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DEMOCRACY: Government & Politics | November 3, 2004


An E-Mail to Democratic Activists,

The Subject of Two Guest Appearances on "NewsRap with Barry Gordon",

& The Basis of a Speech and of a Posting to "Comments From Left Field"

My Fellow, Devastated Democrats:

Those who do not learn from history are condemned to repeat it.

Here is what I am learning, and re-learning, from this EXCRUCIATING experience -- we've lost the Presidency AGAIN, we've lost ground in the Congress AGAIN, and we'll undoubtedly lose ground in the Supreme Court AGAIN. We just cannot afford to lose much more, if we ever hope to resurrect our party and our beliefs. All the red on the map screams EMERGENCY! The Democratic Party must reform itself NOW, lest we become increasingly irrelevant or ultimately condemned to the trash heap of history.

PLAY TO OUR STRENGTHS, NOT THEIRS: If we like to lose to the Republicans, then let's run candidates that play to their strengths, like defense and security issues. If we'd like to sometime win again, then maybe we'd better remember the mantra of the last Democrat to win the Presidency, "It's the ECONOMY, stupid."

PUT OUR POLICIES IN TERMS OF VALUES: Although we can't afford to pander (see above), if we'd actually like to turn some red states blue, then we'll apparently have to address their top concern: "Values". Short of our running Billy Graham Jr. (or Jimmie Carter) for President, I really don't know what the solution is...other than to have the blue states secede from the Union -- hell will freeze over before evangelical Christians will say it's OK to be gay or to have abortions (as if they will be legal in a few years). Then again, when the economy got bad enough, half the born-agains went for Clinton in '92, because Bush I was insensitive to the needs of the poor. We'll have to pound and pound and pound on themes of ECONOMICS AS VALUES (like when Bush bankrupts Social Security and old folks and sick folks are thrust out onto the street). Christians know they'll have hell to pay if they neglect the needy.

GET BACK TO OUR ROOTS: Working people -- the very ones hurt most by conservative economic policies, sending their jobs overseas, lowering their wages and increasing their workloads, squandering their Social Security, dumbing down their kids, and killing their kids in endless wars overseas -- have been the very people putting the Nixons and Reagans and Bushes into the White House. Getting Bruce Springsteen, their balladeer, to sing on stage with you is not nearly enough; putting their concerns at the CENTER of your campaign is absolutely necessary! This ties in with both of the points above, about playing to our strengths and turning red states blue. Working people (and small business owners, who SHOULD be with us, not the GOP) do NOT feel like we're treating them with R-E-S-P-E-C-T (condescension doesn't count).

AFFABLE BEATS ALOOF: Teddy Roosevelt, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Harry Truman, JFK, Reagan, Clinton, even Bush the Chimp -- all were charismatic or at least folksy, warm, and/or fuzzy. Their opponents were (Oh, what's the Yiddish term?) loxes.

NOMINATE EXECUTIVES: In our lifetimes, the men elected President have always been Presidents, Vice Presidents, or Governors (and, for those as old as me, one General) -- all Executive branch positions -- with the lone exception of Senator John F. Kennedy (and even that extremely tight election was shrouded in controversy; and anyway, I've not seen another Democrat of the stature of JFK, have you?). There's a good reason for this phenomenon: Executives act; legislators talk...and talk...and talk... And the people want action, not just talk. So the next time someone says, "Wouldn't Senator __________ or Congress(wo)man __________ be a great Democratic Presidential candidate?" I'll ask, "Are you a Republican or a masochist?" And since we're fresh out of Democratic VPs (unless we'd care to re-run Gore or Mondale), I'd suggest we take a good, long, hard look at our dwindling list of Democratic governors (and generals): They're our best, LAST hope. And oh, don't overlook any women -- we're SUPPOSED to be the "progressive" party (and most voters, including most of our current voters, are women).

DO NOT FRONTLOAD OUR PRIMARIES: Not vetting our candidates thoroughly will always come back to haunt us. The Swift Boat Liars for Bush were full of sh*t but Kerry did throw his medals away and talk up atrocities -- I thought those were appropriate for the times (it did help end the war) but it sure as hell didn't play out that way amongst the veterans and current military that I presume his service was supposed to impress (but failed miserably to do).

DON'T PULL YOUR PUNCHES: "Playing nice" is a good way to get into the second spot on the ticket, not the way to run a convention. Going negative is just as important as being positive. As we say in painting, "You can't have light without dark."

DON'T LET THE OTHER GUY DEFINE YOU: "Liberal" is not a dirty word. Nor is "moderate" or even "conservative" (as when it comes to deficits). The entire dictionary is ours as well as theirs: We define ourselves however the hell we like -- proudly -- and if somebody else doesn't like it, then that's their problem, not ours.

DON'T SECOND-GUESS YOURSELF DURING THE CAMPAIGN: As I did ten days before the election, when the polls were turning sharply against us. Mea culpa.

BE REALISTIC ABOUT THE POLLS: Don't be overly optimistic because of "liberal" polls, like Zogby (His predictions didn't exactly pan out); but don't be overly pessimistic because of "conservative" polls, like Fox and Newsweek. Most polls are actually fairly accurate: The CNN poll of polls showed a two- or three-point lead for Bush, which is exactly what happened (if we can believe the polling place returns...and if we can't, prove it -- how come the CNN exit polls, as I calculated with you, showed a 51 to 48 advantage for Kerry, when it turned out exactly the other way around? Margins of error, or respondents lying, or...).

GET NEW LEADERSHIP FOR OUR PARTY: Our DISASTROUS defeats in 2000, 2002, and now 2004 should be quite enough. Call in The Donald and tell our leaders, "Thanks for your service but YOU'RE FIRED." (I had been hoping to use that line on Bush today but it was not to be, God help us)

...and most importantly...

NOMINATE "TRUE BELIEVERS": If you don't have a sincere, contagious, gut-level PASSION for Democratic principles, you needn't bother to apply. If this electoral disaster has taught me anything, it's that the people will buy anything if you believe in it enough yourself -- in Bush's case, it is basically his fervent belief in his Mission from the Almighty -- a mission now bought-into lock, stock, and barrel by most of our fellow Americans. God help us all.

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