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What's that sound? A lame duck and time slipping away. I have to say the Democrats did a great job of getting into position. I personally lament the losses of Tammy Duckworth, Harold Ford and Ned Lamont. But here's the theme of my urber-thought for today: time is slipping away quickly, and Democrats haven't yet figured out how to turn the attitudinal tide that is leading us into a new Dark Age.

WHAT? Haven't Democrats just demonstrated how to turn the tide?!?!?

No. I think it's quite fair to characterize the gains made evident yesterday as a repudiation of Republican incompetence and management style, not necessarily a repudiation of conservative Republican values.

Take Montana, where I live.

Jon Tester narrowly defeated one of the most inept, unlikable, and possibly corrupt (but probably simply criminally cluelessly inept) politicians at the national level.

Look at the numbers and the split ( between rural Montana counties and more "urban" (if you can say that we have urban areas here in Montana) counties. The rural vote still solidly, resoundingly, in favor of Burns.

Over the past 7 years, I've spend a goodly portion of time in parts of Montana that tourist drive by and fly over, (mostly looking for good hunting spots and just driving around to enjoy this state), and frankly, I don't get it. There is virtually no Democratic organizing presence in these areas, and the local media and social gathering spots are if not hostile to Democrats, then they are actively ignorant of Democratic sensibilities. In any bar you paint a target on your back as soon as you bring up Republican mistakes, (e.g. energy deregulation, Iraq, Afghanistan, war on terror, war on drugs). But that's not the worst of it. That can be worked around.

The worst of it is that Democratic organizers from urban/suburban environments are actively hostile to the values of rural voters. I like the neuvo-Testerista's, but my god they stick out like a cow turd on a wedding cake once they leave the city.

I see the same thing everytime we get visitors from the coast and I take them to places where people are plain spoken and there's just not a lot of window dressing to what's important in people's lives (family, work, church, country). The first reaction is typically, incredulity and disbelief, then wonder, then condescention and snark (usually involving inbreeding jokes). Montanans are particularly sensitive to snark and pretense, can smell it a mile away, and will disappear at the first whiff of it, (kind of like deer at daybreak).

Urban organizers can't get anywhere near close to folks in these areas to engage them in dialogue: their presence/attitude are enough to queer the deal (2nd law of thermodynamics anyone?)

I'm afraid this election may set this divide in stone, and I think it's something that Republicans, thinking strategically, will count on to exploit in the next 24 months. And will be a problem that will bite us all in the butt unless D's can figure out:

a) An approach to this divide that is not immediately patronizing and hostile,

b) Language that is both pragmatic and inspiring, appeals to the hard middle, yet doesn't compromise core values,

c) How to deliver its promises without asking the middle class and working poor to shoulder more financial burdens while taking it in the shorts through job losses (declining wages, job insecurity), health care increases, pension/long-term financial insecurity, and perceptions in growing economic and social inequalities between people who do work and produce stuff, and people who broker, sell and talk about stuff.

If the Democrats can't figure out how to crack this nut in pretty short order, their ability to retain and act on the gains achieved last night will be short lived: they will be a speed bump in the downward path to a declining America.

I don't know what the answer to this is, other than sublimate your first instincts and don't gloat. This election wasn't about you: it was about your opponents. You've been given a short-term lease on power. Sharp knives and plain talk will go a long way to establish credibility and open doors. Showboating and playing to the crowd will result in Republicans keeping the presidency in '08. Guaranteed.

Democrats have an extraordinary opportunity right now. But they have to be very careful about next steps, being mindful of the gulf between people who have no choice but be committed to working for a living and people with "mobile lifestyles", and understanding that this divide has not been bridged with this election.

I think there are lots of people, myself included, that hope that Democrats will take this divide seriously, and make attempts to address it. Many of us feel that Clinton and Gore blew the opportunity to take the most favorable economic and political conditions in this nation's history and move this country ahead. Instead, he set the stage for the rise to power of Bush Jr., a delusional mini-Franco who in 6 short years has set the United States back 20. (Why Franco, not Hitler? Well, I lived in Spain when Franco was alive and saw the deep connection he had to a large segment of Spain. They approved of the garroting of protesters; disappearances of political opponents, and draconian drug laws...but that's another story. Lets leave it at: Bush and Franco have a lot in common).

Democrats have worked very hard to get this opportunity back. Don't blow it by not acknowleging this critical divide in our nation, and addressing it in a substantive way.

Can it be done with a lame duck opposition president with time running out? I don't know. But I think a lot of people want to find out if something can be done in the short amount of time there is to transform transient discontent into concrete progress.

Originally posted to captbobalou on Wed Nov 08, 2006 at 01:31 PM PST.

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Comment Preferences

  •  You're Correct. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    These folks react swiftly and harshly to affronts, or people seen to support affronts.  That's why wedge issues work, and the trick is to inject thoughtfulness.

    e.g. when you "know" someone's "out to get you", as the Republican message goes, every move that "someone" makes falls into their perception of that "someone's" modus operandi.  That has been aided and abetted by elections that keep breaking in the direction of people that selling that line.

    Bill Clinton's quote is operative here: "When people think, we win."

    Now the election has swung differently, and the message has to be that it did so not because raving lefties pulled the country in their direction (which is, of course, patently untrue) but because more of the American constituency took the time to think about what was happening in the world around them. (It helped, of course, that the comparison of that with what the Republicans told them left Republican fabrications looking like just that.)

    But yes, memo to our side: these people are just as thoughtful as you are, as long as they allow themselves to get the facts.

    And there needs to be progress - at least up until any progress that's attempted gets vetoed by an obstructionist president.

  •  It cuts both ways, though. (0+ / 0-)

    I've lived both ways. Country folk look down their noses at city folk just as much as vice versa.

  •  It's not simply country/city... (0+ / 0-)

    I think it's more about a working v. playing mentality. Go to the industrial part of any major city and talk to construction guys, lineworkers, warehouse guys. These are all people who think work is both what they should be doing to flesh out the family, work, church, country paradigm. It's at odds with "la dolce vita" aspirations of urban/suburban post-industrial workers. It may simply boil down to having respect for differences, being willing to be modest, and taking a long view. I don't know.

  •  Could you perhaps provide an example (0+ / 0-)

    that illustrates this:

    The worst of it is that Democratic organizers from urban/suburban environments are actively hostile to the values of rural voters.

    What are your experiences of Democratic organizers  being actively hostile torwards rural values.  What actions did they take that manifested this hostility?

    •  Sure: Simple example from last summer... (0+ / 0-)

      And it's not so much "actions" as missteps in affect, presentation, and message. One example is a petition drive to gather signatures to increase minimum wage here in Montana. A guy was canvassing our neighborhood (not rural) to get signatures on the petition. Said he was in Montana temporarily to volunteer for Tester's campaign and got sidetracked into gathering sigs for the minimum wage initiative. He was French, spoke very rapidly, and had a tendency to complete one's sentence and push back very quickly on opinions he did not share. I had to smile during my interaction with him, knowing that some organizer sent him out because he was there, cheap, enthusiastic, and available. It was amusing for me, arguing with a Frenchman who felt very strongly about Tester's alternative energy position. I strongly believe that a decentralized production model is the path to pursue in this area, but he was convinced that the industrial model was all that was worth pursuing now. He implied that anyone who did not share that position was obviously an uncouth hick and needed further education in the matter, (profering numerous pamphlets from MontPIRG among others).

      He was very enthusiastic, to say the least. I had to laugh because we live in Helena and this guy was going to very soon meet a retired plummer who lives down the street who lives in the city only because his wife got sick of driving 75 miles to the supermarket every week. If you look up curmudgeon in the dictionary, it describes him to a T. Sure enough, a few weeks later I got an earful from my neighbor about the pinhead Democrats sending a Frenchman to argue their case in Montana. At least he was openminded enough to listen to the opening pitch. Neighbors on the other side of my block would have politely closed the door as soon as he opened his mouth. The experience served to strongly underline the link between Tester and east coast commie liberals and French lovers.

      And it was unnecessary. It was simply cultural blindness/deafness on the part of whoever sent him out to canvass our neighborhood. Had he been up in Lincoln, I suspect he'd have had a few border collies nipping at his heels.

      This is a simple little example. Your question is a good one, and implies consideration of a change in pedagogy in how to approach rural voters. My intuition is that a formulaic answer will not suffice because rural voters are different everywhere. How you'd talk with folks in Back Valley, West Virginia and Oak Orchard, Michigan,  would be very different than Stanford, Montana. I suspect it may not be something that can be "taught" to an enthusiastic 20-somethings. I suspect that some sort of peer approach would be more productive: sending senior to visit seniors; sending single mothers to visit single mothers, and so on.

      This isn't something I've reflected on deeply, it is simply an observation that the Democratic message isn't working in rural areas, that the approach/messenger may be part of the problem, but that the message itself, its phrasing and shades of meaning, may also be part of the problem. I thought Harold Ford gave a very moving concession speech today. The themes of personal failure and learning from it, confronting difficult and distasteful circumstances to benefit one's community, and ultimately, belief in the strength of the American experiment are universal values. I don't understand why it isn't being heard in Malta.

      I could go on about the unthinking distain east and west coast people have for the great middle of this country, but I won't. It's quite clear that the D establishment is on the coasts, and it's reflected throughout it's approach to the unwashed middle. My point is to highlight the fact that today's victory in no way is a result of effective messaging and presentation. I'd almost go further to argue that the victory was despite the messaging and presentation. People here thought Tester was an alternative that wouldn't embarass Montana the way Burns did. After watching his work in the last state legislature, I happen to think he has exactly the right skill set we desparately need. But that wasn't his message, and people voted not for him, but against Burns. That will work to get the foot in the door, but it won't get you into the kitchen.

      •  French? (0+ / 0-)
        It's obviously less than ideal to use a foreigner of any nationality to canvass.  But it is clearly not an example of hostility 'to the values of rural voters'. Unless you think xenophobia is a rural value.  And the behavior of a foreigner certainly in no way is indicative of Democrats, or urbanites or coastal Americans.

        And, um... you live in Helena?  that's not exactly rural, anyway.

        I could go on about the unthinking disdain east and west coast people have for the great middle of this country, but I won't.

        I wish you would, since it seems to be the central belief underpinning your diary, and yet I just don't happen to believe it's true.

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