Thursday, November 18, 2004


Did the South have the right idea?

Go Here or here or many other places on the web and you can read about blue-state sucession.

Here are the best points being raised about this:

1. Blue states pay into the federal government and red states are like "welfare recipients" in relation to that.

2. The results of the last two elections seem to be reversing the old positions of Democrats and Republicans. Democrats, who favored a strong central government, are beginning to see the advantage of a lose confederacy of states rights. While Republicans have largely given up on states rights and now see a Federal government as their best means of imposing their values on the rest of us.

3. These positions were reversed in the past because it was the Federal government who helped out the poorer "red" states, making these souther, poorer states the home of the Democratic party. Now, Democrats are beginning to wonder if they should give up the ideals of Federal entitlements, which go more to the "red" states whose values they deplore.

4. Finally, many have pointed out that this disparity is really much more a cultural disparity of urban versus non/urban than state versus state.

Here's my take:

This is definitely a culture war. Who started the war, liberals or right-wingers? My feeling is that this war has been strategically fueled by the Bush Administration, which benefits by dividing America and driving wedges. Right-wingers have picked up on this animus and lefties are starting to feel as tarred and feathered as homos.

I don't see anything that would reduce this trend. The trend helps solidy Republican hold on power. It also energies the opposition and helps to solidify lefty straight people behind the values (such as gay rights and abortion rights) that the righties want to legislate away.

So, while cesession is a nice pipe-dream of the left, I do think the dream contains and portents a powerful counter-reaction that we could see over the next few years as a result of the culture wars. The Bush Administration and Republicans have been largely throwing away states rights and federalism as they cement their hold on power. Just read Andrew Sullivan's blog to see "old school" Republicans bemoaning this fact. Interestingly, I think that you might now see Democrats drift in the logically opposite course, and begin embracing states rights. With that, you might also see Democrats, who already have a better handle on economic issues, also start to be the ones dismantling the Federal Entitlement state. If we so disagree with foreign and domestic policy, why not start handing more of this back to the states?

Of course, states are never going to fund a national military, but why not make military recruitement an issue more decided at the state level? Why not give state block grants based on population and let states manage entitlemenst like Social Security and medical care?

Republicans will fight this tooth and nail, of course, and with their majority hold, Federalism is likely to be reduced, not increased. But over the next few years, state versus government rights will be coming to a head, as the Federal government tries to strip states of things it doesn't like: medical marijuana, gay rights, stem cell research. This will provoke even further reaction from voters in California, New England, Illinois, who will vote for more and more local liberal values, and shift their fights from the federal level to the state level (pausing to fight on the Federal level whenever a state right is being threatened to be taken away).

If Republicans win again in 2008 with a social conservative agenda, if states lose several key rights to federal amendments (federally overturning gay marriage in Massechusettes, say, or arresting stem cell researchers in California), you can bet then that secession talk will turn from wistful to serious.

Then the question becomes, can our coastal cities really extract themselves from the rule of the Federal government? It will be an interesting development to watch. With so much animosity coming from the right, they might just as well be happy to see the cities go. And we'd be happy to get these country bumpkins off our airwaves and out of the papers, and we can set up an underground railroad for gay kids in Oklahoma to escape when they turn 18. If there were some serious leaders who could rally the blue frustrations in the cities, you could see real riots and demonstrations. For instance - what about a mass gay wedding demonstration in New York in which New York officials refused to recognize the new Federal Amendment? What about Californians defying orders to arrest stem cell researchers? Now that we have all been demonized by the right, there would definitely be back-up from all walks of blue America.

Red America would still control the military and there would, of course, have to be military put-downs and civilian casualties. I think that Federal America would certainly retain control - sucession just isn't a real possibility. But this would energize the movement further. It would be, in fact, a real civil war. Not over sucession, but over resources and access. After all, if the military moved into San Francisco to round up scientists and homos, do you think San Franciscans would after that say, "okay, goodbye?" I think the resulting chaos in all of the major urban centers - which after all contribute the money to the Federal government - would not result in cesession, but in governmental collapse. The red debt would be too great. The blue cities would convince Asian governments to pull their funds. The dollar would plunge to nothing. The government would be bankrupt.

No more money to support the Red military, feed the red poor, or build red highways. Of course, a national depression would hurt cities as well as the country.

But with a depression and Federal collapse, the blue cities would finally have the opportunity to retake or remake the country. Areas like New Jersey, California, New England would still be economically viable. Here is the key: with a collapse of the Federal government, the blue states WOULD have the opportunity to conduct their own foreign policy and stake out their own trade with the rest of the civilized world.

And after years of abuse from the reds, they would probably think that this time, leave those red-neck states behind. We would create "Chapter 11 America" - the post-bankrupt America, where this time, city-states like New England and West Coastline would re-emerge, create a new tax code that leaves the money and resources with them, and be able to write their own, new constitution.

Thursday, November 11, 2004

Frank Rich Knows Moral Values

Rich gives a devastating deconstruction of this post-election moral values hooey.

It is a must-read:

On 'Moral Values,' It's Blue in a Landslide

Wednesday, November 10, 2004

Six Ways to Fix the Democratic Party

Like many of you I am disappointed by the results of the recent election. On the left, there has been much discussion about how to change political tactics for 2008; on the right, we have heard much about Democrats being out of touch with the electorate. I have been a loyal Democrat for twenty-four years. After some reflection, I do think the party needs to rethink some of its basic planks. If there were ten major issues in this campaign (and in 2000), my sense is that Democrats are consistently blowing their opportunities on six of these. It is understandable that they have been unable to win over the electorate with odds like that.

On four major issues, the Party is just plain wrong. On two others, the Party needs to significantly reframe the debate and its tactics.


#1. Iraq. Democrats found themselves obsessed this year with the lack of discovery of WMD in Iraq. Understandably, this issue was a metaphor for the current Administration's overall mendacity. But pointing out mendacity should not be a major Party platform. Our opponents were able to frame this as an issue of bringing Democracy to the Middle East and fighting world-wide terrorism. The public (rightly, I believe) concluded that vindication for justifications were not that important. Whether or not there were connections between Saddam and Al Queda, the public (rightly again, I believe) concluded that unchecked, undemocratic dictatorships in the Middle East do much to undermine our long-term safety at home. The Democratic Party has lost the big picture here. We need to forget about criticizing our opponents on day-by-day military tactics and outcomes and focus on creating a strategic vision for transformation of world in order to reduce Islamic militancy. Diplomacy with France is not it. Policing Al Queda is not it. We need a vision that competes with Bush's doctrine of "pre-emptive action" not because we are squeamish about using our military might or afraid of being called international bullies, but because it will be more successful. The public is uncomfortable with pre-emptive action too. But they won't abandon it until we have a simple, two-word articulation of something more effective.

#2. The Economy. For some reason, the Party has lapsed into a sing-song of Populist corporation bashing over the last six years. I agree with every economic principle Kerry put forward. And Democrats are obviously better managers of our public coffers. But in terms of rhetoric, we need to stop the us-versus-them formulation. Bashing pharmaceutical companies does little to endear the millions of middle-class voters who work in the pharmaceutical industry. Yes, there is an immediate populist rush in finding an easy target to blame for economic woes. But we aren't just blaming CEO's – we have been in effect castigating vast swaths of middle-class voters who work in these industries and who embrace the American economy. Our Populism alienates as many voters as it energizes. Yes, corporate excess should be kept in check; but this party needs to be a champion of corporations and capitalism. That's how you create prosperity for the middle class, and money to fund health care and other popular social programs.

#3. Social Security. Bush has a plan for reforming Social Security. It may work, it may not. But at least it's an idea. What's ours? Do nothing. But Social Security needs to be reformed. We should stop using this as a wedge issue to court Senior voters and seriously come to the table with positive ideas here. If we don't, Republicans will take over this issue, and take credit as the party capable of successfully defending entitlements...and they will ultimately win the Senior voter.

#4. Immigration. Remarkably, Republicans have again trumped us on what is traditionally a Democratic issue. They have a plan for amnesty that is immensely popular with Hispanic voters. We again have no ideas and are losing what should be one of our core issues – and core constituencies. We need to be creatively listening to Hispanic voters and have equally bold plans to address their critical issues.


#5. Abortion. Barack Obama has the correct formulation here. No one wants to see more abortions. We need to get away from framing this as an issue of women's rights versus rights of the unborn. That's a moral impasse. Rather, we need to bring Democratic values to the cause of reducing abortions, by supporting single mothers and providing education, and argue that keeping abortion legal is the best way to reduce it. We have the majority of the public on our side on this issue. We also have statistics on our side. But as long as we look like we don't care about the unborn in our arguments, as long as we act like abortion is nothing more than another operation that women are entitled to, we will turn off the thoughtful swing voter.

#6. Gay rights. What's happened? Republicans have successfully turned this into a wedge issue because they have exploited our utter lack of coordination. Gay people are rightly frightened and feisty. The gay leadership is steaming ahead to fight for their rights. Gay people turn to the Democratic party three-to-one because they see Democrats as their only hope of not being bashed. Meanwhile, Democrats want those votes, but run from gays like they are radioactive. And this backfires on them – Republicans know Democratic candidates are scared of the issue, and use gay-baiting of their opponents even more. No one wins with this formulation: gay people are scapegoated even more, and Democrats running away form the gay issue are turned out of office.

Candidates need to have the courage to stop running away from the issue. This will help them politically. (I've seen it happen personally – it's the attempt to deflect the issue that brings you down.) A solid majority, more than 60% of the public, understands that gay people need some kind of rights to protect their partnerships. Democratic candidates need to be vocal in their defense of these rights, and they need to more openly coordinate with the HRC and other gay-rights organizations. By coordinating and getting behind the issue, Democrats can help gay-rights organizations to modulate their cause, to step back from overreaching and alienating the public, and keep public-relations fiascos like Gavin Newsom's under wraps. This is how Republicans have been working with Religious Conservatives for twenty years. They've now formed a powerful coalition that amplifies conservative concerns much more than reflects their public acceptance. Imagine Democrats and gay organizations like the HRC working together – backing off of the issue of marriage for now and working toward civil unions or relationship rights in a way that builds upon this solid support in the middle. Both sides would see victories. If Democrats and gay-rights organizations started coordinating half as well as Republicans do with conservative evangelicals, we could trounce this "values" vote with very little concern.

I respect Bill Clinton immensely, but on this issue, he is wrong. He is over-learning his attempt to eliminate discrimination in the military his first months in office in 1992. That backfired on him. But why? Because no one created this Democrat-gay rights coalition. Without the coalition, there is no popular mandate, and the timing of any of these issues is out of our control. Running from gay rights is only going to continue to tar the Democrats more.

Believe me, this issue isn't going away – as gays gain more acceptance, it is just becoming more of an issue. Eventually, Democrats embraced the NAACP and black people as a valued minority whose rights are worth standing up for, and blacks have found a natural home in the Party. The time has come to make the same overture with gay organizations and to bring this minority home to the Party as well. That is the only strategy that will neutralize the radioactivity of the issue.

So those are my concerns. I'm putting these out there as a loyal Democrat who feels that his party is the natural home to most Americans, and could do better at winning a solid majority. I know that there is much soul-searching happening these days. I hope that this missive has perhaps given you some ideas for how we can emerge more successful than ever, or re-enforced thoughts of your own.


By the way -
this cartoon
explodes the myth of the Bush "mandate."

Thursday, November 04, 2004

Blue...And Proud Of It

The press says that Bush now has a mandate.

But what does a 51%/48% vote really mean? Of course, we've already read many conservatives claiming it as a mandate, or worse. Here's what one popular blogger has written:

"This is a decisive moment in American history. There’s no denying this fact. The nation stood at the crossroads yesterday and the people choose to go the right way. They rejected the Democrat Party and the pernicious things that those people stand for."

Here's another letter writer sending an email to Andrew Sullivan's popular Republican/Libertarian blog:

"I wonder if you noticed that yesterday all eleven states that considered the question of gay marriage voted to ban it. ALL ELEVEN. I think this sends a very clear message -- true Americans do not like your kind of homosexual deviants in our country, and we will not tolerate your radical pro-gay agenda trying to force our children to adopt your homosexual lifestyle. You should be EXTREMELY GRATEFUL that we even let you write a very public and influential blog, instead of suppressing your treasonous views (as I would prefer). But I'm sure someone like yourself would consider me just an "extremist" that you don't need to worry about. Well you are wrong -- I'm not just an extremist, I am a real American, and you should be worried because eleven states yesterday proved that there are millions more just like me who will not let you impose your radical agenda on our country."

So, quite obviously, we are not dealing with gracious winners here. The vindictiveness and hate that "red" America feels for "blue" America is not going to be slaked by this victory. Quite the contrary, it seems that they will see this as a validation to become even more extreme, even more partisan, and even more intolerant and vile to those who don't share their views.

Perhaps this is why most people I spoke with in New York yesterday were severely depressed. This article pretty much sums up the entire mood, as far as I can tell, on both coasts:

A Blue City (Disconsolate, Even) Bewildered by a Red America

I was depressed too. It was as if a close relative to all of us had died. What was that relative? Hope. Hope that we could persuade our neighbors to, if not completely see our cause, at least engage us in our ideas. Hope that we could find common ground. Hope that the "common sense" views of our issues - or at least, the most "obvious" of our issues: respect for equal treatment, respect for human rights, REAL protection of our citizens rather than bluster, fear, and dissembling - were indeed important issues. Respectful people can certainly respectfully disagree about how to improve the economy or conduct the war in Iraq. But those of us who supported Kerry, I think, felt that there were other values, more important obvious human values (such as not rounding up citizens and torturing them, or not appealing to outright prejudice to win an election), that this Administration had violated, and needed to be held accountable for. But listening to these denizens of the right give us the raspberry, of course we are depressed. Depressed that today it seems that America has stood up and embraced the values of contempt, fear, and loathing over discourse and humanity.

But we shouldn't be depressed for long. We are like fans of a great sports team that just lost the Series by 4 to 5. Of course that's depressing. But it doesn't mean that we are alone in our values. It doesn't mean that the 3% of Americans who gave Bush his mandate necessarily approve of this Administration's conduct. And we must pick ourselves up off the floor and get back into the fight. And there are many things to keep in mind in this fight:

1. We have demographics on our side. The under 30 group embraces our values and see what we see. Four more years of a rightward shift and a Republican dominated country will bring more young people into a liberal mindset. These next years really could be the final gasp of the cycle of hate and prejudice. Sometimes you really have to experience pain to feel the turnover.

2. I know that we all expected this "swing back" to happen in this cycle. It didn't. These things take time. After all, we suffered a dramatic attack AFTER Bush was elected, and he has astutely played the constant war/endless fear card for the last two years to keep a solid majority behind him no matter what. But this era won't last forever. We already now have an active anti-war movement, a mobilized youth culture, straight people supporting rights of gay couples. That's what we've achieved in just a couple of years. We will achieve even more coalition building and value shifting over the next four. Our issues will only come forward even more

3. There IS a culture war in this country. But we are not loosing. In fact, we have the upper hand. The so-called "blue" states give twice as much money to the Federal government as the "red" states. Red states receive twice as much money back.

Blue states create the culture that Red states consume and complaign about.

Blue states lead the innovations that provide jobs to Red state complainers and bigots.

Blue states have many influental churches, synagogues, mosques, and secularists who are spiritual, outspoken, and active supporters of equal rights, scientific research, and economic justice, and who can go one-on-one with those who use the Bible to bash minorities and sow fear.

So what if Blue states have more in common with Europe and European values than the rest of Red America? We can be proud of that. We belong to the rest of the civilized world. We are part of a first world democratic culture that believes in progress, human rights, diversity, and accountability. Let Red-state America have it's Taliban-like fundamentalism. Let them fall into line with the Fundamentalist war against our shining cities, our beacons of Democracy, creativity and hope - our New York's and L.A., Chicago's and San Francisco's. Our cities are on the right side of history and will prevail against Fundamentalists at home and abroad.

It's time to wake up, Blue States. We are the economic engine of this country. We control the innovation, the ideas, and the purse books. We are the heart and the engine of America. We are America's spiritual soul. It's time to stop financing the red-state lopsided sense of values. Cut them off. It's time we do everything we can to strip Red states of their subsidies, their government financing. It's time that Blue states directed more money to themselves and kept their money from the Federal government. It's time we stop making "bland" culture and let our entertainment tell it like it really is. It's time we take a principled, spiritual stand against war-mongering and hate, and excommunicate these sinners from our churches. It's time we unite with our European brothers and form our own international alliances against international fascism and fundamentalism everywhere. It's time we stop using Red-state labor to support our factories, telecom companies, and financial industries when we can find cheaper labor with partners overseas who support our values.

We need to bleed them till they cry! That's OUR mandate over the next four years. Let's start spreading this word. Stop financing and accomodating the values we detest.