Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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April 24, 2006
By: Kevin Drum

DISSECTING PASSION....Over at the Prospect, John Halpin and Ruy Teixeira write that liberal arguments over such topics as media tactics, base mobilization, "getting tough" on national security, and organizational structure are off base:

The totality of the advice simply misses the mark and obscures the underlying problem driving progressives on-going woes nationally: a majority of Americans do not believe progressives or Democrats stand for anything....This trend, one we call the identity gap, has been written about and discussed by others in years past. What is not understood is the extent to which this gap continues to drag down progressives and Democrats and depress their support in myriad ways. No identity translates into no character. No personal integrity. No vision worth fighting for.

So we need a strong identity. Check. And how are we going to figure out what it should be?

We will begin with a detailed assessment of the various voter groups and geographical areas that need to be assembled into a progressive majority and how social change is likely to reshape those groups and areas over the next decade or so. That discussion will cover both those groups and areas where progressives are relatively strong and those groups and areas where progressives are relatively weak but can make gains in the future.

This piece is the first of four, and I'll wait until all four are out before I say anything substantive. Still, I wonder if I'm the only one who's a little taken aback by this whole approach.

Halpin and Teixeira are apparently planning to argue that liberals need to "put the common good at the center of a new progressive vision," the same advice that Prospect editor Mike Tomasky offered a few days ago. Now, as it happens, I have some doubts about that advice (about which more later). But whether or not it's a good idea, telling us that we need to "stand for something," and then divining what that "something" should be via a mind numbing demographic breakdown of red and blue America sure doesn't sound very inspiring, does it? I wouldn't mind if they had an idea they felt passionately about and then used their numbers to demonstrate that it was sellable, but it looks as if they did just the opposite: they used the demographic breakdowns and focus group results to figure out what we're supposed to feel passionately about in the first place. I'm a pretty analytic person, but that doesn't work even for me.

This may be unfair. Like I said, I'll read parts 2-4 before I say anything more. For now, this is just a shot across the bow.

Kevin Drum 12:40 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (173)

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Comments

Good call, I agree with you.

Posted by: mk on April 24, 2006 at 12:46 PM | PERMALINK

Bingo.

The whole "Emerging Democratic Majority" approach was fundamentally flawed from the start. There is a potential Emerging Democratic, but that doesn't mean it will be realized. And cutting and dissecting focus groups isn't going to get you anywhere.

After perusing the Ruy's website for years, he's proven to be great at distilling what the current state of thinking is. But he's lousy at any advice at moving opinion.

And that leads right to a core problem right now: Although most of the American public think the GOP are nuts - they also think the Democratic leadership are pretty ineffectual.

And the irony is also obvious - most Democrats don't really like the Democratic leaders either.

Posted by: Samuel Knight on April 24, 2006 at 12:48 PM | PERMALINK

My take also. They're approaching the problem from the wrong direction.

Posted by: shortstop on April 24, 2006 at 12:49 PM | PERMALINK

Democratic position on Iraq: Bash Bush

Democratic position on Social Security: Bash Bush

Democratic position on fixing Social Security: Bash Bush

Posted by: Frequency Kenneth on April 24, 2006 at 12:49 PM | PERMALINK

My Democratic platform:

Government that works well, taxes fair to all, people before corporations, jobs for American citizens

Posted by: POed Lib on April 24, 2006 at 12:51 PM | PERMALINK

There is one simple message the Dems need to remember from the past. It's a message Govs Kaine and Warner used effectively in Virginia, hardly a blue state. The message is:

The Democratic party fights for the little guy.

Repeat over and over.

Posted by: Broken on April 24, 2006 at 12:51 PM | PERMALINK

Frequency nailed it!

Posted by: shortstop on April 24, 2006 at 12:53 PM | PERMALINK

I second Broken.

Posted by: GAB on April 24, 2006 at 12:55 PM | PERMALINK

There's another school of thought that says that the modern Democratic Party does indeed stand for something, but if they ever actually laid it out honestly, they'd never win another election.

Or haven't you noticed that the most successful Democrats in national elections tend to be those who dress up as Republicans before the vote?

How IS Hillary doing, by the way?

Posted by: tbrosz on April 24, 2006 at 12:55 PM | PERMALINK

Why can't we just tell the truth which is that the Republicans are terrific at PR (hype) but terrible at governing, and the Democrats are terrible at PR and very good at governing. If we emphasize this to the American voters, they should get the point.

Posted by: Katherine on April 24, 2006 at 12:55 PM | PERMALINK

Democratic position on Iraq: We need to force the elected Iraqi government to take charge by giving them a date certain that we will no longer be there to prop them up. Republican translation = Bash Bush

Democratic position on Social Security: Social Security will be solvent for several decades to come, but in order to assure solvency, we should raise the cap. Republican translation = Bash Bush

It's hard to project the Democratic vision when most media outlets keep aping the no-postion line.

Posted by: conscious1 on April 24, 2006 at 12:56 PM | PERMALINK

The Democratic party fights for the little guy.

But where is the bar set for "little guy?" At what point in your life does your success make you part of the enemy?

I remember asking someone once how much income someone would have to make before they weren't part of the "working class" any more. I still haven't seen a hard number on that. Damn sure it's a lot lower than $100 a minute.

The definition of "middle class" is equally vague. There aren't enough really poor people in America to win a national election, so you have to convince people that aren't poor that they're being screwed over, and do it without those people noticing that most of the politicians they're voting for are, and are supported by, millionaires.

Yeah, this is pretty tricky.

Posted by: tbrosz on April 24, 2006 at 1:01 PM | PERMALINK

Come on, we all know what we stand for as progressives. Especially now. That's the easy part.

We stand for the ethical values articulated in the U.S. Constitution. Why can't we just say that? The Republicans are well on their way to establishing an authoritarian government that rules by executive fiat. We're against it.

We want the law to be applied equally to all and to be supreme, and we want equal opportunity for all to pursue happiness, as they see fit, in freedom, security and health.

That's it.

Posted by: Aris on April 24, 2006 at 1:01 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin your falling for the old tired right wing lie. The message is out there, The only problem is the right can not see anything beyond there God and Tax cuts.Don't fall for it, The message is quite clear,It is only the right that can't see it, Everyone else can see our message very clear,We don't need to paint pictures for the rightwing, there blind let it stay that way.

Posted by: Booo on April 24, 2006 at 1:05 PM | PERMALINK

tbrosz: There's another school of thought that says that the modern Democratic Party does indeed stand for something, but if they ever actually laid it out honestly, they'd never win another election.

Tommy, you are precious. How fucking ridiculous, coming from the party that lies to start wars; renames initiatives Alice in Wonderland style to indicate the exact opposite of what they're actually intended for (see SS "reform," "Clear Skies Act," et. al ad nauseam); and distracts the masses with xenophobia, homophobia, racism and religious paranoia so the mopes won't notice they're getting screwed economically.

Posted by: shortstop on April 24, 2006 at 1:05 PM | PERMALINK

Agree that this is the wrong approach - the question isn't "what do Democrats stand for?" Despite the perception, explaining our core values and beliefs - at least when I'm talking with other Dems, is not hard. What we have are distinct differences in terms of priorities and approaches. These can be worked out, and go back to a very fundamental point that Texeira, Halpin and others miss - we're not Republicans. This is not the home of the 24 point porgram plan.

What we need to discuss - with people who know what they're talking about, and not with the whole world - is how best to present our core values, because lots of people, disconnected from politics generaly, don't see them. That's a smal-bore, narrowly focused discussion, ultimately. And I hate to see it played out in front of lots of people, tinkered at by committee, and further pushing a notion of constant disarray. We are a lively conversation, to be sure - but we do have things that we stand for, and they're not as hard as people are making them out to be.

And calling it "common good' is a vast oversimplification.

Posted by: weboy on April 24, 2006 at 1:08 PM | PERMALINK

John Halpin and Ruy Teixeira are competing for the Amy Sullivan award for being the most ridiculous advisors to the Democratic Party.

If GOP was not the impeccably honest political party that we know it to be, it would be easy to conclude that Halpin and Teiceira are Republican moles doing their best to ensure that Democrats continue to be members of the minority party in the congress.

Posted by: lib on April 24, 2006 at 1:08 PM | PERMALINK

It is a terrible shame that modern political power does nothing other than care & feeding of their fanatical base. Until we free our Democracy from the tyranny of the two-party system, America will continue to be hijacked by noxious political sects who wrench the wheel at any hint of a "mandate". The Democratic legacy should be about progressing America towards a better future. But as long as Democrats pine for Republican-like focus-group-inspired power-grabs, we are steaming full-speed ahead towards disaster.

Posted by: Jon Karak on April 24, 2006 at 1:09 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin: ... they used the demographic breakdowns and focus group results to figure out what we're supposed to feel passionately about in the first place.

I am weary of people who don't stand for anything telling me that I need to stand for something.

Posted by: SecularAnimist on April 24, 2006 at 1:11 PM | PERMALINK

This whole meme drives me crazy. Leave your office (or stay in it) and talk to people about job security, education (cost of, quality of), health care (cost of, availability of), the environment (quality of), and then tell me these are not core Democratic issues.

And contrary to Tom's inane post, it is the Republicans who couldn't get elected if they actually said what they wanted - Social Security Phase Out, anyone? Common cause with Christian Talibanists, anyone? The only thing the GOP has is to shout "look out behind you!" - they can't actually govern on simple effectiveness, on the quality of their "ideas", on any of that. It's the Fear Party, straight up.

Even talking about the idea that Dems don't stand for anything is buying straight into Republican talking points. It's not true, and I don't think we should distinguish it with comment. Except for mine, of course!

Posted by: craigie on April 24, 2006 at 1:12 PM | PERMALINK

tbrosz: There aren't enough really poor people in America to win a national election, so you have to convince people that aren't poor that they're being screwed over, and do it without those people noticing that most of the politicians they're voting for are, and are supported by, millionaires.

People who are hanging on by their fingernails to the shrinking "middle class" designation--and there are a hell of a lot of these, despite your continued attempts to ignore them--have a funny way of noticing that jobs are disappearing, health care through the roof, gas costs $3 a gallon and other things that, you know, affect their daily lives outside your garage.

And however much it may personally bug you that John Kerry and Ted Kennedy are rolling in the green stuff, the more reasonable and far-seeing members of the population care less about how much money their elected representatives have and more about what those representatives do to improve their constituents' lives/opportunities.

This isn't hard, Tom, for anyone but you.

Posted by: shortstop on April 24, 2006 at 1:12 PM | PERMALINK

tbrosz: But where is the bar set for "little guy?" At what point in your life does your success make you part of the enemy?

tbrosz, Class Warrior.

Posted by: SecularAnimist on April 24, 2006 at 1:13 PM | PERMALINK

I don't see Halpin and Teixeira's approach as in any way really wrongheaded.

Look, the do seem to agree, on more or less apriori grounds, that the overarching goal of seeking the common good is basic to progressive belief, and also distinctively progressive, as opposed to right wing.

But what does seeking the common good even mean? What kind of subgoals does that entail? Which of these subgoals are politically feasible?

None of those questions are answerable without the sort of demographic/political analysis that they are proposing. Really, they seem to be saying little more than that progressive goals should be adjusted to, and understood in the light of, political realities.

Whether the goals are fully top down, or bottom up, or coming from both directions and meeting at the middle, is basically irrelevant. In the long run, such accomodations to reality must be made. It is the total, finished product that must stand or fall before the American people.

Posted by: frankly0 on April 24, 2006 at 1:14 PM | PERMALINK

Cute, shortstop.

Now, tell me, if Ted Kennedy had the power, and a free hand, what would he do with the oil companies?

You'd be better off with "Booo's" approach: The message is very clear to those with eyes that see. Why should be need to go into details?

Posted by: tbrosz on April 24, 2006 at 1:15 PM | PERMALINK

I don't think we should distinguish it with comment. Except for mine, of course!.

Well, I'd taken a crack at some of the same ideas a couple of minutes earlier. But you said it better.

Posted by: shortstop on April 24, 2006 at 1:15 PM | PERMALINK

What does the Democratic Party Stand for?

Well, we know what the republican party stands for.
1. Low Taxes
2. A Strong Defense
3. Less Government
4. traditional Values

So by inverse logic, its easy to figure out what the Democrats stand for.
1. High Taxes
2. A weak Defense
3. More Government
4. Decadence

Posted by: Fitz on April 24, 2006 at 1:17 PM | PERMALINK
I remember asking someone once how much income someone would have to make before they weren't part of the "working class" any more. I still haven't seen a hard number on that.

That's because the critical distinction that makes someone "working class" isn't primarily how much income you have but where your income comes from. There is a weak connection with income, of course, because having more surplus income provides more room to invest and become less dependent on labor income, but the critical distinction is the source, not amount, of the income.

The definition of "middle class" is equally vague. There aren't enough really poor people in America to win a national election, so you have to convince people that aren't poor that they're being screwed over, and do it without those people noticing that most of the politicians they're voting for are, and are supported by, millionaires.

Why? You seem to assume that people cannot support policies whose primary direct beneficiaries are people who are in different circumstances than themselves. There is no more inconsistency in some millionaires supporting the interests of the middle class than there is in some whites supporting civil rights legislation to repudiate discrimination against blacks.

Posted by: cmdicely on April 24, 2006 at 1:17 PM | PERMALINK

...the more reasonable and far-seeing members of the population care less about how much money their elected representatives have and more about what those representatives do to improve their constituents' lives/opportunities.

This would be where the pork comes in, right? Both parties excel at that.

The "reasonable and far-seeing members of the population" are busy making their own way in the world, and it doesn't take much progress before the government becomes the obstacle, not the helper.

Posted by: tbrosz on April 24, 2006 at 1:19 PM | PERMALINK

Democratic position on Iraq: Bash Bush

Democratic position on Social Security: Bash Bush

Democratic position on fixing Social Security: Bash Bush


Posted by: Frequency Kenneth

Another way of saying this is "Democratic position when Bush is as wrong as a deep-fried lollipop: Point it out."

Posted by: anandine on April 24, 2006 at 1:20 PM | PERMALINK
Well, we know what the republican party stands for. 1. Low Taxes 2. A Strong Defense 3. Less Government 4. traditional Values

So by inverse logic, its easy to figure

There is virtually no evidence for 2 and 3, and 4 is only true insofar as patriarchy and autocracy are "traditional values".

Extreme, unnecessary, and counterproductive use of military force is not the same thing as a "strong defense", indeed, it is diametrically opposed to it. Similarly, radically expanding the size, scope, and power of the government at the expense of individual rights, and concentrating that power as much as possible in the person of the President is not "less government", but more.

Posted by: cmdicely on April 24, 2006 at 1:20 PM | PERMALINK

So by inverse logic, its easy to figure out what the Democrats stand for...Decadence.

We're the Party of Decadence? Oooo-eee! Now what have you guys been getting up to while I'm out of the room? Come on, you can tell Auntie Shortstop.

Posted by: shortstop on April 24, 2006 at 1:20 PM | PERMALINK

fitz:

Well, we know what the republican party stands for.

1. Low Taxes
2. A Strong Defense
3. Less Government
4. traditional Values

At this point, number 3 needs a LOT of work.

Posted by: tbrosz on April 24, 2006 at 1:23 PM | PERMALINK

The box that they've successfully put us in now requires the Democratic Party to sell the Republican Party on the merits of Democratic positions. Like that'll ever happen.

We're portrayed as having no position, when in fact, we have positions that Republicans will never agree with. Yet that is framed to the larger audience as not having a position.

Another perfect example of how the Republican Party seems to control the channels of discourse with the average media-addled American.

Posted by: conscious1 on April 24, 2006 at 1:23 PM | PERMALINK
But what does seeking the common good even mean? What kind of subgoals does that entail? Which of these subgoals are politically feasible?

Treating the last question as important in the context of standing for something is exactly what is wrong.

To show that you stand for something as a principle means that, while you may accept temporary compromise because of feasibility, you never waiver from the goal set out by principle.

Which means that, to get to what you should stand for, feasibility is simply not a concern. Feasibility is a concern later, on an ongoing basis, when you decide what to accept today as the best you can get right now, and only then with consideration of the effect of compromise on the long-term goal.

Posted by: cmdicely on April 24, 2006 at 1:24 PM | PERMALINK

For those protesting the democratic strategy of "Bash Bush" - there's nothing wrong with that strategy, nothing at all.

First, wouldn't we all be a lot better off if the Democrats had managed to stop Bush on Iraq, tax cuts, and Medicare?

Second, look at the GOP strategy recently. Hasn't been essentially to bash the Democrats? Flipper Flopper wasn't a positive message - but it worked beautifully. And 2002 and 2000 fit in the same mode.

So, I'd say that the Democrats should proudly say that there first priority would be to stop whatever nutty idea the administration throws out. Like Social Security Privitization or bombing Iran.

And for goodness sakes don't worry if the GOP whines about "going negative". That should be blood in the water.

Posted by: Samuel Knight on April 24, 2006 at 1:25 PM | PERMALINK

The Rightwing stands for Nothing.Iraq? Economy? SS? Healthcare? Natural Diasters ? The Debt ? The Deficit ? Terrorism ? Foreign Policy ? Nope no answers from the Rightwing on any of these issues.

Posted by: Booo on April 24, 2006 at 1:25 PM | PERMALINK

Since almost everybody in America is doing so well economically, all the Democrats have to do is to claim that they are just like Republicans, but only better.

Posted by: tbrosz on April 24, 2006 at 1:25 PM | PERMALINK

most Democrats don't really like the Democratic leaders either.

Actually, I'd say that most bloggers don't like Democratic leaders. I'd say most real Democrats (i.e. those involved in county parties and precinct operations) generally do.

As far as "the little guy", that is a non starter. "Justice for all" is much better. Liberals need to understand that the lower class doesn't really want "help", they want a fair chance, especially for their children. Similarly, why should wealthy "help" the lazy poor (which there are some, though not that many)?

I think Kevin's criticism misses the point. There are a lot of things that Democrats stand for and are good at. To use an analogy, they are like HP printers. Generally the best around, but they are stuck living off a reputation from decades past and haven't bothered with a real marketing strategy. What I believe Teixeira and Halpin are proposing is a marketing strategy for the Democrats.

Just as you would likely use different advertising strategies for different demographics if you wanted to sell a product, the same is true with politics. The GOP markets racial tension in some areas, greed in others, and "values" to churches. It's time the Dems do the same so that they can build a coalition. There's some pretty crappy products out there that sell because they have good PR strategies (e.g. the GOP).

Posted by: gq on April 24, 2006 at 1:26 PM | PERMALINK

My penny's worth: "common good" is a sure loser.

It's too easy to counter as: "The Democrats think they know what's best for everybody. They want to decide where your kids go to school, what they're taught, who your doctor will be, and how much of your money you get to keep."

What's dividing this country so sharply is a fundamental disagreement about the role of government. Until the Dems tackle that debate and make a case for their position, the GOP will have the rhetorical advantage.

Posted by: Quaker in a Basement on April 24, 2006 at 1:27 PM | PERMALINK

So by inverse logic, its easy to figure out what the Democrats stand for.
1. High Taxes
2. A weak Defense
3. More Government
4. Decadence

Posted by: Fitz on

To rephrase this, Democrats stand for:
1. Taxes high enough to pay for national needs rather than add to the national debt
2. No discretionary wars for secret reasons
3. Enough government to take care of national needs
4. Personal freedom

Posted by: anandine on April 24, 2006 at 1:27 PM | PERMALINK
Since almost everybody in America is doing so well economically

Compared to...what? Certainly not compared to the status quo ante Bush.

Posted by: cmdicely on April 24, 2006 at 1:27 PM | PERMALINK

Well, we know what the republican party stands for.
1. Low Taxes
2. A Strong Defense
3. Less Government
4. traditional Values

At some point, people will stop believing in the tooth fairy, and hopefully the Dems will be in a position to take advantage of the growing disillusionment (3 more years of W!).

KD: "they used the demographic breakdowns and focus group results to figure out what we're supposed to feel passionately about in the first place. I'm a pretty analytic person, but that doesn't work even for me."

Sounds pretty Rovian, and I don't know that you can argue with success. Still, I don't see much chance for the Dems if they try to emulate the Republican plan of pandering to the religious right to make sops to the wealthy more palatable to Joe Megachurch.

The "little guy" theme will have to be the one to bank on, basing it on wages, health care and education. "It's the economy stupid" may not work at the moment, but BushCo's sugar-rush of tax-cuts and deficit spending is starting to wind down.

Posted by: Uli Kunkel on April 24, 2006 at 1:31 PM | PERMALINK

Tbroz Could you explain ALMOST EVERYONE? Sounds like your going to the strawpile again.Bush 31% Republican Congress 23% Cheney 15% Yea,Your side is doing really well.

Posted by: Booo on April 24, 2006 at 1:31 PM | PERMALINK

Well if Kevin is going to dump on the common good, which is an excellent idea because it happens to be true for a lot of people, then he'd better do it fast so I can start ripping into him.

Posted by: MNPundit on April 24, 2006 at 1:36 PM | PERMALINK

"To rephrase this, Democrats stand for:
1. Taxes high enough to pay for national needs rather than add to the national debt"

Yeah, that must be why the budget was in deficit virtually every year that the Democrats controlled Congress.

"2. No discretionary wars for secret reasons"

Yeah, that must be why a majority of Democrats voted to go to war in Iraq.

"3. Enough government to take care of national needs
4. Personal freedom"

These two are so vague they are basically meaningless. The Republicans would also claim to
have these principles.

Posted by: GOP on April 24, 2006 at 1:38 PM | PERMALINK

There is some corrupt dimwit fraud with a new show being heavily advertised on one of the news networks (it might or might not be cnn) who's ad appears on your tv and he shouts at you, shouts at you, 'It doesn't matter if they're a Republican or a Democrat! Just do the job!', which is to say 'It doesn't matter if he's a Republican as long as he gives you an emotional authenticity!'

Utterly corrupt.

Posted by: cld on April 24, 2006 at 1:39 PM | PERMALINK

Treating the last question as important in the context of standing for something is exactly what is wrong.

I'm opposed to the death penalty on principle, in any state. I'm in favor of gay marriage on principle, in any state. Should vehement support of both of those become part of the progressive agenda?

Posted by: frankly0 on April 24, 2006 at 1:40 PM | PERMALINK

As I said over at TAPPED on Friday: if Dems of all stripes would stop moaning that the party doesn't stand for anything, and get up and say what they individually stand for whenever they are on TV, then the perception might start changing a bit.

Then the next step: there are roughly 250 Dems in Congress. Once each of them said what it is that they stood for, and what they're passionate about that makes them a Democrat and not a Republican, I bet they'd find a lot of overlap between most of their lists.

It might even be enough so they could forget the polling and focus groups, and just do a bit of trimming to come up with a concise list of things that the vast majority of public Dems are already willing to go to the mats for.

And then they could go on TV and fight for the things on that list, which would be the things they already care about.

Posted by: RT on April 24, 2006 at 1:42 PM | PERMALINK

What do we stand for?

Today, first and foremost: Responsible government. This means we believe in the rule of law.
Country before party.
The freedoms in the Bill of Rights.
Balanced Budgets.
Accountability.
Transparency.

We also believe in the responsibility of all citizens to contribute to the common good. This leads to our positions on fair taxes, people before corporations, jobs for American citizens, etc. But that's not all we believe in, and we're fools to keep letting our agenda be reduced to kumbayah, love the poor solidarity-type stuff. We're not the anti-libertarian party--we believe profoundly in freedom from government. Our tax policy isn't what fundamentally defines our relationship to freedom, and we're fools to continue playing into that storyline.

We believe in responsibilities and freedoms that the Republicans don't--we believe that the American people have freedoms and rights more fundamental and important than the freedom of wealthy people to pay less on their taxes. And we believe they have responsibilities to their nation and to their neighbors.

But perhaps most importantly, Democrats aren't afraid. We don't fear and hate the American government. Fundamentally, we respect the Constitution and think it's a goddamned masterpiece. We believe that the power of government is like fire--it's dangerous and needs to be controlled, but properly controlled, it can create a powerful infrastructure that allows a nation to achieve great things. It needs to be respected and contained, not feared.

We believe that in a post 9/11 world, the most dangerous thing would be for America to turn into a police state. We believe that our nation is strongest when it's open and free, and when its leaders are held accountable to the American people for their actions.

We don't think freedom and accountability are the problem. We think they're the solution.

Posted by: theorajones on April 24, 2006 at 1:42 PM | PERMALINK

The only reason the majority might think Dems don't have an identity is because the media tells them that. If any of the talking heads actually delivered liberal talking points, they should be to preface everything with the Republicans being the party of extremes --- ruining the country with their caving to the wacko extreme right and trying to change things back to the way they were in the 19th century. The Democrats are the party of moderation, the party to continue to move us forward and make sure the United States continues to be a dominant force in the world.

Posted by: catherineD on April 24, 2006 at 1:43 PM | PERMALINK

In Part 1 they talk about the high numbers for the 18-24 demographic. I'm in my mid-30s, and just the other day I was talking to a progressive, age 22. He was saying how he's given up on the Democrats. I argued with him about that, and during the conversation he mentioned that he's never voted for a winning Democrat before. When your voting record only goes back to 2000, you're in danger of "teaching" young voters that voting for Democrats is pointless. I think the youth numbers are soft, for this reason. If we don't start winning elections, we can write that bloc off.

Posted by: Martin on April 24, 2006 at 1:51 PM | PERMALINK

"As far as "the little guy", that is a non starter. Posted by: gq"

A "non-starter"? The present and past Govs of Virginia (kaine and Warner)used this message and won. How much more "starter" do you want?

tbroz attacked the "little guy message" immediately because he recongnizes it as a real threat.

Repubs talk populist but they deliver for the top 1%. That leaves the other 99% as the "little guys". The little guys are not just the poor. The entire middle class is being squeezed, and the middle class knows it.

Small businesses are also the little guys. The Repubs write legislation for the big buys and small business gets squeezed.

The message is simple. David vs Goliath.

The Democratic Party fights for the little guy

Posted by: Broken on April 24, 2006 at 1:57 PM | PERMALINK

I still like variations of John Edwards's phrasing of our values -- the Democratic Party is the Party that believes that if you work hard and play by the rules, you should get ahead.

It's excellent for two reasons: first that it's right, and second that it correctly casts the Republican Party as the Party that not only does not reward hard work, but actively rewards corruption and connections.

Posted by: Kimmitt on April 24, 2006 at 2:04 PM | PERMALINK
I'm opposed to the death penalty on principle, in any state. I'm in favor of gay marriage on principle, in any state. Should vehement support of both of those become part of the progressive agenda?

Define "vehement"?

Despite the fact that national majorities and majorities in most states support legal access to abortion, the Republican Party has been very successful, electorally, while embracing anti-abortion positions fairly consistently, as a party core value proposition, across the country, even though the specific policy proposals through which that position have been realized have often fallen far short of the rhetoric, and have been adapted to the political condition of the particular time and place (but often gone beyond what is pragmatically useful except as a symbolic act.)

Has that been a help in convincing people -- even those who wouldn't support the most extreme form of anti-abortion policy -- that the Republicans have constant values? I think so.

So, yes, I think a positions for equal rights without discrimination based on sexual orientation and against capital punishment ought to be recognized as core Democratic values that the party is oriented toward everywhere.

I also think that the particular policies that the party supports in realization of those values have to be adapted based on pragmatic conditions.

But to define what the party stands for in terms of basic, general principles -- on a level more concrete than "the common good", but less specific than particular immediate policy -- there need to be firm principled goals, not tactical compromises that will be seen through to reveal a preference for present power over principle.

Posted by: cmdicely on April 24, 2006 at 2:05 PM | PERMALINK

Just to follow up my previous post, what's important is not so much what progressives happen to believe amongst themselves.

What's important is the vision and agenda that they are willing to get behind in public. THAT agenda clearly must be tailored to political realities. If, after compromises to those realities, the agenda seems incoherent or endless complex, it is a failure.

The crucial thing is that that product be as simple as possible, as clear as possible, and as coherent as possible.

Posted by: frankly0 on April 24, 2006 at 2:05 PM | PERMALINK

Well, we know what the republican party stands for.
1. Low Taxes [for rich people]
2. A Strong Offense
3. Less Effective Government
4. Hatred, fear and loathing of non-white, non-heterosexual, non-Christian fundamentalists.

Yes, good list! Thanks!

Posted by: craigie on April 24, 2006 at 2:07 PM | PERMALINK

Define "vehement"?

How about, as an explicit plank in the Democratic platform?

Do you want to make, say, support for a federal amendment extending marriage to the gay population an explicit part of the Democratic platform?

Wouldn't you support such an amendment? I would, but I would NEVER recommend its adoption in the Democratic platform, at least not until some years or decades pass.

Posted by: frankly0 on April 24, 2006 at 2:09 PM | PERMALINK

Here's an idea that needs no focus groups to back it up:

Stand for the Constitution and especially the Bill of Rights.

Stand for the majority of people in this country and not the tiny elite who've been handed the proceeds from this administration's looting.

Period.

Any policy you want to support can be covered by these principles, for which we stand.

The other guys are rubber stamps for dictatorship and corruption.

Posted by: Nell on April 24, 2006 at 2:11 PM | PERMALINK

I am a bit perplexed about Mr. Drum's comments, as I presumed he would do exactly the same thing Halpin and Teixeira propose - find out through polling what people want the liberal/progressive identity to be, in order to win elections. It is truly shameful that Democratic/liberal/progressive politicians are so Selig-like, that they cannot inherently exhibit what a decent American liberal/progressive identity is.

Foreign policy: fair play. We cannot condemn others for what we do. Pledge to end all policies and support to other nations that contradicts our stand on the infallibility of human rights and the rule of law. Stop all economic aid and armaments sales to dictatorships and terrorist states. The US will no longer play the Great Game or adopt the enenmy of my enemy is my friend as tactics.

Economics: Americans need another New Deal, one that makes individuals and families more important than wealthy corporations. Progressive taxation and strong corporate regulation.

War on Drugs: legalize everything, ending the iron triangle of law enforcement, politicians and organized crime that keeps our minorities and poor trapped in addiction and imprisonment.

Immigration: open the borders and enforce fair labor laws.

Military: Reduce spending and infrastructure as there is no strategic threat to the US since the fall of the USSR, and all of the intangible spending does nothing to make Americans richer or safer.

I do not expect any of these proposals to be adopted by the Democratic Party, which is why I renounce my membership and work for a new party to replace them.

Posted by: The Reverend Hostile on April 24, 2006 at 2:12 PM | PERMALINK

Dems should say, over and over, something like this:

Republicans: great at campaigning - terrible at governing.

Our platform should say: Democrats will fight to give every citizen a good job, good healthcare and good education.

Keep it simple.

Posted by: ExBrit on April 24, 2006 at 2:18 PM | PERMALINK

If you want to live like a Republican, vote for a Democrat.

- Harry S. Truman


Simple, succint, true. It doesn't get better than that.

Posted by: craigie on April 24, 2006 at 2:24 PM | PERMALINK

Here's another:

Are you fed-up after 5 years of One-Party Rule?

Vote Democratic Party

Posted by: Broken on April 24, 2006 at 2:27 PM | PERMALINK
Do you want to make, say, support for a federal amendment extending marriage to the gay population an explicit part of the Democratic platform?

See, I think the point your missing is that this is the kind of thing that is after, subordinate too, and less important than the level of deciding what the party stands for that I am talking about.

There has to be a decision on broad-but-meaningful principles (things much more specific than "the common good" which can mean, literally, anything the speaker approves of) to stand for first: things more like "freedom from discrimination based on sexual orientation", around which tactical decisions about particular policies is organized.

Feasibility plays a role in particular policy stances like the one you aks the question about, but only after the broader, basic principles are established. You convince people you stand for something based on clear and constant articulation of the basic principles; the specific policies are often secondary.

Wouldn't you support such an amendment?

No, because I don't think federalization of marriage law, in general, is a good idea, nor do I think marriage needs to be a special case carved out in the federal Constitution in this way.

Now, I'd support a federal statute aimed extending the benefits already existing in federal law for those who are married to those in same-sex unions married by states (or foreign governmentS) on the same basis that such benefits are extended to opposite-sex partners.

Posted by: cmdicely on April 24, 2006 at 2:29 PM | PERMALINK
What's important is the vision and agenda that they are willing to get behind in public. THAT agenda clearly must be tailored to political realities.

I think you miss out that it is important to recognize that the "vision" and the "agenda" that are publicly embraced are two distinct things. The "vision" is the goal, the "agenda" is the roadmap (or, at least, the prescription for the next few steps on the road).

The agenda must, as you say, be tailored to present pragmatic concerns. The vision, however, should not be (or, from a more cynically strategic perspective, must be well-tailored to appear not to be a reaction to present opportunity). This also means that the vision must be concrete enough to be meaningful, but broad enough to admit of considerable adaptation in terms of different immediate agendas to different political circumstances.

Posted by: cmdicely on April 24, 2006 at 2:36 PM | PERMALINK

I haven't read it, but I do want to make one comment based upon Kevin's excerpts - I highly doubt that most Americans equate progressives and the Democratic Party, and I would bet that, if framed properly, Americans would very easily see a platform and agenda for progressives. It's the Democratic Party that has a public image problem, not progressives.

Also, lots of progressives, I'd say a majority, don't equate progressives and Democrats either. Progressives can fall into Democratic, Green, Reform, and independent affiliations. The Democratic Party has not been a progressive champion in the past decade, unless the progressive vision has greatly attenuated.

If the Democrats want to start remaking their image, then they should continue to ramp up the progressive overhaul of the agenda and platform. For too long the Democratic Party has shied from progressive vision and campaigning in fear of losing the corporate vote. Thus, the progressive vision has been watered down to suit corporate officers and executives, who are generally socially liberal to an extent but see finance and profits as the primary bottom-line. The result is a very limited progressive vision that sounds good but is dominated by real-world wealthy lobby concerns.

Turn it around.

Posted by: Jimm on April 24, 2006 at 2:37 PM | PERMALINK

You know, Howard Dean had the passion thing down cold in '04. It had little to do with ideology; Gephardt was further left on healthcare and trade, Kucinich and Sharpton were much more peacenik.

It's that he stood there and articulated the rage Democrats felt -- and still feel -- about being the national party of Republican Lite.

Seems to me that passion is more a style thing, and can't even be addressed by demographic-driven issue analysis. So I agree with Kevin's gut reaction.

Passion, more than anything else, is about having a spine. Picking a cause and sticking with it.

Bob

Posted by: rmck1 on April 24, 2006 at 2:38 PM | PERMALINK

Political professionals like Texeira and Halpin are company men. The company in this case is the Democratic Party. The party exists for the purpose of delivering funds, advice and electoral victories for professional politicians running for office. The job of these company men is to figure out what the Democratic party has to turn itself into in order to deliver more victories for its candidates.

Of course, that is not the perspective of most ordinary people, who are not political professionals. For the professional, the success of the party is an end in itself, because securing victories for the party that employs their services is their job. If they could make the Democratic party successful electorally by turning it into a profoundly anti-progressive enterprise, they would do so. For most people, the victory of their party is only an instrumental end, based on their belief that the party advances their values better than the alternatives.

However, I doubt that the approach of Texeira and Halpin will be successful even on its own terms. The public wants leadership from their parties, but the compulsive tendency of the reigning pros is to turn its candidates into meek followers. They prefer to canvass voter preferences, and then follow those voters by pointing their candidates in whatever haphazard directions the voters happen to be drifting at the moment. But my sense is that people would prefer to vote for a strong leader who differs from their own preferences in certain areas, but inspires confidence, rather than for a weak and obsequious sycophant who just flatters them and regurgitates their preferences back at them.

Progressives need to build a political movement that is functionally and organizationally independent of the Democratic Party. If the movement succeeds in attracting adherents, then party pros like Texeira and Halpin will have to pay attention to it.

When I say a political movement, I do not mean merely the usual loose and disorganized network of lefty dissenters' groups given only to their standard, ineffective bitching. Those are potential foot-soldiers in the movement. But what is needed is a disciplined and aggressive national front with overarching thematic goals and policy proposals and, most importantly, a few very definite and visionary projects for national transformation around which a majority of Americans can be rallied.

Posted by: Dan Kervick on April 24, 2006 at 2:40 PM | PERMALINK

Good stuff Dan.

Posted by: Jimm on April 24, 2006 at 2:46 PM | PERMALINK

If Kerry had won the election in 2004, would anything be any different today? Iraq would be the same. Corporate dominance of economic policy would be the same. Perhaps we would not have two really big authoritarian assholes on the Supreme Court, but that is more wishful thinking rather than reality. We would probably still have two more Catholics on the SC.

When Democrats take over the government again, who will the liberals/progressives blame for all of the problems caused by US policies? I remember Abbie Hoffman saying that the more liberal the administration the more vehement the liberal/progressive reaction to antithetical liberal policies they enact. Perhaps it will take a liberal back stabbing Democratically controlled government to finally mobilize the people against the American values of war and authoritarianism established under Reagan.

Posted by: The Reverend Hostile on April 24, 2006 at 2:48 PM | PERMALINK

Dan:

While I agree with your analysis of leadership, it's at cross-purposes with the congenital fear of organizations that most progressives express, especially since the lost of union ascendency. There's been a strutural critique of organizationl power that certainly FDR wouldn't recognize.

I'm not in favor of creating a progressive splinter movement outside of a party structure. That's just more opportunity to create divisions on the left that can be exploited. I much prefer Howard Dean's visionary approach for the DNC, which is based on *rebuilding* the Democrats from the ground up, running young activists in local races in every state, until these folks percolate into leadership positions.

Once that happens, then the vision and passion of which we speak will be a part of both the party structure and its ideology.

Bob

Posted by: rmck1 on April 24, 2006 at 2:53 PM | PERMALINK

Dan and Jimm:

I *would* be in favor of creating a progressive party structure outside the Democrats *if* we had IRV and/or other alternatives to first past the post elections.

If we can negate the spoiler effect, I'd be with you.

Bob

Posted by: rmck1 on April 24, 2006 at 2:56 PM | PERMALINK
I'm not in favor of creating a progressive splinter movement outside of a party structure. That's just more opportunity to create divisions on the left that can be exploited. I much prefer Howard Dean's visionary approach for the DNC, which is based on *rebuilding* the Democrats from the ground up, running young activists in local races in every state, until these folks percolate into leadership positions.

I don't think these approaches are incompatible; a group that is a non-party can have substantial organizational and grass-roots mobilizing effect which can shift the realm of the political possible and thus enable even the tacticians in the party to shift. Its perfectly possible to work in that direction while also working to reform the party from within; just as its possible to work through, e.g., Amnesty International for change at the same time as working through the Democratic Party.

Posted by: cmdicely on April 24, 2006 at 3:04 PM | PERMALINK

It's not unfair. It's what has created this situation in the first place--trying to find out what people want to hear, and then package it into a some nearly content free bullet points.

They simply cannot take a lesson from the Republicans. Reagan got elected by taken strong, principled positions. Republicans have worked hard at taking strong, principled positions in the teeth of popular opinion. This works, even though the do not follow those principles when they govern.

Right now, the principled positions have to do with the rule of law, real commitment to security, fixing health care and making federal taxes more progressive.

Playing Hillary's game is not gonna work this time. The republicans are on the ropes. The democrats have to start throwing some punches.

Posted by: JayAckroyd on April 24, 2006 at 3:08 PM | PERMALINK

"We also believe in the responsibility of all citizens to contribute to the common good. This leads to our positions on fair taxes, people before corporations, jobs for American citizens, etc."

Tell it, Theora!

Posted by: Quaker in a Basement on April 24, 2006 at 3:17 PM | PERMALINK

If the Democratic Party has to conduct a poll to see what it should stand for, its electoral losses of the past as well of the future are extremely well deserved.

Posted by: lib on April 24, 2006 at 3:20 PM | PERMALINK

"We believe that in a post 9/11 world, the most dangerous thing would be for America to turn into a police state. We believe that our nation is strongest when it's open and free, and when its leaders are held accountable to the American people for their actions.

We don't think freedom and accountability are the problem. We think they're the solution.
"

Great stuff.

I'd word the first of these sentences a little differently:

"We believe that in a post 9/11 world, the most dangerous thing would be for America to give up the freedoms we have valued for more than 200 years."

Posted by: Quaker in a Basement on April 24, 2006 at 3:24 PM | PERMALINK

You convince people you stand for something based on clear and constant articulation of the basic principles; the specific policies are often secondary.

But the problem is precisely that the principles one espouses, by their very nature, when consistently maintained, become politically infeasible. Thus the natural set of principles that embodies "freedom from discrimination based on sexual orientation" would ENTAIL the support of a Constitutional amendment requiring states to allow gays to marry.

You may say, well, we just won't make it explicit in our platform, that's just NOT going to cut it. Why not? Because, of course, the Republicans are going to ask that very question, maybe making it part of a resolution, and the question will HAVE to be answered, whether you'd like to avoid it or not. They'll say, well you don't think ANY discrimination of ANY kind based on sexual orientation is acceptable, right? So why DON'T you support such an amendment? And you're answer will have to be "weasel, weasel, weasel".

So the consistency in principles that you may grandly espouse when its just progressives talking to progressives simply must break down in any political agenda. You're simply hiding your head in the sand if you think otherwise.

And my point, still again, is that what is important is NOT the consistency, simplicity, and clarity of the principles that progressives hold amongst themselves, but rather the consistency, simplicity, and clarity of the agenda which is put forth publicly, and which progressives will be obliged to stand up and defend in mixed audiences.

Basically, you and others are simply arguing that we must do all such compromises top down, and that that's the only way to come up with a coherent, sensible product. Other than the good moral, satisfying feeling such a belief seems to give everybody, I don't know why you or anyone else should believe that. As I said before, it could come bottom up, or work its way from both the bottom and the top. That aspect seems basically irrelevant to me. It's the quality of the final product that counts.

And one further point. Simply because the polling data is taken into account early on in the process makes NO commitment whatever to how "forward leaning" the agenda may be. THAT is an adjustment that is likewise made in the light of likely political consequences. It is a fair thing to say that Democrats have been far too risk aversive when it comes to how forward leaning their agenda is, and that Republicans have been much less so. But calibrating that assessment is simply part of the political calculus. It may indeed be true that a signficantly more forward leaning agenda is actually MORE not LESS effective, because it makes a party more distinctive, and appear stronger.

Posted by: frankly0 on April 24, 2006 at 3:32 PM | PERMALINK

cmdicely:

Don't get me wrong; I'm certainly not opposed to advocacy groups. I don't know if Amnesty does much in the way of electoral advocacy, but I'm certainly not opposed to Sierra Club or ADA or the ACLU, etc. etc. What does worry me is the "take my marbles and go home" effect of coalitions of single-issue groups in backing candidates. I'd be all for a progressive party if we could avoid the spoiler syndrome.

I think the tactical model is the Christian Coalition. After Robertson's '88 run, when America discovered the power of previously-marginalized charismatics, the Christian Coalition learned from it and certainly didn't propose a Christian third party. Instead they trained activists to take over local and influence state Republican Party structures. They bored from within. One of the results we've seen has been the flap over Creationism and Intelligent Design, proposed by thoroughly infiltrated, Manchurian local school boards. As ridiculously unconstitutional as that position is -- it's still a testament to the power of that kind of organizing.

Bob

Posted by: rmck1 on April 24, 2006 at 3:40 PM | PERMALINK

This is hysterical. The Dems are now looking to the polls to see what their values should be. This is further proof that the left has no core values, no vision and no backbone.

lib nailed it!!!!!!

Posted by: Jay on April 24, 2006 at 4:01 PM | PERMALINK

I still think Howard Dean's '04 run has a lot to teach the Democrats. First off, nobody -- least of all his enemies -- ever doubted his passion and committment. And none of his friends ever doubted that he was merely a sensible guy -- not an ideologue by any means -- an "accidental politician," who advocated positions so mainstream as to be simple common sense.

In the context of Bush, of course, they looked "radical" -- but they were pure Rockefeller Republicanism.

Here's what he did: Pick a handful of key positions upon which there would be no compromise. Dean's major two were the Iraq war being a mistake (prescient at the time) and the Republican culture of corruption -- which he got on before everybody.

Defuse a number of hot-button issues by splitting the difference and/or allowing the states to decide. He was brilliant to table gun control as a national issue. Period, end of story. People in NYC will never understand guns the way that people in Utah do. So let the national assault rifle ban go. Second, split the difference on gay rights with civil unions, which he courageously signed into law amid death threats. Call marriage the sole property of churches and religion, and get it out of the debate. Again -- brilliant.

Demonstrate long-term vision with healthcare policy by advancing a broad goal -- cover all children as he did in Vermont -- but show flexibility in how to get there. Tell supporters of single-payer that it's more important to pass a program now that we can fix once it's enacted than by immediately championing something more utopian (i.e. Gephardt's proposal).

With three distinct types of issues, he showed 1) no compromise, 2) intelligent compromise, 3) a pragmatic, flexible approach to a visionary long-term goal.

I still believe that this can serve as a model for Democrats nationally.

Bob

Posted by: rmck1 on April 24, 2006 at 4:07 PM | PERMALINK

It's very simple, really. Here is the free advice for the Democrats. I gurantee that it will work.

1. Fire all the consultants and advisors.

2. Straighten the firing circle.

3. Shoot.

Posted by: nut on April 24, 2006 at 4:26 PM | PERMALINK

Do not light a match the righties have such a huge straw pile in here it could take the whole web with it.heh hah ah

Posted by: Booo on April 24, 2006 at 4:36 PM | PERMALINK
But the problem is precisely that the principles one espouses, by their very nature, when consistently maintained, become politically infeasible.

Principles aren't policies, they aren't directly implementable, they aren't things that are generally voted on, and they aren't either "feasible" or "infeasible" in any meaningful sense.

Yes, certain principles may be unpopular (the anti-abortion stand of Republicans, for instance), but nevertheless can serve as part of a structure demonstrating principle, and if care is taken in how they are realized into policy stances, not necessarily politically harmful at all.


Thus the natural set of principles that embodies "freedom from discrimination based on sexual orientation" would ENTAIL the support of a Constitutional amendment requiring states to allow gays to marry.

No, it wouldn't. It might imply support for an end-state in which gays could marry freely as a goal, it would not entail support for any particular mechanism for acheiving that goal.

You may say, well, we just won't make it explicit in our platform, that's just NOT going to cut it.

Actually, no, I'm more likely to say, as I have already, that you are wrong as to what the principle entails in policy terms, rather than favoring a stealth policy agenda.

Why not? Because, of course, the Republicans are going to ask that very question, maybe making it part of a resolution, and the question will HAVE to be answered, whether you'd like to avoid it or not.

Sure, if such a resolution came to a floor vote, individual members would have to take a position on it. It might even be useful for the party to take a unified position, although there are times when not doing so is the best course.

But having a consistently articulated position can actually help opposing set-up positions like this, by allowing the opposition to the proposed policy to be more credibly framed as opposition to the means rather than the stated goal.

They'll say, well you don't think ANY discrimination of ANY kind based on sexual orientation is acceptable, right?

Sure, and we don't think murder is acceptable, either.

So why DON'T you support such an amendment?

Because the federal government doesn't set marriage policy -- it, like murder, theft, child support, etc. -- is principally a matter of state law. The proper venue for implementing that kind of change is not the federal Constitution.

The proper federal course of action in support of that goal is merely to remove the discriminatory portions of federal law, and leave it to the states to correct their law.

Believing that something is wrong is not the same as believing that it is the federal governments job to prohibit it, though it does imply believing the federal government should stop practicing it.

So why DON'T you support such an amendment? And you're answer will have to be "weasel, weasel, weasel".

So? Frame up questions like this are seen through by the electorate, too, as long as there is more to look at. The electorate can see the principle in pragmatic, environment-sensitive work to advance anti-discrimination policy, and recognize that as a consistent principle even if the party doesn't support set-piece strawman votes.


So the consistency in principles that you may grandly espouse when its just progressives talking to progressives simply must break down in any political agenda.

Again, you seem to be confusing principles with agenda. They are too separate things. Principles are broad, long-term, strategic goals. Agendas consist of series of tactical steps. You need both, and the latter needs to be clearly guided by both the former and pragmatic considerations.

But you need to have the former -- and they need to be fairly stable in articulation even if not in how they are implemented in agendas -- if you expect to be seen as having a commitment to values rather than mere political opportunism.

And my point, still again, is that what is important is NOT the consistency, simplicity, and clarity of the principles that progressives hold amongst themselves, but rather the consistency, simplicity, and clarity of the agenda which is put forth publicly, and which progressives will be obliged to stand up and defend in mixed audiences.

I think it is a giant mistake to see those as two different things, first of all; if you want to convince people you have real values, the vision and principles and agenda that the party communicates to its activist base has to be the same vision, principles, and agenda that the party communicates to the masses.

Now, the immediate agenda is naturally more targetted to the public-at-large, at least in the general election context, whereas the principles in the vision are, inasmuch as they are the focus rather than off on the periphery, more the focus of long-term party-building.

But the connection needs to be there and be visible even in the electoral context, because the relation between the vision and the agenda is what demonstrates principle and, thereby, an important aspect of the character voters look at it in evaluating candidates beyond narrow policy stands.

Basically, you and others are simply arguing that we must do all such compromises top down, and that that's the only way to come up with a coherent, sensible product. Other than the good moral, satisfying feeling such a belief seems to give everybody, I don't know why you or anyone else should believe that.

No, actually, I'm not saying its the only way to come up with a "coherent, sensible product". Inasmuch I'm saying that we have to do such compromises "top-down" (presuming you mean by that working from general principles to specific policy stands), I'm saying that because that's precisely what having principles means, and the easiest way to convince people that you are making decisions from principles rather than political opportunism is to actually make decisions from principal rather than based on practical opportunism. Well, that and, in fact, while I think it is a tactical necessity for the Democratic Party to appear to be principled, as long as I am going to support the party, I expect it to be actually principled, as well, so even if it could sell itself as effectively with the illusion of principle (that is, even if genuine principle had no tactical advantage), I'd prefer real principle anyway.

Furthermore, doing the reverse, working for the bottom up, makes your strategic principles prone to change with the tactical environment, which very quickly makes it clear that you actually don't have any principles at all; if you are going to try to sell yourself as having principles, you need to stick with the principles you choose, which means they better be principles you can live with, which means they'd best as much as possible represent your actual principles rather than your perception of the transient political environment at the time you framed them.


And one further point. Simply because the polling data is taken into account early on in the process makes NO commitment whatever to how "forward leaning" the agenda may be.

I don't even know what you are trying to say by "forward leaning".

Posted by: cmdicely on April 24, 2006 at 4:46 PM | PERMALINK
Don't get me wrong; I'm certainly not opposed to advocacy groups. I don't know if Amnesty does much in the way of electoral advocacy, but I'm certainly not opposed to Sierra Club or ADA or the ACLU, etc. etc. What does worry me is the "take my marbles and go home" effect of coalitions of single-issue groups in backing candidates.

A broader progressive non-party action group presumably wouldn't be a single issue group, but I group of people who were unsatisfied with the performance of the Democratic Party to date, but dedicated to a common broad progressive vision. Essentially it might work as a caucus within the party (sort of an anti-DLC), or as a group not directly connected with the party but strongly overlapping it (like the DSA; indeed, but for the unfortunate emotional baggage attached to the name, the DSA would seem to be the most natural existing vehicle for such a movement.)

I think the tactical model is the Christian Coalition. After Robertson's '88 run, when America discovered the power of previously-marginalized charismatics, the Christian Coalition learned from it and certainly didn't propose a Christian third party. Instead they trained activists to take over local and influence state Republican Party structures. They bored from within. One of the results we've seen has been the flap over Creationism and Intelligent Design, proposed by thoroughly infiltrated, Manchurian local school boards. As ridiculously unconstitutional as that position is -- it's still a testament to the power of that kind of organizing.

I agree, which is why I think a non-party organized movement is precisely what is needed.

Posted by: cmdicely on April 24, 2006 at 4:51 PM | PERMALINK

Ruy is a numbers guy; he doesn't pretend to be the second coming of William Jennings Bryan. Read and learn and maybe somebody else can make the leap from numbers to passion.

Posted by: Steve Sailer on April 24, 2006 at 4:52 PM | PERMALINK
Ruy is a numbers guy; he doesn't pretend to be the second coming of William Jennings Bryan. Read and learn and maybe somebody else can make the leap from numbers to passion.

You can't make the leap from numbers to passion; passion tells you what numbers you should be looking for to set tactics. All the number-hunting in the world (especially this kind of number-hunting) won't lead you to passion.

Posted by: cmdicely on April 24, 2006 at 4:57 PM | PERMALINK

Bush is on automatic self destruct because his immigration policies don't match his most loyal consituency.

Do you know how he will get them back?

Brokeback USA -- brought to you by the DNC!!!

Keep the pink tuxedos at home for one election cycle and you might get the votes to take the house and start impeachment proceedings.

If you trot out the marriage act... the RIGHT WILL COALESCE and forgive their differences.

Posted by: tj on April 24, 2006 at 4:59 PM | PERMALINK

Check out Prime Minister Michael Rimmer in the UK. He ran ALL policies through polling before deciding anything - after a few months people gave him dictatorial power's just to get out of filling in polling forms.

' The rise and rise of Michael Rimmmer ' Starring Peter Cook.

Posted by: professor rat on April 24, 2006 at 5:00 PM | PERMALINK

@cmdicely: Right now, the Progressive Democrats of America seem to be what you're describing.

I await the barrage of denunciations of PDAers as "Greens with one foot out of the party". Personally, pleading guilty to that in advance....

Posted by: Nell on April 24, 2006 at 5:09 PM | PERMALINK

rmck1 wrote: People in NYC will never understand guns the way that people in Utah do.

Likewise, people in Utah will never understand guns the way that people in NYC do. (Hint: there isn't a lot of deer hunting in NYC, particularly with cheap handguns.)

Posted by: SecularAnimist on April 24, 2006 at 5:13 PM | PERMALINK

cmdicely:

Read your thread with frankly -- nice job of separating principle from agenda. Exactly.

As for your response to me; I think as usual we argree much more than we disagree. And again, I think the Dean approach points to a solution. What you propose is precisely Democracy For America, the group spun off from Howard's primary campaign which is run by his brother Jim. They're not affiliated with the DNC, endorse candidates often more progressive than the DNC would touch (Jim's a CT resident and close to Lieberman's new primary opponent -- although I think DFA is trying -- and perhaps failing -- to stay out of that fight) and run activist training seminars and retreats throughout the year. Their goal is to develop ground-level, person-to-person political skills in the netroots Howard's campaign energized. How to turn a bunch of politically-motivated computer nerds into folks comfortable enough to sit down with committee members and Democratic Party honchos and talk turkey like real people :)

I'm on their mailing list; they're busy as beavers ... They put up those billboards in DeLay's district about the golfing trips :)

Of course that's only one avenue. DFA certainly doesn't preclude the existence of others who would be working for the same broad progressive goals ...

Bob

Posted by: rmck1 on April 24, 2006 at 5:15 PM | PERMALINK

SecularAnimist:

Dean's position certainly wasn't *anti* gun control, either -- that was the beauty of it. His position was to call it a state issue. Let New York City regulate the hell out of handguns and let Southewestern cities have "shall issue" CCW laws ...

Bob

Posted by: rmck1 on April 24, 2006 at 5:24 PM | PERMALINK

I like the concept of "Looking out for the little guy" but not the language. Most people in America these days don't think of themselves as the "little guy". They think of themselves as up and coming, and just one lucky break away from being rich.

Because, of course, the rich and powerful want them to think that. It's a lottery mentality. Boy, why did I ever favor state-sponsored lotteries, anyway? But I digress.

I think that language that's better is "the ordinary person", and "the consumer" and "the middle class". The thing that needs to be understood, and understood deeply, is that most Americans feel that materially, they are ok. Even if you make 20,000 a year, you still have enough to eat and a tv. So they don't vote on material issues.

Make it more of an issue of empowerment. Find all those annoying everyday reminders to them that they have little or no power, and offer it to them. That's what Rush does.

Posted by: Doctor Jay on April 24, 2006 at 5:27 PM | PERMALINK

SecularAnimist, glad to read you are back.

Posted by: on April 24, 2006 at 5:27 PM | PERMALINK

Tate's rule: How you define the problem determines the solution.

Is the problem that "a majority of Americans do not believe progressives or Democrats stand for anything" in which case we need to get ourselves some popular, easy to communicate policies.

or is the problem that some percent of white Americans don't trust the Democrats--that is, they believe they know what Democrats stand for and they don't like it. (See Fitz's comment at 1:17. They think Democrats stand for "1. High Taxes, 2. A weak Defense, 3. More Government, 4. Decadence") Whatever evil Bush does, these Americans respond, "Well, the Democrats would be worse. The Democrats do the same." So the problem here is figuring out how to breach that thick wall of fear and ignorance.

or, as Quaker in a basement pointed out, is the problem that Americans are crippled by " a fundamental disagreement about the role of government." That is, when government asks you to make a sacrifice for the common good, how do you respond?

Or, maybe there is no problem. Kerry narrowly lost in 2004 (and maybe, given Diebold, didn't lose in 2004.) Gore didn't lose in 2000. If the 2004 election were held today, Kerry would beat Bush by 10%. All we need is a sufficient majority and fair elections.

And in terms of policy, there is only one: How will human social organizations survive peak oil, global climate change, and overpopulation. Everything else is rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic.

Posted by: PTate in MN on April 24, 2006 at 5:29 PM | PERMALINK


RMCK1: I think the tactical model is the Christian Coalition. After Robertson's '88 run, when America discovered the power of previously-marginalized charismatics, the Christian Coalition learned from it and certainly didn't propose a Christian third party. Instead they trained activists to take over local and influence state Republican Party structures. They bored from within.

Using their tactics, by definition, insures a sustained corrupt system. Amnesty International and the ACLU are composed of individuals committed to justice and humanitarian principles. Any training of activists would have to include profuse compromise of those principles, as they would have no opportunity to bore from within until they were within. They couldn't get there without massive support from business; and even if they could, they definitely couldn't stay there. Infiltrating the enemy only works if the infiltrators are willing to break any rule of personal morality in order to accomplish their mission. These are committed activists, not covert agents. But even trained agents, as we have learned in the McCarthy matter, are so enmeshed in a corrupt system that reporting obvious illegalities through systemic channels meets multiple roadblocks, while bypassing them is fraught with exposure to charges of illegal conduct.

But that bypass, which is the press, is itself part of the corrupt system. Still, it remains the best avenue of hope for truth to emerge. So too is it the best hope for activists to reveal their truths and communicate them to the public. The only tactic of the right which ought to be employed by the left is the one practiced by Bush when he is able to command air time to spew his propaganda. He gets it for free, of course, but the left will have to pay dearly for it. The solution is a massive buy of air time--probably costing billions--during which well produced, hard-hitting presentations are made which outline the dishonesty and wrong-doings of the administration and the Republican party, as they also propose remedies and visionary solutions. Regarding Bush and others, the word "lie" must be used loud and often. Clear and eye-catching graphical representations of the country's true economic condition must be presented. I'm not talking about thirty second spots (those should be used to promote the viewing times for the many showings of at least a half-dozen separate full-length pieces); I'm talking about 15 minute, 30 minute, and 1 hour programs.

Calling Soros, et al.


Posted by: jayarbee on April 24, 2006 at 5:30 PM | PERMALINK

At what point in your life does your success make you part of the enemy? - tbrosz

At the point when you would rather cut taxes so your investments can earn earn another dollar rather than fund programs that keep people from dying of starvation, common diseases, or exposure to the weather. At the point you would rather turn a blind eye to a genocide because it would cost too much to try to help out. At the point the love of money and acquisitions outstrips your empathy for other living beings and the environment in which they all live.

Maybe you can answer one for me; at what point do you say enough is enough?

Posted by: Eric Paulsen on April 24, 2006 at 5:37 PM | PERMALINK

jayarbee:

Certainly the parallel can be overdrawn, and perhaps I was wrong to emphasize the deceptive (Manchurian) aspect of CC infiltration of local school boards. I agree with you that the answer isn't "stealth progressives" running as mainstream Democrats, and I agree that Machiavellian tactics used by us as if power were an ends in itself is seductive, dangerous and ultimately self-limiting (because "principle" starts to evaporate once people catch on -- which is precisely what's happening to the CC after Ralph Reed's disgrace).

Really a better example is what Howard Dean and the DNC are doing right now in formerly moribund red state party organizations. There's nothing deceptive about this; the goal is to get young people involved at politics at the local level and let them rise to positions of leadership with most of their ideals intact. It's a long-term strategy for revitalizing the Democrats, and I think it's exactly the right way to go. Mississippi, Alabama, South Carolina all have active state Democratic parties now -- something undreamed-of in the McAuliffe era. And while it will take awhile for these new activists to percolate upwards to the levers of power, it's the most organic and honest way to do it.

Nobody's talking stealth in this particular appproach.

Bob

Posted by: rmck1 on April 24, 2006 at 5:49 PM | PERMALINK

According to the way I perceive your latest successful standard bearer ( Clinton ) acted, take a poll and then I will decide where I stand is the usual Democratic MO.

Posted by: John Hansen on April 24, 2006 at 5:51 PM | PERMALINK

John Hansen:

Yeay, but the anti-Clinton (Howard Dean) is now chairman of the DNC :)

Bob

Posted by: rmck1 on April 24, 2006 at 5:52 PM | PERMALINK

Good point jayarbee. The PAX television station in my city (Phoenix) ran the Swift Boat Smear Kerry movie consecutively about five times in a row the Sunday before the November 2004 election. They ran it as an infommercial. The liberals/progressives need to do the same to the conservatives/Republicans.

If I had a TV launcher, I'd make somebody pay.

If I had a TV launcher, I would retaliate.

If I had a TV launcher, I would not hesitate.

If I had a TV launcher, ...!

Posted by: The Reverend Hostile on April 24, 2006 at 5:53 PM | PERMALINK

Yeay = Yeah

Posted by: rmck1 on April 24, 2006 at 5:54 PM | PERMALINK
Amnesty International and the ACLU are composed of individuals committed to justice and humanitarian principles. Any training of activists would have to include profuse compromise of those principles, as they would have no opportunity to bore from within until they were within.

I don't think you have to compromise your principles to train people how to effectively articulate them on the grassroots level.

Though, I admit, plenty of ideologues, including those of the progressive stripe, do seem to be plagued with the belief that actually worrying about what works to advance your principles is somehow fundamentally a compromise of those principles rather than something done in service of them.


Posted by: cmdicely on April 24, 2006 at 6:04 PM | PERMALINK

cmdicely:

Too true, sadly enough ....

Bob

Posted by: rmck1 on April 24, 2006 at 6:18 PM | PERMALINK

PTate in MN: And in terms of policy, there is only one: How will human social organizations survive peak oil, global climate change, and overpopulation..

Agreed.

I hope that Al Gore's soon coming global warming movie An Inconvenient Truth will have a significant impact on public awareness and opinion.

And there's this ...

Bush Faces Growing Dissent From Republicans on Climate Change
by Kim Chipman
April 24, 2006
Bloomberg

Posted by: SecularAnimist on April 24, 2006 at 6:25 PM | PERMALINK


CMDICELY: Though, I admit, plenty of ideologues, including those of the progressive stripe, do seem to be plagued with the belief that actually worrying about what works to advance your principles is somehow fundamentally a compromise of those principles rather than something done in service of them.

When the only effective means to advance one's principles must be purchased by becoming allied with those whose principles (or lack thereof) one opposes, it's not somehow fundamentally a compromise of those principles, it is plain and simply so.


Posted by: jayarbee on April 24, 2006 at 6:27 PM | PERMALINK

"Because the federal government doesn't set marriage policy -- it, like murder, theft, child support, etc. -- is principally a matter of state law. The proper venue for implementing that kind of change is not the federal Constitution."

But the federal Constitution guarantees substantive due process and equal protection of the law. A state murder law that established different penalties on the basis of race or sex or religion would most definitely run afoul of the federal constitution. Gay couples are denied these protections under the current federal Constitution, so why shouldn't it be amended to provide them?

Posted by: Able Eric on April 24, 2006 at 6:32 PM | PERMALINK

Able Eric:

In theory, it absolutely should. The logic of human rights leads directly to a federally protected right of gay marriage.

In practice, it won't happen until the majority of Americans see being gay as an existential attribute instead of a "lifestyle choice."

Many black churchgoers especially resent the comparison of gays to blacks, and the struggle for gay rights to civil rights.

They argue that they can't, of couse, choose not to be black -- while gays can choose not to be gay.

This view is wrongheaded, of course. The DSM IV clearly says that homosexuality is neither a pathology nor a choice.

But the public has to become hip to that position before we'll see any meaningful constitutional protection for gay marriage.

Bob

Posted by: rmck1 on April 24, 2006 at 6:39 PM | PERMALINK

jayarbee:

Well, due to the strange-bedfellow nature of politics, that makes being a politician who is both principled and effective impossible by definition.

I really think the left needs to lose this self-defeat by radical purity schtick.

FDR's a sold-out whore according to this calculus.

Bob

Posted by: rmck1 on April 24, 2006 at 6:47 PM | PERMALINK

And look, I come from the Dean wing of the party, so it's not like I'm some sort of DLC shill ...

But politics is the art of the possible. We forget this at our peril.

Bob

Posted by: rmck1 on April 24, 2006 at 6:49 PM | PERMALINK
But the federal Constitution guarantees substantive due process and equal protection of the law. A state murder law that established different penalties on the basis of race or sex or religion would most definitely run afoul of the federal constitution.

Laws which regulate who you can marry based on your sex do, in fact, discriminate on the basis of sex, just as those that limit who you can marry based on your race do discriminate on the basis of race.

Gay couples are denied these protections under the current federal Constitution,

For the reason noted above, this position in inconsistent with your previous sentence.

so why shouldn't it be amended to provide them?

(1) Because it arguably already does so in a way which isn't restricted to marriage rights, and undermining the credibility of that in order to explicitly and specifically extend marriage rights is shortsighted, and
(2) Because amending the Constitution to do so is less practical in the current context than many other means of providing progress toward the same vision of a society without such discrimination, and
(3) Because dictating the details of marriage policy per se in the federal Constitution is excessive and inappropriate micromanagement via the Constitution, which violates the principal that the Constitution should establish broad principles within which specific policies are adopted.

Posted by: cmdicely on April 24, 2006 at 6:53 PM | PERMALINK
When the only effective means to advance one's principles must be purchased by becoming allied with those whose principles (or lack thereof) one opposes, it's not somehow fundamentally a compromise of those principles, it is plain and simply so.

I disagree.

You seem to be confusing people with ideas.

Posted by: cmdicely on April 24, 2006 at 6:55 PM | PERMALINK


RMCK1: Well, due to the strange-bedfellow nature of politics, that makes being a politician who is both principled and effective impossible by definition.

Only if you think the present system is the only one available to us.


Posted by: jayarbee on April 24, 2006 at 7:08 PM | PERMALINK

cmdicely,

"Laws which regulate who you can marry based on your sex do, in fact, discriminate on the basis of sex, ... For the reason noted above, this position in inconsistent with your previous sentence."

Huh? Are you seriously under the impression that marriage laws that exclude same-sex couples have been struck down by the Supreme Court as unconstitutional discrimination on the basis of sex? They haven't.

"(1) Because it arguably already does so in a way which isn't restricted to marriage rights,"

You may believe that, but elected officials and judges clearly do not. That's why we need to amend the Constitution to make guarantee clear.

"(2) Because amending the Constitution to do so is less practical in the current context than many other means of providing progress toward the same vision of a society without such discrimination,"

How have you made this determination? And why should gay people have to rely on state legislatures (or whatever else your "other means" refers to) for equal marriage rights, when straight couples have the much greater protection of the federal Constitution for theirs?

"(3) Because dictating the details of marriage policy per se in the federal Constitution is excessive and inappropriate micromanagement via the Constitution,"

Huh? So Loving v. Virginia was "excessive and inappropriate micromanagement" of state marriage laws, in your view, was it?

Posted by: Able Eric on April 24, 2006 at 7:11 PM | PERMALINK

jayarbee:

Well, if you're in the business of envisioning entirely new systems, well that's very interesting and perhaps intellectually stimulating ....

Kind of a bummer for the folks who want to change things here and now a little bit for the better, though.

We really need to lose the radical purism, JRB.

Bob

Posted by: rmck1 on April 24, 2006 at 7:14 PM | PERMALINK

Able Eric:

What do you think's going to happen when a Constitutional amendment *for* gay marriage collides with a Constitutional amendment *against* gay marriage?

In purely political terms -- which side do you think has the stronger chance of passing?

Bob

Posted by: rmck1 on April 24, 2006 at 7:19 PM | PERMALINK

Able Eric:

Until such time as people consider being gay an attribute rather than a choice, the Loving analogy won't be salient.

What about bisexuals? What about gay people who've become straight and vice-versa?

Don't you see how this is entirely different than being born a particular race? Aren't you sensitive to the way the majority of black people read this?

We're just going to have to wait a bunch of more years until homosexuality becomes more socially acceptible. Pushing the issue on hardcore civil-rights terms is a net loser for the Democrats at this moment.

Bob

Posted by: rmck1 on April 24, 2006 at 7:24 PM | PERMALINK
Huh? Are you seriously under the impression that marriage laws that exclude same-sex couples have been struck down by the Supreme Court as unconstitutional discrimination on the basis of sex?

No, I think if I meant to say "...have been struck down by the Supreme Court as..." I would have used exactly those words. Nevertheless, the concern of a possible successful federal 14th Amendment challenge, especially in light of other recent decisions that seemed to support gay rights, was one of the motivations for efforts to push a federal anti-marriage amendment.

You may believe that, but elected officials and judges clearly do not. That's why we need to amend the Constitution to make guarantee clear.

Elected officials and judges are clearly divided in the issue. Goodridge was, after all, though it was based on the Massachussetts State Constitution provisions with identical terms to the 14th Amendment, and not the 14th Amendment itself (which insulates it from federal review), based on the exact same legal standard (rational basis test) as is the weakest test for any kind of discrimination under the 14th Amendment (and is the same standard that would apply to discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation under the federal 14th Amendment jurisprudence, and a weaker standard than would apply to sex-based discrimination) and still found that the restriction was impermissible.

Clearly, by any reasonable standard, the justices of the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachussetts are "judges".

How have you made this determination?

It's my intuitive assessment of the pragmatics, not a conclusion of exhaustive research. I'm open to arguments that its easier to acheive such an amendment in the present environment than to open up the federal statutory benefits and let progress in the states combined with that drive acceptance.

So Loving v. Virginia was "excessive and inappropriate micromanagement" of state marriage laws, in your view, was it?

In the odd parallel universe where Loving v. Virginia was the name of a Constitutional Amendment added for the sole purpose of enshrining a right to interracial marriage in the text of the Constitution rather than a Supreme Court decision applying the 14th Amendment, yes, that's exactly the position that universe's version of me would have about Loving v. Virginia.

In our universe, no, and you completely missed the point.

Posted by: cmdicely on April 24, 2006 at 7:26 PM | PERMALINK

rmck1,

"In purely political terms -- which side do you think has the stronger chance of passing?"

At the moment, probably an anti-gay-marriage amendment. And the point is....? Are you saying we should only advocate desirable amendments to the Constitution if they are currently politically feasible? How are they going to become politically feasible unless they are advocated?

Did you oppose the Equal Rights Amendment too?

Posted by: Able Eric on April 24, 2006 at 7:29 PM | PERMALINK

Laws which regulate who you can marry based on your sex do, in fact, discriminate on the basis of sex

All sorts of laws "discriminate", its just that marriage laws and others have a "rational basis" for doing so.

Its simple minded thinking and a Me/good You/bad attitudinal approach that kills the democratic parties chances.

Posted by: Fitz on April 24, 2006 at 7:35 PM | PERMALINK
Until such time as people consider being gay an attribute rather than a choice, the Loving analogy won't be salient.

I dunno. I think a state law which prohibited Christians intermarrying with Hindus would be clearly prohibited by the 14th Amendment even though religion is a choice. As would a state law prohibiting Democrats from intermarrying Republicans. And I think the Loving logic would be precisely the reason why, even the basis of categorization would not be race.

Further, a law which prohibits me from marrying a man because I am a man (rather than, e.g., because I'm already married and not at all interested in marrying a man) and likewise prevents a woman from marrying a woman discriminates on the basis of sex just as a law which prohibits a black from marrying a white and a white from marrying a black discriminates on the basis of race. It doesn't discriminate based on sexual orientation except indirectly: gay men can marry women, and lesbians can marry men. As no doubt has happened many times throughout history for reasons having nothing to do with sexual attraction.

There is, I think, no doubt that sex is as at least nearly as much an attribute as race, and nearly as little a choice (transsexualism, of course, muddies this a bit, but the people who object to this being seen as discriminatory usually aren't really all that pro-transsexual, either.)


Posted by: cmdicely on April 24, 2006 at 7:37 PM | PERMALINK
Only if you think the present system is the only one available to us.

The present system, rather by definition, is the only one presently available to us.

Of course, the most practical route to acheive some principles may be structural change, either within the formal system, or by extraordinary means accomplished within the present political context.

Posted by: cmdicely on April 24, 2006 at 7:39 PM | PERMALINK
All sorts of laws "discriminate", its just that marriage laws and others have a "rational basis" for doing so.

(1) Discrimination based on or sex, or concerning a fundamental right, requires more than a rational basis (see the entire body of 14th Amendment jurisprudence),
(2) Marriage is a fundamental right (see Loving v. virginia), and
(3) Its not universally accepted that marriage restrictions satisfy even the rational basis test (see the Goodridge decision.)

Posted by: cmdicely on April 24, 2006 at 7:41 PM | PERMALINK

cmdicely,

"Nevertheless, the concern of a possible successful federal 14th Amendment challenge, especially in light of other recent decisions that seemed to support gay rights, was one of the motivations for efforts to push a federal anti-marriage amendment."

Another nonsequitur. A 14th Amendment challenge has not been successful. Nor has any other federal challenge. Nor is there any serious prospect that it will be. That's why we need an amendment.

"Elected officials and judges are clearly divided in the issue."

Same-sex marriage has not been held to be a federal Constitutional right, and there is no serious prospect that it will be, especially given the recent appointments to the Supreme Court. That's why we need an amendment.

"It's my intuitive assessment ..."

Then it is worthless.

"In the odd parallel universe where Loving v. Virginia was the name of a Constitutional Amendment ..."

That parallel universe is a figment of your imagination. Loving v. Virginia is the name of the case in which it was held that the federal Constitution protects the right of couples to marry regardless of their racial composition. If this is not "excessive and inappropriate micromanagement" of marriage, why is a federal constitutional right of couples to marry regardless of their gender composition "excessive and inappropriate micromanagement?"

Did you also oppose the Equal Rights Amendment?


Posted by: Able Eric on April 24, 2006 at 7:41 PM | PERMALINK

"Until such time as people consider being gay an attribute rather than a choice, the Loving analogy won't be salient."

except all the large scale studies are now refuting the "innate" distinction that the whole house of cards is built on.

Posted by: Fitz on April 24, 2006 at 7:43 PM | PERMALINK


RMCK1: Kind of a bummer for the folks who want to change things here and now a little bit for the better, though.

A little bit for the better might have had some potential five years ago had it not been changed a lot for the worse since then. The system is rigged to perpetually change a lot for the worse for not only every little bit for the better it manages to eke out, but also just for the inevitability of it. The system needs a massive overhaul to avoid its imminent collapse. Bold proposals for fundamental change must be advanced by people with a powerful pulpit--people who are willing to sacrifice that power for principles. For instance, do you honestly suppose the lives of ordinary citizens would be made less secure, either defensively or economically, if they themselves, in a manner akin to jury duty, composed and voted upon laws governing us all, rather than allowing an elite group beholden to corporate interests to impose those interests on all of us? We need citizens to really participate at all levels. Currently, they are powerless, either well aware that their votes are increasingly meaningless, or deluded into believing we actually have a democracy. Just checking . . . do you think we do? Wait, don't answer. Wait until November, '06 . . . or '08 . . . or whenever . . . or never.


Posted by: jayarbee on April 24, 2006 at 7:45 PM | PERMALINK

cmdicely,

"Further, a law which prohibits me from marrying a man because I am a man (rather than, e.g., because I'm already married and not at all interested in marrying a man) and likewise prevents a woman from marrying a woman discriminates on the basis of sex ..."

That argument has been soundly rejected by the courts. A law that excludes same-sex couples from civil marriage is not sex discrimination because it does not favor one sex over the other. Both sexes are equally prevented from marrying a person of the same sex as themselves. That's why we need an amendment.

Posted by: Able Eric on April 24, 2006 at 7:50 PM | PERMALINK

The problem with Loving vs Virginia is that is was knocking down segregation laws, in a long line of cases removing laws whose only rational basis was to keep the races apart.

Anti- miscegenation laws never redefined the institution of marriage. Its base meaning and purpose remains intact. The definition and purpose of marriage does not depend on race and it was never maintained that it did.

While homosexual marriage changes the purpose of the institution by its very nature.

Posted by: Fitz on April 24, 2006 at 7:50 PM | PERMALINK
Another nonsequitur. A 14th Amendment challenge has not been successful.

When did one reach the Supreme Court? When did one reach an intermediate appellate court and get denied cert.?

Nor has any other federal challenge. Nor is there any serious prospect that it will be.

I disagree with the last statement.

That's why we need an amendment.I disagree that we would need an amendment even if the preceding were true; and, even if an amendment were abstractly desirable ignoring feasibility concerns, I disagree that it is the route that, if advocated, would most likely lead most expeditiously to the national end of discrimination against same-sex marriage and/or based on sexual orientation outside of marriage.

I think that federal statutory reform is more practicable, and would prepare the ground for the kind of acceptance that would improve the prospects for judicial action and, failing that, for a Constitutional amendment.

That parallel universe is a figment of your imagination.

No, again, you miss the point. What I criticizes was narrowly writing marriage law into the text of the federal Constitution. You responded with idiocy about Loving, which was a complete nonsequitur.

If this is not "excessive and inappropriate micromanagement" of marriage, why is a federal constitutional right of couples to marry regardless of their gender composition "excessive and inappropriate micromanagement?"

I didn't say that recognition of such a right would be excessive and inappropriate micromanagement.

I didn't even say that any Constitutional amendment that had the effect of clearly establishing such a right (such as, e.g., a general protection, not specific to marriage, for equality based on sexual orientation -- or just plain sex) would be excessive an inappropriate micromanagement.

What I said was that adding a Constitutional Amendment to specifically grant marriage rights, alone, to same-sex couples would be excessive and inappropriate micromanagement that would violate the idea that the Constitution should be for broad principles and not, except where there was extraordinary need, for narrow policy.

Posted by: cmdicely on April 24, 2006 at 7:52 PM | PERMALINK


CMDICELY: The present system, rather by definition, is the only one presently available to us.

There are means outside the system, not necessarily violent, which are also available to us. And there are persons within the system sympathetic to efforts to change it. I suspect the press mostly ignores million person marches these day, but I doubt they could do so if ten or twenty million citizens amassed to demand their right to be heard, transportation and lodging paid for by benefactors who have a conscience.


Posted by: jayarbee on April 24, 2006 at 8:00 PM | PERMALINK

JRB:

What I do know is that the world was a better place for more people when Bill Clinton was president. That's about the most hope I can muster in the system -- and I'd rather use my energies for the kind of incremental change that produces outcomes like that than spend it pipedreaming.

However -- I do strongly support IRV, single-payer healthcare and publicly financed elections.

I don't have much illusions, though, that any of them would come to pass even with the second coming of Bill Clinton, sadly enough ...

cmdicely:

Well, Loving didn't address the fundamental nature of marriage, so I don't think it's even an appropriate analogy.

I really do believe the reason gay rights aren't simply ubiquitously supported on the analogy of civil rights is precisely the attribute vs choice issue. Look at our friend Fitz, pointing to "studies" that allegedly *heh* now show that homosexuality isn't innate. Nothing the right wing would rather do than paint gayness as entirely a matter of personal choice. Why? Because then the government has no role in protecting it, if lots of people decide to discriminate against it. "Well, those gays don't like it -- they can choose to act straight like normal people."

Able Eric:

I certainly didn't believe that the feminist movement rose or fell over whether the ERA would pass. Here's the thing: I am extremely leery of amending the constitution, but here's an amendment that I *would* support:

A privacy amendment.

This would ground reproductive autonomy, private sexual behavior, protection against government and private-sector snooping in one fell swoop -- and serve as an enhancement to the fraying Fourth.

Bob

Posted by: rmck1 on April 24, 2006 at 8:03 PM | PERMALINK
Anti- miscegenation laws never redefined the institution of marriage. Its base meaning and purpose remains intact.

The base meaning and principal purpose of marriage is, has been, and likely always will be to secure property, provide social and economic stability for the partners, and provide for the continuity of the social groupings known as families which have virtually never been maintained solely by natural progeny, and to provide for an environment for rearing children.

None of those purposes is changed at all by allowing same-sex marriage. Its true that some of the incidences of marriage are less meaningful in same-sex marriage scenarios; for instance, a rebuttable presumption of paternity is never meaningful in the context of same-sex marriage, nor is an absolute presumption meaningful in a same-sex male marriage. But, the incidences are means of acheiving the purposes, and many individual incidences of marriage (including those same presumptions) are practically meaningless in some opposite sex marriages.

The idea that same-sex marriage alters in even the slightest way the purpose of marriage can only be maintained on a very bizarre concept of the purpose of marriage.


Posted by: cmdicely on April 24, 2006 at 8:04 PM | PERMALINK

cmdicely,

"When did one reach the Supreme Court?"

I don't know. What's your point?

"When did one reach an intermediate appellate court and get denied cert.?"

I don't know. What's your point?

"I disagree with the last statement."

Do please present your evidence that there is a serious prospect that equal marriage rights for gay couples will be held to be a federal constitutional right.

"I disagree that we would need an amendment even if the preceding were true;"

Why don't we need an amendment even if the preceding were true?

" and, even if an amendment were abstractly desirable ignoring feasibility concerns,"

Why isn't an amendment guaranteeing equal marriage rights for gay couples "abstractly desirable?" And why is an amendment desirable only if it is currently feasible?

"I disagree that it is the route that, if advocated, would most likely lead most expeditiously to the national end of discrimination against same-sex marriage and/or based on sexual orientation outside of marriage."

As you have already admitted, this belief is merely a matter of your worthless "intuition." And why does it have to be the "most expeditious" means to be desirable, anyway? And why should gay couples settle for less than the same federal constitutional protection of their marriage rights that straight couples enjoy?

"What I criticizes was narrowly writing marriage law into the text of the federal Constitution."

Stop changing your story. You didn't criticize "narrowly writing marriage law into the text of the federal constitution." You criticized "a federal amendment extending marriage to the gay population."

"I didn't say that recognition of such a right would be excessive and inappropriate micromanagement."

Yes, you did.

By the way, your indentation is all screwed up. If you don't understand how to use the HTML tags, don't try.

Posted by: Able Eric on April 24, 2006 at 8:12 PM | PERMALINK
Well, Loving didn't address the fundamental nature of marriage, so I don't think it's even an appropriate analogy.

Yes, it did:

These statutes also deprive the Lovings of liberty without due process of law in violation of the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. The freedom to marry has long been recognized as one of the vital personal rights essential to the orderly pursuit of happiness by free men.

Marriage is one of the "basic civil rights of man," fundamental to our very existence and survival. Skinner v. Oklahoma, 316 U.S. 535, 541 (1942). See also Maynard v. Hill, 125 U.S. 190 (1888).

I really do believe the reason gay rights aren't simply ubiquitously supported on the analogy of civil rights is precisely the attribute vs choice issue.

I agree that that has been a big and successful part of the argument against them, but I think one reason for its success is that while the premise that orientation is a choice has been challenged, the other premise -- that choice = legitimate basis for discrimination -- has generally not been.

Which is quite odd, since there are many things -- religion, partisan affiliation, etc. -- that are clearly choices (even "lifestyle choices"), that most people would agree are improper bases for public discrimination.

Nothing the right wing would rather do than paint gayness as entirely a matter of personal choice. Why? Because then the government has no role in protecting it, if lots of people decide to discriminate against it.

Well, while it is perhaps the case that the right wing would like little better than to establish that the government has no role in protecting the right to matters of personal choice, I think it is far from well established that they do.

And I think that too many even of those that defend gay rights have bought into, by silence on the issue, the idea that this is true.

Posted by: cmdicely on April 24, 2006 at 8:12 PM | PERMALINK

rmck1,

"I certainly didn't believe that the feminist movement rose or fell over whether the ERA would pass."

Thank you for telling me that, but it is completely unresponsive to the question I asked. Did you oppose the ERA? Do you think it was a bad idea?

Posted by: Able Eric on April 24, 2006 at 8:14 PM | PERMALINK

Able Eric:

Where in constitutional law is the right to a straight couple's marriage *qua* their sexual orientation protected by the Constitution?

Answer: Nowhere.

Bob

Posted by: rmck1 on April 24, 2006 at 8:16 PM | PERMALINK

Able Eric:

It was years ago -- well before I came of political age.

I honestly don't remember enough of the arguments pro and con to offer an opinion.

Bob

Posted by: rmck1 on April 24, 2006 at 8:18 PM | PERMALINK
As you have already admitted, this belief is merely a matter of your worthless "intuition."

Er, no.

That was your value judgement. I never "admitted" any such thing, and your lying about it is childish.

Stop changing your story. You didn't criticize "narrowly writing marriage law into the text of the federal constitution." You criticized "a federal amendment extending marriage to the gay population."

I think you need to go reread what I wrote in that objection #3.

Dictating marriage policy qua marriage policy (i.e., marriage policy per se) in the text of the Constitution is micromanagament which violates the idea of Constitution as establishing broad principles.

Dictating broad principles (like general freedom from denial of equality based on sexual preference) that sweeps marriage within its road scope is not dictating marriage policy per se, and is not micromanagement.

There is no change to my "story".

Posted by: cmdicely on April 24, 2006 at 8:19 PM | PERMALINK

The freedom to marry has long been recognized as one of the vital personal rights essential to the orderly pursuit of happiness by free men.

Thats the freedom to MARRY!!! CM
Words have precise meanings in and outside the law.
I enjoy your semantics and sophistry as much as the next guy but even half your most of your own party can figure out what marriage is?


Maybe you missed 4th grade biology but /Man + Women = Baby/ is kind of a difficult thing to obfuscate around.

Jefferson didnt put THAT in the Constitution. (try selling that to the people, you thought Roe was hard)

Posted by: Fitz on April 24, 2006 at 8:19 PM | PERMALINK

The idea that same-sex marriage alters in even the slightest way the purpose of marriage can only be maintained on a very bizarre concept of the purpose of marriage.

You have got to love the false certainty of this statement!(if I say it with confidence then it will sound accurate)

"in even the slightest way" = ya bozo...it only changes the very definition of the institution, androgyniezes it and separates it from any necessary connection to childbirth.

The only thing bizarre here is cmdicely's contorted understanding of history & the law.

Posted by: Fitz on April 24, 2006 at 8:34 PM | PERMALINK


RMCK1: What I do know is that the world was a better place for more people when Bill Clinton was president. . . . I do strongly support IRV, single-payer healthcare and publicly financed elections.
Nothing to argue with there! Well, except that if IRV had been in place in '92, would Clinton have been elected?

ABLE ERIC: By the way, your indentation is all screwed up. If you don't understand how to use the HTML tags, don't try.
Trying to keep up with the particulars on either side of the argument you and cmdicely are having is hard enough without the distraction of such a pointlessly hostile criticism of a one-time error in formatting. Besides, it has the effect of making suspect your logic in general.


Posted by: jayarbee on April 24, 2006 at 8:42 PM | PERMALINK

cmdicely:

You know, in the midst of a lot of heat from the extremes of both sides (Fitz and Able Eric, heh) -- that points to a really interesting and puzzling set of issues. Why, indeed, do we accept the right to discriminate against gays based on their "lifestyle choice," and find it harder to do so if being gay were merely an innate attribute?

In a different world where sexual orientation was both malleable and freely chosen -- what difference would it make? Maybe I like boys because I find men more physically attractive (hard to take seriously anybody, man or woman, who'd believe that :). Maybe I'd change someday because I wanted to have a family. Maybe I enjoyed a family but also enjoyed sex with my own gender? What if everybody had the potential to be that way, because sexual attraction was universally recognized as dimorphic?

Then -- absolutely -- discrimination based on orientation choice would be as wrong as discrimination based on race, religion or any other factor chosen or unchosen. There'd be exactly zero way to justify it if all those other types of discrimination were wrong.

But this is not the case. First of all, there's the Kinsey scale -- most people are actually to greater or lesser degrees bisexual, and "pure" straights and "pure" gays are actually the exception rather than the rule. This puts into play unconscious forces and makes one question whether the most anti-gay voices might be a little half-a-faggot themselves, through well-known principles of projective denial. Gee Fitz -- tell us how you *really* feel about gay sex :) Or if that's a little too ad-hom, recall Roy Cohn, Jeff Gannon, Ken Mehlman and many many examples of this sort of ultrastraight exterior/screamingly gay inside phenomenon. Obviously there's a strong vested interest in these sorts of people to keep that side of themselves hidden, and demonizing gays does the trick.

Likewise, for all the distrust in the black community against gay rights (on the reasoning that they surely *cannot* choose their skin color), for all the hypermasculinity in black culture -- there's the DL phenomenon, where ultra-macho guys go cruise for anonymous gay sex while keeping their girlfriends and wives in the dark about it. This has led to a high degree of AIDS in the spouses/girlfriends of these men, who would otherwise be outside of the usual at-risk categories.

Until we as a culture get to the bottom (no pun intended) of this kind of stuff, until we all have a good look at ourselves in the sexual orientation mirror, society is never going to have a straight *cough*, cogent answer on why gayness is not allowable in the realm of either choice or birth ...

Whole lotta projective identification goin' on ...

Bob

Posted by: rmck1 on April 24, 2006 at 8:53 PM | PERMALINK

cmdicely:

What this means is that if society allowed gay rights, this would imply that people, ordinarily straight, with suppressed (and thus threatening) gay tendencies, would have an incentive to examine those tendencies -- and that's frightening to them on a level that's virtually impossible for them to explain or justify rationally.

Of course the flipside to this is that merely *granting* gay rights first would force a broad social examination of the issue and these creatures in the mental closet would be revealed as mostly just shadows ...

Too bad you just can't force gay rights by fiat and let social evolution catch up.

Bob

Posted by: rmck1 on April 24, 2006 at 9:06 PM | PERMALINK

JRB:

Hard to say for sure, but I think so. I think the Perot vote split fairly evenly between Reps and Dems, although somewhat slanted to Reps.

But the Perot vote represented a change vote. It's possible that even more Clinton voters would have given their first choice to Perot -- but I can't see that changing the outcome.

The election would most probably have been much closer, though.

Bob

Posted by: rmck1 on April 24, 2006 at 9:18 PM | PERMALINK

JRB:

Had we IRV in '00 -- Gore without a shred of doubt would have been president, though.

Bob

Posted by: rmck1 on April 24, 2006 at 9:19 PM | PERMALINK

Maybe you missed 4th grade biology but /Man + Women = Baby/ is kind of a difficult thing to obfuscate around. - Fitz

4th grade biology?!? Well first a boys wee-wee gets hard and he pokes it in a girls hoo-hoo... What? I guess you were taking comparative anatomy and human genetics in the 5th.

Anyhow, in biology WE learned that: egg + sperm = blastocyst and that a female produces the egg and a male produces the sperm. I'm pretty sure that your simplified explanation may cut it for the home schooled crowd but in my biology class we learned precise terminology, and it was taught in the 9th grade, but I guess we can't all be prodigies.

More importantly as a young lad I learned that erection + warm moist hole = hell yeah! Now if 'making a baby' is not in your plans, and believe it or not Fitz it aint everybodys goal, the government and organized religion in this country has never barred a heterosexual couple from marriage. So why is it okay for a man and a woman but not two men or two women to engage in non-procreative sex and enjoy marriage?

I myself am neither married or gay but hate descrimination of anyone, especially when it is institutionalized bigotry enforced by either the government or the church, both of whom should know better but never seem to.

Posted by: Eric Paulsen on April 24, 2006 at 11:59 PM | PERMALINK

It's pathetic that a discussion about what Democrats stand for becomes a dive for the bottom on gay marriage and reproductive biology.

Posted by: cliu on April 25, 2006 at 12:09 AM | PERMALINK

Excuse me for entering this discussion late, but when did the federal government ever adopt the position that there can be no discrimination based on sex???

I believe the ERA was rightly defeated by rational people who believe it is a good thing to be able to pass laws which treat men and women differently.

Legalization of gay marriage is a moral decision. Thus like abortion it should be left to the states.

I don't know how people who cringe at the thought of conservative Christians supposedly forcing their morality on others, don't see the hypocrisy of their wanting to change society by wresting the words of the Constitution to somehow force by judicial fiat, their opinion of what is right on every citizen of the country.

Posted by: John Hansen on April 25, 2006 at 1:37 AM | PERMALINK

You're doing some interesting work on the gay marriage issue, cmdicely, yet I agree with Hansen et al that the discussion is getting a little out of hand. The GOP barely won the election last time when gay marriage was a huge issue...now it's taking a back seat, and won't be a primary issue for the most signifigant number of people. The GOP will likely try to make it an issue, but you don't have to play defense every time...sometimes your offense is too powerful for their defense, and their offense becomes irrelevant. Take the offensive (which is not gay marriage).

Posted by: Jimm on April 25, 2006 at 4:39 AM | PERMALINK

rmck1

When your done playing dime store Freud, (was that a medical diagnosis or do you just play one on T.V.)

You may want to learn that psychology has gone way, way past the Kinsey Scale in understanding sexual attraction. That the best environment for raising children is with their natural Mother & Father in an intact marriage.

Eric Paulson
So why is it okay for a man and a woman but not two men or two women to engage in non-procreative sex and enjoy marriage?
The combination of a man & a women is the only combination that can produce their child. While any couple that is a member of this class may not have a child, only members of this class can have children.
By removing this gendered distinction from marriage, you necessarily separate the institution from childbearing. No two men or two women necessarily can ever have children, while a man & a women necessarily can.

Posted by: Fitz on April 25, 2006 at 9:46 AM | PERMALINK

Fitz, you keep calling for a man plus women. Why, you licentious old goat! Don't you think this group sex you keep advocating is kind of--what was the word you used? "Decadent"?

Posted by: shortstop on April 25, 2006 at 11:26 AM | PERMALINK
"in even the slightest way" = ya bozo...it only changes the very definition of the institution, androgyniezes it and separates it from any necessary connection to childbirth.

Civil marriage has no necessary connection to childbirth, nor even to sex. (If it had the former, the marriage police would be knocking on my door -- my wife and I have no children, despite having been married for over 5 years; if there was a "necessary" connection, we'd be in big trouble.)

Yes, altering any of the rules of marriage (as has been done countless times in the history of Western civilization, or even the United States) changes the definition of the institution, but "definition" and "purpose" are two different things.

Posted by: cmdicely on April 25, 2006 at 12:29 PM | PERMALINK
Maybe you missed 4th grade biology but /Man + Women = Baby/ is kind of a difficult thing to obfuscate around.

If we were talking about amending the laws of nature to allow same-sex couples to procreate through sexual intercourse that might be relevant.

Man + Woman --> Baby is procreation, not marriage.

Procreation, as anyone familiar with elementary biology ought to know, does not require any civil institution to occur. And anyone familiar with civil marriage should know, equally well, that civil marriage, at least in the US, doesn't require procreation.

Posted by: cmdicely on April 25, 2006 at 12:33 PM | PERMALINK
What this means is that if society allowed gay rights, this would imply that people, ordinarily straight, with suppressed (and thus threatening) gay tendencies, would have an incentive to examine those tendencies -- and that's frightening to them on a level that's virtually impossible for them to explain or justify rationally.

That's a good point; I think that the reflex here is not dissimilar to (and often found along with) the one that is behind support for government entanglement with religion. Its a desire to coccoon the image of self (in the case of the anti-gay) and the world (in the case of the theocratic impulse) that the person has to protect it from a world which might otherwise challenge it.

(And that bright-line dichotomy overstates the difference -- certainly the former has some elements of image of the external world and the latter some elements of the image of self tied up with it, too.)

Posted by: cmdicely on April 25, 2006 at 12:42 PM | PERMALINK

cmdicely,

"There is no change to my "story"."

You're absolutely changing you're story. frankly0 asked you if you would support "a federal amendment extending marriage to the gay population," and you answered "No." He didn't say anything about it being "narrow."

But it's hard to know what your phrase "dictating marriage policy qua marriage policy (i.e., marriage policy per se)" is even supposed to mean. What's the difference supposed to be between a constitutional provision that dictates marriage policy "per se" and a constitutional provision that dictates marriage policy non-"per se?" Do you object only to the former? Why?

Posted by: Able Eric on April 25, 2006 at 12:46 PM | PERMALINK
Excuse me for entering this discussion late, but when did the federal government ever adopt the position that there can be no discrimination based on sex.

The federal government never took the position that there can be no discrimination based on any classification, race, sex, religion, or otherwise.

It did establish, however, that any discrimination, on any basis, needs justification (through, where state discrimination is concerned, 14th Amendment jurisdprudence), and that discrimination on the basis of sex requires more justification (intermediate scrutiny) than most discrimination (rational basis) but not as much justification as, e.g., race-based discrimination (strict scrutiny).

I believe the ERA was rightly defeated by rational people who believe it is a good thing to be able to pass laws which treat men and women differently.

I think its pretty unlikely that in practice the ERA would have done that, even if the text suggests it; instead, it would likely have been construed to raise the standard from intermediate scrutiny (where it is under 14th Amendment jurisprudence) to strict scrutiny (where discrimination based on race is under 14th Amendment jurisprudence.)

Posted by: cmdicely on April 25, 2006 at 12:48 PM | PERMALINK
You're absolutely changing you're story. frankly0 asked you if you would support "a federal amendment extending marriage to the gay population," and you answered "No." He didn't say anything about it being "narrow."

And there is no change to my story. A Constitutional Amendment extending marriage to the gay population, as such, I would oppose. A constitutional amendment extending general protection against discrimination to the gay population the way that race or sex is protected now, which would likely be construed to extend marriage rights since discrimination in marriage based on orientation would be unlikely to survive either strict or intermediate scrutiny (and, indeed, the SJC in Massachussetts found that it failed even the rational basis test, which is the current standard for discrimination based on any attribute whatsoever).

But it's hard to know what your phrase "dictating marriage policy qua marriage policy (i.e., marriage policy per se)" is even supposed to mean. What's the difference supposed to be between a constitutional provision that dictates marriage policy "per se" and a constitutional provision that dictates marriage policy non-"per se?"

Its not hard if you understand the English language. An amendment targetted on specifically providing marriage rights to gays is what I think is a bad idea. An amendment providing, e.g., broad protection against discrimination against which a discriminatory policy (say, in marriage) would be weighed is a different story, and I don't, in principle at least, oppose it (though I might not agree that it is good tactics).

Do you object only to the former? Why?

I object specifically and categorically to the former. Whether I object to anything else depends on what the anything else is.

As to "Why?", I've answered that repeatedly in the thread.


Posted by: cmdicely on April 25, 2006 at 12:55 PM | PERMALINK

Civil marriage has no necessary connection to childbirth, nor even to sex.

Im afraid it does. You should know that necessary is a philosophical term, and has a precise meaning (like marriage). It means that one point logically must follow from last. The connection between civil marriage and childbirth is simple and obvious. Civil marriage (as presently defined) is made up of a class of people (men & woman) who can produce children. Thats the necessary connection. As I stated above, just because any particular member of that class choose not to or cannot produce children does not negate the fact that the class of people it is limited to is the only class of people who can.


changes the definition of the institution, but "definition" and "purpose" are two different things.

I suppose one can assert that the purpose of marriage is to provide work for florists and the wedding industry as a whole. You can reduce its essential purpose to what ever you deem convenient to your argument. The definition on the other hand remains readily discernable. For all the obfuscation and attempts to hide the ball about the changes to marriage over the centuries, its basic definition has remained constant. This reveals its ultimate purpose. That is to secure a childs natural mother & father in a lasting union.

I find it very telling that a thread that started off about what the democratic party stands for collapses into an argument concerning how best to impose gay marriage on an unwilling (and seemingly bigoted) populace.

Small word of advice: ditch your social radicals, they make the democrats hostile to traditional values and unsympathetic to peoples real world struggles.

Posted by: Fitz on April 25, 2006 at 1:11 PM | PERMALINK

I think its pretty unlikely that in practice the ERA would have done that...

(Taking the topic futher astay than it already is...)

Maybe not immediately, but certainly the position on this would have drifted with time. I think that given the established differences between the average man and average women there will always be a good case for having laws that are differently applied according to gender. ( Areas of occupational safety, sex chrimes legislation and domestic family law come to mind immediately. )

I assume that there is, due to political correctness, already a strong barrier to creating good laws which by their very nature need to be gender biased. Passing of the ERA would make it even more difficult to get these laws through.

The problem in my mind is that when the illusion of equality is maintained by legal or social fiat over the actual reality of the situation, the less assertive ( weaker in this sense ) party will suffer. Political correctness and affirmative action has taught men to compete with women rather than to feel a responsibility to protect. The result is maybe a little more freedom, but a lot more suffering. I'm not sure this is what feminism initially intended.

Maybe the result of the ERA would have not been to immediatelly strike down laws with legitamate discrimination based on sex - but the potential would certainly be there to enforce it this way at a later time.

I would not wish this mistake on future generations.

Posted by: John Hansen on April 25, 2006 at 1:27 PM | PERMALINK
Im afraid it does.Well, it doesn't, so your fear should be relieved.
You should know that necessary is a philosophical term, and has a precise meaning (like marriage).

I am quite well aware of that use of necessary.

It means that one point logically must follow from last.

Quite. And marriage has no necessary connection to procreation, in either direction. Marriage neither implies, nor is implied by, procreation.

The connection between civil marriage and childbirth is simple and obvious.

Yes, the various (and different, varying from state to state) presumptions of paternity create a tangential relation to childbirth, in that there are some additional rights and obligations that attach after childbirth in marriage, though these are clearly minor compared to the vast array of rights and obligations incident to marriage which are almost entirely unrelated to and irrelevant to childbirth.

Civil marriage (as presently defined) is made up of a class of people (men & woman) who can produce children.

While pairs of men and women, in the abstract, can produce children, the same is true of "pairs of human" in the abstract. Not all pairs of men and women eligible for marriage under existing law are capable of producing children, and incapacity in this regard does not invalidate marriage. There is, therefore, no necessary connection even between capacity to produce children (much less the actual production of children) and marriage even in existing law.

Thats the necessary connection. As I stated above, just because any particular member of that class choose not to or cannot produce children does not negate the fact that the class of people it is limited to is the only class of people who can.

The only class of pairs of people that can produce children are sexually active, mutually fertile pairs of males and females.

Marriage is not limited to that class of couples, but is extended to a far broader class of couples, and involves rights, privileges, and obligations which indicate that childbirth is not central to its purpose.

Posted by: cmdicely on April 25, 2006 at 1:38 PM | PERMALINK
I suppose one can assert that the purpose of marriage is to provide work for florists and the wedding industry as a whole. You can reduce its essential purpose to what ever you deem convenient to your argument.

Or one could assert that its purpose is to preserve property and encourage its productive use, provide social and economic stability for the partners involved, provide an environment for the raising and support of children (whether natural products of the union or otherwise). Which is what I actually argued before is the historical and modern purpose of marriage.

For all the obfuscation and attempts to hide the ball about the changes to marriage over the centuries, its basic definition has remained constant.

There may be some sense in which the "basic definition" has remained constant, but certainly not as to either the number of sex of the participants in the union.

find it very telling that a thread that started off about what the democratic party stands for collapses into an argument concerning how best to impose gay marriage on an unwilling (and seemingly bigoted) populace.

There has been no discussion at all of how to impose gay marraige on an unwilling population.

There has been some discussion which spun off an illustrative example of the issue raised by the initial article, of what means would be effective and tactically desirable to build the support for and institutionalize marriage equality.


Small word of advice: ditch your social radicals, they make the democrats hostile to traditional values and unsympathetic to peoples real world struggles.

What world do you think homosexuals denied the right to marry live in? Those are real-world struggles.

Posted by: cmdicely on April 25, 2006 at 1:54 PM | PERMALINK

fitz:

> When your done playing dime store Freud, (was that a
> medical diagnosis or do you just play one on T.V.)

Hey, at least I have *some* insight into psychology. Certainly
better in a debate like this than to merely ignore the psychological
ramifications and exclusively argue normativity. I think it's
instructive to balance all your "shoulds" with a couple "ares."

> You may want to learn that psychology has gone way, way past
> the Kinsey Scale in understanding sexual attraction.

If it were true, sure. But you didn't present an argument; if you
did, you'd offer an alternative paradigm to the Kinsey Scale. There
isn't one, of course. The fact remains that most people, at some
time in their lives, have experiences or feelings contrary to their
usual sexual orientation. Bisexuality is the rule, not the exception.

Now this isn't to say that most of these people act on these feelings.
And surely, social conditioning plays a part in whether they might.
Surely a girl who spends several years in a college dorm has a
bigger chance of exploring her secret lesbian side than if she, say,
got married right out of highschool. And isn't this precisely the
issue for you, Fitz -- why it's so important to you that society
directs its mighty mechanisms towards delegitimating homosexuality?

If it weren't for the Kinsey scale, you wouldn't have
an issue, Fitz. Because then it wouldn't be a matter of
trying to "save" people from their inner impulses, would it.

> That the best environment for raising children is with
> their natural Mother & Father in an intact marriage.

Perhaps in theory. But what about a married couple where the husband
is infertile and the wife conceives with a sperm donor? Or a couple
who adopts a very young infant? How degraded are these parenting
experiences compared to conception in the usual way? And if they're
not very much -- well, what about a sperm donor for a lesbian couple?

What about two gay men who bring along a child from a former
marriage? Surely that happens all the time in hetero stepfamilies.

Where's the *essential* distinction?

Bob

Posted by: rmck1 on April 25, 2006 at 2:55 PM | PERMALINK

Here's what I stand for and what the Democratic Party should stand for: Throw the bums out!

Posted by: Cal Gal on April 25, 2006 at 3:01 PM | PERMALINK
The fact remains that most people, at some time in their lives, have experiences or feelings contrary to their usual sexual orientation. Bisexuality is the rule, not the exception.

I think it would be better to say that sexuality is a continuum; I don't think that defining "heterosexuality" and "homosexuality" as radical extremes, and any inconsistent feelings at any time making you fall into the vast middle of "bisexuality" is really a useful set of definitions.

This is, of course, tangential to your point, which I agree with.

Posted by: cmdicely on April 25, 2006 at 3:03 PM | PERMALINK

The leadership gets on TV day after day and tells us what the Party stands for.

It stands for doing what Bush is doing, only better.

Y'all are kidding yourselves here, thinking that these really smart people don't know how to tell us what they believe in. They say, and show it, to us every day. We just don't want to believe they mean what they keep saying.

Posted by: zak822 on April 25, 2006 at 3:37 PM | PERMALINK

cmdicely:

Sure. That's exactly what the Kinsey scale does -- envisions orientation as a continuum. I was using the terms "homosexuality" and "bisexuality" to frame this in a paradigm Fitz would comprehend, and if it seemed a little scary for him -- well, that was part of the ol' rhetorical strategy :)

But you're right. Somebody who considers themselves fully heterosexual save for the occasional homosexual dream or conscious thought is for all practical purposes straight. I wasn't intending to marginalize straightness, only to problematize the definition that Fitz holds to -- which allows for *no* homosexual feelings at any time.

Bob

Posted by: rmck1 on April 25, 2006 at 3:46 PM | PERMALINK

Stopped reading this closely when the usual cmdicely-Don P cage fight began, so I missed this:

I find it very telling that a thread that started off about what the democratic party stands for collapses into an argument concerning how best to impose gay marriage on an unwilling (and seemingly bigoted) populace.

Fitz, the only time you appear on this blog is in threads discussing homosexuality, and then you tend to do so very quickly and with almost palpable excitement. There certainly is something "very telling" about this thread, but that would be your obsessive interest in this topic, shoog.

Posted by: shortstop on April 25, 2006 at 4:11 PM | PERMALINK

I'm a closet case huh?

Good retort!

Posted by: Fitz on April 25, 2006 at 7:43 PM | PERMALINK

Fitz:

Well ... *are* you, Fitzy? :)

Bob

Posted by: rmck1 on April 25, 2006 at 7:47 PM | PERMALINK

Because, after all ...

John FitzPatrick and Patrick FitzJohn! :)

Bob

Posted by: rmck1 on April 25, 2006 at 8:58 PM | PERMALINK

Thanks!
-招聘

Posted by: jobs on April 25, 2006 at 9:27 PM | PERMALINK

I'm a closet case huh?

Well, you could be. Or you could just have an abiding obsession with homosexuality. Either way, you're super freaky, shoog. It ain't healthy.

Posted by: shortstop on April 26, 2006 at 12:42 AM | PERMALINK

shortstop:

Well, to be perfectly fair ... Fitz has quite the obsession with abortion, too.

And the "war on Christianity." Dunno about ID, tho.

Hmmmm ... I wonder how he feels about pornography? Or prostitution, for that matter. Jesus loved prostitutes, after all ...

Bob

Posted by: rmck1 on April 26, 2006 at 2:12 AM | PERMALINK




 

 

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