Saturday, August 26, 2006

An Odd Way of Phrasing It

People outside of San Diego are not much aware of the lawsuit demanding a recount of the special election to fill Duke Cunningham's seat back in June. Polls had shown the race neck and neck, with Busby having a slight advantage. Bilbray won with less than 50% of the vote, not quite 4 points ahead of Busby. 2,000 votes separated them.

There have been allegations of voting irregularities, the most explosive of which is the fact that a portion of the electronic voting machines were in the hands of individual poll workers one or more days before the election and were not monitored, opening up the possibility of electronic vote tampering. There is now coming out information that absentee voting was higher than the registered voters in some precincts, which is good old fashioned vote stuffing.

There is a pattern of close elections that favor Republicans having a cloud of voting fraud hovering over them. There were millions of dolalrs thrown into this particular election, and the place was lousy with outside Republican operatives. San Diego is a city owned by a criminal Republican cadre who have long viewed the city as their personal cash machine, which is one of the reasons the City is in dire financial shape. The county registrar of voters is a Republican.

What is peculiar is this statement from Bilbray's attorney: "David King, Bilbray's attorney, conceded that the judge could order a recall but argued that the state court lacked the jurisdiction to unseat a member of Congress."

Hmm, does that mean that Bilbray knows that the vote was fraudulent? It seems awfully peculiar that the lawyer is already arguing that the judge cannot recall the politician. Kind of like there is something there that might show there is a need for a recall.

Busby's camp is keeping its lip zipped on this matter, as they should. They defer to the courts and emphasize there is an upcoming election.

Vote fraud is going to happen in counties and regions where Republicans are in charge of the voting machines, but are behind in the polls. Absentee ballots are the easiest way to manipulate the vote, either by stuffing with fraudulent ballots or else neglecting to count legitimate ones. Electronic fraud is harder to perpetuate than you think at a local level, and most issues there have to do with computer failure, not computer tampering. Allowing machines to go home with poll workers, however, is a perfect condition for setting up unobserved professional access for hacking. Electronic vote tallying, not the votes themselves, is where nefarious intervention should really occur, as you can look at an overall numeric spread, then apply a change that results in a small, evenly distributed advantage for a particular candidate. Then there is simply messing with the ballot count manually, the time-honored practice found around the world.

And I haven't even brought up all of the pre-vote shenanigans to suppress turn-out.

Establishing secure voting is not insurmountable, but it does take some ingenuity, as I discuss here. Right now, the fascists in the nation are crudely trying to manipulate the vote, but it is a temptation for whomever is in power. Trustworthy voting systems are the foundation of a modern democracy.


Friday, August 25, 2006

Show Faith in the Party: Support Lamont

As I said a few posts ago, the stakes in the CT race are very high - Lieberman is determined to win this race in the worst way possible, creating a freaking disaster for Dems, particularly if they squeak out parity or a slim majority. This guy has turned on our party as badly as Zell Miller did in 2004.

Lamont has won the only endorsement that really matters - I mean that of the Rude Pundit, of course. A "He doesn't suck too much" opinion from the Rude One is high praise indeed for any politician.

Alas, the chattering class does not pay attention to the Rude One's judgments as they should. So it is satisfying to see that Senator Hillary Clinton has come down squarely behind Lamont, with money, a campaign appearance (I suspect additional ones and something from the Big Dog himself the more unhinged Holy Joe becomes) and staff. From The Carpetbagger Report:

There's been some lingering concern of late about whether, and to what extent, the Dem establishment and party leaders would back Ned Lamont in Connecticut. The major players will go through the motions, the theory goes, and formally endorse the Democratic nominee, but below the surface, Dems in DC aren't terribly concerned about the race. If Joe Lieberman wins, he'll caucus with the Dems; if Lamont wins, it's another Dem. Either way, a "blue" seat stays "blue" — so why sweat it?

It's this attitude that makes it all the more noteworthy when Dem senators step up and show they take the race seriously — and are willing to make a real commitment to the Lamont campaign.

I learned this morning that Sen. Hillary Clinton met with Lamont today and agreed to a) do an event together; b) help him raise money; and c) direct long-time aide Howard Wolfson to help Lamont with rapid-response work and coordinating the national Dems' response to the Connecticut race.

Good for Clinton; may others follow her example. This is going to be a very close race and the more Dem leaders who dedicate themselves to helping the Democrat win this race, the better.

This goes with the money she already gave him the morning after his primary win, of course.

I don't want to hear any bullshit from weak-kneed Senate Dems trying to blame their lack of party loyalty on "the blogs". Atrios, Kos and Jane Hamsher are bottom feeding demagogues as far as I'm concerned, but what Lieberman is doing to the party is so far and away more damaging that any Democratic Congress Critter who doesn't stand up and unequivocally endorse Lamont deserves to be bitch-slapped on the spot. Hillary supported Lieberman (tepidly) and threw her considerable power behind Lamont within 12 hours of his primary win. There's no excuse for any Congressional Dem not doing the same. Holy Joe only has power if he wins, so make sure he loses.

Lieberman is selling the party down the river, kissing Republican ass and taking Republican money. He is standing on the podium next to a Republican governor and a Republican House candidate, and may deny Democrats a House majority. He's not just running to keep his seat. He is actively doing harm to the party he claims to belong to.

Let's make this really, really clear:

Joe Lieberman's opponent in the general election is not Ned Lamont.

Joe Lieberman's opponent is the Democratic Party and everything the party stands for.

Joe Lieberman is running against Democrats out of spite and selfishness, and is happy to keep the Republicans in power if it helps him get "revenge".

Vote Democrat.


Why I Hold the South in Contempt

Southerners and southern apologists whine incessantly about being looked down on by the rest of the nation. Well, you freaks, this is why. From Carpetbagger Report:

Simply stunning.

Nine black children attending Red River Elementary School [in Coushatta, La.] were directed last week to the back of the school bus by a white driver who designated the front seats for white children.

After [two families] filed complaints with the School Board, Transportation Supervisor Jerry Carlisle asked Davis to make seat assignments for her passengers, Sessoms said. "But she still assigned the black children to the back of the bus," she added.

And the nine children had to share only two seats, meaning the older children had to hold the younger ones in their laps.

In 2006. In the United States.

The driver was forcing black children to sit in the back of the bus, and when asked to correct the problem, the same driver assigned seats — forcing more black children to sit in the back of the bus.

As of this morning, the school district has suspended the bus driver while it investigates the situation. The NAACP is considering filing a formal charge with the Justice Department.

Noted NAACP District Vice President James Panell, "We fought that battle 50 years ago, and we won. Why is this happening again?" It's a question that deserves an answer.

When given the opportunity to rectify her behavior, the bus driver tried, in the grand Jim Crow tradition of the South, to institutionalize it by assigning the balck children to not only sit in the back, but to share only two seats among all of them, forcing them into an unsafe seating situation.

See, it's really easy - YOU are treated with contempt because you demand, as your fundamental right and defining chracteristic, to treat an entire section of your population with contempt.

The newspaper article does not actually say the white driver is supended, only that the school distict confirms she wasn't driving the bus that day. Steve left off the worst part of the write up. After the white bus driver thumbed her nose at people by assigning more children to the back and to fewer seats, the school district "fixed" the situaton by providing a black bus driver to just drive the black children. Yup, apartheid in the good old US of A.

A bunch of racist freaks and their closeted racist enablers. THIS is "southern hospitality". Screw over little black kids and then whine about people calling you what you are.


Thursday, August 24, 2006

The Shortchanged Middle Class

Robert Reich has two excellent blog posts up today, one on the erosion of the economic middle and another on the gutting of the social safety net. Both of them hinge on the condition of the economy for ordinary working people.
But maybe Hank Paulson had something more subtle in mind when he spoke of a $64,000 question. Maybe, just maybe, he was taking note of the fact that median annual household incomes have dropped, in real terms, from about $46,000 in the year 2000 to $45,000 today. Yet if American households had been sharing in the growing economy the Administration is so eager to tout, median household income today would be well on the way to $64,000.
This is something that is only going to grow - the shrinking wallets of the bulk of Americans in the middle.

There is not a lot of sympathy for those at the very margins at a cultural or policy level. Those are the "losers," imagined to be young, black, urban, female, fecund and feckless. That the majority of them are white Christian southern females who are likely to vote Republican (see Ezra Klein's fascinating The Rise of the Republicrats in the most recent American Prospect for a look at this interesting demographic) only shows how far welfare reform is from reality. Regardless, those who have to beg are regarded as failures and deserving of their fate. If that means being thrown from support after five years in a wretched labor market, tough shit. On a personal level, the recipients tend to think of themselves, or of their family members/friends, as eminently deserving, people a little down on their luck, or who have put in so they should now get back.

As I pointed out in an earlier blog post, the pivot point in both understanding and modifying wide-spread views on whether this or that social program should be supported is the concept of being deserving of the benefit. Social Security works because the culture as a whole agrees that it is given to those who deserve it. Putting it into a frame of class conflict just won't work in the US because we as a society see ourselves as "on the way to wealth," i.e., we always imagine ourselves to be among the comfortably rich at some point. Hence the success of the anti-estate tax rhetoric.

What is scaring the middle class more than anything is the knowledge that they are becoming poor, and risk becoming undeserving, part of the losers. They know it isn't their fault on some level (though, actually, it is as they have consistently voted in governments whose economic policies are diametrically opposed to equitable wealth distribution - see the above Klien article), and that they are losing economic clout and social standing even as they deserve to do better.

So, for a Democratic politics to seize the popular imagination, Democrats have to craft a rhetoric of just desserts, that the bulk of the public is entitled not to "hand outs" but to a reasonable return on their investment - universal health insurance, clean environment, earnings in keeping with productivity, sustainable economic growth, access to quality education and services to make it easier to raise kids when both are parents employed outside the home.


Now There's a Thought...

Ed Kilgore has some good news today:
The big news out of Washington today is that the FDA, after years of politically motivated foot-dragging, suddenly approved over-the-counter sales of the emergency contraceptive Plan B, a so-called "morning-after" pill. According to the Washington Post, this decision was part of a deal that will allow Bush FDA appointee Andrew von Eschenbach obtain a permanent position (the nomination had been held up by Sens. Hillary Clinton and Patty Murray precisely to obtain this result).
Now, this isn't great news as the drug is still behind the counter, the purchaser in question still has to ask for it, and no one under 18 is going to be allowed to purchase it at all, eliminating the group who is probably most in need of instant birth control, but it's a damn sight better than allowing the home-grown Taliban to refuse to dispense it (or return the prescription) whenever their little self-righteous and all-to-prurient noses get out of joint. I can also add, on a purely practical note, that I've been a retail manager and can predict this would be a high-theft item if left on an open rack. Kind of like cigarettes and other OTC medications.

Thank you Senators Clinton and Murray for keeping the administration's feet to the fire.

(Of course we all "know" that Hillary only did this out of cold-blooded political calculation, not because she wants to ensure women have access to safe, affordable birth control. Oh no, uh-uh, we all "know" she's a ruthless pol whose every liberal vote is just a sham.)


Kilgore then delivers a delightful smack up side the head to the other participant in the moral pas de deux:
One thing is clear. Over on the demand side of the equation, the decision should encourage Men of Conscience to exercise a little responsibility for their own contributions to potential unwanted pregnancies by trotting their own butts down to the pharmacy and buying Plan B for their worried partners. Let them deal with the disapproving glares at the drug store counter for a change.
Well, shuckie darns and slop the chickens, imagine that. If you don't need a prescription, then anyone (over the age of 18) can go pick up a pack. Which brings us back to the issue that pregnancy takes two. Women have been bearing the burden of birth control for far too long. If unprotected sex happens or a regular prevention method fails, it is women who have had to deal with the medical, financial and moral situation.

Men need to stop being such moral cowards and do some very public things to indicate that birth control is a mutual effort and nothing to be ashamed of. Like going and buying some Plan B to go with the pack of condoms. You should care enough about your partner to wear a condom in the first place (hint - large doses of hormones are really nasty to take) , and be man enough to look some cashier in the eye and pay for the pills.

If you can't do that - taking care of your partner now and your children down the line - keep your pants zipped. You're no kind of man.


Monday, August 21, 2006

The Big Lie

The greatest foreign policy disaster in our nation's history, and Bush thinks he can just lie his way out of it. From Carpet Bagger:

After the president had just gone through a litany of the inevitable tragedies that would occur if the U.S. withdrew from Iraq, Cox News' Ken Herman noted that "a lot of the consequences you mentioned for pulling out seem like maybe they never would have been there if we hadn't gone in." Bush responded, "You know, I've heard this theory about everything was just fine until we arrived, and kind of 'we're going to stir up the hornet's nest' theory. It just doesn't hold water, as far as I'm concerned. The terrorists attacked us and killed 3,000 of our citizens before we started the freedom agenda in the Middle East."

Herman interrupted, asking, "What did Iraq have to do with that?" prompting Bush to ask, "What did Iraq have to do with what?" (Laurel & Hardy, of course, came to mind.) When Herman clarified, asking what Iraq had to do with 9/11, the president said:

"Nothing, except for it's part of — and nobody has ever suggested in this administration that Saddam Hussein ordered the attack. Iraq was a — the lesson of September the 11th is, take threats before they fully materialize, Ken. Nobody has ever suggested that the attacks of September the 11th were ordered by Iraq."

Incompetant and dishonarable. A petulant child waiting for Daddy (or Daddy's fixer, Jim Baker) to come in and bail his ass out of another mess. This is Lie and Die politics - he lies, American soldiers and Iraqi civilians die.

Trouble is, it wasn't just Bush or even the Bush Administration or, for that matter, the neocon political machine. It was also an American public that wanted an excuse to invade Iraq and kill people. Yes, the media helped immensely, and had kept up the lie longer than it otherwise would have, but the fundamental truth is that the majority of the American public fully approved of the lie, knowing it to be a lie.

Bush will be gone in a little over two years. The dishonor of the republic will linger a lot longer than that.


Sunday, August 20, 2006

Go Francine Busby!

Francine Busby, fiesty Democratic challenger in what was once an unassailable Republican stronghold here in San Diego, CA, is beginning her campaign for November election:

Formerly the sacrificial lamb offered up by Democrats to the politically untouchable Cunningham, Busby, Cardiff school board member and political novice, managed to capture nearly 45 percent of the vote in July. It wasn't enough for a win, but she argues that it still wasn't insignificant in a district forever written off as red.

Despite the registration disadvantage, Busby managed to raise her final vote tally by nearly 10 points from her 2004 race against Cunningham, something she thinks has helped transform the 50th from a ruby red "safe Republican" seat to one that's bubble gum pink and only "likely Republican" according to The New York Times' analysis of the November elections.

Add to that a survey conducted by National Public Radio that ranks the 50th among the top 50 most competitive districts in the nation and you have the reason for Busby's optimism. For her, it's all evidence that the past two years that she's spent campaigning are paying off....

In the wake of Cunningham's demise, Busby ran on a government reform platform but, like many Democrats across the nation, is changing her message. The "culture of corruption" message has morphed into one of a "culture of destruction," which focuses on the record of President Bush and the Republican controlled Congress.

"We have got to reform Congress, we have to restore ethics, we have to break the cycle -- the bond between lobbyists and the members of Congress," Busby said. "But rather than talking about that, I'll be talking about the failed policies that are the result of that."

As examples, Busby points to increasing energy costs, global warming, the need for renewable energy, the rising costs of healthcare and the Bush administration's education policy, No Child Left Behind.

"These are all issues that nobody sees anybody addressing on a level that really makes sense to them," she said. "They're not seeing government in Washington working in their best interests and they are feeling the effects of that now."

Unlike the kabuki theatre of CT, this is a real challenge for Democrats. Yes, Republicans enjoy a registration advantage in the 50th, but not as much as before, and they have not had a majority of voters turn out for an election in years. This is a question of Democratic mobilization.

Francine is a real progressive, involved in her district (hell, unlike Bilbray, she actually lives there!) , and is a loyal party campaigner. She understands that thinking green is about sustainable growth and a healthy environment for citizens. She rejects knee-jerk xenophobia rampant in the region while her opponent, Brian Bilbray (R - Lobbyist) is organizing his entire campaign around "Kick the dirty wetbacks out! (But make sure they finish mowing the lawn first...)" She supports real science education that is vital for developing local talent for San Diego's high tech and bio tech industries. Instead of scare-tactics and ducking responsibility, Francine stands for being an adult and meeting real-world issues head on, with compassion and realism.

All that has to happen is a bigger turnout of pro-Busby voters than last time. She has increased turn out both times she has campaigned (bigger than the previous Democrat when she ran against Cunningham, then a big ten point gain in June in the special election). She can spend the time going door to door in her district this time around, and she will.

This is the kind of race that deserves more attention and money. This is the kind of race that used to get attention from "liberal" blogs. This is the kind of candidate the "netroots" claims it wants to see - but the leading lights spend their time throwing money and time at the Lamont campaign (a losing proposition of their own creation) and ignore the small quixotic runs that could actually change the balance of power.

I'm not in Francine Busby's district, but I sent her $100 and I'll be promoting her from now through November. She's a solid progressive Democrat whose election can help secure a Democratic majority.


When a Win is a Loss - Failed Strategies

This sounds about like the kind of backroom, insider operations you'll see in DC come January:
  1. Lieberman is calling for Rumsfeld's resignation
  2. Lamont runs mediocre campaign, narrowly loses the fall election to Holy Joe.
  3. The senate is 49 Dem, 49 Repub, 2 Ind. Jeffords caucuses w/Dems for 50.
  4. Bush taps Holy Joe to replace Rummy as SecDef, and Jodi Rell appoints a Republican for CT senator. 50/50 and Cheney provides the final vote.
  5. Rummy stays, Holy Joe gets pissed off at lack of support from Dems, caucuses w/Repubs, same outcome as above.
  6. Holy Joe bargains, keeps his seniority, caucuses with Dems, 51/49, but is always thumbing his nose at the party.
The deep irony here is that if only Lieberman had run with as much determination in the primary as he is going to for the general, this scenario wouldn't be on the table. Of course, if Republicans in CT had a decent candidate, that would pretty much deep-six Lieberman's run. It is hysterical that, as of the last Q poll, more Republicans would vote for *Lamont* than for Schlesinger.

Which brings up the question of strategy. Was this the right electoral round for trying to be rid of Lieberman? Reed Hunt's recent series of posts on TPM Cafe can be read as asking that question by making clear the cost of a Lamont loss in the general election. If Lieberman can be defeated in the general - a much harder proposition than a primary defeat because of having to overcome the Republican & Independent majorities for him - then it was because it will have succeeded. If Lamont loses, then it is worse (not arguably, demonstrably) to have done so because of the disruptive force an unaligned (and unhinged) Lieberman will bring to the Senate. It will be a suppurating wound of a PR disaster for the next seven years as the MSM focuses on "maverick" Lieberman and his battles with Democrats.

In a race where the Repubs are in serious danger of losing their congressional majority, they are going to pull out all the stops to claim that seat by proxy, and they will do thir best to alienate Lieberman without actually bringing him into the party. Their arguments are as full of shit as ever, of course, and my contempt for Lieberman grows by the day as he wallows in it. A Lieberman Independent win is a severe blow to all Democrats, particularly progressive ones, as he cannot be shut down.

Ned Lamont's campaign was a strategic mistake and may become a strategic defeat. He has no compelling message to offer except "I'm not Lieberman". In an electoral cycle when Dems could have cleanly won congressional control (and have been positioned for long-term house cleaning), he has inadvertantly given Rove a brilliant way to fuck over the Senate and keep other Democratic candidates out of the news. The desire of the Jacobin wing of the Democratic party to punish "DLC" incumbents before the power base had been sufficiently secured has propelled an unprepared and uninspiring candidate into an unnecessary contest.

So, Dem leadership is squarely facing the lady or tiger moment, and they have run out of options. They have to choose based on what they can hope for in the 2008 electoral cycle. They need to strongly support Lamont and emphasize party unity at every turn. They had also better hope they can pull out a win in every Democratic Senatorial race they are in. It looks like VA may finally be in play. Unless the Dems can get at least 50, then they are well and truly screwed when Joe comes riding in to town, owing them nothing and out for revenge.

Wrong candidate. Wrong state. Wrong election cycle.


Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Short Break

I'm recovering from a launch of a great deal of new code to my site, followed by the inevitable bugs and accompanied by a nasty round of spam attacks, so I won't be posting for a few days.


Sunday, August 13, 2006

Dying in Vain

Click the image to read the full cartoon.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Robert Reich on Using Political Power

Robert Reich has a post on his blog that offers some insightful advice on what the Dems need to do with legislative power should they win back the House in November, as seems likely, and particularly if they get the Senate, too, as seems increasingly possible.

His first word of advice is not to turn the House into a non-stop investigation machine, and offers excellent reasons - It will be portrayed as merely partisan (the weakest argument, but one recognizing the role of the media in smearing Democrats); the Bushies will simply stall and refuse, and there is already enough info in the public realm to use to discredit the administration; Bush is already so unpopular that he's losing his utility as a focus for the Dems - they need to watch out for the McCains and Hegels; enough with the whining, which is Republican focused and keeping ourselves on Republican turf.

I think Reich over-states his case somewhat. There is room for some nice, on-going investigations if only to feed the scandal machine, but he is right that it can't be the only thing. As for what he thinks is a good thing to do, I'm with him:
...House Dems should use the two years instead to lay the groundwork for a new Democratic agenda. Bring in expert witnesses. Put new ideas on table. Frame the central issues boldly. Don't get caught up in arid policy-wonkdom.

For example, instead of framing basic economic question as whether to roll back Bush's tax cuts, make it how to recreate good jobs at good wages and rebuild the middle class. Consider ideas for doing this through trade policy, industrial policy, antitrust, publicly-financed research and development, and stronger trade unions.

Instead of framing central foreign-policy question as whether we should have invaded Iraq, make it how to partition Iraq into Shiite, Suni, and Kurdish zones while America gets out. Focus the national security debate on how to control loose nukes and fissile material, and secure American ports. Open direct negotiations with North Korea and Iran.

On energy and the environment, they should offer ideas for developing new non-fossil based energy industries in America, and how to ratify a realistic Kyoto accord.

Help the public understand how these are all related. Show why, for example, we'll never have a sane foreign policy unless we reduce our dependence on oil, how the creation of new alternative-energy industries can help create good jobs in America, why good jobs are essential to a reviving the middle class and saving the environment.

Most important, be positive. Avoid the blame game. Bush's shameful record is plain enough. Start the new record. Help America dream again.

Dems have to contrast the paucity and venality of Republican governance (more money for the rich, screw the poor, use war & terror as electoral instruments) against a (dare I say it?) Clintonian vision of the nation as a whole doing better and thriving. Tying security, economy and environment together is not just an obvious way to distance ourselves from Republican banditry, it is simply the right way to approach the challenges of this century. It also contains something that has not been much in evidence since Boy George took office - US international leadership, which, at its best, has meant leading by example.

The way to reverse the wounds inflicted on the nation by the neocon right since Gingrich's cynical Contract With America was launched is to recast America's dream of itself.


Friday, August 11, 2006

The Dangerous Unanimity of Bush and Feingold

I'm not going to get into the Lieberman fiasco in CT. It's getting plenty of airtime from the usual suspects, and there will be more interesting developments as time passes. I think Josh Marshall says all that is necessary right here.

Riffing off my last few posts, I want to draw attention to the profound agreement between George Bush and Russ Feingold - that the Iraqi people are toys for us to play with as we see fit, and when we want to drop that nation like a hot potato and walk off, we should. That George wanted the war and Russ didn't shouldn't camouflage an incredibly arrogant and short-sighted "America First" relationship to the rest of the world, and a stubborn lack of realism about what "It's so fucked up we can't do anything with it, so we'd better just leave" is going to do to the region. I point not to suppositions, but to an excellent case study - Afghanistan. If the US repeats the Soviet's mistakes with regard to abandoning a nation to its own implosion, what can we look forward to? Another analogy - Iraq will be to Iran as Afghanistan currently is to Pakistan, an anarchy zone abutting a nuclear power.

There are other choices besides the neocon "gotcha" game of "If you do things different than Duhbya, you're attacking America" and the inversion of (not the opposition to) that position, "Get out now." Given that Bush has made clear that he *is* all for walking away, just as soon as he can make it someone else's problem, the default position is "bug out". Bush is just waiting for another person to say the actual words.

Wes Clark, in his pithy and scathing WSJ editorial, makes what's at stake uncomfortably clear:
The public doesn’t have to live with the reminders of old sentiments, jingoistic pronouncements, or votes in the House or Senate. Instead, the public is free to observe, listen and judge. And that judgment has been passed, especially on Iraq: The war was a mistake. Flawed intelligence, overly optimistic planning (or in some cases, none at all) and grandiose geostrategic designs, hyperinflated rhetoric about democracy, and perhaps raw political advantage. Whatever. The public hasn’t quite sorted it out—but they know a failure when they see one. And Iraq, as well as the larger Middle East policy, is such a failure.

Iraq isn’t Vietnam. America can’t just walk away without horrendous consequences. But “stay the course” isn’t a strategy. And the longer the bleeding goes on there, the harder the electorate will dig for answers—and the tougher they’ll be on those who got us in, and aided, abetted and apologized for them.
The mistakes the Bush administration have led the country into must be resolved, and not by walking off. The first step to dealing with the mind-boggling mendacity of the Cheneyites is refusing to allow them to continue to claim that what they have done and continue to do is right. The second thing is not to allow them to paint the nation into a corner of "Our way or bail" as the only routes for addressing the cesspool they have left in their wake, consuming more resources, money, and lives by the minute.

Have they made such a nightmare out of the situation that it is irredeemable? The only way to answer that question is to walk off. Leaving a small and demoralized force of Americans in their current positions is not tenable either, so how do we orchestrate a certain kind of leaving that does not mean abandonment either of the people we have wronged or the real security needs of the US?

No, I don't have the answer of how to make it better, but I can see what marching off is going to do - I don't think we have a clue as to how bad it can get. Until we get there.

Al Gore got it right
- and now it is contingent on us to do the right thing.


Nope, Not Vietnam

Vietnam analogies are dead wrong when it comes to Iraq, particularly when made by right-wing talking heads and their media whore enablers. There is not some kind of peacenik neo-hippie movement out there being an internal enemy and underminging the nation from within with all their uncouth, unwashed behavior. That didn't even happen in the 60s. We did have Gov. Reagan ordering the teargassing of residential neighborhoods in Berkely to keep people off the streets, and hordes of armed thugs in uniform wandering around beating the crap out of paecefully protesting citizens and brandishing fists and weapons at families in a public park (I was there). The 60s were marked by unreasonable violence by the state against Vietnamese and Americans.

The real analogy is of more recent vintage. Iraq stands in relation to the US as Afghanistan stands in relation to the former USSR. Superpower stomps on regional pipsqueak and gets its ass handed back to it on a silver platter by a home-grown insurgency. The nation, devastated by war, devolves into perpetual anarchy, while the world turns its back and pretends not to notice. The war bankrupts the superpower and demoralizes the nation, causing a centrist, moderate backlash against the arrogance of the state. The house of cards crumbles.

The big difference, of course, is that Iraq sits on top of a huge crude oil reserve, and the USSR has more internal oil and gas reserves than the US.

Wonder where that's going to lead us...


Thursday, August 10, 2006

Bush's Timetable

I think it is pretty easy to see that Bush, all protests to the contrary notwithstanding, has set a timetable for withdrawing troops from Iraq.

It's the day after his presidency ends.

At that point, he doesn't give a damn what happens to Iraq, the soldiers or the US. He'll be free and clear, having manipulated things to try to keep himself and his fellow war crimes planners - Rumsfeld, Cheney, Rice, et. al. - from being held accountable for the willful murder of innocents. He doesn't actually give a damn about the people whose lives he has destroyed right now, either, but once the term of office is done, he can stop even pretending to pretend that he takes it seriously.


Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Unity and Civility - Wes is a Class Act

Wes Clark was one of the first Democratic leaders to directly and unequivocally request that Joe Lieberman abandon his contrarian pursuit of a senate seat as an Independent.

Walking his talk, Gen. Clark is engaging in some no-nonsense diplomacy within the party. Without bluster, trashy language, or threats, Wes lays out the facts and asks for the rejected senator to act for the good of the Democrats and of the country.
On Tuesday, the message sent by Connecticut voters was loud and clear. They want change, and they want Ned Lamont to represent them in the U.S. Senate, voting for Ned by a 52% - 48% margin over Senator Joe Lieberman in the Democratic primary.

You see, despite what Joe Lieberman believes, invading Iraq and diverting our attention away from Al Qaeda and Osama bin Laden is not being strong on national security. Blind allegiance to George W. Bush and his failed "stay the course" strategy is not being strong on national security. And no, Senator Lieberman, no matter how you demonize your opponents, there is no "antisecurity wing" of the Democratic Party.

Indeed, Connecticut Democrats recognized all of this, and yesterday they chose Ned Lamont as their nominee for the U.S. Senate. Now, I hope you'll join me in supporting Ned as he heads into the general election this November.

As a Democrat, I respect the will of the Connecticut Democratic voters and their decision to make Ned Lamont their nominee. Even before the election results came in on Tuesday, Ned Lamont showed his respect for the voters by committing to abide by the Democratic primary result and support whoever won.

Joe Lieberman, on the other hand, began collecting petition signatures to run as an Independent several weeks ago while concurrently running in the Democratic primary. In short, he wanted to have his cake and eat it too.

Despite his efforts to appear on the November ballot as an Independent, I held out hope that Joe would withdraw from the Connecticut Senate race after the primary votes were counted. Unfortunately, Joe has announced his candidacy as an Independent candidate, running against Ned, the Democratic nominee.

In 2000, the presence of a third party candidate, Ralph Nader, no doubt played a role in the defeat of Vice President Gore and Joe Lieberman. Now Joe Lieberman is risking our party's claim on his Senate seat by running as a third party candidate himself. Recent news reports detail the GOP's interest in supporting such an effort. It's time to draw a line.

I committed myself to supporting the Democratic nominee for the US Senate in Connecticut, and I ask you to do likewise. Because too much is at stake with our troubles abroad and at home, we cannot play games this Election Day. That's why I call on all loyal Democrats to join me in urging Senator Lieberman to drop his bid for the Senate as an Independent and endorse the duly nominated Democrat.

We should thank him for his service and invite him to stay active, or even run again someday, but as a party we cannot let Joe Lieberman be this year's Ralph Nader.

The 2006 elections represent a real crossroads for America. We must unify our efforts to stop George Bush's radical agenda and end this one-party government. I hope Senator Lieberman will join us in this critical fight for our nation's future.
I admire Wes Clark's ability to be both unequivocal and completely civil in this demand. There's more than a few bloggers who could stand to learn that petulant trash talk does not advance a cause and just hands weapons to the anti-liberal punditocracy.

Moreover, I approve of his message of unity. It not only says what needs to be said, but also how it needs to be said. He does not go off into conspiracy land, imagining some wicked cabal by party insiders to cheat the good, pure and true out of their victory. Instead, he talks practical politics, keeping the focus on the real opponent - the Bush White House and the De Lay Congress - and fights substantive attempts to divide the party. He does not stoop to demonization and holds out a hand to let Lieberman redeem himself.

Honesty, integrity, decency and no-nonsense politics. More of this, please.


Dear Joe

Get out of the race and stay out.

Toodles - Ang

Back to Reality

The "Dump Lieberman (Oh, yeah, Lamont, you're a handy millionaire)" campaign has been great fun for the last few news cycles, but Billmon quickly jerks us back to reality. The whole thing, because it is short and perfect:

I guess this is Shrub's idea of "faithfully executing" the laws -- he wants to take the War Crimes Act out and shoot it with Dick Cheney's shotgun.

The Bush administration has drafted amendments to a war crimes law that would eliminate the risk of prosecution for political appointees, CIA officers and former military personnel for humiliating or degrading war prisoners, according to U.S. officials and a copy of the amendments . . .

"People have gotten worried, thinking that it's quite likely they might be under a microscope," said a U.S. official. Foreigners are using accusations of unlawful U.S. behavior as a way to rein in American power, the official said, and the amendments are partly meant to fend this off.

This is like letting John Gotti rewrite the RICO statute.

I guess somebody finally was able to make Shrub understand what was in that Hamdan ruling:

Once Common Article 3 applies to the conflict with al Qaeda, the legal framework within which we analyze the various interrogation and torture allegations changes dramatically, as does the . . . potential liability of various U.S. officials under the War Crimes Act.

So now we have the shameful spectacle of an American president asking his rubber stamp Congress to redefine the meaning of "war crimes," lest at some future date and in some future place he and his flunkies be forced to account for theirs. Just call it the Milosevic Amendment.

Is there a pit of slime so filthy these moral cretins won't drag us through it? A cup of national humiliation so bitter they won't make us drain it to the dregs?

Apparently not.

But I really wouldn't worry about it that much if I were one of the boys. With a bit of luck they should be able to push their CYA legislation through while the heelclickers are still in the majority.

Besides, even if they fail, and the legal situation does goes south on them, there's always Brazil. Who knows? Dick and Rummy might even make a few friends down there.

Yes, dear readers, Bush knows what his administration is doing is wrong and is trying to avoid incarceration. They have led the nation into war crimes. And the majority of the American public was more than happy to go along as long as we were on the "winning" side.

In short, just as Lieberman was the obvious and deserving candidate until the punditocracy and the snoozing last minute voters realized they were supporting a loser, the US public didn't give a shit how awful Bush policies are until they are clearly demonstrated as losing propositions. No moral judgment, no principled stance, just wanting to be on the "winning" side.

Republicans are going to lose this electoral cycle not because the voters actually reject fascism but because the Rethugs look weak. Appearance is reality.


Tuesday, August 08, 2006

The Way to Bet

The race is not always to the swift nor the battle to the strong, but that's the way to bet.

The "Site brought down by hackers" excuse on Lieberman's side is too lame to even rate as pathetic. So, the bet's on Lamont. The piling on Lieberman tomorrow is going to be ugly and petty, and there is going to be a lot of dislocated shoulders from excessive back-patting. There's also going to be an upsurge of very savage opportunistic assaults on the "DLC" and how the Democratic party isn't going to take their betrayal anymore, yadda, yadda.

Here's a bet. How quickly will Ned Lamont join the DLC? I say a lot sooner than most people suspect. He's a businessman who has voted with Republican colleagues in local government. That's not a smear, it's just a statement of fact. This is someone whose natural affinity should be for like minded Rockefeller Republicans. (In my book, that's not a criticism, btw.) So, I don't think there's much question about who he'll hang out with in DC once he gets there and the spotlight goes away. That's not a criticism of him, either.

The reason for wanting to replace Lieberman is not his policies but his partisan fecklessness. The bet on Lamont is not that he'll be liberal, but that he'll be loyal.


Sunday, August 06, 2006


Digby's blog Hullabaloo has been removed from my blogroll. What was once an intelligent and engaging blog has sunk down into crap/rant territory. Her defense of Jane Hamsher's "humorous" photoshop image of Joe Lieberman in blackface was the final straw. It really creeps me out when a "left" activist thinks using racial stereotypes to denigrate people is a good thing to do.

I have added Robert Reich's blog. He publishes sporadically, but does excellent reporting on economic and political issues.

I'm tired of reading screaming and invective instead of reporting and argument. I'm also tired of the Kos-centered war against the "DLC". I've looked at the rhetoric and the stances, and have concluded that I am one of the "traitors" to the left as defined by Atrios, Digby, Jane Hamsher, Markos, etc., since I think the Cintons have provided outstanding public service to this nation for decades. You want people to pick sides? Done.

Another moderate leftist abandoning the Kossack netroots for good. My political opinions are more heterogeneous than Pro/Anti-DLC.


Real Change Involves the GOP

With luck, CT will have a more responsive Senator come November, and the Dems will have a new team player who will be more reliable on party-line votes. I agree with Josh Marshall that the Rubicon for Holy Joe was saying he was setting himself up to run as an independent if defeated in the primary. This sent the twin messages of A) I think I'm going to lose and B) I'm not committed to the party. A senior senator is hard to dump, but a disloyal loser has nothing to stand on.

Now, how about the netroots doing something constructive for a change? Instead of throwing themselves into trashing other Democrats (and let's be clear, the Kossack aligned blogs would cheerfully greet another generation of Republican rule if it meant keeping "DLC" candidates out of office), why not take on the big guns, the GOP?

There's this little race coming up in California here in San Diego, pitting Brian Bilbray (R - Lobbyist) against Francine Busby (D - Liberal) in a competitive rematch for Duke Cunningham's old seat. How about putting as much energy and noise into that match up, which actually works towards changing the balance of power in the Congress, as into the symbolic but not that legislatively important CT senate race? Of course, taking over Cunningham's seat would be symbolic as well, and would give the pundits something to chew on for months afterwards. Francine is a strong liberal, too, so what's not to like? It's a real race, one where the makeup of the district is the opposite from CT, with a Republican majority, but more moderate than not and worried over corruption and international entanglements.

In short, the only way that real change - in power and in policy - is going to change is by taking on the GOP directly. This means real political work, like motivating the sizable (and growing) Dem minorities in allegedly safe GOP districts. 2,000 votes. That's what would have sent Francine to DC. I still can't believe that the wider left blogosphere didn't see the PR value in seizing the Cunningham's seat. What better message to send about the K Street payola racket than back the seat of one of their more rapacious practitioners?

The netroots left has ably demonstrated that they can savage their own party. Now let's see if they can defeat real political opponents. That takes a little more effort, and actually standing up for a candidate.


Saturday, August 05, 2006

Clark on War and Politics

There's an excellent transcript up on the Wes Clark web site of a recent FOX News Dayside appearance. (I guess that's one of their regular shows. Sorry, haven't owned a TV since 1989, so don't really know what's on.) The entire transcript is reasonably short, and the idiocy of the FOX talking heads is truly a gigglefest, so you should read the whole thing. Here are a few key points I want to tease out of Gen. Clark's answers. Please note that I have edited a few places to remove chatter & irrelevant info:
On Hizbullah: "Well, that's a real problem, because there are still women and children, apparently, in there, and frankly, this is a political movement, not just a military movement. So, the Hizbullah have been providing education and healthcare in the towns. So, maybe the teachers are Hizbullah. The doctors are Hizbullah. Local authorities are Hizbullah. They're all affiliated, and then some of them have weapons."

On the fundamental problems of Bush's approach to the ME:
CLARK: Because we would have been talking to people. ... You see the basic problem that you have here - and since you're asking a political question, I'll give you a political answer.

Juliet Huddy: Oh, or, or just an honest answer. (laughs)

CLARK: A strategic answer. Look, you cannot solve these problems with military force alone, and you cannot limit talking to people that you already know you're going to agree with. You can't say, 'If I don't agree with you, I'm not going to talk to you.'

On treating with other nations: "Well look, nations don't always tell the truth, but you can't educate nations like they're third graders, and you can't treat them like they're third graders. We got very close in the 1990s to a peace agreement that would've ended fighting between the Palestinians, the Syrians and the Israelis, very close. So, there's no reason why we can't keep talking. You don't draw a line and say, 'Okay, that's it. I'm not going to talk to you. We'll see you on the battlefield,' unless there's a direct threat to the United States. Neither Syria nor Iran is directly threatening the United States right now."

On the use of military force: "It, it's why when you use military force, even though you may be going after targets or trying to kill people, it is ultimately a political act. And what you must always aim for is the right political outcome."
Aside from the fact that Gen. Clark can talk coherently about international affairs, which is such a nice change from any of the Cheneyites, there is something else vitally important at work here. This is someone who is unrelenting in defense of the US because he understands and takes seriously that other people believe in their nations (or movements), too, and are willing to go to great lengths to preserve them. Valuing American practices and institutions does not require the denigration of other nations - to the contrary, it places a greater burden on us to inhabit our beliefs - of justice, humanity, peaceful resolution, but also democracy, quality of life and freedom of conscience. He also points out that what we see as "terrorists" locals see as a socially and economically constructive organization, people who deliver food, education and protection. We have to understand that Lebanese have a number of rational reasons to look kindly on Hizbullah.

It is, above all, a pragmatic and unshakeably ethical approach to regional conflict, which is not going to go away anytime soon. Perhaps the middle east can be calmed, but situations like Kashmir and Darfur remain to be adequately addressed. Gen. Clark makes no bones about war is to be used for - achieving political goals. How does this differ from the Bush doctrine? Refer to the above paragraph. If you regard other nations, governments and populations as both rational actors (who can and will negotiate) and as unique yet equal others to yourself (beings who are ends, not means, and who must be treated as such), then there are kinds of war that are off-limits, such as preemptive strikes on other states with whom you can bargain. Invasions of other countries for domestic consumption. Activing out tribal resentments against demonized foes. In short, you will not conduct war the way Bush has done, as an extension of a violent and hateful will.

It sounds so ... simple. Talk to people. Ask them what they want. Tell them what you want. See if there is common ground. Repeat. And repeat. And repeat. Because you always have war to turn to. That's the easy choice, to declare, as one of Clark's questioners did, that "they" are fanatics who cannot be reasoned with, only destroyed. Then you don't have to offer your own reasons or change your views, objectives and desires.

In a time when the Sec. of State is calling bombing of civilians "birth pangs", when End Times nutcases are being invited to the White House as advisors, and when the adminsitration seems to regard wel regulated government and the rule of law as something to avoid at all costs, this simple advice seems exotic.

I don't think it ironic, in the way Billmon does, that the strongest voices against use of the military as the primary tool of foreign policy is to be found among military personnel. My father, a Marine in the Korean War and son of a Navy officer, taught his children to be suspicious of war-mongering and to listen to the vocies of peace. I know from the time I worked at the Naval hospital that no one was as outraged at the waste of life as the people who tried to put the war-torn men and women back together. Gen. Clark has a word on the cost of war as well.
"Clark said he knows what it feels like to be responsible for the deaths of innocents. When he was fighting the air war in Serbia, a cluster bomb accidentally went off over a schoolyard and children were killed. A few days later there was a note on his desk from a child’s grandfather. "I will never forgive you," the man wrote. Clark said he has prayed for forgiveness ever since."

Riverbend on Loss

Residents of Baghdad are systematically being pushed out of the city. Some families are waking up to find a Klashnikov bullet and a letter in an envelope with the words “Leave your area or else.” The culprits behind these attacks and threats are Sadr’s followers- Mahdi Army. It’s general knowledge, although no one dares say it out loud. In the last month we’ve had two different families staying with us in our house, after having to leave their neighborhoods due to death threats and attacks. It’s not just Sunnis- it’s Shia, Arabs, Kurds- most of the middle-class areas are being targeted by militias.

Other areas are being overrun by armed Islamists. The Americans have absolutely no control in these areas. Or maybe they simply don’t want to control the areas because when there’s a clash between Sadr’s militia and another militia in a residential neighborhood, they surround the area and watch things happen...

I look at my older clothes- the jeans and t-shirts and colorful skirts- and it’s like I’m studying a wardrobe from another country, another lifetime. There was a time, a couple of years ago, when you could more or less wear what you wanted if you weren’t going to a public place. If you were going to a friends or relatives house, you could wear trousers and a shirt, or jeans, something you wouldn’t ordinarily wear. We don’t do that anymore because there’s always that risk of getting stopped in the car and checked by one militia or another....

I’ve said goodbye this last month to more people than I can count...During times like these I remember a speech Bush made in 2003: One of the big achievements he claimed was the return of jubilant ‘exiled’ Iraqis to their country after the fall of Saddam. I’d like to see some numbers about the Iraqis currently outside of the country you are occupying… Not to mention internally displaced Iraqis abandoning their homes and cities.

I sometimes wonder if we’ll ever know just how many hundreds of thousands of Iraqis left the country this bleak summer. I wonder how many of them will actually return. Where will they go? What will they do with themselves? Is it time to follow? Is it time to wash our hands of the country and try to find a stable life somewhere else?

Summer of Goodbyes

Billmon Right Again. Unfortunately.

I'm way behind the news curve due to travel and a programming project, so I'm going to try not to rehash too much of yesterday's news. However, Billmon, still the best and most bitter voice on the internets, said the ugly truth that had to made clear:
But there's one big problem with all this hyperventilating [about Ned Lamont's probable victory on Tuesday]: It wildly exaggerates the anti-war fevor that Ned Lamont supposedly represents. Oh I know Ned says he's anti-war, but he only means the war in Iraq. The war in Lebanon, on the other hand, is just fine by him. And he's already pledged he'll be just as staunch a friend of Israel and the Israel lobby in this war as Holy Joe ever was or ever could be. So bombs away...

...Lamont's stance also reflects a glaring contradiction in the emerging Democratic consensus on U.S. policy in the Middle East (a consensus which is about to make Joe Lieberman a man without a party). Politically, it's a position that won't be sustainable for long. And as a matter of policy, it's a recipe for an even wider and more destructive war -- one I fully expect most Democrats, including Lamont, will end up supporting, despite the consequences.

The contradiction is between the growing sentiment among both grassroots Democrats and party leaders in favor of a rapid withdrawal of U.S. military forces (or at least ground forces) from Iraq, and the effect such a withdrawal would have, both on the overall strategic balance in the Middle East and on Israel's war against Hizbullah...

...What's become clear to me is that the Democratic Party (even it's allegedly anti-war wing) will not try to stop this insanity, and in fact will probably be led as meekly to the slaughter as it was during the runup to the Iraq invasion. Watching the Dems line up to salute the Israeli war machine, hearing the uncomfortable and awkward silence descend on most of Left Blogistan once the bombs started falling in Lebanon, seeing how easily the same Orwellian propaganda tricks worked their magic on the pseudoliberals -- all this doesn't leave too much room for doubt. As long as World War III can be sold as protecting the security and survival of the Jewish state, I suspect the overwhelming majority of Democrats, or at least the overwhelming majority of Democratic politicians, will support it...

...It is a stunning testament to the political devolution of this country that the most effective anti-war movement in America is inside the walls of the Pentagon or buried deep in the bowels of the CIA! But that is the reality, thanks in no small part to the Dems and the Israel lobby.

I had hopes once that the Democratic Party could be reformed, that progressives could burrow back in or build their own parallel organizations (like or even Left Blogistan) and eventually gain control of the party and its agenda -- much as the conservatives took over the GOP in the 1980s and '90s.

But I think we've run out of time. Events -- from 9/11 on -- have moved too fast and pushed us too far towards the clash of civilizations that most sane people dread but the neocons desperately want. The Dems are now just the cadet branch of the War Party. While the party nomenklatura is finally, after three bloody years, making dovish noises about the Iraq fiasco, I think their loyalty to Israel, or their fear of the Israel lobby, almost certainly will snap them back into line during the coming "debate" over war with Iran.

I hope like hell I'm wrong about this, but I don't think I am. So I guess I'll just have to accept being labeled a traitor to the cause -- or whatever the hardcore partisans are calling it. Sure, why not. They're certainly free to follow their party over the cliff (we're all going over it anyway) but I'd at least prefer to do it with my eyes open.

The War Party

As usual, I've only snagged a few highlights. You need to go read the entire piece and preferably all of Billmon's analysis of the war.

I think he has captured the core political truth - the US will not say no to Israel - though I think he inflates the culpability of the Democrats in this. The nation as a whole, as disgusted as it allegedly is about the war, will jump up and salute if Bush says we must attack Iran in order to defend Israel. Iran is our Great Satan, as well as being the reason the neocons are in power in the US (think Iranian hostage crisis), and we like the role of big, moral defender of the endangered and downtrodden (the role, not the reality). The Dem leadership will see no alternative if the polls show support for bombing Iran on Israel's behalf. That they should stand up on principle and defy the general opinion of the nation is half-Mr. Smith, half-Norma Rae, and ain't going to happen.

I don't think most Americans comprehend just how fucked up the situation is in the Middle east, and don't think about it at anywhere near the necessary level of sophistication. It's easy to sell stupid. And the average Democrat is not that much smarter than the average Republican.


Generational Metaphors

There's a meme going around Left Blogistan that the divide in the Democratic party is generational. The people with the good political sense are post-Reagan and those with bad political sense are pre-Reagan.

Not bad, except that the political sense parts are more messy than that. Having lived through Reagan, both as governor and as president, I can attest he is something of a watershed for Democrats. In both cases, we watched him preside over an assault on the gains created by the "old" Democrats. We saw him introduce a new rhetoric into the political consciousness, leaving behind the specific (and by then laughable) accusations of Communist Party membership that he so enthusiastically endorsed in the McCarthy era and broadened it to divide the nation into the loyal (pro-Reagan, pro-neocon) and the traitors (everyone else). He had the Soviet Union to use as his boogeyman. The fact that the USSR really was (and remains, but we dont' talk about that...) a threat to all life on earth due to its nuclear arsenal played no small part in legitimizing this approach.

Back to the generational stuff. I say that there is a generational divide, even if the "generation" is more mental than chronological. The netroots Dems are to mainstream Dems as Jerry Brown is to Pat Brown, both pairs divided by the altered reality of Ronald Reagan, the Movie.


Thursday, August 03, 2006

Big Plans

I'm working on a big project from now through Saturday, so not much blogging. Lots of interesting topics, however. For me, the sleeper is what will the neocons do if Castro does not pull through his surgery? I think they are planning an invasion.


Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Climate Change

Mark Schmitt's recent post on TPM Cafe, The End of Checklist Liberalism, uses the prism of the Lieberman self-immolation as a focus for something much larger, something I've been trying to put my finger on for the last few months:

The second reason is that Lamont supporters actually aren’t ideologues. They aren’t looking for the party to be more liberal on traditional dimensions. They’re looking for it to be more of a party. They want to put issues on the table that don’t have an interest group behind them - like Lieberman’s support for the bankruptcy bill -- because they are part of a broader vision. And I think that’s what blows the mind of the traditional Dems. They can handle a challenge from the left, on predictable, narrow-constituency terms. But where do these other issues come from? These are “elitist insurgents,” as Broder puts it - since when do they care about bankruptcy? What if all of a sudden you couldn’t count on Democratic women just because you said that right things about choice - what if they started to vote on the whole range of issues that affect women’s economic and personal opportunities?

But caring about bankruptcy, even if you’re not teetering on the brink of it or a bankruptcy lawyer yourself, is part of a vision of a just society. And a vision of a just society - not just the single-issue push-buttons of a bunch of constituency groups - is what a center-left political party ought to be about. And at the end of this fight, I don’t expect that we’ll have a more leftist Democratic Party, but one that can at least begin to get beyond checklist liberalism.

I'd change the first sentence to read "people won't put up with Lieberman anymore" from "Lamont supporters" (hey, I'm just reading the polls...), but the rest captures an attitudinal change that has come over many, not just the left, in the country. Political climate change.

The left often wonders at the right's ability to pander to and mobilize conservative fundamentalists (who are not necessarily religious) with social or lifestyle issues even as they use power to expand and entrench corporate and economic elite positions. I think that is because they are appealing to a sense of interrelated conditions that together do harm to the fundamentalists' preferred way of life. Though I abhor their vision of what makes a society good, I can see the power of that appeal and why they will follow those who promise to defend it. (On a side note, the Rethuglican bait-n-switch may be running its course, as illustrated by the NYT article on Rev. Gregory A. Boyd last weekend. Carpetbagger's commentary on this is good, as is Kevin Drum's.)

What has consumed the left for a long time, frankly, is a lack of a wide vision of the just society. The parts have all been there, but, after the triumph and the failures of the movements of the 50s and 60s, when we saw our leaders murdered and our youth sent off to pointless deaths in a far country, the left's pursuit of this vision has been muted - cautious, legalistic, narrowly drawn. After Nixon's downfall, it seemed wise to cool passions, regroup, and move politely forward. The interest politics Mark mentions above came to the fore in great part because they had boundaries.

What is happening? The left is turning into Al Gore. Older, heavier, battered by the events of our times, dragging our real and virtual laptops around to explain that the ground beneath our feet has changed, that the passions of our youth weren't wrong, and that the time to act is NOW. It's not just a woman's right to choose, but having choices worth making.

I'm not sure that "traditional Dems" don't get it. I read Clinton's words of advice to Holy Joe (attributed and suspected) more along the lines of giving advice that won't be heard, so not putting much effort in it. What got people excited by Clinton (besides the fact that he has Elvis) was the way in which he could invoke that vision of a better, more just, more hopeful America, not one of military might and swagger, but of generosity and proportion. As with global warming, it was too easily subsumed to political and economic expediency.

Kevin Drum, also reading Schmitt's article, says,

it basically suggests an explicit turn to a European parliamentary model of party governance without the formal structure of an actual parliamentary system. Democrats take on the role of a social democratic party with a broader agenda than just pleasing a small core of interest groups, but the flip side is that loyalty to that agenda is more-or-less absolute. The idea that you sometimes cross party lines to work with the opposition goes from being a sign of grace to being literally unthinkable.

Is this good or bad? I haven't made up my mind. But we're about 90% of the way there anyway, and it may be that the final 10% isn't really that big a deal. And if Mark is right that a broader concern for social democratic policies is one outcome of this, it would be well worth it.

The radical right was the first to reject the civility of a centrist polity, and has won significant power because of its boldness. Schmitt wrote about this (and I blogged it) about two months ago. The key will be making the left into a social democratic block, and keep the Neo-Naderites, for whom no politician is pure enough, or the fake Greens, who love the color of money and not much else, from alienating the center portion of the center-left coalition through petulance and vigilantism.

Global warning, fossil-fuel dependence, anti-modern fundamentalist terrorism, economic stability, middle-class security, medical care - this forms a powerful web of key traditional liberal positions, but given a half-turn (and thus new life) by the events of Bush's administration. Perhaps we could not have had this conceptual realignment without the authoritarian ascendency, but it is real.

And there's climate change for the better.