“Choose the collective good over the desire to collect goods.”
Iraq: Some say there are only two bad options: Stay and contain civil war, or let it spiral into regional conflict. BR would leave zero troops behind — not a single one — aside from Embassy personnel — and if they’re not safe, they come home. Not worth one more life to patrol a civil war. Clinton, Dodd, Obama and Biden voted for legislation with loopholes.
Once we’re gone from Iraq, the Iraqis will have no use for Al Qaeda, and they’ll drive them out.
We need to bring back diplomacy. “You don’t make peace with your friends, you make peace with your enemies.”
… I don’t think Richardson is an electric speaker, but he’s thoughtful and clear. I’d like to hear a little more fire in the belly. But I like him.
OK, on to the bloggers’ panel, bloggity blog blog blog, because you don’t know enough about what we are and what we do … It’s TomPaine.com’s Isaiah Poole, MyDD’s Matt Stoller and Chris Bowers, FireDogLake’s Jane Hamsher, Oliver Willis, and Jim Dean,
of sausage-link fame, Howard’s brother. I ran into LiberalOasis auteur Bill Scher on the way to the conference room. If I run out of things to say, I’ll steal Bill’s ideas …
Bowers: Setting clear goals necessary for good blog activism. Can’t just be “make Democrats stand up for something”; must be specific, like challenging Lieberman, or the Plame affair, etc. Persistence: Must establish blog as destination for content on specific topic. (I’m not sure I really liked the “Googlebomb the elections campaign”, which made negative stories about GOP candidates come up first on Google, but fair’s fair …)
Blogosphere can’t make a dent in the national discourse on its own; needs buy-in from other groups and influentials.
Jim Dean: We now have a vehicle for political discourse. It’s the free market system at its finest. It’s the replacement for one-way discourse. It’s almost like the liberation of Eastern Europe. (There’s a powerful metaphor — and I agree.)
Oliver Willis: This is a celebration. The lefty blogs have been so successful, the Right is envious. They’ll catch up to us. Conservative movement not dead yet — I want to kill it. (Oliver channels Grover Norquist.) There’s no barrier to entry.
Right wing feeding chain: Bad ideas pushed from think tanks to talk radio to Fox to MSM. We’ve got to show up for battle.
Jane Hamsher: The right will always have trouble replicating what we do, because they’re top-down.
Talks about Alito, putting up some resistance. Ned Lamont battle — defying DSCC and conventional wisdom, which may have changed tenor of 2006 election: ran against war and won. Persistence of community and its candidates: A number of congressional candidates are running again, with continued support of blogs and readers.
You can’t get away with Whitewater/Lewinsky-era right-wing mau-mauing of the press any more, due to blogs’ influence and fact-checking.
Matt Stoller: The pushback against media climate dates back to 1998: founding of MoveOn against impeachment. We’re arguing for ideas, not slogans or cults of personality.
Ideas live in institutions. What’s the role of media in a democracy? Skeptical of power. Fox News/Nevada fight: implies that propaganda and open, honest media are the same thing. (Stoller just referred to the “creepy Mormon chair of the NV Democratic Party.” That’s just gratuitous.)
Empowered people to support our idea of media — allowed them to ignore the siren song of Fox News.
Blogosphere is response to institutional betrayal — as were the pamphleteers.
I ducked into a session on “Austerity Financing”, about financing of public programs. Jeff Madrick is talking about the great public investments: universities, public health, etc. Government is central to economic growth. If we neglect its role, we are going to run down our basic assets. We built those assets through a couple of hundred years, but we’ve stopped doing it.
This, of course, has great implications for MA, since we’re looking at a failure to invest in infrastructure, such that we’re now looking at a $1 billion/year backlog. And the Governor is now talking about major new investments in education as well. We’re going to need a change in expectations and priorities to get these things done.
Beth Shulman points out the necessity of those who believe in the role of government to insist on accountability from government. There is bad spending, but spending to invest in greater economic growth is good. A business borrows money to invest in itself, as with individuals. Why then should government be any different?
Health care system needs to be made affordable and efficient.
It’s not just borrowing that goes onto the backs of our children. It’s immoral to balance a budget on the backs of our children. Yes, it cuts both ways.
We’re about to hear from Barack Obama, then John Edwards. Roger Wilkins introduces Obama.
Standing room only — or sit on the floor. Obama enters to loud applause and Aretha Franklin’s “Think”. He’s interrupted by protesters holding up signs for “$50B for AIDS”. He says “All right — I agree with that” — and they sit down pretty promptly.
Obama talks about a “longing for something new.” What is it? Talks about his background working in Chicago — doing community organizing for $12k a year, setting up job training and youth programs. “It was the best education I ever had.” I have to say, this is really the most remarkable thing about Obama, and while he certainly seems ambitious — what Presidential candidate isn’t? — how many future-pol sharks go into real ground-level organizing?
He’s talking about the corrupting influence of special interests: “Our government is not for sale and we are taking it back.” It’s a somewhat harder sell for Obama than it may have been just a few weeks ago.
“Don’t talk about supporting our troops, and then leave them to fend for themselves after they return to our country.” That’s a big deal.
Pokes fun at his own status as a “hope-monger” — then relates experience in Chicago and in IL legislature, passing first ethics reform in 25 years and getting health insurance for kids. “On paper, it’s impossible that I’m here, as a United States Senator running for President.”
Keeps saying his health care plan will cover every American. That’s not true — close, but no cigar. Pledges to sign universal health care bill by the end of first term.
Boasts of telling auto industry execs that he’s going to raise fuel efficiency standards — pointing up his unwillingness to pander. Didn’t mention his coal-to-liquid about-face.
Talks about the lack of foresight in Iraq. Relates personal story from NH mother of Iraq soldier — “I can’t breathe — when can I breathe again?” Crowd goes very quiet.
“I’m proud I voted against a blank check for this President” for Iraq. But he didn’t come out against the bill early, when principled, forthright leadership might have meant something.
Very autobiography-heavy, very meta-heavy speech. Nothing wrong with that, but I want to hear a truly radical departure from Bushism — from all the candidates. Obama sounds good, but I’m not sure it’s quite the paradigm-shifting, eye-opening tone that I’d like to hear.
To my mind, only Al Gore is doing that right now, and he’s not running. I think in his heart, Gore doesn’t want to run, but will only if he has to. There’s an opening for any of the candidates to mov
e into Gore country — and probably no one would welcome that as much as Gore himself.
Here’s Edwards: Starts right into Iraq — no more half-measures. It was wrong, and now we need to lead on getting out. Need to estabish America as force for good in the world again. Says his first deed as President will be to close Guantanamo. “America will neither condone nor engage in torture.”
Edwards making an even stronger case than Obama for the radical change away from Bushism. Obama’s good, but it’s almost as if Bush never happened. He could have given much the same speech in 2000 or 1996, and it would largely be true. There’s a little more urgency and sense of crisis in Edwards, which I really identify with.
Talks about Darfur, and AIDS, and our moral responsibility to the world. Education for the children in the world who currently have nothing. Think about the transformation that would bring about. Clean drinking water.
My comment: It’s a very idealistic, Peace-Corps kind of vision — and indeed, there’s really no reason why we couldn’t do it. There’s unprecedented awareness of these problems — cf. Bono’s work — and a sympathetic American president could do immense good.
Greenhouse gases: Cap and trade — reduce by at least 80% by 2050. Until we do wind and solar, there should not be another coal-fired plant built in America. It’s time for Americans to be patriotic about something other than war. Conserve energy, drive more efficiently. Green-collar jobs.
Talks about the other America: the disgrace of Katrina. “How about a decent living wage?” Talks up the labor movement — the union makes jobs good jobs.
I hope he’s dropped the “Two Americas” line — he hasn’t trotted it out here — because a. It’s too simplistic, even for politics, and I don’t think most people actually believe that, and b. avoiding that sound bite actually keeps his speaking heartfelt and fresh.
He’d pay for new initiatives by getting rid of Bush’s tax cuts.
Edwards: The great movements in American history didn’t begin in the Oval Office; college and university campuses, communities, etc. The same kind of social movement that ended segregation and the Vietnam War is happening right now.
Edwards explains his (and Elizabeth’s) role: “This is what I do. This is my life’s work. I will speak for the poor. I will speak for the uninsured.”
… As I say, Edwards has a little bit more of that urgency I’m looking for, a bit more idealism, a bit more fire in the belly.
Obama: I’m nice and have done interesting stuff.
Edwards: We’re in deep @#$$ and gotta do something. (Heavy on the RFK-resonance, though I don’t find it at all contrived — it fits with his career.)
Just heard a really excellent presentation: “Winning Hearts and Minds: Why Rational Appeals are Irrational if Your Goal is Winning Elections”. The presenter Drew Westen talked about how webs of associations are activated in voters minds — under the level of logic and conscious thought. Those who are know Lakoffian Framing 101 would find his ideas familiar. Voters are much more swayed by their feelings about the candidate him/herself than about particular issues; more by values than by policy-talk. This is contrary to how Democrats tend to run their campaigns: heavy on the policy laundry-lists, trying to touch all the bases … and diluting the candidate’s passions to a thin, impersonal gruel.
Westen himself can hold forth with powerful (hypothetical) barrages of talking points. He sounded like a skilled politician, because he knew what would stick and what wouldn’t. Anyway, I’ve asked him to put his Powerpoint up on the web; it would surely be very useful.
It struck me as interesting, and telling, that Westen recommended tying George Bush to the Republicans as much as possible. As the polls indicate, that means in most people’s minds that “Bush”=”failure”. So, did we do that ourselves, using our powerful psychology of association … or was that just reality poking its head up?
Asked how the current crop of Presidential candidates were faring, Westen sounded lukewarm: They’re all bright people, but they’ve got some things to learn.