Back in the 1990's, a core group of the neocon movement sat down to create their ideal vision of the 21st Century: the country under a permanent Republican majority and the world under an American hegemony. Called the "Project for a New American Century" or PNAC for short, it was a road map basically designed to cement the rule of rich white corporate males forever - draped in a lot of flowery language about freedom, democracy, and free enterprise. They felt America's miltary muscle as the Last Superpower combined with neocon principles were an unbeatable combination.
They've achieved a few goals; getting rid of Saddam and grabbing Iraq for military bases to dominate the Middle East is the big one. They've installed their hand-picked front man in the White House not once but twice, auctioned off the Federal government to corporate interests, packed the Supreme Court with neo-monarchists, subverted the 4th estate, and given the theo-cons a seat at the table. Not bad, eh?
They came up with a plan and they've been relentless about carrying it out. The 'moral clarity' they profess translates into an adamantine refusal to compromise with either the real world, the constitution, or the rule of law in the pursuit of their objectives. Look at the names in the Wikipedia entry, and it's a who's who of the administration, media talking heads, and inside the beltway culture. Look at their plans, and everything that's happened since the 1990's becomes clear.
One of the great weaknesses of the Democratic Party is they have no comparable vision to guide them, no structure to shape their opposition on, no road map to the future that is as all-encompassing as PNAC and all the other tenets of the neocon movement. They've ridden the New Deal into the ground and stood by as the Republicans have done their best to cover it over with dirt and piss on the grave.
To be fair, Democrats, Liberals, etc. are somewhat handicapped by their belief in a reality-based worldview, a desire for consistency, and a reluctance to realize they are dealing with a take-no-prisoners mindset. Those who do get called rabid lambs or worse; they risk getting officially shunned like M***O*, the organization that can't be named.
Right now the Democratic Party seems to be somewhat energized by the idea that Iraq has become such a clusterf**k for the GOP, they can ride that puppy all the way to the White House in 2008. Maybe they'll even throw in Health Care for everyone. What they haven't yet done is come up with anything more substantial than Not Being Bush for a plan. If anyone is working on a Democratic alternative to PNAC, it has yet to surface or be embraced by the party. Worse, if they do get to the White House - and the Republicans are doing what they can now to steal the election again - January 21, 2009 whichever Democrat is sitting in the Oval Office will own the Iraq War, possibly the Iran War, and every other problem in the world - and the Republicans will be attacking from all directions to keep them from doing anything effective. It would be awfully nice to have a plan laid out like a road map ahead of time - else the Democrats will end up going around in circles fighting the battle of day while they lose sight of overall war. Make no mistake about it either, it is a war of competing world views and the most clearly articulated one starts with a huge tactical advantage.
Well, this has turned into a rather long intro into my original intent, which was to come up with a set of questions designed to bring some focus into developing that long term strategy. They are rather like a set of poll questions. If I had time, facilities, and money, I'd actually try using them in a real poll to get an idea of real-world concerns from outside the beltway, and maybe as a set of test questions to evaluate politicians and candidates. None of them are terribly technical. I've tried to keep them to a Yes-No format (or undecided/don't know). They are intended to gauge emotional reaction as much as anything. I don't pretend they're complete. To be really useful, they'd have to be accompanied by a set of questions designed to elucidate the demographics of the person answering them. I'm putting them up here to stimulate some discussion. Feel free to criticize - and to improve on them. (BTW Kevin Drum has a couple of really pertinent posts on polls today, here and here.)
The Republicans have done a masterful job of concealing their agenda from the public (with a lot of help from the press.) These questions are intended to make the listener think about where we've come from in this New American Century, and where we're going. So, here they are, some simple Yes or No questions to gauge end-user satisfaction. I've tried to group them into loose categories that should be obvious from the subjects. The first set refers to conditions on January 1, 2000 for a comparison. Enjoy!
Compared with where things were:
- Do you think the country is on the right track?
- Do you think the country is safer from terrorists?
- Do you think our borders are more secure?
- Do you think the military is in better shape?
- Do you think the country is better prepared for a major natural disaster?
- Do you feel safer?
- Do you think the U.S. is more admired by the rest of the world?
- Do you think the U.S. is more respected by the rest of the world?
- Do you think the U.S. is a better example for the rest of the world?
- Do you think the Middle East is more stable?
- Do you think the Federal government is more accountable?
- Do you think the Federal government is doing a better job?
- Do you think moral and ethical standards in Federal government are higher?
- Do you think the Federal government can be trusted to protect you from crime?
- Do you think the Federal government can be trusted to protect your civil rights?
- Do you think the Federal government can be trusted to respect your privacy?
- Do you think the office of the President has enough power?
- Do you think the Congress has enough power?
- Do you think the Courts have enough power?
- Do you think private citizens have enough power?
- Do you think we need to cut more Federal government regulations?
- Do you think the size of the Federal government has gotten smaller?
- Do you think the Federal budget is on the right track?
- Do you think the economy is on the right track?
- Do you think the government is dealing more fairly with corporations?
- Do you think the government is dealing more fairly with private citizens?
- Do you think the middle class is better off?
- Do you think the poor are better off?
- Do you think the rich are better off?
- Do you think you are better off?
- Do you think the Bush tax cuts have helped the economy?
- Do you think the Bush tax cuts have helped you?
- Do you think we need to cut taxes more?
- Do you think employment prospects for the country are better?
- Do you think your job is more secure?
- Do you think the national health care situation is better?
- Do you think your own health care situation is better?
- Do you think Social Security is more secure?
- Do you think the environment is in better shape?
- Do you think Global Warming is being addressed sufficiently?
- Do you think our country's energy policy is in better shape?
- Do you think our nation's schools have improved?
- Do you think your local schools have improved?
- Do you think our country is more unified?
- Do you think you are happier?
Looking To The Future:
- Do you think the U.S. will still be a world leader?
- Do you think the U.S. will still be a military superpower?
- Do you think the threat of terrorism will be reduced?
- Do you think the Middle East will be more stable?
- Do you think we will have to go to war with Iran?
- Do you think we will have to go to war with China?
- Do you think more countries will get nuclear weapons?
- Do you think the Federal budget will be balanced?
- Do you think the U.S. economy will be strong?
- Do you think the U.S. dollar will be strong?
- Do you think we will need to make the Bush tax cuts permanent?
- Do you think we will need to repeal the estate tax?
- Do you think your children will be able to get a good education?
- Do you think you'll be able to send your kids to college?
- Do you think your children will be able to find good jobs?
- Do you think the national health care situation will have been fixed?
- Do you think Social Security will be able to keep paying benefits?
- Do you think the U.S. will have all the energy it needs?
- Do you think Global Warming will have been stopped?
- Do you think the environment will be in better shape?
Here's some bonus questions that I just felt like throwing in.
- If the President announced tomorrow that Iran was an imminent threat to U.S. interests and needed to be attacked immediately, would you believe him?
- If the President said he was ordering an attack without waiting for Congressional approval, would you support him?
- Do you think anyone would be able to stop the President if he decided to launch an attack?
Bonus Bonus question:
The Lifeboat test - based on a number of old movies, tv show dramas, and short stories. Great one to ask at parties. Here's the scenario:
You are aboard a cruise ship that has struck an iceberg from those melting Greenland glaciers, and it is sinking. There will be no outside rescue; since the government privatized the Coast Guard to Blackwater, rescues are on a pre-paid cash basis only. BUT...
The ship's lifeboats are all stocked with enough food and water to get a full load of people to safety. They may be a little hungry and thirsty by the time they do so - but they should all be able to reach safe harbor IF:
- Everybody cooperates.
- No boatload makes too many collective mistakes.
There may be storms, sharks, even pirates along the way - so there are no guarantees - but your odds are still pretty good with the right mix of people. There are two boats left. Each has one seat still free. You have less than a minute to choose. Boat number 1 contains all of the current Republican candidates for President. Boat number 2 contains all of the current Democratic candidates for President. Here's the question:
Which boat are YOU going to get into? Why?
(If you think this last question is a little too flip, well think of it this way. When you go into a voting booth and make your choices, the consequences aren't all that different from the lifeboat test above.)