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March 4, 2009

the worm turns

Several months before the 2004 election, I wrote a post entitled "what's wrong with the left, and what we can do about it?" I criticized the belief that Democrats lost elections because Republicans had unfair advantages or played the game better. At that time, many liberals were blaming Fox News and Karl Rove for their problems and were developing a presidential election strategy that revolved around better "messaging." I suggested (as a thought-experiment) that we imagine what Democrats would say to the American people if they had two hours of uninterrupted time. Then all the machinations of spinmeisters and biased media would be irrelevant. I claimed that Democrats would have nothing inspiring to say about the future of America. I then proposed several directions that could be more engaging: a theme of stewardship; a commitment to bold, persistent experimentation; a good-government reform platform; and an agenda of helping everyone to be creators and contributors to the commonwealth.

When that year's Democratic Convention was all about John Kerry's macho biography and the stupidity of George W. Bush, my heart sank (although a speech by the new Senator-Elect from Illinois moved me).

But political history has since moved with remarkable speed. The Obama Campaign was inspirational and forward-looking. Themes of stewardship, experimentation, good government, and creativity/service were prominent. An additional issue is now paramount and creates an urgent need for deeper change: the economic collapse. The recovery effort opens great opportunities for better stewardship, transparency, reform, and public work.

Meanwhile, Republicans are debating whether they should be openly saying that they want Obama to fail. (I remember private conversations about Bush in 2002-4 that had a similar flavor.) When your critical "message" about your opponent is your focus, you are in deep trouble. The lack of intellectual vision on the right now matches or surpasses what we saw on the left just four years ago.

March 4, 2009 11:40 AM | category: revitalizing the left | Comments


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