politics is to want something

fredag, august 11, 2006

new phil angelides blog

Some friends of mine have started a Phil Angelides blog, independent of the campaign, with news, analysis and counter spin.

I'll be contributing occasionally. Check it out. Here's my first post:

From Connecticut to California

Liberals and progressives have been rightfully juiced-up by events in Connecticut this week. Tuesday night was a good one for everyone who cares about the future of the Democratic Party, or, more generally, about our country’s dwindling reserves of goodwill world-wide. With the nomination of Ned Lamont, Connecticut Democrats are saying that they want a real alternative to Republican foreign policy. That’s a good thing.

The race for Governor here in California is another such moment. In some respects, in fact, it is even more crucial and decisive a struggle for progressives than the nutmeg state’s Primary. After more than 20 years of ideological retreat, concession and incoherence, we have a candidate for leadership of the nation’s most powerful and populous state who offers a serious break with conservatism. It is one thing to campaign against an unpopular war in New England. It is quite another thing to campaign for progressive tax policy and massive public investment in the state that pioneered the Middle Class tax revolt. That takes a special kind of courage.

Nominating Lamont sent a strong message to Washington that we want Democrats to unify around opposition to the war. Our fight doesn’t stop there, however. We also want Democrats to be able to win elections and govern based on principles we could recognize as progressive. Republicans don’t only dominate discourse about foreign policy. They set the tone and the parameters of debate on the economy, labor issues, and a broad swath of social policy as well. For the medium, and the long-run, it is this sweeping hegemony that we need to uncrack. Foreign policy is important, especially given the carnage caused by our failed mission in Iraq. However, we have steadily lost ground in the war of ideas and rhetoric surrounding our most basic values as Democrats: equity, fairness and social justice.

That’s why Phil Angelides’ campaign is so damned important. His platform, which combines progressive taxation, the leveraging of state pension assets to encourage green production, and a renewed and honest commitment to education is the most progressive this State has seen for decades. It is, finally, a rejection of voodoo economics and the radical under-funding of public goods.

It’s also clever politically. The campaign targets the core justification of the Republican Party’s existence in California. They are in the clear minority on social issues, and Californians do not trust them to provide quality education, health care or to protect the environment. Low taxes are all they’ve got. If there is one thing that Karl Rove has demonstrated, it is the efficacy of aggressive campaigns which hit the opposition right where they think they are strong. Rove’s approach is sleazy and ad hominem (Swift Boat Vets), but it’s deadly. In an infinitely more principled way, and relying on sound economic policy, Angelides is also taking the fight to the Republicans.

The wealthy and giant corporations have been getting a free ride for too long. It is this free ride, not teachers or administrators or public employees which has bankrupted California. Instead of taking this issue head-on, Republicans continue to borrow from our grandchildren in order to educate our children. It just doesn’t make sense. A victory based on these arguments will be a fundamental defeat for the conservative movement. We can’t honestly say that about too many Democratic victories nowadays.
Unfortunately, just like in Connecticut, some California Democrats refuse to get with the program. Several big-donor Hollywood moguls have pledged their support for Arnold, including Steven Spielberg, Jeffrey Katzenberg and “Power Rangers” importer Haim Saban. More destructively, Senator Dianne Feinstein’s campaign co-chair just announced in The Chronicle and The Times that she’s voting for Schwarzenegger because she’s “sick and tired of paying taxes.” Fellow Governor Phil contributor Conan Neutron has put these folks “on notice." Rightfully so.

Good politics should chart a course, not merely triangulate a path of least resistance. It is this notion that is on the ballot in November. If we are serious about building a Democratic Party that stands on principle and wins real and not merely fleeting victories, we’ve got to do all we can to elect Phil.

onsdag, august 09, 2006

yesterday's news

In the Constitution State

Congratulations to everyone in Connecticut who worked to give Joe Lieberman the defeat he deserved. We have indeed taken one step closer to a coherent political party as Democratic voters did what Senate whips could not: demand that we behave as an opposition party.
However, any conclusion that is larger than that, I have to approach with skepticism. I'm not so sure that this was a victory for "progressives" as much as it was a victory for anti-war politics with an electorate that is increasingly hostile to the Bush Administration's so-called "foriegn policy". Ned Lamont is at best a mainstream Democrat, not a barnstorming progressive as some have made him out to be. Lieberman's attack dogs, while clearly overemphasizing some of Lamont's votes as a local elected official, were not totally off-base.
I don't mean to rain on anyones parade (OK, yes, I do), but we need to be careful about substituting a candidate's position on one issue, even an important one like the war in Iraq for a comprehensive shift in politics. We'll see what kind of Senator Lamont becomes, but both the hopeful left and the spiteful right need to be careful before concluding that the Democratic Party finally aligning itself with the views of a majority of Americans signals as decisive shift to the left.
But speaking of Party Unity, rumors are flying that Connecticut Republicans will endorse Lieberman's bid as an independent. I'm not sure what to make of this. I am not an expert on Connecticut's electoral laws, though I know that they do have some sort of fusion which allows cross-endorsements. At any rate, it will be a fine and fitting end to the guy's political career if he went out running as a Republican.

In the Peach State
What are we to make of Cynthia McKinney's defeat in her own primary run-off for the Georgia 4th? Most of the analysis I have read has focussed on her physical confrontation with a security guard and voters' "wearyness" surrounding her often controversial personality and opinions.
McKinney has been a solid and outspoken critic of the Administration, from its handling of Katrina to its adventures in Iraq. At the same time, she's also done some strange things, including cozying up with African dictators. McKinney became the darling of the 911 conspiracy crowd when she intimated that the White House knew about the infamous attacks before they happened- no doubt those folks are spinning theories about the plot to silence her. Then there's the comments made by her father, a ranking State Legislator after her defeat in the 2002 Primary. According to dad, Cynthia was another victim of the "J.E.W.S."
Any thoughts out there in cyberspace?

tirsdag, august 08, 2006

couldn't resist...

:: Which West Wing character are you? ::

I wanted to be CJ, but I ended up Toby... I think everyone ends up Toby.

Thanks to The Daily.

is the democratic party possible? Part 2: Party Unity

I am a big fan of partisanship. I know that this is an unpopular position, both among the growing plurality of “independent” voters, as well as those on the left who wish to remain outside the “confines” of the Democratic Party. However, a disciplined political party, with a loyal voter base, active civil society organizations in and around it, and a clear national or statewide agenda can accomplish considerable social change. Unfortunately, it seems that only the Republican party got this memo.

And so I was surprised today to read a great defense of partisan strategy written by none other than Paul Krugman, a guy who normally leads the squishy brigade. I am used to him offering above-the-fray niceties, and was quite shocked to read him lay down some bomb tracks:
“The point is, those who cling to the belief that politics can be conducted in terms of people rather than parties –a group that also includes would-be centrist Democrats like Joe Lieberman and many members of the punditocracy- are kidding themselves.”

Krugman hammers NARAL and the Sierra Club for endorsing liberal Republican Lincoln Chaffee of Rhode Island. Chaffee has a decent voting record on both choice and environmental issues. However, as Krugman points out, if the Democrats do not take back the Senate, people who dismiss climate change as “a hoax” will continue to oversee the nation’s environmental policy. Conservative NGO’s, on the other hand, are down the line partisan, even rolling with policies they don’t deem perfect in order to make sure that their larger interest, a Republican government, remains fulfilled. This is a profound point. Partisanship matters.

However, this relationship is a two way street. If we are going to expect labor folks, environmentalists and civil rights activists (and their organizations) to stick with the Party, the Party needs to stick with them. And themselves.

Democratic politicians have a tendency to show their “independence” to voters by stepping on the faces of their base supporters. Consider Clinton’s welfare “reform” initiatives and his support for NAFTA. A whirlwind of discussion in the liberal magazines (The Prospect and Nation, specifically) has centered on the need for the Party to generate a set of “big ideas”, organizing principles within which a majority of Americans can find themselves. This is certainly a necessity. However, in arguing for this, writers like Todd Gitlin, Michael Tomasky, and Markos Moulitsas Zúniga have suggested that politicians need to distance themselves from the groups which make up their base. That’s nonsense, and it’s precisely why so many organizations at the grassroots level want to assert their own independence. When you add in the American cult of individuality, the weakness of our party system, and an electoral arrangement built around individual candidates (especially in California), there are a lot of incentives for issue and constituency-based social movement organizations to be quite guarded and even schizophrenic when it comes to dealing with Democrats. Any “big idea” that comes out of the Democratic Party has to be a sum of its parts, appealing across the varied communities and interests under its tent. You aren’t going to get that by following Tomasky’s advice.

A third problem is that so often elected Democrats put short term gains ahead of long-term strategy. Compromise is the life’s blood of politics, but Democrats seem to suffer from hemophilia.

Take a look at the California Gubernatorial race.Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez and Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa both could use a dose of party loyalty. Nunez, while serving the largely ceremonial role as campaign Chairman for Phil Angelides, has in recent months become a regular podium-buddy to Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. Together, they have crafted a “bi-partisan” package of infrastructure bonds and sent them to voters, thus reinforcing Arnold’s strategy of delivering public goods while passing the cost on to kids who can’t vote against him. That’s not good for Phil. In an even more craven mode, Assembly and Senate leaders are discussing a swap: Arnold gets to take redistricting away from them (one of his failed proposals in the Special Election last year) and in return they get relief from term limits. Now is not the time to be playing footsy with a rich, telegenic populist Republican. Now is the time to be sending a single message about why the Democrats should take back the governor’s office.

Villaraigosa, of whom I’m generally a fan, has done his friend Fabian one better, publicly feuding with Angelides over the Mayor’s attempt to take direct control of the LA school system. He has even enlisted the support of the Governor in pressing his case. So far, Villaraigosa has failed to endorse Angelides.

At best, this is about the short-term goals of shoring up their own voter base. At worse, however, this could be about intentionally working to sink Angelides in order to clear the way for a Villaraigosa run for Governor in 2010. I'm not so sure, but San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom has floated that theory in his recent call to Democrats to muster for Phil.

In the end. Party unity must be earned. It emerges from a healthy balance between compromise, strategy, principles and trust. If you don’t believe me, ask Joe Lieberman.

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