Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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March 30, 2011

FILLING THE NEED FOR A FARM TEAM.... Over the last 10 to 15 years, there was a concerted effort on the part of many progressive leaders to start creating parallel institutions to rival the right. The point was about creating an "intellectual infrastructure" that could establish a foundation for ideas, voices, and candidates on the left, allowing them to thrive.

To a very real extent, these efforts have been successful. Institutions like the Center for American Progress and Media Matters, among many others, didn't exist 15 years ago, but already have an enormous influence.

What the left is still lacking is a farm team. A new initiative, launched this week by Sen. Mark Begich (D) of Alaska and Gov. Martin O'Malley (D) of Maryland, intends to change this. It's called the "NewDEAL."

This winter, progressives and elected Democrats in states across the country found themselves blindsided by a coordinated wave of conservative legislation. The policies themselves were tailor-made to both advance right-leaning policy objectives, and undermine the electoral hopes of the Democratic Party: union-busting, voter ID laws, tort reforms.

Despite high unemployment, and a public clamoring for jobs, these political measures popped up in just about every state where the GOP took control of part or all of government after the 2010 midterm romp -- the ideas themselves were drafted and circulated by a network of conservative groups, and advanced by a crop of politicians that has been nurtured by the movement for years.

Looking forward, progressives want a piece of that action.

Begich told Brian Beutler, "The other side has been doing stuff like this for years, and I think that has been their long-term strategy. We have had a void to this area."

The effort is still coming together -- it was literally unveiled yesterday -- but O'Malley and Begich had a piece fleshing out their vision in the Huffington Post, explaining that the NewDEAL intends to create a "national network searching the country for pro-growth progressive state and local elected leaders in order to help them share their innovative ideas to win the future."

As part of the rollout, organizers introduced the first 10 "NewDEAL leaders" this week. The names won't seem familiar -- they're not supposed to, a farm team is about future stars -- but the group offers some hope for the future. The issues they're working on -- from rail to health care to civil rights -- are also heartening.

It's an initiative worth keeping an eye on.

Steve Benen 4:50 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (12)

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People for the American Way already has such an initiative (forget its exact name). My college grad kid (president of his college Dems etc.) attended. Now if someone would just give him a real job ...

Posted by: David in NY on March 30, 2011 at 4:51 PM | PERMALINK

or they could just add their support - moral, financial, volunteer -- to Democracy for America which is already up and running and doing many of the same sorts of things and could do more with broader support!

Posted by: zeitgeist on March 30, 2011 at 5:03 PM | PERMALINK

It was only yesterday, right here, I called for a "People's Party". NewDEAL sounds pretty close; sign me up- Geezer Division.

Posted by: DAY on March 30, 2011 at 5:04 PM | PERMALINK

Great news! I hope that this organization and others like it can help us get as organized as the other side.

Reality has a liberal bias - my favorite meme of Steve's - all we need to is open enough eyes.

Posted by: Mitch on March 30, 2011 at 5:09 PM | PERMALINK

At first read, I LOVE this! Looking forward to finding out more about it.

Posted by: June on March 30, 2011 at 5:20 PM | PERMALINK

Ah, so the left-wing thugs are illegally colluding to trample the democratic process and violate the rights of the American People*. Quick, send in James O'Keefe with a camcorder and a silly costume!


*American People is a registered trademark of Koch Industries, Inc.

Posted by: Tom Hilton on March 30, 2011 at 5:25 PM | PERMALINK

of course the right has had this plan in place forever. it's not even all that centrally run, anymore. when I was an intern in DC 15 years ago, I had 'conservative' friends who knew exactly what their plan was, from School Board, to county supervisor, to City Council, to the State House, to the US House, etc. There are tens of thousands of elected officials around the country, in offices few people have ever heard of. But that's where you cut your teeth, that's where you learn retail politics, There are no races that are too small, find someone to run for each and every one of them.

Sarah Palin started out as a mayor of a town of 10,000 people in Alaska.

Senators Boxer and Feinstein both started as County Supervisors.

the list goes on and on. If you elect enough people, to enough offices, you do a couple of things. First, you find the people who really have the taste for a career in politics, and issues they care about. then you sort the electable ones, and eventually, you find talent to move up the ranks. actually running these campaigns creates a local party structure that helps in national campaigns as well. then you network the heck out of all these people, get fellowships, conventions, trainings, places for talent to meet and mingle (more than just the quadrennial national conventions) on a national level, you need to find what, 20 people a decade in addition to the people who already are involved?

Posted by: northzax on March 30, 2011 at 5:48 PM | PERMALINK

Quick : Who wants to herd cats ?

Not really. There's a lot of conformity required to rebut slapstick designed to make the gut clench with platitudes and irrelevancies. There were never enough Joe Bageants around - though that nut making vulgar commentary at Jesus' General is a prize in his own right.

The community that uses political targeting to most obvious advantage is the lot who promote 'science' when it should be 'scientism'. God help you if you're anyone they can target as a redneck pwned by Koch Industries - no matter how crazy such an allegation might be. Who? MoJo,Grist.ad infinitum. 'Warmers.'

And the selling of designer 'religions' flogging hate continues apace.

All of this in a whirled where 'intervention' is carried out with machine guns and bombs to 'save lives'.

I couldn't be a pundit. I don't have the stomach for it.

Posted by: opit on March 30, 2011 at 5:51 PM | PERMALINK

If you are going to brand yourself as "outside the beltway" and not democrats you might want to think about not making a former Durbin staffer/Verizon lobbyist State legislator whose district is literally within the beltway and son of the State Democratic party the first two people on your list of inaugural leaders.

Seriously. A state legislator from Missouri who starts off talking about how lucky she is that she has the money to send her kids to private schools? One of the leaders in the State Senate of the financial train wreck that is California talking about how all she cares about is fiscal responsibility? And the guy from Arizona whose video looks like it was made by the guy in Saw?

Love the idea. But I am pretty sure I have been hearing the "we need to build infrastructure" refrain for years, with CAP and the still young OFA the only thing to show for it, so I'll believe it when I see it.

Posted by: amd on March 30, 2011 at 6:09 PM | PERMALINK

Lower the taxes on businesses to produce more jobs? Yeah, that's been working out so well for the past 10 yrs...

Posted by: exlibra on March 30, 2011 at 6:38 PM | PERMALINK

Sorry, but this is not a response to what the wingnuts have been doing. It sounds like this organization is trying to groom liberal wonks. As useful as that is, what our side lacks is an infrastructure dedicated to ratfucking the opposition.

It is inherently illiberal, but I believe it would be immeasurably valuable to have people on our side who could not merely propose good things, but effectively and mercilessly destroy conservatives and conservative ideas.

Why is Eliot Spitzer, a very smart guy and real reformer who stood up for the little guy, a punch line with no political future, while David Vitter, a lying imbecile, looks like senator for life? Because we do not have the dedicated character assassination squad the GOP has. Do I wish it would be superfluous to have one for our side? Sure. Are we getting slaughtered because we have unilaterally disarmed? I hate to say it, but yeah, we are.

My hope would be that we would find a mutually assured destruction equilibrium and both sides would be too scared to go nuclear.

I don't want to be the bully who picks the fights, but I don't want to be the victim either. American politics will improve once the GOP believes that if they push too far, they will be torn apart with great wrathful vengeance.

Posted by: varmintito on March 30, 2011 at 6:51 PM | PERMALINK

varmintito, as much enjoyment as I would get from seeing what you propose actually happen to Republicans, it would simply be a waste of time and effort to try, for want of a better term, out-Republican the Republican/Teabaggers.
Republican/Teabaggers LIE! That's how they win; they lie about focusing on the economy, when what they're really focused on is destroying the ability of the Democrats to mount any resistance. They LIE about their opponents, a trick Karl Rove mastered very early and on which his entire reputation, such as it is, is based.
Unless and until the MSM returns to actual journalism, we are going to have to rely on two things: the well-recognized ability of the Republican/Teabaggers to over-reach and the ability of the voters of this country to recognize when they're being conned. The over-reach will become especially noticiable during the latter part of this year and the beginning of next year as the actions of the Republican/Teabaggers become even more radical (it happens in almost every revolution).
Even with the complicit assistance of the MSM, Republican/Teabaggers are finding it more and more difficult to keep voters from recognizing the over-reach and the "con" that made it possible. The continual attempts to link union-busting with "budget balancing" just isn't being believed and it's become a case of "Who are you going to believe? Republican/Teabaggers or your lying eyes?" Pardon the pun, but I think the (voters) "eyes" are opening.
The Republican/Teabaggers know they won't be able to con Democratic voters; some of us might not show up to vote, but if we vote, we're NOT going to vote Republican. The Republican/Teabagger base isn't big enough to win elections on its own, so the "independent" voters are vitally necessary for ANY Republican/Teabagger victory. I can think of no better way for us to either drive independents into voting for Republican/Teabaggers or not voting at all, than to stoop to using Republican/Teabagger tactics against them - and get caught at it. Just because some falsely say "Eh, they ALL do it!" doesn't mean we have to make it true. Don't forget, Democrats will be held to a standard not applied to ANY Republican since Dwight David Eisenhower. President Truman's "I don't have to give them hell, I just tell the truth about them and they think it's hell!" is really more than sufficient for our needs, in my opinion. It won't be easy of course (see media comment above), but by relying on facts, well-stated of course, we don't run the risk of a disastrous "gotcha" moment a week before the elections.
I really, really don't want ANY Democratic politician to base a campaign on LIES. Any more, it's getting harder and harder trying to tell whether Republican/Teabaggers are lying, stupid or a dangerous combination of both. We don't need that happening to Democrats, too...

Posted by: Doug on March 30, 2011 at 7:53 PM | PERMALINK



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