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This is an unusual weeknight for me.  I don’t have to worry about getting up at 5 or 5:30 as usually do, because for the first time this year I will not be going in to my classes tomorrow.  Perhaps later I will explain why, but as a result I have actually had some time to reflect, to read at leisure, and as result decided to make a statement.  I will attempt to make it succinct, although those who read me regularly know that is not my style.


I will have more to say about this,including about 2008, beneath the fold, if you care to continue reading.

Update:  I have fixed a number of typos, including the date to say 2006.  I am focused on 2007, which is why that error, one that is not caught by spell checkers

I have no idea how to tag this diary, so I will let others adjust the tags with which I post it.  Folks, it is now December 18, 2006.  Polls now are meaningless.  I won the biggest political bet in my life after at 11:30 on Dec . 31 1975 I said that Jimmy Carter would be the next president and I got told to put my money where my mouth was.  At that point he was at less than 3% in the national polls.  

We have real issues facing this country right now.  We do not know how the new Democratic majorities in Congress will work out.  We do not know how the executive branch will react to the attempts at appropriate Congressional oversight.  We could be facing a real Constitutional crisis.

We have no idea how many long-standing precedents the Supreme Court will overturn.  We have gone from depending upon O’Connor to depending on Kennedy.  Heck, by the end of this year some of the landmark cases I teach my students could well be overturned.

In 2007 we will see gubernatorial elections in LA, MS and KY.  All three potentially could be battles,along with those state legislatures and all 140 seats in House of Delegates and State Senate in Virginia.

As for presidential politics - Mark Warner, Russ Feingold and Evan Bayh have withdrawn, although the first is making noises about getting back in, or at least others are making noises on his behalf.  Is Joe Biden really in, is Chris Dodd?  While Gingrich make a run?  What about Gore?

What we can say about the 2008 cycle is as follows:

  1. no one will be elected president who does not opt out of matching funds.   Bush did it twice, Dean and Kerry did it in 2004.  It is clear that no one can afford to risk winning the nomination and then being silent, off the air, until after the convention.  All serious candidates will make a major effort at fundraising.  
  1. Neither major party will take the federal funds for the general election.  Both will believe that they can get significantly more by going back to their donors after the Convention than is available through federal funds with their concomitant restrictions on other fundraising.

In short, we will see astronomical amounts of money for 2008, an obscene total.

I have talked about this with several major politicians, including current members of Congress and important figures at a state level in Virginia.  One reluctantly agreed with me sadly, noting at a time with so many other needs in this country and around the world, what we are spending on our political campaigns is enough to condemn us all.

In 2006 we saw some change in our political processes from the ground up.  We were able to bring forward different candidates, even help elect some to our national legislature.  We found some new tools in organizing and communicating.  But we still have not changed the dominant paradigm of the importance of money, and we are now confronted with an all-out financial war.

If we focus too much on possible candidates for 2008, based on what we know about them now, we will only exacerbate this process.  The press will continue to focus on who raises the most money, who has the most notable consultants, and any kind of meaningful change in our politics will be lost.

Here at dailykos we are highly visible.  If we persist in this focus, seemingly obsessively, then that will indicate to the MSM and others that we are not serious about changing how politics is done, we just want to be more important players.  

Call me a nag, call me unrealistic (just don’t call me late for a free meal):  I think we have an opportunity to make a real difference.  I think that is part of what Yearlykos has proven - the ability to change things from the bottom up, from a policy standpoint, from the ability of netroots to get political figures to consider a different paradigm.  And I believe our obsession on 2008 is working against what we can achieve with such a different paradigm.

Tomorrow I will be interviewed for a political leadership program at the Sorensen Institute at the University of Virginia.  I am unlikely to achieve one of the slots, if for no other reason than I teach in Maryland and not in Virginia where I live.  The basic statement about the program is as follows:

About the Political Leaders Program

Our flagship program, the Political Leaders Program, is a leadership development program for residents of Virginia interested in becoming more active in public service, whether as community leaders or elected officials. The curriculum may include the following areas, among others:

     Public Policy
     This course includes discussions of the the state budget, transportation, education, economic development, crime, and other current issues. The faculty includes current and former elected officials and cabinet secretaries and other experts in each field.
     General ethical principles are presented and case studies are discussed. Other sessions explore the state's conflict of interest laws and Freedom of Information Act.
     Campaign strategy, media, polling, direct mail, and fundraising are presented by Virginia's best political consultants. Each participant will make a television commercial and be interviewed on-camera by a professional anchorperson.

The application process is open to Virginia residents who are eligible to run for political office. A commitment to fully participate in the program is required.

The Institute seeks men and women of all ages from across Virginia who are actively involved in their communities and who desire to participate in the political process. Approximately 35 participants are selected each year in a highly competitive process. The Institute makes every effort to ensure program participants reflect the demographic and geographic make up of the state. Each class has a balance between Republicans and Democrats in addition to participants who have other party or no party affiliations.

I do not expect to run for office, although my current plans are to be very active in the legislative cycle next year.  The intent of the program is also to train people who can work together on behalf of the broad interests of the Commonwealth, and not seek to solely gain party advantage.  Although I may be a strong partisan, I have always recognized the need to cooperate where possible, which is why I have been reluctant to personalize attacks on political opponents (reluctant, but not totally averse - there are circumstances which seem to demand it).  I note in this regard that Nancy Pelosi seems to be laying down markers of what I would consider responsible leadership in this regard.

I also note that this seems to be what the American people want - effective government, not excessive partisanship.   And partisanship is often most extreme when the differences are small - that is, primary battles are often nastier than those in general elections.  

We will not be able to avoid discussion of 2008, nor should we.  But I for one would hope that our current level of obsession could be diminished, that we might be able to consider other things more current, more immediate, more needing of our attention, and that in the process we might be considering how we can be changing our politics even as we seek to gain greater control of the government, including the White House.

Just the thoughts of one worn-out government teacher who is almost ready to pack it in on teaching. That’s why the day off will be good for me.

What do you think?

Originally posted to teacherken on Mon Dec 18, 2006 at 06:36 PM PST.

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