Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Can we put the DLC consultants out to pasture now?

Last night I was at a small get-together of progressive-leaning people, and in the context of the false "Joe Lieberman is a moderate Democrat" meme, one of the guests said she had read about a poll in which some 65% of Democrats referred to themselves as "moderate" and that perhaps the progressive movement was wrong. I asked her if the poll defined what "moderate" meant, and of course it didn't.

This got me thinking once again about framing issues and the success the right-wing has had for the last twenty years in defining the debate. Somewhere along the line, "liberal" became a dirty word, so now everyone prefers to refer to themselves as moderate.

The DLC consultants have been pushing their candidates to the right for the last ten years, insisting that a more "moderate" stance is what wins elections. And of course the Kerry presidency and Joe Lieberman's victory last night (sic prove that they were right.


What the DLC consultants don't understand is that the issues are no longer about right and left, conservative and liberal, they are about right and wrong.

Americans who call themselves "moderate" support the current system of Social Security. They support the idea of quality public education and oppose efforts to siphon off the best students by way of vouchers. They support a free expression of religion that ends at someone else's nose. They support the idea that families should be making end-of-life decisions, not the government. They support the controlled legalization of medicinal marijuana. They support policies to ensure that jobs remain in the U.S. They support a strong but EFFECTIVE defense against terrorism, but are leery of giving the government too much surveillance power. They may be uncomfortable with the idea of abortion, and they may support some restrictions, but they believe women and their doctors should decide, not the Federal government. Moderate Americans support the very lives they were leading until the Bush Junta came to power. So do liberal Americans.

All of above are concepts on which so-called liberal candidates build their campaigns. Not one of them is radical. Yet candidates like Howard Dean, or Paul Hackett, or Ned Lamont, are painted as "too liberal" based on one issue -- opposition not to all wars, but to the Iraq war. The hysterical frothing of the mouth from the right at the prospect of George W. Bush's favorite Democrat losing is less a function of right-wing toughness than right-wing cowardice -- little men peeing in their pants because they, like children, can't tell the difference between toughness and posturing. And the Iraq War has always been about looking tough, rather than being tough.

Ned Lamont's stand on the war is hardly radical. He supports a phased withdrawal, starting now. Joe Lieberman believes we should stay a course that is headed nowhere. Yesterday 24 people were killed in Baghdad by five homemade bombs and a bank robbery -- despite the new buildup of American and Iraqi troops. What people like Ned Lamont and John Murtha recognize that the "stay the course" crowd don't is that our presence is doing nothing to alleviate the violence, and may in fact be exacerbating it.

Any relationship, whether between spouses, or parent and child, or boss and subordinate, or between co-workers, is a series of actions and reactions. If you persist in acting a certain way, the other person will respond in the customary way. The way to effect change in a relationship is to change what YOU do, because then the reaction by definition MUST change. By supporting more of the same, Joe Lieberman assures more death and more destruction -- without end.

Howard Dean and Paul Hackett may not have won their respective races, but they laid the groundwork for Ned Lamont's victory last night. The grassroots are still honing their craft; they haven't been at it as long as Bob Shrum and Al From and the other Democratic consultants who ensure nothing but continued Democratic losses. Lamont's victory is another step in that process, and it should be celebrated today. But tomorrow, the hard work begins, which is putting the final nail in the DLC's coffin and taking the Democratic Party and the country back to the bedrock values in which we all believe, but which we have allowed the Republican corporatists to frame as "too liberal."