Thursday, August 11, 2011

Snowe Abdicates Responsibility Once Again

Senator Olympia Snowe has been getting some summer back-in-the-home-state press about her head-shaking angst about the toxic partisanship in Congress. A recent Huffington Post piece mentions a summertime photo-op walk through Saco:

Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) talked to people in Saco, Maine about the debt ceiling negotiations Wednesday, and lamented the extreme partisanship that characterized the debate this summer.

“I’m embarrassed by all of us,’’ Snow said, according to the Associated Press. “I’ve never seen a worse Congress in my whole political life.’’
In another piece published last Saturday in the Kennebec Journal, Senator Snowe goes on with more “poor-me-us” lamenting:

"Unfortunately, everything is concentrated in political messaging, and the art of governing and legislating has been virtually lost," she said.


"Everybody is trying to orchestrate their political positions to score political points," she said.

"And you would have thought in the aftermath of the election that we would have begun a new session with a different tone, laying the basis and the groundwork for rebuilding the economy and concentrating on jobs."

and further

"There are fewer and fewer senators who represent a broad, diverse political constituency anymore," Snowe said. "You either represent a red state as a Republican or a blue state as a Democrat."

She said the national electorate appears divided as well, viewing events through either "MSNBC or the FOX News prism."

"It's either-or," she said.

Snowe, a moderate, has enjoyed support from Maine Democrats and independents.
The miraculous moderate myth lives on despite the fact that she has acted in near absolute lock step with the Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and the Republican minority throughout her term to extend filibusters and cast negative cloture votes time after time to block legislation and to kill bills that would have passed with an absolute majority.

On unavoidable extreme high profile issues, on a very minuscule number of occasions, Senator Snowe plays the moderate in front of the press such as voting to move health care reform out of committee after badly diluting it and then when the rubber hits the road voting against it. For this investment of a bit of non-productive time and posturing in the spotlight, the moderate franchise gets built back home.

Maine voters want to believe that they send moderate independent minded Senators to Washington but in truth have party-line operatives who contribute to the very gridlock and partisanship that Senator Snowe laments. She and Senator Collins simply play the game differently to build their mythical moderate fable while being part and parcel of the misrule and misrepresentation by a super-minority, line-in-the-sand, and stalemate supplying cabal of the very partisanship gridlock they bemoan for Maine digestion.

Senator Snowe has been in Congress for over three decades and appears to now be apparently seeking a fourth term in the Senate. Her complete abdication of responsibility for the Senate atmosphere based on her lengthy career begs the questions:

- What is she doing about this other than complaining and not taking any responsibility?
- Why isn’t she independently leading with her three decades of experience in Congress?
- How can Maine voters continue to accept such an ineffective lack of leadership?
- Where is her “moderation” really and has it helped Maine at all?
- What will we get out of her serving in the next six critical years?

It is time for Senator Snowe to go. She is totally ineffective, contributes greatly to legislative gridlock, has shown next to nothing in the way of independence when it counts, hoodwinks us with her moderate myth, and now laments, complains, throws her political hands in the air, and does not take any responsibility at all for her lockstep partisanship with Senator McConnell and the GOP minority strangling the United States Senate.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Conversations With Republicans: Spending and Welfare

Today at the car dealership, while awaiting the repairs from the annual dreaded task -- the state inspection -- I ran across a couple of local Republicans waiting for some work of their own to be completed. On the television was the discussion of the debt ceiling, as the bill had just cleared the Senate and was awaiting Obama's signature. They were having a lively chat about how important it was that we cut spending, and I decided to chime in.

First fact, and it's one that the media is finally picking up after the bill was passed -- deficit reduction during recessions harms economic growth. In the 1930s, FDR faced a similar situation. The country had spent significant amounts of money through the New Deal, including work programs such as the Works Progress Administration. He was pushed by conservative Democrats, Republicans, and a few trusted advisers that spending had to be reduced, and he did so. The economy collapsed, and the word "recession" was invented so as to not create panic over us re-entering the Great Depression. The cuts were reversed in 1938 through emergency spending, and the economy rebounded.

After hearing this information, they were a little hesitant to be supportive of this debt deal, but still felt we should cut spending. I asked them where they'd seek to cut, and one of them said that we shouldn't touch Social Security or Medicare, and we shouldn't touch military spending. I asked if he felt we should remain in Iraq and Afghanistan, and he stated that he didn't, he just felt that the troops are in harm's way and should be cared for. I suggested we bring them home, give them their GI Bills, and let them begin civilian careers -- and he thought this was a good idea.

They both shifted gears to welfare fraud -- too many people collect checks that shouldn't. They felt people use their TANF check to buy drugs, or they have more kids just to collect more benefits, or other kinds of fraud. They suggested drug testing for welfare recipients, and launching a deep investigation to find fraudulent welfare cases.

As I pay a bit of attention to such things, being a social work major, I informed them that fraud is about 2/10 of 1% of all cases in the state -- and it would cost more money to find the fraud than it would to allow it to continue. I asked if their concern was the morals or the money, and they said it was the money -- so by the end, they'd disposed of the fraud investigation. Still, drug testing was relevant.

I asked them why this was. I can't disagree with them being angry that people on welfare use state money to abuse drugs. If I knew someone doing this, I'd probably be angry with them, too. Still, I know the reality of drug addiction. Again, I asked them -- is this about money, or morals? This time, it was about the morals, they felt stolen from. Okay, hard to argue this, and I really wouldn't try.

But I did ask them, did they know that TANF checks go to parents with children? They did know this, and felt that women got pregnant so they could get more money. I asked them if they felt that they knew any woman who would go through nine months of pregnancy for an extra $1,500 or so a year -- and their eyes popped when they realized how little extra the woman would get. This argument, too, went by the wayside.

Then, back to substance abuse -- do they want the children starving? Well, of course they don't, they said. Do you want the children going into an already struggling foster care system, when that would cost the state money, and we know outcomes are better for children to remain with parents, even if they are dysfunctional? (Note: This is why DHHS works for 18 months to reunify children with parents.)

And so I suggested, maybe we should tie a positive drug test to required substance abuse treatment to keep the TANF flowing. I can't disagree with this as a "moderate" solution, we can combat a social problem and keep people fed at the same time. So, okay, we'll do drug tests and add a sensible condition to welfare. Fine by me. This is called being responsible with our money.

What I took away from this conversation overall was that these older, middle-class Republicans weren't so much concerned about spending as they were about spending badly. They were fine with the welfare checks, so long as most of them were being spent by people who needed the help and people weren't just using them to buy drugs. Helping the disadvantaged is a liberal message. Not spending taxpayer money on people who abuse that help is a conservative one. We can do both.

More on this conversation later this week.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Prove It Charlie

Regardless of position, using facts and not fiction in debate is expected of our civic leaders. When someone purposefully veers into outright deception and spreading false claims to build support for one’s particular position, it is disservice to Maine citizens. Argue with passion, debate vigorously, but tell the truth.

LD 1376 which reduces Maine citizens’ access to the polls by denying them the continuation of same day registration unanimously enacted by a Republican legislature in 1973 and continually used by Republicans, Democrats, and unenrolled voters without problem is a case in point. For partisan and rhetorical reasons Maine’s GOP joined the national trend to restrict ballot access using sound bite and talk radio reasoning.

Most disheartening is the largely unchallenged and I contend false assertion made by State Republican Chairman, Charlie Webster, published on June 27th regarding “witnessed busloads of new voters who register Election Day, folks most of us have never met and frankly most of us may never see again.”

I’ll be upfront; I do not believe Mr. Webster. The sad element in this affair is that his motivation seems to be to spread fear of people who for understandable reasons register at election time rather than welcoming greater involvement in our electoral process.

Mr. Webster ought to post videos of the busloads of undesirable voters swamping polls online. Surely the Republican Chairman has photos, news stories, and hard evidence to make such a charge. He should place sworn affidavits by reliable witnesses in front of us. In other words, prove it Charlie.

If proof is not forthcoming then Mr. Webster ought to apologize or the Republican State Committee ought to admonish him. If neither is forthcoming, then we as voters will need to admonish the GOP ourselves next election because truth is important.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

The Lie of Equivalency

Representative Paul Ryan puts 47 million Americans on welfare. *

Simplistic repetition of rhetoric in politics regardless of issue facts or complexity is a tool that has been used with great success on the right to deceive citizens into supporting actions counter to their own interests. It raises its head frequently in the fiscal posturing machinations of today’s ├╝ber-conservatives’ attacks on progressive taxation, spending that benefits people over political profits, and the mindless worship of the free market which really stands for corporations being free to harm common citizens.

Getting the lie of equivalency into circulation is the very first step. Whether it is hanging a banner on Maine’s GOP headquarters saying “Working People Vote Republican” to create an unbalanced perception or planting the specter of a mushroom cloud in the public’s mind to get the nation’s war blood up, this deceptive and simplistic approach is used time and time again to our detriment. And so the images of Republicans “having ladders on their trucks” and Iraq attacking with nuclear weapons us if we do not attack them first are evoked to push actions which makes no sense. Their objective is to ignore the core truth by using a lie of equivalency that only serves to heighten partisanship and destroy consensus, compromise, or cooperation.

A now a brand new lie of equivalency is being tested by Republican Paul Ryan as detailed at Talking Points Memo:

…Ryan reframed the entitlement cuts in his budget as "strengthen[ing] welfare for those who need it,"…

Ryan and his allies trotted the concept of changing Medicare to a voucher program that would put one of the most popular, effective, and needed entitlements on the pathway to filling private insurance company profit coffers and diminishing the level of effective help to citizens by both that action and allowing the benefit to shrink over time in relation to rising health care costs. Ryan and company got a strong negative reaction from across the political and public spectrum and even many Republicans raced to distance themselves from the rapid Ryan repulsion reaction.

Ryan didn’t have a good lie in place and just got the obligatory “at least he’s trying to do something and put something out there so we can chat about something and water down something so it looks like we do something” banter. But the powers to be do not want to address the deficit with appropriate progressive tax structures and tough decisions around exorbitant defense spending exemptions from reality. With quick turnaround, a GOP desirable lie is being auditioned to equate Medicare with welfare.

Thus cutting Medicare equals strengthening welfare for those who need it. “Those who need it” will be subject to strict and stern definition. In one fell swoop Medicare is the same as welfare and should now guide the future of the program. First there might be WelfareMedicare vouchers, followed perhaps by WelfareMedicare means testing, and of course finally elimination of the WelfareMedicare nanny state.

Medicare evokes a positive image of government serving all people well for their societal betterment, the essence of an advantageous entitlement because you are fortunate enough to be a United States citizen. The image of welfare in this context is designed to do precisely the opposite and reinforced by the misleading argument of need as a tepid low value positive over entitlement as an outright negative connotation. Ryan’s pairing of the two, a lie of equivalency, is poised now for rhetorical repeating and will be coming to a GOP theater near you.

* Based on 2010 estimated Medicare enrollment.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Percentage Perspectives

Congratulations Senator Dill! You have won a special election by a landslide that if it had gone to the GOP would have led their claims of support for Governor Paul LePage and his right wing agenda. I'm sure they had their downplaying the results spin ready just in case you nosed over the line in a photo finish but alas, they'll need to rewrite it to account for a trouncing that dismisses the idea of referendum on Maine’s direction. Speaking of mandates, you enter into office with a majority 68% win unlike Paul LePage who was sworn in after a 38% plurality of votes cast. As for the *GOTP, let the excuses begin!

* Grand Old Tea Party

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Death Vouchers

“Do you realize that your leadership is asking you to cast a vote today to abolish Medicare as we know it?”
Nancy Pelosi, April 15, 2011

The convoluted logic went like this. We were going to take something away in our existing health care system, we were going to have to reduce what was covered, some procedure choices would be pushed out of reach, some spending on inefficient older bodies and minds would need to be trimmed, some people would need to be judged in a faceless bureaucratic court of cost, and health care rationing would be introduced. The empanelled bureaucrats charged with weighing your life’s worthiness of repair would make up a cold hearted “death panel.”

The kind and loving face of the right had once again worked overtime injecting fear into the debate of President Obama’s health care reform. Yet whether one agrees with the result or not, there were not, are not, and will not be death panels in the loosest sense. The aim was to cover more people with insurance. Death panels were a leap of hyperbole about rationing.

An interesting component of rationing is the use of coupons or vouchers to give everyone the same slice of little. Vouchers are a device that invokes getting a tangible just due reward that one can spend as one sees fit. Misunderstood is that vouchers are also the device to get government money into private business hands with the least amount of government and voter controls. And like a coupon, vouchers are not necessarily intended to cover all costs, just the basics in part with you throwing in the difference. Now if coming up with the difference is a problem, and it will be, for many elderly Americans then the result is…surprise…rationing health care.

Senior fixed budgets will be subjected ever greater pressures to choose among the necessities of food, shelter, and health care in a process that is simultaneously going to be inadequate, confusing, and subject to market whims. On the political front it will be easier to reign in spending by trimming coupons a bit here and there depending on who is in power. The ability to indirectly cut Medicare as we knew it by hacking at it one remove away at the voucher level brings to mind reducing what will be covered, pushing some procedure choices out of reach, forcing decisions on spending on inefficient older bodies and minds onto the voucher recipients, leaving some people to be judged in a faceless bureaucratic market of cost, and thus introducing full blown health care rationing for older citizens. One might even call this weighing your life’s worthiness of repair the determinate factor in how one might elect to spend their inadequate cold hearted “death voucher.”

Medicare as we know it may face spending structural issues but the essential factor in the midst of all the economic debt fear of the future being spread by the right who want their profits now is ultimately about choice. We need only climb onto a tank and waive a corporate tax file to present our petition.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Dear Senator;

I read the op-ed piece written by Senators Katz and Langley that you co-signed in today’s newspaper. I very much appreciate the sentiment expressed that Governor Paul LePage’s tone, demeanor, and belittling comments have no place in Maine political discourse. Putting people down, dismissing their concerns, and removing expressions of their aspirations absolutely do not serve Maine citizens.

However, the op-ed piece strongly endorses the policies and programs that the Governor is pushing and I find that message disheartening. The deeply concerned reaction by many of your constituents to the Governor’s antics also applies to his anticipated actions. It is not only Paul LePage’s tone that has been offensive but it is also the tone of his agenda that is disturbing.

Should Paul LePage’s agenda as stated by him on the campaign trail and reiterated by him many times as Governor be enacted without significant compromise and moderation, the negative attitude he has exhibited toward many Maine citizens will be translated into an official negative attitude of our State toward your constituents.

Deep cuts in social services set an ill tone toward those who need society’s assistance. Stripping environmental and worker protections from our laws codifies a negative demeanor toward Maine’s most important resources. Unfair payroll taxation of State employees and teachers belittles their important contributions to Maine. Each is just as troublesome as negative public discourse.

Again, thank you for taking a public stand in this letter on Governor LePage’s harmful behavior, I urge you to also step forward to stand up to those aspects of his policy and program proposals that will effectively harm the people of Maine.

Bruce Bourgoine

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Why Business Should Condemn LePage's Hubris

The moral mural position and self interest ought to trump petty triumphalism.

When businesses, large or small, sit down at the table with a union representative or an employee not a member of a labor union to work on some employer/employee impasse or issue, a climate of collaboration is essential to success. Paul LePage's mural madness may seem remote to those discussions in the future but the Governor has with distain added his bit of poison into what ought to be atmosphere of respect for workers, open-minded discussions, and mutual purpose.

Businesses currently in Maine are invested for perhaps reasonable or rueful reasons but understandable ones in the red tape roll back and they are also focused on emergence from recession. Adding a bit of employer versus employee toxicity is hardly in their interest. And having the addition of it made in a heavy handed "I'm the boss" approach, based on a feeble flippant fax, for an in-your-face symbolic sophomoric stunt, is counterproductive to a relationship that needs some attention already.

Workers should not only feel respected for their work contribution but should also feel they hold personal worth and dignity as more than mere cogs in the wheels of commerce. Removing artwork on labor history from the Maine Department of Labor is very much the wrong message delivered in a brusque, bossy, and bullying matter. It says, "Your history is unimportant, your heroes are rubbish, and your connection here is severed."

I contend that it truly does not represent what reasonable employers, business leaders, industry groups, entrepreneurs, and even businesses that might be looking at the state for possible investment and expansion want. Why would the clumsy slap down by a third party of people one needs to partner with be welcome? Why would the intrusion into existing balanced relationships be helpful? Why would one invest to relocate a business to Maine in an atmosphere with unpredictable elements?

In closing, businesses in this state have a lot of priorities, and one is not symbolically beating down workers. In fact some of their priorities are the opposite, to increase employer/employee collaboration for best results, to uplift and improve workforce quality built on good relations, and to build a great reputation for attracting topnotch employees, consumer marketing purposes, and being pillars of our communities. "Made in Maine" means, "Made by Mainers."
Business leaders should openly condemn Governor Paul LePage's unproductive attack on their employees. I urge them to speak out clearly rather than faxing.

Not addressed in this piece is the role many companies and business leaders in this state take in promoting the arts. I never fail to appreciate and often patronize the sponsors noted for exhibitions at museums and the underwriting of play productions and concerts in Maine. To these sponsors of the arts, this is also an affront of petty censorship and artistic expression that they wisely support.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011


We now have a bill (LD 583 & Sponsors) that will create a NRA specialty plate. This is clearly what can be called “triumphalism” when a proposal of this sort is put forth.

Such a bill is not about governing, it is about ruling. Have you heard the outcry your fellow citizens seeking that this measure be promulgated and passed into law? Of course not because there is neither rational nor demand for this action. There is only the message; “we will do this because we can.”

The NRA specialty plate is pure triumphalism theater. Indeed it can be seen as similar to committing an “excessive celebration” penalty in the NFL. Yes, your team scored but rubbing the opposition’s nose in it to a disproportionate degree is unproductive at best and mean spirited at worse.

Our politics have no immediate penalty for “excessive celebration” and in the larger scheme of two coming years of fiscal action, policy realignment, and political redirection; this measure will eventually seem minor in nature. But at present, because no valid reason exists for this action, it speaks volumes in terms of the relationship we can expect from those elected and sworn in to serve all their constituents and their true attitude toward citizens in the minority.

Additionally it may just set up a divisive situation where none was sought or desired. This action strikes one as an attempt at taunting; it adds to the right-left gulf instead of working toward a political environment of benefiting all in Maine. There will be denials of such as intentions but this is truly a case of where actions speak louder than words.

It bodes ill for Maine when our elected representatives misguidedly engage in political theater that is clearly “in your face” unproductive posturing. That it will send money to a controversial advocacy group politically aligned with the right will be the recurring slap on the other cheek.

However, there has been one prevailing historical lesson for those who stridently engage in triumphalism; the willingness to alienate, the dedication to gesture not substance, and the deafness of self-righteousness generally leads to downfall.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Reform Rx - Snowe & Collins Redux

The United States Senate last night (2/2/10) voted on an amendment to the FAA Air Transportation Modernization and Safety Improvement Act for the stated purpose of: To repeal the job-killing health care law and health care-related provisions in the Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act of 2010.

It failed completely along party lines (51-47) with our Senators Snowe and Collins joining the GOP minority to take away health care reforms for Maine people. We continue to be ill represented by both of our Senators. First each of them played drawn out games to weaken the original legislation substantively and now they continue to attack health care for all us by engaging in this showboat, kneel-to-the-tea-party vote to completely reverse and trash the entire effort.

You'll hear from them that their goal is to replace it with a better plan. The better plan time has past, they know it, and this is just one more attempt to reverse health care progress and set our gains back to zero. And despite constitutional bluster about mandates by Republicans, absolutely many essential reforms like covering pre-existing conditions will not work without a larger insurance pool and our Senators are ignoring such facts.

We must remember this in 2012 when Senator Snowe, endorsed by Governor LePage (who is himself moving us into an unwanted lawsuit to overturn health care reform) runs for re-election. Yes, this is the same Senator Snowe who voted in the Senate Finance Committee (her pre-existing position) to support a similar bill in 2009. Ever since then her commitment to reform has headed downhill to today voting to overturn the vital minimal reforms we desperately needed. We need to also remember Senator Collins continual gamesmanship on health care in 2014.

For more about the price Maine citizens will have to pay by any repeal of the Affordable Care Act for Maine citizens, follow this link.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Malice of the Absent

Finger forward, thumb cocked back, a squint perhaps, “Bang, bang you’re dead!”

Thousands of times daily, fingers on the playground, hands upon mesmerizing games, metaphorically uttered by co-workers, children and adults in the passing parade of people, politicians and pundits, and with desensitized distortions of life and death, on dark city streets, in wayward dusty small towns, borne to empower for fortune or in fear, yielding incidents that lead to tiny popping noises or to rattling deafening echoes flowing from fingers that leave blood on a street or in a hallway with life ebbing away, and with ever alarming frequency, carnage, terror, anguished horrified mourning on campuses, in workplaces, where we entrust our children’s very lives, and in the bright burst of sunshine of a shopping center like thousands upon thousands across the United States of America, reality imitates imagination that imitates reality at the point of a finger or gun.

And through all of it we remain in complete denial as a nation. We step beyond our failure to act to covering our eyes, blocking our ears, and failing to deploy our reason in the real forward steps of confronting a highly visible repeated catastrophe directly and vigorously resolving to change the accepted societal rules and laws to decisively correct our defective relationship with guns. Instead we once again weep, we memorialize, we comfort, we grieve, and we struggle with the discomfort of details that flow across our airwaves for a few days or sometimes a few weeks. Ultimately we as a nation in an ultimate irony, choose the weakness of will over the strength of our convictions.

Across the road in the early predawn of an autumn morning, a pickup truck backs into a trace of an old logging road across from my home. People get out, finish a steaming cup of coffee, speak in hushed tones, shoulder rifles, and silently move into the woods and fields. I slumber on a mere stone throw away, knowing all this, harboring no fear whatsoever, for these are my friends and neighbors. Across our land this image is repeated on a variety of landscapes in pursuit of a variety of game or perhaps just merely a bit of companionship or solitude.

In safety orange, these men and women, do not want or require automatic weaponry to burst out dozens of heavy rounds, armor piecing bullets, or high powered handguns with extended clips for rapid fire. They have planned their excursions since last season, buying what was needed in leisure not haste and if procurement of the necessary equipment required more time, more appropriate checks, longer waiting periods, and fewer places to purchase, they are fully capable of planning accordingly. Yet one disproportionally powerful nationally organized voice and an ongoing chorus of the insensible and inflexible have formed an alliance purported in part to protect the rights of those men and women in the predawn without consent based on honesty.

It is so beyond reason to twist every reasoned approach to the reduction of gun violence and the limitation of weapons of small mass destruction into a threat to the traditions and safe pursuits of responsible ordinary citizens who are our friends and neighbors. To rest their ability to have a rifle or two, a couple of shotguns, and yes perhaps even a pistol upon keeping full automatic high powered human assault weapons used in wars and a flood cheap high capacity and therefore high lethality handguns is irrational, irresponsible, and offensive.

Yet we continue to tread the path of inaction and to support the inaction of our leaders after every incident that focuses attention on the issue of the role of guns in our society in part because it is too complicated to discuss the issue rationally. And perhaps it is also due in part to accepting that the finger pointed, thumb cocked back, and shout of “Bang, bang you’re dead!”, will always lead to some actualization that we apparently are resigned to tolerate and live with while other lives are cut tragically short.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

All Must Denounce "Eliminationist" Rhetoric

We ought to be very concerned about the political terror violence in Arizonia that not only severely injured Representative Giffords but has now taken several fellow citizens' lives. SarahPAC had placed crosshairs on Gabrielle Giffords district this past election and while one cannot blame this particular act directly on that paticular political imagery, it deserves some focus. These types of highly charged appeals, with the steady angry drumbeat on the right, especially on the radio waves and the ultra conservative as victim web presence, has helped coarsen our politics and invited in hate crime, loner lash-out, and attempting to cast votes of anger with a gun.

From Joan Walsh, Salon editor at large: conservative leader has yet called for dialing back the rage on the right in the wake of the Giffords shooting. Sarah Palin sent condolences to Giffords' family, but said nothing about her unconscionable SarahPAC map putting 20 House members, including Giffords, in actual crosshairs for supporting healthcare reform, or her infamous Tweet telling conservatives "don't retreat, reload." Giffords' 2010 Tea Party challenger, Jesse Kelly, hasn't apologized for inviting supporters to "shoot a fully automatic M16" to "get on target for victory" and "remove Gabrielle Giffords from office."

We have no idea why Loughner allegedly tried to kill Giffords Saturday. But the fact that a well-liked, centrist, pro-gun rights Democrat like Giffords faced threats and attacks for her healthcare vote, or that she was targeted with violent imagery by the 2008 Republican nominee for vice president as well as her 2010 GOP opponent, ought to make conservatives pause. More than pause, it ought to make them denounce those in their ranks who are using extremist, eliminationist rhetoric.
We must reflect on that which we have all always known.

Friday, January 7, 2011

On Message

One item I have constantly remarked upon is the need to be able to ask a person on the street what the Democratic Party stands for and receive a good accurate answer. Ultimately, getting that answer is up to us because we have to provide it, promote it, believe it, rally for it, support it, stand fast on it, rely on it, and act on it.

There is demand within the party to simplify our message. There are many among us that look across the political landscape and envy the simple but always relentlessly on message jingoistic short sound bite mantras of the GOP and now the tea party. They won with such messaging it appears.

I for one do not believe we ought to simplify our core beliefs. Governing is complex; issues demand sophisticated approaches and nuance. But I do think supporting those core beliefs with an unadorned, direct hard hitting watchphrase is very appropriate.


Democratic Party members and voters roll up their sleeves and toil for a fair shake. We advocate for it in our workplaces, we support it in our approach to equal rights for all citizens, we push for it for the underprivileged, we seek it in how taxes are raised and used for the common good, we pursue it on environmental fronts to be fair to neighbor and the next generation, we champion it in education, we urge it in matters of justice, we strive toward it in economic policy, and we apply to every facet of societal responsibility.

If we carried such a central core belief into our politics, policy development, legislative undertakings, and governance when in power and principles when in opposition, and even into the recesses of our party structures, we might just become election winners again. The reason is simple, our living and breathing of such a message would be powerful because despite their current rise in power, Republicans do not ultimately live up to their messages.

Some of us might balk at such simplicity. That's understandable, we engage in politics for many diverse ideas, we struggle to put forth solutions to problems that require a degree of policy complexity. But that person on the street is not in the same place.

Perhaps that person will get there in approaching the vital concerns of our country in an engaged manner that has depth but we need to understand that it takes time, like swimming. First comes walking in the shallows with our catchphrase and developing an appreciation for it. Wading in deeper and learning about the brief bullet points of our platforms comes next. Risking a little depth and getting a deeper understanding of an issue or two of personal concern comes next. And finally strongly swimming toward vital goals to make our community, state, and country a far better place for now and the future can occur and perhaps even diving in as a party volunteer or public servant will as well.

We Democrats need to put forth this kind of progression in our politics. We need to appreciate every person at any point along this continuum and especially cultivate bringing in many with our core beliefs, expressed perhaps in a watchphrase upon which we can stay true to and earn their trust.

Maybe then I can walk down the street and ask somebody, "What do Democrats stand for?" Hearing a reply of, "Well they went all out to get that school funding right and paid attention to my spouse's health care, so it's like I keep hearing, Democrats work for fairness."

I do not propose "Democrats work for fairness" as the ultimate watchphrase for our Party. But I firmly believe we do need something like it and more importantly the approach to it and allegiance to it outlined above. And I also do believe that we ought to move in that direction without unintentionally kindly killing it by committee. We need to be off and running.