inkwell.vue.229 : Glenn Smith, _Politics of Deceit: Saving Freedom and Democracy from Extinction_
permalink #126 of 142: Glenn Smith (glennsmith) Thu 18 Nov 04 22:04
    
First let me say to Gail that I'll continue this discussion as long as
I have some folks here to talk with. I promise I'm learning more than
I'm imparting to others, if only because there's just one of me and so
many of you, and so many of you are so much smarter than the one of me.

I like the November 3 Theses which Jon posted in # 122. There are many
such statements floating around progressive circles, many of them as
thoughtful, fewer of them as well crafted.

I guess the real thrust of the question regards the viability of the
Democratic Party. You wonder whether it can be reformed, or whether a
third, more visionary party will emerge.

I am doubtful about prospects for a third party. But I am certain that
the existing party will not be revitalized until it's confronted with
a force it can't resist. I think we're going to have to organize --
really organize, with boots, brains, and dollars -- outside the party
and demand changes from a position of strength.

I want to quickly add something, though. When Goldwater lost in 1964,
the Republicans already shared a vision (a fight to the death with
communism, an end to New Deal programs, the privileging of the
individual over the community, unless the community was a corporation,
then individuality could be sacrificed). Their task was to put together
a strategy to reach that vision. I'm not sure we have such a shared
vision. And I don't see it in the Nov. 3 Theses.

We are nowhere near agreement on a vision as simple to articulate. I,
for instance, believe we need smaller government. We can see now that
Big Government has become the tool of Big Brother,  the military and of
the very richest who have discovered how to vote themselves the
treasury. I'm guessing there's a few employee unions who don't like
that idea.

I've got some ideas for such a vision, and maybe there are some others
stopping by here who have some ideas. We're all of us struggling with
the "vision thing" as the elder Bush put it, and I hate to think I have
anything in common with him beyond a fondness for baseball.
  
inkwell.vue.229 : Glenn Smith, _Politics of Deceit: Saving Freedom and Democracy from Extinction_
permalink #127 of 142: Glenn Smith (glennsmith) Thu 18 Nov 04 22:27
    
Gail, in # 124 you ask whether some of us are underestimating the
impact of the security issue, 9/11 and the war in Iraq. I think that's
an important point. Americans don't like to throw out their presidents
in the middle of a war. I've always hated this thought, because it
means a first term president can be assured of re-election just by
starting a war.

I also think everyone should remember that the exit polls are already
old. I want to repeat that. The exit polls are already old. If Bush had
to stand for election again on Thanksgiving Day, he would not base his
strategy on the results of those exit polls. He would look at this
week's polls and next week's polls. Polls are snapshots taken at a
specific time and circumstance. Let's not base our strategy and
messages on those polls. We won't be in the same context in 2006, and
we may as well start planning for that context now.

I agree with the War Room post that the "values" issue has been
exaggerated. As you say, "war really is the central issue in a time of
war." Funny that this was posted in the War Room.

But much of the content of the critique of the Democratic
establishment was getting traction among progressive Democrats long
ago, even before Kerry was the nominee.

I went with George Lakoff to visit with some of the U.S. Senate
Democrats in the early summer of 2003. Their concerns and their
questions about the direction of the party, the weakness of its
organization, the fuzziness of its messages, were along the lines we
are talking about now. And the senators are the ultimate Democratic
insiders.

On November 3, though, boom. Kerry's campaign had its faults. But the
weaknesses we already knew about played a role in his defeat, and our
chances of winning will continue to diminish if we don't address them
immediately.

But in our haste to do that we shouldn't close our eyes to such things
as the dominance of the war in voters' minds and our failure to offer
a clear alternative for peace in the Middle East, or at least a
successful conclusion to Iraq.
  
inkwell.vue.229 : Glenn Smith, _Politics of Deceit: Saving Freedom and Democracy from Extinction_
permalink #128 of 142: Glenn Smith (glennsmith) Thu 18 Nov 04 22:37
    
Patty asks in #125 if I stand by my observation in the book that
political parties are little more than labels and funnels for money.
Yep, I stand by it. Don't like it that way, but since politics became a
media sport and the importance of organization declined, the parties
just aren't fun anymore.

We have primaries instead of hard-fought nominating conventions. We
have party platforms that run to the hundreds of pages that no one
reads. Here's a message to party activists, to members of the
Democratic National Committee and the Republican National Committee: 
the real party insiders -- candidates, consultants, pollsters, and big
contributors -- get a great chuckle out of party platforms, and they
would do away with them as excess and potentially troublesome baggage
if they didn't want to give activists something to do to keep them from
meddling in the important stuff.

We can make the Democratic Party more than an ATM and a TV show at
convention time. And I hope we do. But that's all it is today, which
makes me wonder why we get worked up about who is going to be chair of
the party.

If we really want to turn things around, first thing we do, we fire
all the consultants.
  
inkwell.vue.229 : Glenn Smith, _Politics of Deceit: Saving Freedom and Democracy from Extinction_
permalink #129 of 142: David Kline (dkline) Fri 19 Nov 04 10:10
    
Or at least make them work on the same basis as Republican consultants.  
Markos Moulitsas told me that Democratic media consultants take a cut of
media dollars spent -- so naturally their incentive is to spend more and
more on media because that's their paycheck. Republican media consultants, 
however, take a flat fee -- so they have no incentive to divert dollars 
more urgently needed for strategy or field work into media.

Anyway ...

>>V. The obsession with denouncing the radical conservative project as a 
>> "lie" has become a useful substitute for vision.
 
>> VI. Renovating Democratic politics is not a question of moving to the 
>> right or talking more about G-d. It is about creating a framework that 
>> once again communicates to the core needs of the American people.
 
Bingo! It has nothing to do with "moving to the center" or whatever. If
you want to win, you've got to start listening to what ordinary people in
the "heartland" are concerned about. Only then can you end the monopoly
that conservatgives have over offering solutions to those concerns, and
hopefully offer progressive alternatives.

By the way, in another topic, I mentioned how I thought Clinton was on to
something when he shifted the rationale for various Democratic positions
from one based on "rights" to one based on "fair play" (e.g., "Those who
work hard and play by the rules shouldn't have to lose their life savings
if they can get sick ... that's why we need comprehensive medical care"). 

It's a much tougher sell to say people have the "right" to health care
than to say it's only fair that people should have health care -- and
that's a subject where most people are probably pretty close already to
thinking that maybe health care should be a right. So what about tougher
issues like the "right" to a job, the "right" to a home, the "right" to a
decent income? People are suspicious of what seems like an ever-expanding
list of "rights." Where does it end? Do people have a "right" to be happy,
a "right" to succeed?

On a whole variety of issues, including controversial subjects like gay
marriage, I think we're going to be far more effective in reaching people
with a "fair play" rationale than with a "rights" rationale.
  
inkwell.vue.229 : Glenn Smith, _Politics of Deceit: Saving Freedom and Democracy from Extinction_
permalink #130 of 142: Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Fri 19 Nov 04 11:01
    
Today a new inkwell.vue discussion starts, which doesn't mean that this 
discussion has to end. However this is a good time to thank Glenn and 
Drew (as well as other participants) for a really excellent, thoughtful 
discussion! Again, please feel free to carry on!
  
inkwell.vue.229 : Glenn Smith, _Politics of Deceit: Saving Freedom and Democracy from Extinction_
permalink #131 of 142: Drew Trott (druid) Fri 19 Nov 04 14:42
    
Thanks Jon, I think we might!

I think David's "rights vs. fairness" dichotomy is interesting, and it
may be effective, but it doesn't capture my own feeling about these
issues, and perhaps I speak for more progressively minded people than
just myself. To me it's not a question of whether everybody in my
society has a right to healthcare (or food, or shelter) but whether a
civilized society would fail to provide those things when it obviously
has the means to do so. In other words, the "rights" rhetoric focuses
on the atomistic, as Americans are wont to do, whereas I think a lot of
progressives naturally seem things in communitarian terms. I can't
think about my "rights" except in the context of a larger collective
entity. I honestly think we all owe it to ourselves, and each other, to
provide these things -- because the failure to do so diminishes each
and all of us. I know this view will never appeal to hardcore
subcribers to Lakoff's "stern father" archetype. But I think it drives
a lot of progressives. And it's something I'd like to see us distill
into a few simple messages that would resonate the way "family values"
has resonated for the right.
  
inkwell.vue.229 : Glenn Smith, _Politics of Deceit: Saving Freedom and Democracy from Extinction_
permalink #132 of 142: Sharon Lynne Fisher (slf) Fri 19 Nov 04 21:32
    
#129: that was certainly the case with Howard Dean and Joe Trippi.
  
inkwell.vue.229 : Glenn Smith, _Politics of Deceit: Saving Freedom and Democracy from Extinction_
permalink #133 of 142: Glenn Smith (glennsmith) Fri 19 Nov 04 22:32
    
Let me lay out another well-accepted model from political science that
might help on the "where do we go from here" front. That's the late
Daniel Elazar's schematic of three political cultures. I've spoken of
him in the context of covenant before.

Elazar divided the nation into three political cultures or traditions:
 moralistic, individualistic, and traditionalistic. These traditions
stretch all the way back to the original emigration to North America,
and were extended West and South as the continent was conquered in the
original shock and awe campaign.

Interestingly, the moralistic political culture is the progressive
culture, born in New England, cares about community, believes
government has a responsibility to make a "good society." The
individualistic culture is born of the mid-Atlantic, extended West,
takes a market-place, Adam Smith-like approach to political
organization (and all the accompanying mythological aura of the rugged
individualist). The traditionalistic culture, largely of the South,
likes hierarchy, has no use for government meddling with it, imbues its
aristocratic aspirations with religious fervor.

Lest anyone thinks this is a bit abstract, it's a well-accepted model.
Recent studies of state budgeting and implementation of welfare reform
in the 90s confirm the model's predictive power. There are a few
unexpected things:  Utah falls in the moralistic category, for
instance. And many states are a blend. Texas, for instance is
individualistic/traditionalistic. But I bet visions of red and blue are
easy to call up.

Lakoff's progressive vision is largely a brilliant reframing of the
moralistic tradition. But looked at geopolitically, it becomes clear
that progressives have done an excellent job advancing their vision in
states where they enjoy cultural and political dominance. Well, each of
the traditions has done a good job asserting themselves where they
enjoy dominance.

I think our problem is literally that when you add the individualists
to the traditionalists there are many more of them than there are
moralistics. The Republican message is tailored to appeal to both: 
utilitarian, free-market economics and traditionalistic respect for the
past (leveraged in the South through the exploitation of race and
fundamentalist churches, which are much more integral to white Southern
culture than progressive religiosity is in New England).

Mapping Lakoff's authoritarian/nurturant model onto Elazar's will be
tricky. I'm working on that now, so if anyone has any ideas let me
know.

Just as a strategic possibility, it's going to be much easier to
appeal to the individualistic culture than the tradionalistic.
Individualistic cultures don't believe in government intervention in
private lives. But they will go along with it for pragmatic reasons.
And they don't like Big Brother any more than we do.

We can appeal to the utilitarian leanings of the individualists by
pointing out that the deteriorating health of the economic (and social)
environment is blocking individual initiative. We steal the
anti-government (at least government as it is today) message from the
Republicans, carefully describing government's role as a watchdog of a
fair and open playing field, not as an interventionist social engineer.

This is a rather Clintonian approach:  wed our moral vision to the
pragmatic concerns of the individualists.

What do you think?
  
inkwell.vue.229 : Glenn Smith, _Politics of Deceit: Saving Freedom and Democracy from Extinction_
permalink #134 of 142: Glenn Smith (glennsmith) Fri 19 Nov 04 22:44
    
Let me lay out another well-accepted model from political science that
might help on the "where do we go from here" front. That's the late
Daniel Elazar's schematic of three political cultures. I've spoken of
him in the context of covenant before.

Elazar divided the nation into three political cultures or traditions:
 moralistic, individualistic, and traditionalistic. These traditions
stretch all the way back to the original emigration to North America,
and were extended West and South as the continent was conquered in the
original shock and awe campaign.

Interestingly, the moralistic political culture is the progressive
culture, born in New England, cares about community, believes
government has a responsibility to make a "good society." The
individualistic culture is born of the mid-Atlantic, extended West,
takes a market-place, Adam Smith-like approach to political
organization (and all the accompanying mythological aura of the rugged
individualist). The traditionalistic culture, largely of the South,
likes hierarchy, has no use for government meddling with it, imbues its
aristocratic aspirations with religious fervor.

Lest anyone thinks this is a bit abstract, it's a well-accepted model.
Recent studies of state budgeting and implementation of welfare reform
in the 90s confirm the model's predictive power. There are a few
unexpected things:  Utah falls in the moralistic category, for
instance. And many states are a blend. Texas, for instance is
individualistic/traditionalistic. But I bet visions of red and blue are
easy to call up.

Lakoff's progressive vision is largely a brilliant reframing of the
moralistic tradition. But looked at geopolitically, it becomes clear
that progressives have done an excellent job advancing their vision in
states where they enjoy cultural and political dominance. Well, each of
the traditions has done a good job asserting themselves where they
enjoy dominance.

I think our problem is literally that when you add the individualists
to the traditionalists there are many more of them than there are
moralistics. The Republican message is tailored to appeal to both: 
utilitarian, free-market economics and traditionalistic respect for the
past (leveraged in the South through the exploitation of race and
fundamentalist churches, which are much more integral to white Southern
culture than progressive religiosity is in New England).

Mapping Lakoff's authoritarian/nurturant model onto Elazar's will be
tricky. I'm working on that now, so if anyone has any ideas let me
know.

Just as a strategic possibility, it's going to be much easier to
appeal to the individualistic culture than the tradionalistic.
Individualistic cultures don't believe in government intervention in
private lives. But they will go along with it for pragmatic reasons.
And they don't like Big Brother any more than we do.

We can appeal to the utilitarian leanings of the individualists by
pointing out that the deteriorating health of the economic (and social)
environment is blocking individual initiative. We steal the
anti-government (at least government as it is today) message from the
Republicans, carefully describing government's role as a watchdog of a
fair and open playing field, not as an interventionist social engineer.

This is a rather Clintonian approach:  wed our moral vision to the
pragmatic concerns of the individualists.

What do you think?
  
inkwell.vue.229 : Glenn Smith, _Politics of Deceit: Saving Freedom and Democracy from Extinction_
permalink #135 of 142: Drew Trott (druid) Fri 19 Nov 04 23:42
    
That strikes me as a terrific model, and it parallels a lot of my
perceptions. Recently in another conference on the Well I found myself
realizing (and saying) that I would negotiate away my support for
(more) gun control if it would help win the next election. This grew
out of my realization that there are a lot of people on this system who
probably agree with me on more issues than they do with the
Republicans -- but there are a few hot buttons, like gun control, that
keep them sitting on the fence or going sideways (with a third party
candidate) or even going over to the GOP. This fits in pretty well with
what you're describing -- and I think prescribing. I'm a moralist, but
I can see myself striking compromises with the individualists in a way
I can't with the traditionalists.

It's also ironic in light of this model that the Bush Republicans have
managed not only to corral the individualists (along with their own
traditionalism), but also to preempt the language of "morality" -- the
inappropriateness of which isn't lost on progressives, but in classic
Rovian fashion cuts the ground from beneath them (us).
  
inkwell.vue.229 : Glenn Smith, _Politics of Deceit: Saving Freedom and Democracy from Extinction_
permalink #136 of 142: Sharon Lynne Fisher (slf) Sat 20 Nov 04 05:08
    
My class in comparative state politics last term talked about the
individual/moral/whatever split, and had some discussion about it,
which I can go through and summarize here if people are interested.
  
inkwell.vue.229 : Glenn Smith, _Politics of Deceit: Saving Freedom and Democracy from Extinction_
permalink #137 of 142: Glenn Smith (glennsmith) Sat 20 Nov 04 07:40
    
I'm most interested in all perspectives on the matter, Sharon. So I'd
like your summary. But do a detect a note of dismissal on your end?
  
inkwell.vue.229 : Glenn Smith, _Politics of Deceit: Saving Freedom and Democracy from Extinction_
permalink #138 of 142: Drew Trott (druid) Sat 20 Nov 04 10:16
    
Meanwhile, I've been trying to think of metaphors that combine the
individualist and moralist perspectives. (I'd rather call the latter
something else, something conveying a sense of combination and
mutuality, but I can't think of the right term.) 

The only metaphor that has occurred to me so far is the wagon train.
The idea is a collective moving forward, a village on the move so to
speak, but with a definite role for rugged individualists -- the scouts
and hunters. 
  
inkwell.vue.229 : Glenn Smith, _Politics of Deceit: Saving Freedom and Democracy from Extinction_
permalink #139 of 142: from PATTY HORRIDGE (tnf) Sat 20 Nov 04 16:39
    


Patty Horridge writes:


Glenn, do individuals actually fall neatly into these three categories? I
don’t think I do. When I take the quizzes to see how I line up with the
candidates, at best, I agree 50% of the time with them. The majority fell in
the 20-40% range. So I can’t put myself squarely in any one category. My
faith puts me in the moralistic culture; my ego puts me in the
individualistic culture; and my traditional side wants to celebrate where
I’ve come from. It makes sense to me to appeal to all three. Is that even
possible with what you envision?

It’s interesting that you describe the moralistics as being less in number
compared to the individualist/traditionalist combination. All I’m hearing and
reading is that the far right has the “moral vision” for our country today. I
don’t believe this for a minute, and those that do, like you said, haven’t
been listening.

Drew, your metaphor of the wagon train is excellent. The image speaks well to
all three political cultures. How about the term commutuality in place of
moralistic? It’s probably too surreal, even my computer didn’t recognize it.
 
  
inkwell.vue.229 : Glenn Smith, _Politics of Deceit: Saving Freedom and Democracy from Extinction_
permalink #140 of 142: Drew Trott (druid) Sat 20 Nov 04 18:15
    
I like that, but I'm afraid any political descriptor starting with
"comm" has an uphill battle in this society!
  
inkwell.vue.229 : Glenn Smith, _Politics of Deceit: Saving Freedom and Democracy from Extinction_
permalink #141 of 142: Sharon Lynne Fisher (slf) Sun 21 Nov 04 06:41
    <hidden>
  
inkwell.vue.229 : Glenn Smith, _Politics of Deceit: Saving Freedom and Democracy from Extinction_
permalink #142 of 142: Sharon Lynne Fisher (slf) Sun 21 Nov 04 06:43
    
I accidentally posted that before I proofread the last few paragraphs,
but I assume you'll get the gist.
  



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