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August 18, 2005

All in the family

Here's a post by MyDD's Chris Bowers that expresses hope that the Democrats can tie Cindy Sheehan and the Iraq war with a more general Democratic "frame": The Family.

You know, I don't really have a problem with the post on its own merits. It's more the breathless tone of discovery: I mean, if you didn't think the Democrats were much, much, better on issues that affect families, why would you be one?

If you want to strengthen families, you pass the Family Medical Leave Act; you support health care for everyone, especially kids; you support Social Security as social insurance; you support excellent public education; you support universal child care; you don't order young people into war unless the country is absolutely at risk -- i.e. unless you would go yourself.

In other words, you're a grassroots Democrat.

The Democratic establishment, which is owned by special interests only somewhat less than the Republicans, has recently had little to offer American families, and so they lose elections. The hysteria about gay marriage in many states is only able to take hold when Democrats have little to offer themselves. When Democrats are direct and bold about their policy prescriptions, when they come across as problem-solvers, when they have their priorities straight, they will win elections.

Chris (Left-Center-Left) has been skeptical about the middle-class activists that tend to populate groups like Democracy for America and MoveOn, feeling they are not representative of voting populations. I don't blame him, especially considering the election record of their chosen candidates.  Our troll likes to rail against "progressive" busybodies. However, activists -- and the party in general -- can and will be successful when they ask themselves the actor's question: What do I want? It's OK to think selfishly: What's important to me? Who and what do I care about?

The answer to that question needs to be better and more specific than just "to win elections and have power", although that is certainly nice. Maybe I'm naive, but I imagine that most of the middle-class activist class cares about what everyone else cares about: "Me and my family," and by extension, friends and neighbors. This is like the advice often given to writers: Write what you know. This is what we have to offer to the debate.

Contrast Cindy Sheehan with Senator and presidential hopeful Evan Bayh, for instance, who says Dems need to get "credibility on defense". Bayh was a supporter of the Iraq war: 1,800 American lives later, who knows how many dead Iraqis later, countless billions of dollars later, he's still selling that snake oil? It's this kind of cynical inside-baseball talk that makes the Democrats seem unserious, because it is unserious. There is no principle behind Bayh's language except "Gosh, it'd be great to win more elections." And people see right through it. Go figure.

Bayh does not have his priorities straight: If he has good ideas about how to keep America safe, he should share them with us. That's serious. Running down the activists that power your own party is not serious.

Cindy Sheehan is speaking of her own reality; she is therefore a member of the "reality-based community". When Dems at the grassroots level begin to speak of their own values, the things that matter to them personally, that may drive out the empty strategizing of the establishment and create common ground with non-activist people.

(See also this very apt comment on MyDD.)

Posted by Charley on the MTA at 05:11 PM in National | Permalink


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» A liberal clears up some confusion... from Welcome to MassRight
Charley on the MTA, at the bottom of an otherwise insipid post, once and for all cracks the code of what the democrats mean by a 'reality-based community' when referencing Cindy Sheehan. It's long been a confusing term for many of us on this side of th... [Read More]

Tracked on Aug 18, 2005 6:51:55 PM


Wow. Nicely done.

I have nothing to add...my brain is scrambled tonight. Too...much...thinking...

Posted by: Lynne | Aug 18, 2005 9:27:48 PM

I tried to comment on MassRight's response to this post, but their blog software thinks it's spam, so I'll post my rebuttal here:

Hello there, and thanks for the trackback.

I'm curious as to what is relativist or "solipsistic" about the fact that Cindy Sheehan's son, some 1,800 other brave American men and women, and countless Iraqi civilians, are dead. That's reality. No getting around it. Also no getting around the fact that the reasons we were given for the war -- WMD's -- have been proven to be bunk. That's not relativism, that's reality. One is either dead or one is not. Are you suggesting that Cindy Sheehan is imagining that her son is dead?

Infantile, insipid, solipsistic, narcissist... look, that's all ad hominem stuff. If it makes you feel better, I cheerfully admit to all of those things. I'm not perfect. But that doesn't actually address my argument.

Posted by: Charley on the MTA | Aug 18, 2005 9:54:46 PM

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