Thursday, December 09, 2004


I would encourage anyone even mildly interested in doing more than just blogging to join and contribute to this group, despite the fact that they are indeed, as Nick Lewis says, something of "the McDonalds of online politics." But especially in light of Howard Dean's speech yesterday, I thought I would share the following email. Time being of the, er, essence:

Dear MoveOn member,

Who will lead the Democratic Party? The answer may come as soon as this weekend, when the state Democratic Party leaders gather to discuss who should chair the Democratic National Committee (DNC) for the next four years.1 The election for chair is rarely competitive. But this year, with the race wide open, we have the chance to elect a leader who will reconnect the Democratic Party with its constituents -- us.

For years, the Party has been lead by elite Washington insiders who are closer to corporate lobbyists than they are to the Democratic base. But we can't afford four more years of leadership by a consulting class of professional election losers. In the last year, grassroots contributors like us gave more than $300 million to the Kerry campaign and the DNC, and proved that the Party doesn't need corporate cash to be competitive.2 Now it's our Party: we bought it, we own it, and we're going to take it back.

We've made it easy to contact your state Party leaders and ask them support a chair who will represent all of us OUTSIDE of the Washington beltway and engage us in a fight for a bold Democratic vision. If we get enough signatures today, we'll deliver your comments to their meeting this weekend, so please click below NOW to make your voice heard:

MoveOn includes Republicans, Greens, and independents. But all of us who are struggling for health care, clean air, decent jobs, and a sane foreign policy can agree on one thing: we're better off with a vibrant, populist Democratic Party that's strong enough to challenge the extreme-right Republican leadership.

Why haven't we had one? Under outgoing DNC chair Terry McAuliffe, the Party cozied up to many of the same corporate donors that fund the Republicans -- drug companies, HMO's, media conglomerates, big banks, polluting industries. The result was watered down, play-it-safe politics that kept the money flowing but alienated traditional Democrats as well as reform-minded independents in search of vision and integrity. And so the Party lost ground.

But in 2004, something incredible happened: hundreds of thousands of small contributors gave millions and millions of dollars and changed the way politics works forever. New we have an opportunity to birth a new Democratic Party -- a Party of the people that's funded by the people and that fights for the people. Tell your state Party leaders that you want a DNC chair who will use this new grassroots energy to catapult us to victory at:

The Democratic National Committee is the national backbone of the Democratic Party, and it matters who ends up as the new chair. With Democrats out of power in Washington, the new chair will play an unprecedented role as the voice of the Party. And no one will be in a better position to orchestrate a Democratic revival.

The state Party leaders -- who play a pivotal role within the DNC -- understand the importance of the DNC Chair. They have helped to make the election process more transparent, by inviting candidates for Chair to a public forum at their meeting. And for the first time, they are considering endorsing a candidate en masse. If they vote as a bloc, they could determine the next Chair. They represent all of us who knocked on doors, who gave money, who made phone calls -- and it's time for us to weigh in.

The movement for change that we built during the last election is still gathering strength. We need leadership that will break the chains of corporate funding so we can fight -- really fight -- for a better America.

Thank you for all that you do,

--Eli Pariser, Justin Ruben, and the whole MoveOn PAC team
December 9, 2004

Unrelatedly, guess who didn't have an FBI file. Maybe there is still hope.

Update: Suggested reading for those still not convinced that the US Left (such as it is) needs to critically address the issue of economic class, embrace rather than patronize the activist roots (in the least fundamentalist sense), and tap into the unprecedented wellspring of discontent with the Rump and Residue DNC:

David J. Sirota (AlterNet):
Encrypted within the 2004 election map is the Democrats' road map to political divinity. It is time for the party's centrists to make way for the economic populists who racked up wins on Nov. 2.
If patriotism is the last refuge of scoundrels, crying "class warfare" is the last refuge of wealthy elitists. Yet, inexplicably, this red herring emasculates Democrats in Washington. Every time pro-middle-class legislation is offered, Republicans berate it as class warfare. Worse, they get help from corporate factions within the Democratic Party itself.

But as countless examples show, progressives are making inroads into culturally conservative areas by talking about economic class. This is not the traditional (and often condescending) Democratic pandering about the need for a nanny government to provide for the masses. It is us-versus-them red meat, straight talk about how the system is working against ordinary Americans.

In Vermont, Rep. Bernie Sanders, the House's only independent and a self-described socialist, racks up big wins in the "Northeast Kingdom," the rock-ribbed Republican region along the New Hampshire border. Far from the Birkenstock-wearing, liberal caricature of Vermont, the Kingdom is one of the most culturally conservative hotbeds in New England, the place that helped fuel the "Take Back Vermont" movement against gay civil unions.

Yet the pro-choice, pro-gay-rights Sanders' economic stances help him bridge the cultural divide. In the 1990s, he was one of the most energetic opponents of the trade deals with China and Mexico that destroyed the local economy. In the Bush era, he highlighted the inequity of the White House's soak-the-rich tax-cut plan by proposing to instead provide $300 tax-rebate checks to every man, woman, and child regardless of income (a version of Sanders' rebate eventually became law). For his efforts, Sanders has been rewarded in GOP strongholds like Newport Town. While voters there backed George W. Bush and Republican Gov. Jim Douglas in 2004, they also gave Sanders 68 percent of the vote.

Sanders' strength among rural conservatives is not just a cult of personality; it is economic populism's broader triumph over divisive social issues. In culturally conservative Derby, for instance, a first-time third-party candidate used a populist message to defeat a longtime Republican state representative who had become an icon of Vermont's anti-gay movement.

Richard Rorty (forum at The Nation):
As far as I can see, the only recourse Democrats have is to reverse the drift toward the center that began after McGovern's defeat in 1972, and once again put themselves forward as the Party of the Poor. This may not work, but it is the only card they have left to play. They should beat the drum about the widening gap between haves and have-nots, about the humiliation and misery of families without health insurance, about the scandal of disappearing pensions and about outrageous corporate tax dodges, about fabulously overpaid corporate executives, about Halliburton and Enron. If they adopt this strategy, at least they will be positioned to take advantage of any future economic downturn, and can hope for something like a reprise of the 1932 election. If they instead edge still further to the right, the Republicans will simply shift the goal posts by doing the same.

Related posts at the Progressive Blog Alliance.

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