Plus ca change
April 28, 2006 5:56 AM   Subscribe

Do the Democrats need just one big idea, one that may sound familiar from Hillary Clinton's time as First Lady when she was hanging out with Amitai Etzioni, Michel Lerner and other advocates of "communitarianism". Or is this just not the right historical moment?
posted by twsf (25 comments total)

But they will pick the right one for the election but not the best one for the country.

2008 is going to be all about national healthcare, with a heaping dose of xenophobia, anti-globalization, fear, uncertainty, and doubt, and rising nationalism.

The big issue should should be the "Soveriegnty of the Individual", enumerating the rights of each and every American, including the right to privacy, right to health care, etc.
posted by rzklkng at 6:25 AM on April 28, 2006

"Right to healthcare?" If I'm paying for it, do I have an offsetting "right" to force recipients to take better care of themselves so I get the most value for my money?
posted by ZenMasterThis at 6:42 AM on April 28, 2006

Communitarianism sounds too much like communism.
posted by caddis at 6:52 AM on April 28, 2006

Communism + Unitarians?
posted by craniac at 6:54 AM on April 28, 2006

It's a good article, but it repeats and reinforces the lie that there's no philosophy--there is and always has been, but the party's been running away from it since Reagan's day.

This is exactly right, and until all the consultants and incumbents who believe it are gone, there won't be real change: ... There’s a reason for this: They’ve all been trained to believe -- by the media, by their pollsters -- that their philosophy is an electoral loser. Like the dogs in the famous “learned helplessness” psychological experiments of the 1960s -- the dogs were administered electrical shocks from which they could escape, but from which, after a while, they didn’t even try to, instead crouching in the corner in resignation and fear -- the Democrats have given up attempting big ideas. Any effort at doing so, they’re convinced, will result in electrical (and electoral) shock....

What we have now are thousands of elected officials and party people and associated others who run away from ideas and ideals--they're also very hostile to all attempts to set them straight, and hostile to netroots stuff--they're hostile to everything except being Republican lite, which they think will work but has proven to be a failure. The majority of the country wants real opposition and real change--DC Democrats still haven't learned that and think that pointing out the failings of the GOP is enough, and otherwise keeping their heads down is enough--it's not. Hillary running to the right along with Dean's plans which don't include any civil or equal rights things (after Katrina too!) show they're still not getting it at all.

There was actually a filibuster in Congress last night about oil money--did anyone hear about it? Was it supported by the leaders? Was the press alerted? Did the machine give a shit?
posted by amberglow at 6:55 AM on April 28, 2006

ZenMasterThis--you're paying for federal student loans right now (or I'm assuming you are if you're a tax-paying US citizen), but does that mean you have the offsetting right to force recipients to study hard and get good grades?

I'd like to see the right to bear arms come with the offsetting right to force gun bearers to take intensive gun safety lessons.

But this is derailing the thread. I'd say "yes" along with rzklkng; Dems do need one big idea, but I'll bet two bucks Howard Dean et al. will choose the wrong one. Rove and his cronies will make war=peace, freedom=slavery, up=down all over again.
posted by josephtate at 7:04 AM on April 28, 2006

The New Republican in no way knows, cares, or supports the ideas and ideals of the Democratic party.
But they love them some Lieberman.
Pretending to be somehow relevant and informed stopped working for TNR many years ago.
There are loads of good ideas, just none the faux Dems would talk about or embrace.
After all, should they embrace those ideas, they wouldn't get invited back to FAUX News or Press the Meat!
And so Howard Dean is crazy 'cause TNR and company said so!
posted by nofundy at 7:57 AM on April 28, 2006

"Right to healthcare"? What do you think this is, Canada?
posted by adamrice at 8:03 AM on April 28, 2006

If the Democrats would make a campaign pledge to regulate the price of gas at the pump if given a Congressional majority, that's really the only 'idea' they'd need to prevail in 2006. But as it would be a bold, decisive stroke that would confirm they weren't as deep in the corporate pocketbook as the GOP, it's not gonna happen.

Where's the Kingfish when we need him?

Who took on the Standard Oil men
And whipped their ass
Just like he promised he'd do?
Ain't no Standard Oil men gonna run this state
Gonna be run by little folks like me and you

posted by Makoto at 8:36 AM on April 28, 2006

I'm thinking regulation of the price of oil isn't going to work unless you ignore the economic realities of the oil industry.

When you pay $70+ a 42 gallon barrel for oil that you can get about 19 gallons of gasoline from, 4 gallons of jet fuel, 12 gallons of heating oil and lube, you're not going to see gas much under $2.25 a gallon by the time you add in refining and shipping costs. And then don't mention taxes - you're looking at about 18 cents a gallon for federal and local up to 50.

You start digging into the economics of the oil industry, and it's amazing it's as cheap as it is.

More on it here and here.

Oil would be the wrong issue. The price is going up because demand is going up worldwide, and production isn't. It MIGHT make a viable campaign issue, but it'd really suck to get elected on promises of bringing down the cost of gas only to find you couldn't do a damn thing 'cause those jackasses in China and India just keep on buying more and more.

Now if they want to take on the credit card industry - Citigroup made a 33% profit vs. Exxon's 8-9%. And they don't pay NEARLY as much tax.
posted by JB71 at 9:44 AM on April 28, 2006

If the Democrats would make a campaign pledge to regulate the price of gas at the pump if given a Congressional majority, that's really the only 'idea' they'd need to prevail in 2006.

and when the price of gas continues to rise, what idea are they going to come up with in '08?

the fingerpointing, promises of 100 bucks back to the taxpayer, screaming about windfall profits, etc. etc. are sheer demogogery ... prices are going up because supplies are going down, many of the suppliers are facing political and social instability, and demand is going up
posted by pyramid termite at 10:31 AM on April 28, 2006

Communitarianism sounds too much like communism.

I think it's an unfortunate name for a very thoughtful, moderate, and interesting political philosophy. If Hilary Clinton was actually counseling with Etzioni, that genuinely increases my respect for her.

However, that won't stop the name Clinton from invoking the uttermost froth and rage from the right. And indeed, if the national political conversation were actually so nuanced as to admit communitarianism into discussion, it wouldn't take long for the ideologues to successfully conflate it with communism.
posted by weston at 10:46 AM on April 28, 2006

I hope whoever did that to those dogs ROTS IN HELL!!!
posted by haikuku at 10:48 AM on April 28, 2006

Oil would be the wrong issue.

Do you ever hear people complaining about the credit card industry? Maybe you do, but gas prices are the 'right' issue in 2006 in much the same way that gay marriage or abortion have been the 'right' issue in certain parts of the country: gas prices make people angry, and angry people want change, and people who want change actually bother to vote. One thing I've noticed is that real anger about gas prices affects people of every demographic, regardless of age, political leaning or socioeconomic background. It isn't often that you get a powerful issue that unites so many disparate strands of the electorate. Why not take advantage of it?

Yes, the idea that oil companies are manipulating prices for the sake of windfall profits is absurd. (Though I'd be more inclined to blame jittery, irrational speculators than the logic of the free market: Chinese and Indian demand was increasing at a pace greater than the expansion of supply throughout the 1990s, but crude prices nevertheless declined.) But who cares? Most people seem to believe it, and is anyone going to cry in their beer if electoral success is predicated on squeezing the oil industry?

and when the price of gas continues to rise, what idea are they going to come up with in '08?

If Congress sets a ceiling on gas prices, how do gas prices rise? There is an argument that oil companies, as has historically been the case when maximum prices are fixed, might respond by withdrawing their supply. But do you think that ExxonMobil would prefer no profit to reduced profit? Even if they did, that could also be cured through legislation. The oil companies would learn, as other regulated industries providing basic commodities have learned, that they can still gain considerable profit while selling their product at a price the voter-consumer feels reasonable.

However, that won't stop the name Clinton from invoking the uttermost froth and rage from the right.

Don't forget the left. We don't like her either.
posted by Makoto at 10:51 AM on April 28, 2006

its the environment stupid
posted by Shike at 11:05 AM on April 28, 2006

If Congress sets a ceiling on gas prices, how do gas prices rise?

when opec raises them, they'll rise ... or we'll have a nationwide gas shortage and long lines

congress doesn't have any real power over this and those congressmen who say they do are either self-deluded or lying
posted by pyramid termite at 11:33 AM on April 28, 2006

If Congress sets a ceiling on gas prices, how do gas prices rise?

They don't. But simply setting a ceiling on the price doesn't have an affect on how much it costs to make it. How much of a loss should the oil companies have to suck up so whoever proposes a ceiling can look good?

If the price of crude continues up (or stays up, and that seems pretty likely to me) after the ceiling is set, and the oil companies operate at a loss, they don't have money to invest in exploration and expansion... so then they can't increase production... so the price of crude rises due to scarcity. But they can't raise prices - and they lose more money...

Sounds like a good way to wreck the industry to me.

I'd be real wary of any politician saying they can fix this through simple legislation like a ceiling on gas prices. It makes me think they can't see the whole picture, or don't want to see it's a problem they can't fix with legislation.
posted by JB71 at 11:41 AM on April 28, 2006

A better perspective on the bullshit from Beinart in The New Republican link.
posted by nofundy at 12:13 PM on April 28, 2006

"Ideas" aren't going to help a bit. This is just the kind of thing "party" people-- Republican or Democrat-- tend to waste their time arguing over. I don't think we should make the same mistake. Aside from figuring out a coherent position on Viet Nam -- which we've all got to admit the Republicans have done, even if that position is fairly simple-minded -- there's nothing 'ideological' the Democrats can do to help themselves.

Either way, the momentum tips toward the Democrats next time, in my opinion. The Republicans are busy proving that 'unity' is almost impossible to hold up in this system, and infighting among the leaders of the party in power, combined with the fact that people always hate the current president/congress, whatever party it is, and the fact that the race will be open, with no incumbents, should tip things in their favor. (Not to mention, of course, the fact that Republicans are now, as never before, showcasing their assholery in public.) As long as the campaign is run moderately professionally, and I trust it will be, given the position of the Democrats at the moment, then my money's on them. (Actually, this talk of "finding an idea" or "getting electoral points," laden as it is with the stench of the fear of losing power, is disgusting to voters. Americans like confidence; they can smell fear a million miles away. If there's a reason they like haughty Republican arrogance over meek Democratic idealism, I think it's because voters like the guy who fights hard for what he believes in, no matter how odious that thing is.)

All that aside, the really good thing, the thing that would clinch it, and the thing that American elections have been lacking since, oh, Truman maybe, would be most desirable. That thing is: a good candidate.
posted by koeselitz at 12:39 PM on April 28, 2006

I think it's shortsighted to suggest that there needs to be "one big idea". Rather, what the Democrats need is something more akin to the Gingrich-era Republican's Contract with America, only more geared towards the rights of the individual.

What should be on it? Things like:

1> A healthcare system that respect the rights of America's workers. (General tone of the approach: "American middle-class workers are falling through the cracks, millions of middle-class Americans are finding their healthcare benefits cut, prices going up, and managed care is "managing them to death. There are already "local healthcare systems" in several states which are finding local solutions to these problems, while keeping costs down. The federal government has a responsibility to the states and to the people of America to help." Note: They should never mention or suggest "national health care", "socialized medicine", "healthcare for all", etc.)

2> A bright future for our children. (Education, etc.)

3> No more misleading the American public into war. Policies designed to prevent the misuse of intelligence data by the exexcutive branch. Greater CIA autonomy. Greater Congressional oversight.

4> A lower debt for our children's future. Concrete policies to reduce the debt, prevent against future deficit spending.

5> A commitment to the elderly. Better healthcare. Safeguarding social security.

6> Protecting our Constitutional rights. Roll back the Bush administration's intrusions into individual liberties, establish lasting legal protections, if possible. Safeguarding human rights by guaranteeing basic US legal rights to foriegn detainees.

7> Being accountable to the American people. Protecting and rolling back changes in FOIA. A sweeping review designed to make every department of government more accountable to the public, if necessary by implementing binding government accountability standards, in the same way that many companies comply with established business standards for their customers.

8> Protecting the environment.

9> Building an energy independent America.

10> Establishing a fair tax system. Roll back Bush tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans.

... or something along those lines.
posted by insomnia_lj at 3:23 PM on April 28, 2006

Oh... another thing the Democrats really *should* do. Establish fair election laws and real campaign finance reform. No more cowardly support for closed, two-party debates sponsored by Budweiser. Restore control of the debates to the League of Women's Voters, or another suitable organization, if possible.

They should *especially* see what they can do to be seen as the party of empowerment for all Americans, regardless of political orientation. There are a ton of Americans who really prefer 3rd parties, but who don't feel that they have a voice. The Democrats should see what they can do to give them a fair shake, and ideally more representation within the Democratic Party. They should empower Green Democrats, Libertarian Democrats, fiscally-conservative Democrats, etc.

How suggesting a Constitutional amendment allowing people to vote for an optional candidate, for instance? In other words, you could vote Green or Libertarian for President, for instance, but if their candidate doesn't make the top-two, then their vote goes for the candidate of their choice.
posted by insomnia_lj at 3:39 PM on April 28, 2006

"Communitarianism" is definitely bad marketing. They couldn't have picked a worse name.
posted by bukharin at 10:52 PM on April 28, 2006

NYT oped today: ...In 1946, Karl Frost, an advertising executive, suggested a simple slogan to the Massachusetts Republican Committee: "Had Enough? Vote Republican!" Frost recognized that these simple words could unite his national party and blame its opponents, who controlled Congress, for causing or failing to solve the many problems facing the country, including meat shortages, economic difficulties and labor unrest. The strategy worked: in 1946, both houses of Congress flipped.

Sixty years later, Democrats would be smart to turn Karl Frost's slogan on Karl Rove's strategy.

"Had Enough? Vote Democratic!" is a slogan that spotlights the many mistakes in Iraq, the mismanagement of Hurricane Katrina and the mangling of fiscal responsibility with "bridges to nowhere." ...

posted by amberglow at 11:18 AM on April 29, 2006

posted by Target Practice at 3:37 PM on April 29, 2006

this one's good too, from Talking Points Memo: ... The only crisis with Iran is the crisis with the president's public approval ratings. Period. End of story. The Iranians are years, probably as long as a decade away, and possibly even longer from creating even a limited yield nuclear weapon. Ergo, the only reason to ramp up a confrontation now is to help the president's poll numbers.
This is a powerful message because it is an accurate message. We have many challenges overseas today. Chief among them, as one of the Democrats' senate candidates puts it, is "refocusing America's foreign and defense policies in a way that truly protects our national interests and seeks harmony where they are not threatened." The period of peril the country is entering into isn't tied to an Iranian bomb. It turns on how far a desperate president will go to avoid losing control of Congress.
Go to his heart. Go to his weaknesses. Though the realization of the fact is something of a lagging indicator, the man is a laughing stock, whose lies and failures are all catching up with him.

To the president the Democrats should be saying, Double or Nothing is Not a Foreign Policy. ...

posted by amberglow at 7:19 AM on May 1, 2006

« Older Bigfoot is Bullshit?   |   America's dangerous employers Newer »

This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments