We can't solve our problems by ideological repositioning. We need both the left and the center -- a broad coalition is the way to electoral victory. What needs to change is our leaders' willingness to stand up and fight for the Democratic values that all of us -- and indeed, the majority of Americans -- share.
I didn't invent this meme. I got it from a piece I read almost exactly two years ago on a site called The Waldman Report. The article is no longer at its original URL, but I found it reprinted at The Smirking Chimp.
It dates from just after the 2002 elections, but it's as true now as it was then. With apologies to the original author, I'm quoting a big chunk of it below, because I think it's vitally important:
o Remain more or less the same
o Change to reflect more centrist positions
o Change to reflect more progressive/liberal positions
o Die off and be replaced by an entirely new political party (or parties)
The rule change, proposed by Rep. Henry Bonilla (R-Tex.), would apply only to leaders indicted by a state prosecutor or grand jury. A party leader indicted by a federal court would have to step down at least temporarily. The GOP conference, however, could waive that restriction at any time. Bonilla's proposal will be among several rules changes that House Republicans will vote on in a closed meeting Wednesday. ...
The Geneva Conventions are not optional. And they do not exist because we want to fight a "sensitive" war and be loving to our enemies.
They exist to protect OUR troops when they are captured. And subverting the Geneva Conventions endangers the safety and security of our own fighting men and women.
Alberto Gonzales, a lawyer wearing a fancy suit and sitting in the White House thousands of miles from the front lines, wrote a legalistic, hair-splitting rationalization of torture. By doing so, he undermined the Geneva Conventions -- and he BETRAYED OUR TROOPS.
Now our men and women on the front lines may be captured and very likely tortured by an enemy that sees that we won't follow our own humanitarian principles. And our troops can thank Alberto Gonzales for selling them out.
Use this in your letters to the editor, and communications with your Senators.
The NY Times' "liberal" columnist Nicholas Kristof says that the way to show we're in touch with heartland values is to execute more retarded black murderers. Kristof is a master at drawing bogus conclusions from morally repellent examples. (He's also said that NYC should end rent control, because that's what the Chinese Communists did.)
Being sensitive to middle America's cultural and social values is one thing. But selling our souls is another. And what's utterly missing from this discussion is any mention of ECONOMICS.
Solution: Let's go back to our roots, and make economic populism the party's national common denominator. (I mean things like strong job protection, progressive taxation, labor rights, market regulation, a social safety net, and universal health care.) This will allow Red State Dems to win, by freeing them from locally unpopular social positions, and allow Blue State Dems to continue to advocate for the liberal social policies they feel strongly about.
The Republicans have managed to get people so fired up about gay marriage, abortion, gun rights, and the like that they will vote for a party which lowers their wages, reduces their health benefits, destroys their environment, and outsources their jobs. It's clearly a very powerful dynamic. I know people who are taken in by the "culture war" arguments -- including family members in Ohio and Florida. How do we fight back?
It seems to me that the answer is this: Our tent must become bigger than the Republicans'. To broaden the Democratic base enough to gain electoral majorities, we need to focus on economic issues, and take cultural wedge issues off the table.
This was a campaign of ideas versus emotions. Emotions -- especially the emotions of fear and anger -- won. The GOP made the majority of Americans afraid of terrorism, and angry about gay marriage.
We should not apologize for running a campaign of ideas and hope, rather than one of fear and anger.