Monday, October 1, 2007

What Are We For?

What are we for? That's the question I've been asking in the wake of Jim Marshall's troubling vote on SCHIP. I've made more than a few Democratic ripples by publicly criticizing his vote, but I think that just as it is our role to get Democrats elected-it's our responsibility to hold them accountable once they're in office. Frankly, if Democrats cannot agree on doing more to help provide health care to the children of the working poor, then I'm not sure what we can agree on or what compelling case we can make to the American people for why they should buy what we're selling.

Beyond this particular vote, by this particular Democrat, if we hope to earn the confidence of voters, then we must develop and articulate a vision for where and how we plan to lead in the 21st century. The solutions for a rapidly changing world with a technology-rich global economy and a burgeoning service sector flush with low-wage, no insurance, forget-about-retirement-benefits jobs are not the same solutions our post-depression, post-WWII parents and grandparents needed.

Republicans-with their regressive tax plans and program cuts-see the service sector as a vehicle to help today's landed gentry get richer. I hope that Democrats see these low-wage workers as partners in this new economy-partners for whom government ought to provide a ladder out of poverty that they can choose to climb. But, our voice, on this and other important issues, is weak. So weak that Marshall is apparently hoping for an easier road to re-election in 2008, despite his SCHIP vote.

Our task is not simply about finding media-ready candidates, not just about raising bucket-loads of money, and not about figuring out a new way to "say" what we have always said while defending the Democratic holy trinity of Social Security, Medicare and public schools. It is not about using the right language or correctly framing the message so that the women who makes your coffee tomorrow morning will decide to go to the polls and vote for a Democrat-it's about deciding what we will do to help her lift herself out of poverty once we are elected. It really is about deciding what we are for.

The great leaders of our generation will not simply look back to the past in an effort to preserve the Party, but, instead, they will look around them and to the future and dare to offer a compelling argument for why we should be allowed to govern.

I'm interested in what you think Democrats should be "for." When I move away from programs and think about values, the first words that come to mind are "fairness" and "opportunity." I like Elizabeth Edwards' idea that it is right for government to provide the ladder so that people can climb out of poverty, but not the job of government to climb the ladder for them or carry them up the rungs.

What do you think Democrats are "for"? Think values, not programs.

13 comments:

Open+Transparent said...

The very sad part is we have to ask what Dem's are for. It should be perfectly clear, but it's not, and hasn't been for a long time.

In GA, you'd think Dem's would fight hard for SCHIP, protecting the coastline, finding real solutions to the very real water crisis, encouraging energy conservation especially with new home and building construction, hiring more state troopers and finally upgrading their vehicles, equipment and buildings,
looking hard at the needs of the state mental health system and DYFACS, stopping road builders from controlling GDOT and getting GDOT to do its job and bring mass transit to the state, especially rail from ATL to Macon & Savannah, ATL to Athens, etc., and tough, clear and transparent ethics legislation. Any or all would be a nice start...

Button Gwinnett said...

I suppose Marshall does what he does out of pragmatism. I can understand that. I've helped more than a couple of pragmatists along the way.

But what I have found is that putting these type of people in office changes nothing in the long run. In fact, it reinforces the status quo that Republicans have set for us.

In Georgia, time and again, many center to left Dems put aside their ideals just to get a Democrat like Marshall into office. And then once they're in it's all about self-conservation.

Defining our values as a party would go a long way in helping voters to identify candidates that actually represent what they're looking for. Or recognize the fact that there's a vacuum that needs to be filled.

Open+Transparent said...

Wow, that was a smart, why didn't I ever thik of that post by Button. Nice job.

Amy Morton said...

Thanks. I hope that lots of people will join this discussion. I think it is an essential one for us to have. As far as Marshall is concerned, I have sttod in his corner even when we disagree, but this vote is different. And, in terms of figuring out what we are "for," I am talking not just about Georgia but also nationally, as a Party. Why us and not them?

And while I would tend to support all the issues your raised, Track, I think we have a more basic question to answer that can help guide us as we disagree-can help us figure out where the edges are.

Why are we for those things? What underlying values make Democrats "for" hiring more state troopers, protecting the coast line etc? I think that's where we need to start.

The Republican's "Contract With America" was clearly values-based-not values I hold dear, but values-based none the less.

What do we value as Democrats?

jm said...

Without history, it is hard to judge where we are. Our party, in the 1800's, was the party of slavery, state's rights, etc. and the Republicans, starting with Lincoln, were the party of equal rights for man and a strong federal government. The watershed event was a string of bad Republican presidencies followed by a New Deal. I think our party needs to look at our roots in the New Deal and push forward the idea that an honest working man that gives so much to his country in sweat and taxes, deserves so much back. I think that we need to start honoring the American worker again, not just idolize the American soldier as in recent years. The benefit we want for our soldiers (healthcare for life, housing benefits, education benefits, retirement etc.) should also be conferred on the common working man, or anyone who has been disabled due to working, or to the widows of those who die while working (re: recent mine tragedy.)
Some call it socialism, that's just a stupid label to provoke fear. Others say that these are benefits that should be conveyed through a free market system. Why is it we seem to have to always pay more when somebody labels it "free"? Given that, we do have to pay more in taxes, and we should not be afraid to recognize that fact, rather than pursue the current policy of paying for a huge military-industrial complex/war by going into massive debt.

I think these should be the minimum benefits of our free society. If so-called socialism is good enough for our military and good enough for our Federal representatives in the legislature, its good enough for common, decent, hard-working Americans.

Fall Line Dem said...

Simply in an effort to get elected, it seems that Democrats are running as barely as they can to the left of Republicans. With regard to Marshall's vote, I would have thought the increasing access to reasonable health care for children of working families would be a "Democratic" value. It would also seem to be an issue on which Marshall could lead. However, our Congressman appears more interested in trying not to be objectionable to members of the Republican party than he is of distinguishing why he is a "Democrat" in anything other than in name only. Perhaps there should be a new "party" for Jim Marshall and his ilk: the Least Objectionable Alternative Front (LOAF)".

Even Hillary Clinton's performance at the last debate where she often refused to say anything is indicative of the LOAF approach. However, if we are going to make a real difference in this country, Democrats must stand for something, otherwise we stand for nothing.

Open+Transparent said...

LOAF...that was awesome!

Tina said...

As a Democrat, I know what I am for: (1) Restoration of the United States' role as a leader for freedom and justice around the world. (2) A return to diplomacy as practiced by mature, well-informed leaders (3) Civilian control over the military (3) restoring diplomatic relations with Cuba (if we can treat the world's largest communist dictatorship, China, as a most-favored partner, why not little ole Cuba?) (4) economic policies that are more favorable to the American worker (5) better relations with our South American neighbors before they are unduly influenced by China.

Domestically (and pragmatically) it is absolutely to no one's advantage to have an underclass of Americans who are underemployed, undereducated, underhoused, and unhealthy and an "over-class" who choose to keep the sight of these unfortunates out of their field of vision by erecting gates around their communities.
As a Democrat (and based on my spiritual orientation as well) I feel that we must keep reaching out a hand to our brothers and sisters and help them toward better opportunities and a better share of America's plenty.

Amy Morton said...

And, in this new world, we have to look at civil rights in a different way. In a world where economic injustice is just as much of a problem as racial injustice, we do not talk about the two in the same way, but we should. For instance, access to health care, regardless of income, should be defined as a "civil right." You know, LIFE, liberty....

These are all great ideas. I hope others will chime in. And, Fall, you get a frontpage promo. LOAF! Ha!

Button Gwinnett said...

"As a Democrat, I know what I am for: (1) Restoration of the United States' role as a leader for freedom and justice around the world. (2) A return to diplomacy as practiced by mature, well-informed leaders (3) Civilian control over the military (3) restoring diplomatic relations with Cuba (if we can treat the world's largest communist dictatorship, China, as a most-favored partner, why not little ole Cuba?) (4) economic policies that are more favorable to the American worker (5) better relations with our South American neighbors before they are unduly influenced by China."


While we're promoting folks around here, I move to promote Tina to Secretary of State. And she ain't no LOAF...er. ;-)

Catherine said...

We came up with this "elevator speech" a couple of years ago. I find myself coming back to it from time to time:

Opportunity for our children, for our schools, for our neighbors. Responsibility for ourselves, for our country, for our environment. Accountability: from leaders, from corporations, from our community.

Amy Morton said...

Opportunity, Responsibility, Accountibility.

I like that.

Vic said...

a party should do exactly what it says it does:
Party:
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georgiaimproper