Friday, December 03, 2004

What's wrong with the Democrats?

One more read on the theme: the recent Thomas Frank interview .

Frank says once upon a time, we were the party that had the heart and soul of the downtrodden, the populist party. We were the voice of the masses. And then, somewhere along the way, the Repubs turned the tables on us.

I know this is so true about the populist part. In my kid's class, we have parents who don't help out with class projects simply because they can't. Fine with me but it hurts when they show up at school high-fiving it to say 'we won' about Dubya.

The evangelical in-laws in the midwest feel infinitely superior to us, the nonchurch goers in the family. It's some bull about their values are better so that makes them better people (and, by the way, we are going to hell when we die because we don't go to their church). Dubya? Their man.

Our good friends quote TV headlines because they are too busy trying to make a living to investigate any other source of news. Dubya is strong on terror, especially against Saddam who was the guy responsible for the WTC. Right.

These are all good decent people, not evil bastards. So what the hell is happening? Frank's got some good takes, at least for me, especially when it's too easy for me to conclude I must live in a parallel reality from these people.

One: we've got to have a clear message. Thomas Frank says our message should be about: equality and security for all.
I think with everybody agrees that this is one of the Democrats’ central problems. This has always struck me as very odd because I know exactly what they’re about: number one, equality; number two, security.

I don’t mean national security but economic security: security from booms and busts, security from the business cycle, security in old age, looking out for the weak.

As for equality, if you look back to the founding of this party and Andrew Jackson, this is what it’s all about: equal rights for all, special privileges for none. That is fundamentally who the Democrats are.
Another prescriptive: organize, organize, organize.
My colleagues at The Baffler used to have this one word answer: organize, organize. This is what's wrong with Democrats. We’re not out there in the streets in middle America. We’re in the media; we’re in academia. We have to recover our roots.

One of the things that struck me while I was writing this book was this right-wing organizer I was talking to in Wichita. He was motivated by the abortion issue, and just was constantly fighting for his issue. He was telling me about all the things he’s done over the years to turn that city on its head. It went from being a place where Democrats had often won to being this hardcore conservative town. And that was because of the lengths to which he and his friends went – going door to door, signing people up.

That used to be something that Democrats did, not Republicans. Republicans were the rich people—they were the ones that talked with money. The Democrats were the ones signing up voters at the factory gates. So we have to be doing the same thing.
It goes to say, I want more than this. More specifics. More solutions. More policy development is on my wishlist. More thinktanks. This list of solutions just seem too short.