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  •  My Question is, "What is the left?" (4.00)
    First let me say, I have been extremely guilty of this, but this post has got me thinking, what is the left? I see people say, I'm a moderate (Centrist) Democrat. I see people say I'm a liberal? Some say they are progressives. Yet, with regard to the party isn't it all just "relative" bullshit? Is a moderate Liberal someone who doesn't want to feed the starving, house the poor and help someone who is out of work? Is a liberal someone who doesn't want to defend America? Or is the difference religous? Are the liberals the ones who don't mind Gays getting married and Centrists do? I'm just asking, because I see all of us, myself included, use these terms without defining what the hell they actually mean. Hey, I'm for free trade, if that's what actually is. It isn't. More labels.

    I do like the democratic label for this blog, however. Because that is very much the case here. As someone above posted, I also consider myself an Independent more than any other label. However, partly due to the state I live in and how I vote, politically I call myself a Democrat.

    But has there ever been a serious discussion here over what a "Liberal Democrat" is versus what a "Centrist Democrat" is, or may be? Perhaps that's a discussion we need to have? If for any reason, it allows us a common reference for future discussion?

    Reason obeys itself; and ignorance submits to whatever is dictated to it. -Tom Paine

    by Alumbrados on Mon Nov 15, 2004 at 08:06:09 PM PST

    •  sure, it's relative (4.00)
      I think we generally agree about goals and values on the left-liberal side of the spectrum, but not necessarily about methods.

      Our goal here should be to find framing language that expresses our values, not a laundry list of policies and legislation that we can debate at length once we win back the Congress. That's how the other side does it, for the most part. If we agree on the basic values, we can hammer out policy differences later. The purpose here should be the search for commond ground -- and we may be surprised that even some conservatives will agree with our values and be willing to accept some of the policies.

      Let's take welfare reform. This was a divisive issue, still is. But some people thought the Dems had to shake off the worst aspects of welfare-state liberalism, to emphasize responsibility, both for the individual and for the government's budget. Clinton did that -- some on the left attacked him for it, but it had a masure of success.

      Unfortunately, there has been no follow through. Some people have simply fallen out of the statistics, out of our sight. But others have lifted themselves up. Generally, I think the poor would be better off with our version of compassionate welfare reform, but it's remarkable how little welfare is an issue anymore.

      Unfortunately, on some level, when you solve a political problem, it goes away, taking its positives with it. We barely remember now what it meant to be saddled with the label of being pro-welfare dependency. The label hurt us, and moreover I agree that it hurt the people on welfare.

      Now we have a much more valid claim as the party of honest work and of workers. We should be taxing wealth, not work. We should reward work, not idleness -- whether the idle are ablebodied people who refuse to work or the idle rich who collect tax-free dividends.

      But unlike those who are content to let the poor fend for themselves, we are also the party of the safety net. There are some people who are simply unable to work, either because of handicaps, the lack of opportunity, old age, or because they must take care of others, such as small children.

      So we are the party of work and the safety net.

      Here's another example. We can disagree about abortion, but we must not forget that it sometimes seem that the most fervent abortion opponents only care about fetuses until they are born. We care about them after they are born, how they are educated and protected, fed and clothed. We care about adoption and better foster care. And I think we can find common ground with many on the pro-life side -- call them on it. If these children are going to be brought into the world, who will care for them? And maybe we can agree to some reasonable counseling and methods to give young women alternatives to abortion. There are plenty of young women who might choose to have a baby but not raise it. We sometimes forget that choice means just that -- you don't always choose to abort. It also means that we need better sex education and contraception services -- that is the best way to reduce abortion. But it must be a legal option, because women died when it was illegal, and their lives matter too. Abortion is not the only pro-life issue: We are also against unnecessary killing of adults -- the death penatly, which kills many people who turn out to be innocent, and wars, which kill many civilians and innocents and should be a last resort in foreign policy. Surely there is common ground to be had here with some who call themselves "pro-life" and want a "culture of life." We are life-centered, too:  keeping abortion legal, safe and rare; ending the barbaric practice of execution, because the system itself is unjust;  So, we are the party of affirming life for all, not just fetuses, but not excluding fetuses. We recognize, though, that moral questions cannot be reduced to slogans. Let us accept that as a value and sort out the policy later.

      OK, so far so good. The party of work, the safety net and affirming life. That's enough examples for now. We haven't even mentioned the environment.

      You see how we can agree on the general values, whereas the traiditional labels all have to do with how we accomplish these goals. Some of you might be so far on the left that you would support progressive taxation that effectively puts a ceiling on wealth and a guaranteed income that ends poverty altogether. Others of you are so far to the right that you are willing to accept free trade and market forces to a greater degree, which means you also accept a certain amount of suffering is necessary for a strong economy (yet you still support a safety net for those who have trouble competing in a free trade economy). You may, as a centrist, share the values of the environmental movement even as you are skeptical about the efficacy of government regulation. Again, those are policy differences. We still share basic values.

      This is how we need to think: what values do we share, not
      are we all in favor of a specific health care plan or opposed to drilling in certain areas. We also need to focus on the most important issues and decide that some issues (gun control perhaps) cost us more than we can afford. Let's go for the things that help the greatest number of people, and if we win the trust of the American people, with decades of prosperity and a safety net for all, then perhaps we can talk about some of the more controversial policy prescriptions. Indeed, we may find that we even outgrow some of the debates that have divided us, as times change. (Take gun control -- as populations become denser, we are bound to win that argument by default; as hunting declines and close quarters reduce the tolerance for weaponry).

      So, choose our values. Then choose our battles. Then choose candidates who are both pragmatic and able to frame the message. We had a pragmatist this time, but he was not the greatest messenger. He may even have been the best -- but we needed better choices. Many of our best people held back, as is often the case when an incumbent is in a race. The 2008 election will be wide open. We should be examining the talent closely and encouraging those who have what it takes to build upon the common ground.

      An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind. - M. K. Gandhi

      by SpiderHole on Mon Nov 15, 2004 at 10:09:50 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  I see your point (none)
        and I agree with most of your post.  It's obvious from the replies to this Diary that we all agree on some things.  There are many things we will never all agree on.  So, yes, we need to decide what our values are, but IMO we also need to prioritize our values and consider where/if we are willing to compromise.  Because I hold beliefs that conflict with both parties stances, I have always had to prioritize and vote for what is most important to me.

        For example, here is a small sampling of some of my views in order of their importance to me:

         Equal Rights  (including gay marriage and abortion)
         Protection of the environment
         Protection of Second Amendment rights
         The death penalty for recidivist felons

        According to my list, you and I don't agree on some issues.    Some of my views conflict with those of the Democratic Party.  However, the most important issues to me are numbers one and two.  If I have to give up numbers three and four to achieve equal rights and protection of the environment, I will give them up.

        That is why I have always voted for Democratic candidates.  I may not agree with the party on all issues, but I always agree on the core issues of equal rights and protection of the environment.

        I think you're right that the general public has lost sight of the Democratic Party's core values and need to be reminded.  So what do we all agree on?

         

    •  Yes... (none)
      I think I might be a Centrist, except I'm not exactly sure what that is!  I would welcome a dialogue on that.

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