15 May, 2005

Ideas, Leadership, and Agenda

Did Tom DeLay have it right when he spoke at a dinner in his honor hosted by the American Conservative Union? He said the Democrats have “No ideas. No Leadership. No agenda.” As a progressive with strong Democratic leanings, I can’t identify a clear stance articulated by the Democratic Party today. Is Howard Dean working behind the scenes readying the party for the next round of elections? Where is the voice of Missouri progressives? I’m all for grassroots politics spearheaded by such groups as People for the American Way, Move On, and Missouri Pro Vote, but where’s the cohesion; where’s the spotlight?

We're not communicating anything useful. A recent report from the Pew Research Center on a study of the American electorate says that 10 percent of voters are poor Republicans. These people, according to NY Times columnists, David Brooks, “are hawkish on foreign policy and socially conservative, but like government programs and oppose tax cuts.” We wondered in the last election why the disenfranchised would vote for Republicans when they recognized the government’s preferential treatment of big business. Brooks suggests that they bought into the Republican promise of an Ownership Society where each individual can achieve the American Dream if they work hard and follow the rules.

We know that’s a lie. There is nothing sustainable about our form of capitalism. Progressives need to be saying that sustainable prosperity is only possible with a strategy to reform our social, economic, and political institutions. (An overview of “Natural Capitalism” points out that “it is possible to create new jobs, restore our environment, and promote social stability” but not with conventional theories.) When working class and poor voters hear the facts, they just might swing in our direction. Howard Dean needs to start framing these issues.

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