretary and later traveling with him for seven months as spokesman for his 1988 presidential campaign. Never once in the almost four decades I knew the Illinois Democrat did I ever hear him invoke religion or mention God in a speech, or even in private conversation, though I assumed his religious views were probably those you would expect from the son of Christian missionaries to China (where he was conceived in 1928) and the brother of a Lutheran minister.

A man with the moral rectitude of an Eagle Scout, Simon understood why the Founders included not a single reference to a deity in our Constitution. The best way to protect your right to be guided by faith (and mine to be guided by reason) is to keep our understandings of where we come from and how we come to be moral animals on the other side of a very high wall between the state, with its coercive powers, and the temples created by believers.

The willingness of Democratic candidates to breach that barrier reflects a failure of nerve in a political party that ought to be our best hope for secular governance in a world where so much hate and murder is still being unleashed by "people of faith," whose beliefs were never touched by The Age of Reason and The Enlightenment -- the same felicitous era in human history that gave us Jefferson and others averse to the mingling of religion and governance.

To put it in bumper sticker form, Hillary, John and Barack: "I'm a Person of Reason, and I Vote, Too!"
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A committed non-theist, Terry Michael writes at his "thoughts from a libertarian Democrat" blog.
TM & © THE POLITICO & POLITICO.COM, a division of Allbritton Communications Company

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Jefferson's Jacksons: a Wake-up Call for Democrats
Who Are Trying to Win by Default, Without Firing up the Base

Use social-cultural issues to motivate the base --
about the only thing left, since congressional "leaders"
are timid on Iraq and there's no bad economy, stupid

by Terry Michael, June 7, 2006

The chilled Jacksons found in Congressman William Jefferson’s freezer could be a 2006 blessing-in-disguise for the party associated with those famous surnames.

If they are willing to engage in some serious cultural warfare in defense of individual rights, against the bigots who orchestrated the anti-gay marriage amendment, Democratic leaders could be grateful come November for this latest offering from Louisiana, the cradle of comedic political corruption, which once again reminds us that a culture of corruption isn't the sole province of one political party......

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     [Friday, February 17, 2006 Edition]
Identity politics as therapy
Gay Democrats upset by Howard Dean’s retooling of the DNC
should remember to focus on election wins.

By Terry Michael
Politics as therapy. That’s how Rich Tafel, the former head of Log Cabin Republicans, incisively described the focus of many left-liberal political activists and organizations that presume to speak for gay men and women (or lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgendered persons, in their politically correct mouthful).

The latest self-inflicted wound suffered by these practitioners of identity politics involves a faculty senate-style controversy around a decision made by Democratic National Committee Chair Howard Dean. ("Faculty senate politics," as in the decibel level of debate being so high, because the stakes are so low.)

Dean has apparently dissed some members of our gay faculty senate with his reorganization of the DNC’s political outreach operation, to focus less on identity groups and more on actual individual voters and state political party organizations......
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Winning with strategy
or by default?

[Re: The Grand Old Party’s Old New Grand Strategy,
And the Democrats’ New Old Plan to Win by Default]

February 2, 2006
By Terry Michael

What a difference a year can make in the Grand Old Party's grand strategy for electoral success.

At the Republican National Committee's recent winter meeting, White House political savant Karl Rove informed attendees that terrorism, tax cuts and judicial philosophy are the trifecta issue frame for GOP glory in 2006. This message was also delivered by Rove's spokesman, President Bush, during his State of the Union address Tuesday.

Contrast that with RNC Chairman Ken Mehlman's formula for a "durable Republican majority" when he was elected exactly one year earlier. "We can deepen the GOP," Mehlman told RNC members on Jan. 20, 2005, "by identifying and turning out Americans who vote for president but who often miss off-year elections and agree with our work on behalf of a culture of life, our promoting marriage, and a belief in our Second Amendment heritage."..........

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(Some contrarian commentary on the Democrats'
response to Bush's State of the Union address....
)
Kaine pours Religion Lite, brewed by
the consultant wing of the Democratic Party

by Terry Michael, February 1, 2006
(Edited 2/3/06, with addition of next-to-last paragraph,
published at the end of this excerpt.)

Why did Democratic consultants choose a two-week governor of Virginia to deliver a response to the State of the Union Address by Karl Rove's spokesman, President Bush?

No surprises here.  It took just 15 seconds for Gov. Tim Kaine to begin pouring Religion Lite -- one of the new favorite brews of the consultant wing of the Democratic Party, which apparently believes if you can't beat those GOP Christian conservatives, you might as well join 'em (sort of.).......

....There is a better way, Gov. Kaine. Consult Gov. Jefferson. He would tell you to tell Americans the best way to protect religion is to keep it out of politics. No, not ethics, just divisive dogma. We Democrats should have the courage of conviction to campaign on the religious freedom guarantee in the First Amendment. It's politically smart, as well as principled, to talk sense to the American people, and make it clear that we are fighting (in the wrong place, unfortunately) lunatics who demand that we equate religion with the state.
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[My "libertarian Democrat manifesto" was developed
from this piece in The Examiner/Washington]

Rebuilding the
Democratic Party brand

Back to the future with a return
to liberalism's Jeffersonian roots

Published: Wednesday, February 9, 2005
By Terry Michael

As the oldest political committee in the world elects a new chairman this week in meetings at the Washington Hilton, the Democratic Party faces a problem common to venerable institutions: a loss of brand equity.

In the marketplace, a brand is a story wrapped around a product to differentiate it from similar stuff, so you feel good when you buy for more reasons than just the utilitarian. Nikes aren't feet covers, they're coolness. My Jeep isn't transportation, it's a toy for a middle-aged boy.

The Democratic Party label -- a two-century-old moniker -- is suffering a branding dilemma similar to the Episcopal Church after the 1950s. You didn't go to the American branch of the Church of England just to visit God. Being Episcopalian was a statement about your old-line, blue blood. But then, along came the egalitarian, meritocractic '60s, and Episcopalian membership no longer had cachet. Professor James Twitchell points out in his recent "Branded Nation" that church membership slumped from 3.6 million in the 1960s to 2 million today.

Born in the agrarian era of its founder, Thomas Jefferson, the Democratic Party's original story was of a small central government serving self-sufficient "little people" (farmers, shop keepers, frontiersmen), prizing and preserving individual liberty -- juxtaposed against the elitist federalists, and their monarchical, big central government ambition.

The Democratic Party story was refashioned in the industrial era, particularly with arrival of the New Deal, when one-size-fits-all, central authority, wealth-redistributive policies were appealing to those little guys. Most of them had traded self-sufficiency for wage labor.........
......to read the complete text, choose either:
        HTML Link  (original link to Examiner no longer exists; this is a link to re-publication at RealClearPolitics.com)   or    Acrobat PDF File

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"Anti-War" Poseurs:
All Whine, No Spine

Published November 23, 2005
By Terry Michael

With two-thirds of Americans mis-trusting George Bushs handling of the Iraq war, and a solid majority telling pollsters we should never have picked this fight, when will liberal Democratic politicians find the courage to join the anti-war parade their constituents have organized?

It took a hawkish Vietnam veteran, from a blue collar Pennsylvania congressional district, to force a debate left-liberal legislators didnt have the guts to pursue when it would have made a real difference, when it could have saved thousands of young American lives before the neo-conservatives led us into their elective war to make the world safe for democratically elected theocracies.....
......to read the complete text, choose either:
        Original HTML Link    or    Acrobat PDF File

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The Democratic Party's
Presidential Nominating Process

The following paper was written for the Democratic National Committee (where I served as press secretary in the mid-1980's) as a public information document, beginning with the 1988 nominating process, and revised for 1992, 1996, and (the revision below) 2000. While it focuses on Democrats, the first part of it (with the first few paragraphs presented below) -- "Notes on the history of... The Democratic Party's Presidential Nominating Process" -- is an overview applicable to the historic and modern nominating processes for both major parties. The long section that follows it -- "Delegate Selection Rules" -- is an accompanying detailed look at the history and rules for the Democrats' "reform era" nominating process (post-1968.) It was last revised for the 2000 process (I hope to update it -- sometime in 2006 -- to encompass changes made for 2004 and 2008.)

Notes on the history of...
The Democratic Party's
Presidential Nominating Process

By Terry Michael

The Constitution and the selection of a President The U.S. Constitution says nothing about partisan nomination of presidential candidates or even political parties, which developed—despite the low esteem in which they were held by many of the founding fathers—from the constitutional philosophy, issue, personality, and geography-based factions that materialized in Congress and in state legislatures during the country’s first decades....
......to read the complete text:
         Acrobat PDF File     NOTE: Very long file (210KB)




 



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