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November 22, 2005

Prescription for the Democrats
Posted by Patrick at 08:38 AM * 132 comments

Avedon Carol kicks ass.

Comments on Prescription for the Democrats:
#1 ::: hrc ::: (view all by) ::: November 22, 2005, 09:10 AM:

There has to be a backstory here. I thought Howard Dean would bring needed changes to the Dem hierarchy. It appears I was wrong, but it is unclear who bears the responsibility for it.

#2 ::: Barry Ragin ::: (view all by) ::: November 22, 2005, 09:29 AM:

Here's the first place i'd look.

The Republicans' ploy back before the mid-terms of 2002 of forcing Democrats to commit to the war was masterful, and is still paying dividends. Despite the logical fallacy that the vote was not, in fact, a vote for war, it certainly looked, smelled, and quacked like a vote for war. Democratic Senators such as Clinton, Biden, and Lieberman allowed themselves to be completely manipulated. Things were better in the House, where a majority of the Democratic caucus actually voted against the authorization for war, but the trashing of Howard Dean during the primary season negated any possibility of an anti-war Democratic flank.

Dean's elevation to party chair was merely an acknowledgment of his fund-raising abilities with the grass roots of the party, and not an endorsement of his original anti-war position. At the rate things are going, the Republicans are more likely to call for a withdrawal from Iraq than the Democrats, whose key leaders remain so afraid of appearing weak on national security that they allow themselves to be bullied by Republicans, thus appearing even weaker.

Here in NC, pressure on our local liberal Congressman has helped push him into calling for a withdrawal plan. It's not my ideal position, but it represents movement in the right direction.

Can the voters of Delaware, New York or Connecticut have the same effect on their influential Senators? That's the key qeustion over the next 90 days, isn't it?

#3 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: November 22, 2005, 10:40 AM:

Meanwhile, over at

I was down in OH-02 for the final weeks of the special election. Candidate Schmidt paraded around the district with buttons and flags, using the families of servicemen and -women as political props in an attempt to slow down Paul Hackett, who was building momeuntum after serving his country proudly in Fallujah.

Schmidt's attacks on the integrity of one Marine after another for political gain is a pattern that raises serious questions about the priorities and values of Republican leaders.

Whether the target has been John McCain or John Kerry, smearing veterans is one of the most disgusting pages from the playbook of the extremist fringe of the Republican Party. These shameless operatives and their desperate bosses value their political position over the service of our veterans.

The question must be asked: when will moderate Republicans repudiate this disgraceful tactic?

#4 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: November 22, 2005, 10:49 AM:

Why should the GOP repudiate that tactic? It works. They win, and that's all that matters to them. The problem is with the People, who let the tactic work.

#5 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: November 22, 2005, 10:55 AM:

"There has to be a backstory here. I thought Howard Dean would bring needed changes to the Dem hierarchy. It appears I was wrong, but it is unclear who bears the responsibility for it."

Dean is doing fine. Not only is the party's fundraising in better shape, the party's income now consists more of many small donations rather than fewer large ones. Most importantly, as promised, under Dean the national party is kicking a lot more money back to the state parties.

The kind of thing Avedon is talking about--the tendency of prominent Democratic politicians to listen way too much to risk-averse consultants, and to slight those of their supporters who actually have rhetorically useful facts on tap--isn't the kind of thing the chairman of the DNC is able to reverse by decree. Amazingly enough, if a Joe Biden or a Pat Leahy wants to take the advice of a Bob Shrum or any of the way-too-many Shrumalikes out there, Howard Dean doesn't actually have a giant Dr. Manhattan-style video console with which to overhear the conversation and then dispatch orbiting laser satellites to punish the evildoers.

Perhaps before this thread becomes a general, unfocussed "Democrats suck" whinefest, we could all re-read Avedon's post and notice that she was making a specific and bounded point about a particular kind of failure. The point isn't that Everything Is Terrible; the point is that this is something that's fixable.

#6 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: November 22, 2005, 11:17 AM:

If Dean were Dr. Manhattan, who would be Rorschach?

#7 ::: Dan Blum ::: (view all by) ::: November 22, 2005, 11:25 AM:

Dunno, but Patrick actually meant Ozymandias anyway (Dr. Manhattan doesn't NEED video consoles).

#8 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: November 22, 2005, 11:27 AM:

True, Dan, true...

#9 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: November 22, 2005, 11:34 AM:

The Democrats (and Republicans) who voted to give Bush permission to use force can, without being accused of "flip flopping" say, "We gave you your chance. You screwed it up. Hand over the car keys -- we're going to do the driving from here on out."

#10 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: November 22, 2005, 11:39 AM:

Agreed, James, but since the GOP still has a good grip on the media, we know what message will go out. Hell, the Swift Boat Liars managed to make people question Kerry's record. Still, I'd say screw this, we've got nothing to lose.

#11 ::: Avedon ::: (view all by) ::: November 22, 2005, 01:05 PM:

The blogosphere was full of people pointing out that the Iraq resolution did not give Bush the authority to invade Iraq unless Saddam refused to allow the weapons inspectors into Iraq. That condition was not met, and thus the invasion was flatly illegal. At no time did the Democratic leadership point this out. Kerry could have gotten a lot of mileage out of making this point during the campaign, but he didn't.

The blogosphere was full of people pointing out that Kerry voted for the original $87bn for Iraq, but that Bush was refusing to sign it unless collective bargaining was expressly jettisoned. It was Bush, not Kerry, who apparently thought funds for our troops and Iraq's reconstruction were not worth it unless it could be used to support his own position on an unrelated matter (contra Zell Miller). But Kerry couldn't be bothered to say so.

Worse, Kerry did not have the smarts to emphasize just what it was that Bush thought was more important than funding our troops and reconstruction. I would love to have seen Bush trying to defend destroying the rights of American workers as a prerequesite to funding his own fucking war.

The blogosphere was also full of people who wanted to know why, after the passage of the funding for Iraq, that money still hasn't been used to properly equip our troops or rebuild Iraq. Democrats should have demanded an accounting for that money, and never did. Kerry had a perfect opportunity to bring this up during the debates, but he never did.

If he'd listened to us, at least the media would have had to explain a 30% descrepancy in the exit polls rather than only 5%.

Dean, meanwhile, has far outstripped McAuliff in terms of fundraising. I realize the right-wing is spinning this as "Republicans raking in much more money than Democrats," but that's always been true in off-years because corporations give all the time, but individuals are less likely to give in years when there's no election.

So the comparison should not be to Republicans, but to McAuliff's performance in non-election years, and there's no question about it: Dean has done much, much better. He's done it by going to the grass-roots, which means folks like us have more say in the long run. That was necessary anyway, since most of the big corporations started withholding funds from Dems and giving everything to the GOP during the first year of the long Bush campaign. (Bush started campaigning in 1999, visibly, and his extraordinary fundraising was a huge topic in the press.)

The place to deal with Dems who don't get on board is the primaries. And if we strengthen state parties, we should have a better choice of options in the primaries. That's the other thing Dean is doing, and thank goodness, because we really need it.

#12 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: November 22, 2005, 01:14 PM:

Avedon, do you think Dean will try to run again in 2008, overblown scream or not?

#13 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: November 22, 2005, 04:17 PM:

Serge, I think I remember reading that Dean had to specifically disavow any intent of running in 2008 as a condition of taking the DNC job. Something like that happened, anyway.

#14 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: November 22, 2005, 04:29 PM:

I heard that too, linkmeister, but do I really believe it? I bet you it'll be like someone who loves chocolate cake and says he can't one more piece, but he REALLY loves chocolate cake. The host insists and the cake-lover says:

"Welllll... If you really insist..."

#15 ::: Jason ::: (view all by) ::: November 22, 2005, 05:01 PM:

I hope Dean runs in '08. If he were to successfully garner the Democratic nomination, the GOP candidate would cruise to victory. I think the Democrats need to look elsewhere for the solution to their problems.

#16 ::: Lois Fundis ::: (view all by) ::: November 22, 2005, 07:06 PM:

Avedon, excellent post at the Washington Monthly.

I'm glad you mentioned Bob Somersby's Daily Howler so prominently. I used to read that a lot, but got out of the habit since so many of the blogs I read are now fed directly into my RSS feeds (mostly my LiveJournal friends page), but I hadn't seen one for Daily Howler.

This reminded me to look again, and I found an LJ syndication for it. (I'm including the link in case other LJers want to "friend" it, too. The actual RSS feed seems to be this XML link.)

#17 ::: Zander ::: (view all by) ::: November 22, 2005, 08:02 PM:

Yes, she does. She also rocks rather a lot. Why don't people like that get to run countries once in a while?

#18 ::: TomB ::: (view all by) ::: November 22, 2005, 10:23 PM:

I think that Dean is showing his true strength as an organizer. I don't know if that translates into strength as a presidential candidate. What seems to be missing in most of the leading Democrats is the killer instinct. Senator Reid has it. Maybe others do, but if so, they aren't the ones getting quoted in the media.

Much of what goes on in presidential campaigns seems bizarre and senseless, but I've come to the view that there is a purpose to it all, if a perverse one. It is a test of how well the candidates respond to irrational criticism and outrageous indignities. How fast can they recognize a smear campaign, and how well can they neutralize it? While I believe very strongly that candidates should play fair and by the rules, it's undeniable that at the same time they need to be able to deal with opponents who lie, smear, and bend or break the rules in every way they think they can get away with.

#19 ::: Avedon ::: (view all by) ::: November 22, 2005, 11:12 PM:

Serge, I'm really hoping the Draft Gore campaign will take off.

#20 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: November 22, 2005, 11:19 PM:

Gore, Avedon? I'd like that, but I doubt it'll happen. Has there ever been a case of someone who lost the actual Race who was given a second chance? I know, I know, he didn't really lose, but you know what I mean.

#21 ::: Paula Kate ::: (view all by) ::: November 22, 2005, 11:38 PM:

Well, there's Richard Nixon.

#22 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: November 22, 2005, 11:54 PM:

Oops. I did forget about Nixon, Paula. How one can forget about him, I don't know.

OK, who else might announce their candidacy? Reid? Possible. Hillary? Probably. Kerry showed himself to be too cautious the first time around. Dean? When I finally saw that shot of the infamous scream, I thought "Huh? That's what the big fuss is about?" It sure is no worse than Cheney telling a senator to go do something rude to himself. Well, there are still many months before I can start planning where to send my donations. No matter what, whoever gets the nomination will be smarter and more competent than what we have right now.

#23 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: November 23, 2005, 01:49 AM:

One more, Serge. Adlai Stevenson lost to Ike in 1952 and ran again (and lost again) in 1956.

Tangentially, but still related to politics: I just finished Philip Roth's "The Plot Against America." I recommend it.

#24 ::: Lois Aleta Fundis ::: (view all by) ::: November 23, 2005, 02:19 AM:

Serge asks, "Has there ever been a case of someone who lost the actual Race who was given a second chance? I know, I know, he didn't really lose, but you know what I mean."

Grover Cleveland.

He was elected President in 1884. (Despite rumors that he'd fathered a child out of wedlock.)

In 1888 he "lost" in much the same way as Gore did in 2000. Cleveland won the popular vote but lost a disputed electoral vote (in Florida, no less) to Benjamin Harrison.

Cleveland came back and won in 1892.

#25 ::: Erik V. Olson ::: (view all by) ::: November 23, 2005, 08:59 AM:

Despite the logical fallacy that the vote was not, in fact, a vote for war, it certainly looked, smelled, and quacked like a vote for war.

It was a vote for war.

On paper, of course, it wasn't, as Avedon keeps pointing out. But that law wasn't made in isolation.

Everyone knew that Bush wanted Iraq. This wasn't in any sort of doubt. Hell, the start of the Iraq Did It push was about two days after the towers fell.

On paper, this was a vote to authorize force if Iraq didn't comply with various agreements. In reality, everyone knew that everything after and including the word "if" was irrelevant. Anybody with a clue knew this was a rubberstamp for invasion. It is possible that a couple of Dems didn't figure this out -- that means, to me, that they're too stupid to serve, and I hope they lost thier seats later.

It was OBVIOUS that if this bill passed, Bush would invade. Thus, I don't buy the "that's not what the bill said" -- and a large part of the US population doesn't buy it either.

They knew that if this passed, we were going into Iraq. Many of them voted yes anyway. It was another deal of the "GOP wins, and the GOP wins" variety -- they get the war *and* if the Democrats bitch, we'll point out that they voted for the war.

Jim Macdonald's tack is the correct one to take. Don't argue that you weren't really voting for the war, because that not only looks, smells and sounds like bullshit, it *was* bullshit. You knew Bush was going to invade. Jim's tactic isn't based on a lie. "Yes, I voted to let Bush go to war, under the assumption that he would do a competent job. That assumption was my biggest mistake, and that's why I'm against his war now." There is no workable position based on "I really didn't vote for the war."

If you insist that the Democratic Party adopting yet another tactic based on "Bullshit the voters", we're going to lose.

Stop playing the hand you want to play, and start playing the hand you are dealt. "They really didn't vote for war because..." plays right into the "Democrats are wishy-washy" meme the GOP has gotten into the mainstream. "You screwed up badly" doesn't.

Anything based on apology or excuse fails. Stop making apologies and excuses. Start stating, not explaining, dammit!

#26 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: November 23, 2005, 09:00 AM:

Then it IS possible for someone to be allowed to try a second time around. Still, I have my doubts about the viability of a new Gore Campaign. We shall see. There's still time.

#27 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: November 23, 2005, 09:23 AM:

Even I would vote for Gore if he ran this next time. But I'd prefer Wesley Clark.

#28 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: November 23, 2005, 09:42 AM:

Wes Clark, James? I didn't mention him because I hadn't heard whether or not he'd try again... This is one person who'd contradict the GOP notion that the Democrats's military credentials are weak. Then again, they did manage to pull major BS against Kerry's own record with the Swift Liars for Truth. Still, I think that even my Archie-Bunker of a father-in-law would vote for Clark.

#29 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: November 23, 2005, 05:15 PM:

The Democrats remind me of a cartoon my grandmother had in her kitchen: a group of people sitting around, captioned 'We have to get better organized ... tomorrow.'

Actually, the Dems are not so much a party as a coalition. This is perhaps part of the problem. It's hard to keep a coalition focused for any length of time; it may be easier to herd cats.

#30 ::: will shetterly ::: (view all by) ::: November 23, 2005, 06:32 PM:

Serge, there's a fair history of folks getting screwed by the Electoral College, then coming back to win. Andrew Jackson was first. Which added to my surprise that Gore didn't run in 2004. For two centuries, Electoral College presidents who beat the popular vote were kicked out after a term. Another surprise in 2004. But maybe Gore was the only guy who could've beat Bush then.

I still don't understand why democratic Democrats continue to ignore the Electoral College. But since they're in a party that's reluctant to oppose a war that the people don't want, I have to accept that this is just another thing I don't get.

#31 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: November 23, 2005, 10:47 PM:

Serge -- Dewey also ran twice (1944 and 1948); I think it's fair to say that blocking second tries is a phenomenon of this generation.

Will -- what do you think the Dems can \do/ about the Electoral College? All it would take to block reform is 13 of the (underpopulated) states that are grossly over-represented; fighting that battle strikes me as a waste of time.

#32 ::: will shetterly ::: (view all by) ::: November 24, 2005, 12:39 AM:

CHip, given that every poll I've noticed says that the majority of Americans favor getting rid of the Electoral College, it would give the Democrats a "plus" in that particular checkbox on most voters' scorecards. It's another issue to thwack Republicans with: We believe in democracy, but the Republicans continue to support special interests and deny the will of the people. If Gore came back, it would let him trumpet his position: "The people wanted me in 2000, but our archaic system gave the presidency to Bush, and you've seen what that did. Don't vote for me because you want good government for four or eight years. Vote for me because you want the USA to be a government by the people so long as the nation exists!"

And there's a very practical reason: In all of the undisputed Electoral College thwartings of democracy, the Democrats suffered. Fighting the Electoral College would tell the world that they don't like losing. Which, frankly, has been hard to see since 2000.

The Democrats have another advantage for fighting this one. They can say they believe in living up to their name.

#33 ::: Randolph Fritz ::: (view all by) ::: November 24, 2005, 03:51 AM:

I'm all for the Democratic Party giving more attention to bloggers, personally. but...but... I think the reason the party does not is because the US party out of power must be extremely cautious. So the Democratic leadership has waited until the wind was blowing its way before denouncing even the most egregious failures of the Republicans. To put blogger arguments center stage--is a big risk, and one I'm not sure the Democrats are willing to take. And the party leadership has to wonder about the quid-pro-quo. Pols understand that very well; if someone gives you something, something is expected in return. Could be the Democratic leadership doesn't want to pay that price--actually let the bloggers (and, by implication, a broader public) have some say in policy. Maybe Dean is willing. Maybe a few other party leaders. Al Gore, certainly. But most of the party leadership? I have serious doubts.

I'm sorry, I was raised by wolves.

#34 ::: Randolph Fritz ::: (view all by) ::: November 24, 2005, 04:29 AM:

Will, I'd rather push for the instant runoff, cumulative ballot, or similar semi-proportional system at the state and local levels. I think we've got a chance of winning those, and would get more mileage out of them than attacking (and probably being repulsed by) the electoral college.

#35 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: November 24, 2005, 09:17 AM:

People have brought up many instances of people who lost the Presidential Race and yet who were allowed a second try at it. Like CHip, I was wondering if not being allowed that chance anymore is a thing of this generation, or at least something post-Nixon. Maybe it has to do with the growing influence of TV, the consolidation of news outlets. Something. It's so easy now to dig up dirt about someone and SHPW it to everybody and reminding people why this guy lost the first time around.

#36 ::: will shetterly ::: (view all by) ::: November 24, 2005, 01:47 PM:

Randolph, I think the work needs to be done at both levels. It's no different than giving women the vote: you need state and national action.

Serge, Gore could've had the second chance. He just quit.

#37 ::: Lenora Rose ::: (view all by) ::: November 24, 2005, 02:21 PM:

Randolph: Pols understand that very well; if someone gives you something, something is expected in return.

Hmm. I know exactly how the blogger should phrase this: "I give you some good arguments for winning the election - you give me back a real working democracy where my vote counts and some pride in my country. Fair trade?"

#38 ::: Avedon ::: (view all by) ::: November 24, 2005, 07:03 PM:

Serge, the question is irrelevant, since Gore did not lose the 2000 election.

Randolph, the Republicans have taken over the whole fucking government by ignoring the advice for the party out of power to be careful.

The Democratic Party has been very, very careful, all the way to the wilderness. They've also followed John Major's advice: When our backs are against the wall, we turn around and fight.

It's time to face the enemy, instead.

#39 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: November 24, 2005, 10:16 PM:

Actually, Avedon, I did point in my original post about Gore not really having lost the election. Officially though, he did lose because he didn't realize that the GOP does NOT play by the rules of a Democratic Society. He kept following the rules until he basically hanged himself. I'm not saying he's an idiot but that he is a decent person who didn't realize that the rules have changed. Maybe he has, by now. But, even if he has, could we trust him to stoop down to playing the game as set up by the Busheviks?

#40 ::: Randolph Fritz ::: (view all by) ::: November 25, 2005, 05:30 PM:

Avedon, that was rather a late-night cranky response. Historically political caution is why the Democrats haven't been willing to take in the wider intelligentsia represented in the blogosphere. Now that the wind is blowing against the Republicans, the Democrats have become willing to take some risks and make some new deals.

Lenora, if the USA ever had "a real working democracy where my vote counts" it was a long time ago. The ability of the various levels of US government to fail to respond to basic human needs and wants astonishes me. That's why this whole idea is so scary, politically; it would be something new, or at least something that hasn't been seen in a long time.

Will, I'd rather tackle the state and local level first, so that we'd have some victories under our belt, before tackling the Federal monster. This is especially so in the semi-rural states, where various proportional systems are likely to be as popular with the right-wingers as the left; I think these could be won in a decade or so.

#41 ::: Avedon ::: (view all by) ::: November 25, 2005, 05:50 PM:

I think the kind of speeches Gore has been making for the last couple of years show he has had his bath of fire and decided to just do it up right. Starting when he broke The Big Rule and advocated a single-player health plan.

I think Gore would have run in 2004 if the party had gotten behind him, but he found out early that the party wasn't willing to do that. And I think Howard Dean is changing things in a way that might make all of that not matter.

I remember Gore in that first debate and I think the combination of the fire he always had and the freedom he's found in the last couple of years would be a winner.

#42 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: November 25, 2005, 10:34 PM:

Gore has got the fire burning in him, Avedon? Glad to hear that. It'd be nice in 2008 - and next year too - to have Democrats finally stop being afraid of being Democrats.

By the way, I seem to remember that, during some of the debates in 2000, Gore had a hard time hiding his contempt for Dubya's intellectual capacities. I wonder if that hurt Gore. I get the sense that some people don't want leaders who are smarter than the voters.

#43 ::: will shetterly ::: (view all by) ::: November 26, 2005, 12:05 AM:

Serge, you seem to keep forgetting that Gore won. Nothing wrong with tactics that win. The problem was the antidemocratic Electoral College. But the fact remains: you can't say there was anything wrong with Gore's campaign when he won by half a million votes.

#44 ::: Christopher Davis ::: (view all by) ::: November 26, 2005, 01:20 AM:

I'd love to see single transferrable vote with multi-member districts as a fix for the current gerrymandered-to-incumbent-specification Congressional districts we have now.

I propose that the target district size be four seats, which would allow any solid 25% group to elect a representative. States with 2-5 seats get one district, with the single seat states falling back to instant runoff voting. Six seats? 3-3 split. Anything higher than that can be a combination of 4 and 3 seat districts.

Oh, and eliminate primaries; we can save some money that way. (Why does the government pay for political parties' internal selection processes, anyway?)

#45 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: November 26, 2005, 02:12 AM:

We could also get behind independent nonpartisan commissions to draw up redistricting lines, and we could require (at the state level) that elections supervisors not be campaign chairmen for Presidential candidates (see Florida 2000 and Ohio 2004).

Interestingly, one of the things which struck a nerve with Biden (D-MBNA) was something Alito said about reapportionment. He (Alito) didn't think much of the Warren Court's views about it. Since those decisions mandated "one person, one vote," that worries me too.

#46 ::: bryan ::: (view all by) ::: November 26, 2005, 03:10 AM:

from my personal experience I would say that people don't like those that seem arrogant about their intellectual capabilities. It has after all become something of the accepted wisdom in our society that there are all sorts of intelligences, not just that associated with abstract thinking. For example there is the emotional intelligence such as displayed by Dick Cheney, or the beer guzzling intelligence displayed by that one drunk guy who's always on tv making with the funny faces.

#47 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: November 26, 2005, 08:01 AM:

Oh, I know that Gore won, will. I did say something about that in my original post. Which, according to some people I once overheard at the local airport, makes me a crazy paranoid liberal.

But the 'liberal' media was starting with the assumption that Gore was arrogant about his own smarts so, no matter what he said, that's how his actions were filtered. And if not for that, Gore would have won even more votes and the cheating in Florida wouldn't have succeeded.

Heck, I want my leaders to be smart. AND competent.

One other thing about Al... You heard how his university room-mate was Tommy Lee Jones? Apparently, they both worked their butts off with their studies, but there was ONE THING for which they'd take a break: the old Star Trek. Guess who'd pretend to be Kirk, and who'd be Spock?

#48 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: November 26, 2005, 08:31 AM:

I think it was the San Francisco Chronicle's Jonathan Carroll who pointed out that that Bill Clinton liked to surround himself with very smart people as long as they weren't as smart as he was. He then pointed out that, should Bush follow such a strategy, we'd be be without a functional govt and thus in deep trouble.

Hmmm... We ARE in trouble so maybe he did do what Bill had done.

#49 ::: bryan ::: (view all by) ::: November 26, 2005, 09:54 AM:

"Bill Clinton liked to surround himself with very smart people as long as they weren't as smart as he was"
Hmm, not quite sure if some of Clinton's people weren't smarter than him in some ways.

#50 ::: bryan ::: (view all by) ::: November 26, 2005, 09:56 AM:

"Guess who'd pretend to be Kirk, and who'd be Spock?"
Sadly, Slash fiction has spoiled the visualization for me.

#51 ::: Lin Daniel ::: (view all by) ::: November 26, 2005, 01:16 PM:

Altho I'm sure there are people who are smarter than Clinton, I haven't found too many who are willing to put themselves in the fishbowl of public (read: news media) scrutiny. I'm certainly not.

#52 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: November 26, 2005, 03:04 PM:

Of course there are people smarter than Bill Clinton, especially where it comes to keeping one's you-know-what zippered up. But he is plenty smart and competent, way more so than what's in the White House right now. Honestly I think that, if he were allowed to run again, he might win.

#53 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: November 26, 2005, 06:55 PM:

A few facts, in response to some of the above.

First, it's widely assumed that Wes Clark will probably try again.

Second, yes, the Democrats are a "coalition," but in that sense, so are the Republicans. The American system doesn't lend itself to European-style party discipline.

Third, worrying about the Electoral College when the bad guys are working to get easily-hacked electronic voting machines installed everywhere in the country--including, yes, California and New York--is like murmuring about Robert's Rules of Order while you're in the process of being mugged.

#54 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: November 26, 2005, 07:09 PM:

If I may make a trekkie comparison... The Republicans are more like the Borg while the Democrats are the Federation, in more ways than one.

#55 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: November 26, 2005, 07:36 PM:

How well did Wes Clark do in the primaries? He was my second choice after Dean, but, after the latter's defeat, I was so heart-broken that I didn't pay attention to how badly the others had done. I did recover, thinking that, since Kerry had served in the military, Dubya's chicken record would become an issue. But we know how that went, thanks to the Swift Liars for Truth. I wonder if Clark would let them question his own accomplishments?

#56 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: November 26, 2005, 08:22 PM:

Well, Clark did better than Dean in the primaries, in that he actually won one, narrowly edging Edwards in Oklahoma. By and large, the general perception has been that (1) Clark wasn't well-organized enough in 2004 but (2) he seems to have learned fast since then.

Personally, while I don't bear Clark any particular animosity--for a professional manager of the imperium, he seems like a reasonably good egg--I'm not one of those who feel that the road to overthrowing Republican hegemony is to come up with someone so star-spangledly heroic that they can't be slimed. If there's anything we've learned in the last several years, it's that anyone and everyone can be slimed.

#57 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: November 26, 2005, 08:30 PM:

Seems to me we're throwing around the same old boring names. Isn't there anyone else -- some underappreciated Democratic moderate governor who can talk, as opposed to pontificate, and can appeal to the base without terrifying the moderates? (Sort of like Howard Dean, before he was famous...) Just askin'.

#58 ::: will shetterly ::: (view all by) ::: November 26, 2005, 08:52 PM:

Patrick, seems to me if your mugger takes you with a pistol and then shows up with a shotgun, you're right to worry about the shotgun, but you might remember he's still got that pistol.

Lizzy L, Russ Feingold's a decent man, and his record during the Bush putsch isn't too embarrassing.

#59 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: November 26, 2005, 09:04 PM:

Lizzy was asking for a governor. Feingold is a senator. Sad but true: people tend to vote for governors, not senators.

(FWIW, I think reasonably well of Feingold, apart from the almost fetishistic proceduralism that leads him to do things like, for instance, vote to confirm Ashcroft.)

#60 ::: will shetterly ::: (view all by) ::: November 26, 2005, 09:15 PM:

Patrick, true, and he's not quite a moderate Democrat, either. But his respect for procedure might help him with the DLCers.

#61 ::: will shetterly ::: (view all by) ::: November 26, 2005, 09:31 PM:

, which reminded me of the wonderfully wacky world of US politics: the Christian Falangist Party of America, the Prohibition Party, the I-kid-you-not-but-maybe-they're-kidding-us Libertarian National Socialist Green Party.... I mention this because the site supports Feingold and considers him a traditional liberal. The writer divides the Dems into the "near Euro-style democratic-socialist left (Barbara Lee, Dennis Kucinich and the Congressional Progressive Caucus) and traditional liberals (Russ Feingold, Nancy Pelosi, Dick Durbin and John Kerry) to the Dem center-right (Joe Lieberman, Evan Bayh, Harry Reid and the New Democrat Network)."

#62 ::: Alex Cohen ::: (view all by) ::: November 26, 2005, 10:05 PM:

The two leading governors-whose-names-are-bandied-about are Gov. Mark Warner (D-VA) and Bill Richardson (D-NM).

Warner is hugely, hugely popular in Virginia; in the election that just ended, he helped his Lt. Governor succeed him. Advantages: personal wealth, would probably bring Virginia into the blue column, decent charisma, business experience. Disavantages: no foreign policy experience, no national campaign experience.

Richardson is the pretty popular governor of New Mexico. Former Congressman, former Secretary of Energy, former Ambassador to the United Nations. He's running for re-election in 2006. Advantages: Hispanic, very high-energy, more foreign policy experience than most Presidents running for re-election, would bring NM into the blue column and make Arizona competitive (unless he's facing McCain). Disadvantage: tainted by Department of Energy security scandals.

While I would be happy to vote for Gore again, my first preference is a ticket composed of these two men.

#63 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: November 27, 2005, 09:18 AM:

Speaking about Clark, Patrick says he himself is not one of those who feel that the road to overthrowing Republican hegemony is to come up with someone so star-spangledly heroic that they can't be slimed... Of course, everybody can be slimed. The Thugs have shown they will stop at nothing. But we know they'll again try to paint Democrats as incapable of protecting America militarily. So it wouldn't hurt to have a retired general on the ticket, even if just as a VP. Besides, the Swift Liars might have a harder time going after a general. And it might not work if Clark is the combative type and not the cautious kind that Kerry has become.

As for governors having a better shot at the Presidency than senators... Isn't that because senators have quite a detailed track record on issues that affect the whole country? Richardson's name has come up before, but he's been coy on the subject. And we know what that means. I don't remember any especially godawful thing that can be blamed directly on him since he became my state's governor. But there is one thing that would cause him problems.

He worked in the Clinton Administration. And, it's while he was in charge that the Wen Ho Lee mess happened at the Los Alamos Laboratories. Even though Lee was cleared, the Thugs would use that to show that Richardson can't be trusted with the safety of the Nation.

Who knows? Me, I'm not making any predictions. After having half the country still vote for Dubya after the torture scancal (among others) came up, I am a bit cynical about the People.

#64 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: November 27, 2005, 10:33 AM:

Will says of Feingold that "his respect for procedure might help him with the DLCers."

I don't remotely understand how Feingold's civics-professor proceduralism would "help him" with the DLC crowd. The DLC is all about a particular kind of expediency; they don't respect Feingold's variety of prickliness in any way whatsoever.

I personally don't think the DLC's idea of political expediency and effectiveness is, you know, effective. But I think I understand how those people think, and nothing about Feingold's eccentric devotion to abstruse civic principles is going to endear him to them. In the never-ending high-school soap opera that is American life, Russ Feingold is a permanent geek on the awkward squad. That's what I like about him even when I think he's full of crap for, e.g. supporting Ashcroft's confirmation.

Not that it matters much. The farthest Feingold is going to go will be to be the lefty peace candidate who does surprisingly well early on--if even that. He's not going to be elected President. Neither is the intelligent and energetic Bill Richardson, who simply carries around too much weird baggage -- most recently, a history of falsely claiming that he was an MLB draft choice in college.

#65 ::: will shetterly ::: (view all by) ::: November 27, 2005, 11:19 AM:

Patrick, if Feingold does well, the DLC can rationalize his principles as proceduralism and support him. Didn't mean to suggest that the DLC would support him early on. There's just not enough moderate Republican in Feingold to make the DLC love him.

#66 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: November 27, 2005, 11:36 AM:

About the DLC and their leaning toward Republican-Lite Democrats... Is it Truman who said the following of such Democrats?

"In a contest between a Republican and a Republican, the Republican will win."

#67 ::: will shetterly ::: (view all by) ::: November 27, 2005, 11:45 AM:

Damn. Decided I should get a quick overview of Feingold's career, so I hit his Wikipedia entry. I like him too much. He's doomed.

(The most interesting part for me is under "Ideological rankings." I'd like to think that being endorsed by the Concord Coalition would help him with conservative Democrats. And his gun position is remarkably sensible. Yes, the NRA gave him a D, but they'll give a D to anyone who opposes giving Kalashnikovs to kindergarteners.)

#68 ::: will shetterly ::: (view all by) ::: November 27, 2005, 11:48 AM:

Serge, Clinton was the exception to that rule.

#69 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: November 27, 2005, 12:09 PM:

will, about the NRA, you heard that even Sean Connery is on their ennemy list?

Nah, Bill Clinton isn't a Republican-Lite. No Republican of any flavor would try to set up a single-payer helath system. Bill got trounced for that and the Democrats lost the House in 1994. What he is is a survivor who adopted the ennemy's positions, thus undermining them. But at the core he IS a Democrat.

#70 ::: will shetterly ::: (view all by) ::: November 27, 2005, 12:27 PM:

Serge, universal health care isn't an exclusively Democratic issue; Clinton followed in Nixon's footsteps by coming up with a plan that no one liked. The first Bush couldn't get NAFTA through, but Clinton could. Where Clinton didn't advance Republican agendas, he bungled Democratic ones: To legalize gays in the military, he only had to do what Truman did to integrate blacks: make the order. I keep wanting to respect Clinton for something, but all I can respect him for is having a sense of humor.

#71 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: November 27, 2005, 12:39 PM:

I agree with everything you say about Clinton, will. He should have given the finger to the Republicans about lots of things because, no matter what he'd do, they'd keep opposing him. The don't-ask-don't-tell policy was really lame, but even the Democrats in the Senate and the House were against him on that one. No, I'm not an apologist for Bill. I think he tried the best a Democrat could do with the cards he had been dealt and if he failed, it wasn't out of incompetence. It was him in the arena, not me. Besides, since the Republicans hated him so much, he had to be doing something right for those on our side.

#72 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: November 27, 2005, 02:05 PM:

There's one more thing, will, that might explain my feelings toward Bill Clinton... Last year, quite a few people (for example, actor Pierce Brosnan) finally became citizens of America because they wanted to be able to vote against Dubya. My own decision was made in early 1993, not as a negative reaction against someone, but as a positive reaction to Bill's victory.

#73 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: November 27, 2005, 04:44 PM:

This morning's Meet the Press had Joe Biden & John Warner on. Biden was on-point, truly brilliant. When Russert asked them how they now felt about their approval of the 2002 Iraq resolution, Biden said he made a mistake. He believed what he was told instead of looking for more info. Warner said he stood by his statements at the time, even when questioned by Russert about the later-revealed inaccuracies.

Biden showed up with pages of relevant info while Warner just spun it. John Warner is pretty good for a Republican senator, but Biden wiped him out today.

#74 ::: Bruce Arthurs ::: (view all by) ::: November 27, 2005, 04:57 PM:

"the intelligent and energetic Bill Richardson, who simply carries around too much weird baggage -- most recently, a history of falsely claiming that he was an MLB draft choice in college. "

I have never been able to understand people who not only tell whoppers about their lives and accomplishments, but tell them repeatedly, over years. Particularly when the claims can be checked against past records, whenever someone decides to get suspicious enough to try and verify them.

Other examples that come to mind are: Duke Tully (former editor of THE ARIZONA REPUBLIC newspaper), who claimed to have flown combat missions in Vietnam and been awarded medals for them; comics writer Micah Wright, who claimed to have been an Army Ranger who fought in Panama; and in our own SF field Thorarinn Gunnarsson, who turned out not actually named that, not actually come from Iceland, not actually have worked as an actor in European movies and TV, not actually have a father who had captured a German submarine in WWII, not actually have a brain-surgeon sister, and not actually have an extraordinary horse named Thunder Britches. (Damn, I miss that horse! As Walter Jon Williams pointed out, "Thorarinn" was the best piece of fiction Gunnarsson ever wrote.)

The examples above also had in common that, when the facts came out, what had been decent careers for them pretty much went down the toilet. Duke Tully was fired from the REPUBLIC, but eventually managed to find another job as editor of a small-town Midwest paper. Micah Wright, TBMK, hasn't worked in comics since, although he's still doing the laudable Propaganda Remix Project, Photoshopping old posters and magazine covers to anti-Bush purposes (I like the VALERIE PLAME MYSTERY MAGAZINE cover). And Thorarinn hasn't been published since the facts came out (I've seen a couple of self-published works on CD, but nothing else), and doesn't show up at conventions any more.

#75 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: November 27, 2005, 08:24 PM:

I hate the Propaganda Remix Project. It deploys fantastic imagery in the service of everything that's crap in our politics.

Yeah, I know it's supposed to be ironic. Guess what. Irony is a loser. Irony is making the band laugh.

Remember that Star Wars/Bush Administration poster, with Bush, Condi, Cheney, and Rumsfeld in the starring roles? That was generated by our side, too. I've said before that I'm sure there are a dozen copies of that hanging in cubicles and offices in the West Wing. They love it when we do that kind of "irony." As Karl Rove said in his life's greatest moment of insight: politics is TV with the sound turned off.

#76 ::: Dave Luckett ::: (view all by) ::: November 27, 2005, 09:54 PM:

PNH says: "The American system doesn't lend itself to European-style party discipline."

I don't in the least dispute that, but what is it about the American system that has that effect?

#77 ::: J Thomas ::: (view all by) ::: November 28, 2005, 12:33 AM:

"Besides, since the Republicans hated him so much, he had to be doing something right for those on our side."

I think that even back in those days, republicans would have hated any democratit president. Even one who did exactly what they told him to. Because he had the label "democrat" and not the label "republican".

#78 ::: Randolph Fritz ::: (view all by) ::: November 28, 2005, 12:45 AM:

Dave, the basic reason that US national parties don't have party discipline is that they are geographical coalitions and US regions are very different in their politics; people are elected by supporters in their districts (House) or state (Senate) rather than for their espousing a party platform, and any geographical grouping that turns against one major party is picked up by the other. The "Southern Strategy" is an example.

Add to that the power of the Presidency, which has, horribly, become the major source of elected national leadership, like a rather weak and temporary kingship. In the Senate law and custom makes each Senator enormously powerful as an individual; most of the time, any single Senator can stop a bill, a group of ten, almost certainly, and 40, definitely. So in the historically usual Senate, personal positions and alliances of Senators are much more important than their party affiliations. House rules make party loyalty more significant, but there are 435 Representatives, and most of the time strong party discipline is both difficult and unnecessary. So a winning national slate has, historically, been a loose coalition. Even now, with Republicans unusually disciplined, it's still a fairly weak coalition; it's only because the Republican leadership has discovered how to pressure Representatives and Senators that they can hold their party discipline. But it took illegal acts and gerrymandering to do it, and their discipline is breaking.

The system, overall, seems to me not very democratic, and it is very prone to deadlock; the normal state of US national politics is a network of deadlocks. It is only at unusual times that much change occurs and then it is like an earthquake.

#79 ::: Randolph Fritz ::: (view all by) ::: November 28, 2005, 01:00 AM:

Lizzy--I think former Oregon governor John Kitzhaber might be a good choice; he's out of politics, for the moment, but might yet be back.

Will--Bill Clinton appointed an actual emergency manager to head FEMA. His counter-terrorism was pretty good, too. He compromised a lot, but I am not sure that any more strong-minded Democrat could have done better.

Avedon--I like the recent Gore speeches I have heard, too, but I think he is too much known as an intellectual and too pleased with being one to win the office. Besides, he's having such fun with Current TV, which I wish I could get here.

As to the Presidency, overall--I think it takes an extraordinary actor to get the job, and an extraordinary executive to do it well. These aren't qualities likely to be found together in any single individual. <whine>. We're doomed, doomed.</whine>.

No, I don't really believe that. But I think we are in for more rough sledding.

#80 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: November 28, 2005, 01:20 AM:

RE: Richardson

The baseball blogs, of all places, have discussed the KC Royals draft claim and pretty much said that back then it was the second or third year of the draft (as constituted) and things were chaotic. The consensus is that it's entirely possible Richardson thought he'd been drafted, but since he wasn't going to go and the Royals weren't going to follow up it shouldn't be held against him.

Not that rationality matters to the smear machine.

#81 ::: Bruce Arthurs ::: (view all by) ::: November 28, 2005, 08:11 AM:

Patrick, you just hate irony because there's so damn much of it. (The fact that I just wrote a comment here is pretty damn ironic, in itself.)

#82 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: November 28, 2005, 08:58 AM:

J Thomas write that Republicans would have hated any Democratic President. It's true that, after 2 terms with Ronnie Raygun and one with Bush Pere, they were quite upset at losing the White House. But Bill evoked an incredible hatred from Republicans. Or maybe it's Bill AND Hillary that did. The point is that the Republicans had a special animosity toward the Clintons. As someone once pointed out, the impeachment bumper stickers came up almost as soon as Bill took office.

#83 ::: Dave Luckett ::: (view all by) ::: November 28, 2005, 11:01 AM:

Randolph, surely nobody (beyond the local level) gets elected from a campaign he or she ran and funded personally? Surely the party must have funded it. Why can't the party enforce discipline, then? It holds the purse-strings. It pays the piper. Why can't it call the tune?

Because this is where real power actually lies. The party that enforces discipline can actually enact policy, not merely advocate. I can't understand why the pragmatic attractions of this fact have not overcome the factors that you state.

#84 ::: Juli Thompson ::: (view all by) ::: November 28, 2005, 11:46 AM:


But most of the money comes from the state party, not the national one. There are complex legal reasons that these are different entities. As Randolph said, at a state level, the issues and the positions are extremely varied. So someone could be elected because they got lots of money from the state party, even though they are opposed to many positions held by the national party.

Also, there are a growing number of millionaires entering politics, specifically because they can fund their own campaigns. That makes the state party a bit weaker, as well.

#85 ::: J Thomas ::: (view all by) ::: November 28, 2005, 11:51 AM:

Dave, I believe the democrats tend to get local funding and some of it gets siphoned off by the national party, to be redistributed. What they take from a candidate who pulls in donations can control the candidate who doesn't, who has to be subsidised, but it doesn't at all control the candidate they took the money from.

The republicanw had Lott etc who got vast sums they could distribute as they liked. If a popular candidate pulled in his own money, still they could spend more in a primary challenge. So they had a strong threat even against candidates who didn't need their money.

#86 ::: Michelle K ::: (view all by) ::: November 28, 2005, 01:06 PM:

A lot of it has to do with individual characteristics of a state as well.

Despite the past two presidential elections, WV is overwhelmingly Democratic. But as a state we are also opposed to gun control, which is on the Democratic platform. (We got bombed with ads implying that Kerry was anti-gun last election, which many have been an influence on the results.) And environmental regulations are also problematic, as our major industry is coal mining.

So a party has to deal with each state's idiosyncrasies if they want to form a national party. So what you really have is a bunch of people who agree on some major issues, and allow or ignore disagreement on other issues, simply so that they can put together a useful coalition.

#87 ::: Randolph Fritz ::: (view all by) ::: November 28, 2005, 03:21 PM:

"Surely the party must have funded it.'

No, actually. Campaign money comes from: candidate organization fundraising, PACs, candidate personal fortunes, and the state and local parties. All national US candidates spend a great deal of time fundraising. I've forgotten most of the details of this Byzantine system, which seems to have escaped from a Charlie Stross novel, but neither state nor national parties have all that much control over candidates.

#88 ::: bryan ::: (view all by) ::: November 28, 2005, 03:26 PM:

I seem to remember that the common wisdom(at the time) for why the republican's hated clinton was that he had coopted their policies (globalization, welfare reform) in such a way that they were assured a gradual diminishment and loss of power.
This seemed a reasonable theory at the time.

#89 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: November 28, 2005, 03:32 PM:

In other words, they hated Bill because he beat them at their own game. Which doesn't make him into a Republican.

#90 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: November 28, 2005, 03:34 PM:

they hated Bill because he beat them at their own game.

I guess they hate Hillary because she's a competent (and fairly independent) woman. (IMHO the conservatives are totally irrational about her.)

#91 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: November 28, 2005, 03:40 PM:

Yeah, I did notice they felt threatened by Hillary. I wonder if they still feel that way, as she's been pretty gutless as a senator.

#92 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: November 28, 2005, 11:52 PM:

In other words, they hated Bill because he beat them at their own game. Which doesn't make him into a Republican.

My take has been that it's never clear they hated him -- except inasmuch as most people hate what terrifies them. Clinton was not an easy left-wing target, a preaching moralist, an old pol, or a technocrat who tried to sound human; he was as good at schmoozing as Reagan, and didn't have that horrible smarmy actor note in his voice. IMO, that terrified the Republicans, because the only way they'd found to get power was to put up an amiable puppet and put a steady stream of warm-and-fuzzy lies on his teleprompter; they feared that if they didn't attack Clinton on everything and anything he'd roll right over them, because only an all-out attack would make them look like an alternative, where anything less would have given people time to realize what nasty little jerks were running the Republicans.

#93 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: November 28, 2005, 11:56 PM:

Dave -- to give you an idea of the dimension of the fundraising described above: several congresscritters have observed that they have to spend a substantial minority of their time, right from the minute they are sworn in (if not before) to fundraising for their next election. This is true even of senators, who are seated for six years. The parties raise money for the presidential elections; other candidates get virtually all of their campaign funds from direct contributions, and either work like dogs for it (if they're honest) or sell themselves to the moneyed powers in their domains.

#94 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2005, 12:07 AM:

"Sell themselves to the moneyed powers" did you say?

Congressman resigns after bribery plea
California Republican admits selling influence for $2.4 million

One down....

#95 ::: Randolph Fritz ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2005, 12:17 AM:

[I am quite sick, and this may be off-target, but I'm going to write it out.[

"And environmental regulations are also problematic, as our major industry is coal mining."

And here, finally, we come to a central problem. Coal mining is both directly environmentally destructive and coal is a fossil fuel as well, and therefore a contributor to anthropogenic global climate change. But who can tell the voters and make them believe it? Who has the courage and rhetorical skill? One-time Gov. Tom McCall of Oregon could tell loggers that over-logging was destructive and get them to believe it, but such figures are scarce, alas. And of course there's always fear. Which is easy to appeal to, and a big part of the reason we have a bunch of crazies running our country.

#96 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2005, 12:22 AM:

Cunningham's resignation speech was . . . actually appropriate. He didn't deny or minimize his crimes. He didn't claim it was a smear job.

I didn't expect that. I'm actually amazed.

Let me say for the record that I would be utterly f%*^&ing astonished if George W. Bush ever uttered anything nearly as truthful and took appropriate action by resigning. I doubt he's capable of that.

C'mon George, prove me wrong. I dare you.

#97 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2005, 12:24 AM:

BAD MOON RISING. There's chatter all over the blue blogs that Bush is losing it mentally or else that he's drinking again. I have no trouble believing them.The thought of Dick Cheney as Prez is giving me fits. Tell me I'm a fool, please.

#98 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2005, 12:29 AM:
There's chatter all over the blue blogs that Bush is losing it mentally or else that he's drinking again.

That's the front-page story in The Globe this week (a supermarket tabloid), so that's at eye level in every checkout line in America, red and blue states alike. It's already been in the National Enquirer.

Who believes those rags? Well -- someone sure buys 'em.

#99 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2005, 12:36 AM:

Ah well, if it's in the Enquirer it's got to be fiction, no?

#100 ::: Dave Luckett ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2005, 01:27 AM:

Randolph, CHip: How very... interesting. Perhaps I am wrong, then, to understand that a US Congressperson is elected from a local electorate of - what? - 50K-100K voters or so? And two Senators per State, is it not? And these candidates are primarily the source of their own funding, from local sources?

Ah. If that is so, that explains a great deal.

#101 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2005, 01:40 AM:

I think the blue blogs have all read Sy Hersh in the New Yorker. I did, and I'm appalled at the new military planning and terrified at Bush's messianic view of himself.

#102 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2005, 02:14 AM:

More on the Randy Cunningham resignation:

Randy resigned after pleading guilty to accepting bribes. (He could get up to ten years -- sentencing early next year.)

But ... the defense contractor who owned and operated Cunningham had more than one congressperson on the payroll (all Republicans ... imagine that!) including our old pal Katherine Harris of Florida.

The story is at Talking Points Memo.

#103 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2005, 04:38 AM:

Looking at the whole Propaganda Remix thing, I think there's a lot of people who'd see those images with deafening Whoosh. It's not quite preaching to the converted, but I reckon you already have to know what's being talked about.

And good propaganda imagery is fairly simple, without necessarily being obvious.

At best, Micah Wright is working in the area of political cartooning, and more commentary than opinion-changing. And if you really want to change things, that's not targeting the people you need to influence.

Practically, there are some things propaganda can't do, and still work. Mocking the troops, for instance, is right out. Except, maybe, for Pentagon Generals. And that alone would throw out of lot of Propaganda Remix images.

And a lot of the imagery just isn't real any more. You want to make a point about today; use images of today. The old art can have a lot of applicability, but the differences between then and now get in the way. There are reasons to make references to old images, but they have to be something people know about, and WW2 was sixty years ago.

So there's more to it than the failure of irony as a tool of political argument. It's not political advertising, and arguably can't be. It's the "aren't I clever" posing of a writer who hasn't the skills to create his own pictures.

#104 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2005, 10:15 AM:

In propaganda posters the image is the important part. The words are just design elements -- they might as well be replaced with hash marks.

#105 ::: Michelle K ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2005, 02:02 PM:

Randolph Fritz,

Coal mining is both directly environmentally destructive and coal is a fossil fuel as well, and therefore a contributor to anthropogenic global climate change. But who can tell the voters and make them believe it? Who has the courage and rhetorical skill? One-time Gov. Tom McCall of Oregon could tell loggers that over-logging was destructive and get them to believe it, but such figures are scarce, alas. And of course there's always fear. Which is easy to appeal to, and a big part of the reason we have a bunch of crazies running our country.

I wonder if the problem is related to the relative unemployment and underemployment rates in the states? If you have an alternative that pays as well as coal mining then people will be less resistant, but if they see their options as mining or working at McDonald's (or unemployment), then they're going to be highly resistant to losing the mines as an employer.

At least that's a big problem as I see it, here in WV. It's one thing to accept that coal is a polluter. It's something else entirely to know that in some counties, without the mines, there would be no employment.

The sad thing, as I see it, is that the two main industries in WV are in direct conflict: coal mining and tourism. And most unfortunately, mining pays a lot better than tourism for the average worker.

#106 ::: Aconite ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2005, 02:35 PM:

Michelle K: Yes, plenty of miners are aware of the environmental and human health costs of coal mining and coal use. When your family's hungry, your kids' shoes are worn out, you have holes in most of your clothing, your tires are bald, and the two employers in your town are the mines and the supermarket--and the supermarket doesn't offer benefits and has a stack of applications six feet thick for any opening--you'll go to the mines, and count yourself lucky that you have a job, however shitty it may be.

Being an environmentalist in a poor state means going to bed sick to your stomach most nights.

#107 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2005, 02:44 PM:

Here's the deal with tourism.

Tourism requires that someone else be rich.

#108 ::: Michelle K ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2005, 03:33 PM:


The only solution is doing what you can and trying not to think about it any more than you have to.

James D. Macdonald,

WV is an easy drive from DC and Baltimore. Rich visitors are not a problem. Especailly considering that the tourism we offer is not very costly.

Heck, the eastern panhandle is rapidly becoming a D.C. suburb. (The economics of that are something else entirely, and horrid in their own very special way.)

#109 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2005, 07:42 PM:

Dave L: the average federal Representative is supposed to represent almost exactly 2/3 of a million people. Usually that means enough employees whose bosses can be tapped for favorable contributions, if the rep and his staff work hard enough.

There are party operations. Here (Boston) there will be a fundraiser Friday night, in support of Tom Delay's presumed opponent 11 months from now; Murtha will headline. But that's a frontal assault on House rulership; most candidates don't get that kind of party support.

#110 ::: Randolph Fritz ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2005, 10:24 PM:

CHip, Dave, e-mail received today:

Make phone calls for us [the Democratic Party of Oregon] on Sunday, help get rid of Tom DeLay, get free movie tickets AND, everyone who shows up on Sunday gets to attend the Nick Lampson [DeLay challenger] event for free (normally $100). So, don’t DeLay, sign up today!

Stefan--yes, Cunningham had the grace to at least act ashamed.

#111 ::: Dave Luckett ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2005, 10:28 PM:

Let me make sure I have this right.

National political parties in the US provide significant amounts of funding only for very major efforts in crucial areas. Candidates for national office are expected largely to fund their own campaigns from personal or local sources which they have canvassed or otherwise accessed through their personal following. Is that correct?

#112 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2005, 11:29 PM:

Something like that. With limited resources (and no matter how large resources are, time, money, people, and energy aren't infinte) you have to put 'em where they'll do the most good.

#113 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: November 30, 2005, 09:56 AM:

Local color, from an ex-resident whose parents still live there: Nick Lampson used to be the House member for Beaumont, a town 90 miles east of Houston which you may have seen on the teevee post-Rita, and which is a former union stronghold. He was one of the Dems targeted by Delay's redistricting, and was replaced by (I think) Ted Poe, whom I gather is a Delay protégé. Even though Beaumont is becoming fairly Republican, the voters there strongly resented being gerrymandered into a Houston district. (Amusingly, Lampson too is an exterminator in real life; he kept my parents' house termite-free for years.)

#114 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: November 30, 2005, 09:59 AM:

Er, I should clarify: my parents switched exterminators when Lampson went into politics.

#115 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: November 30, 2005, 10:59 AM:

A guy I know, Jim Webster, who is one of two Jim Websters in Cumbria, and is the one whose articles get in the farming papers, believes that tourism is an industry which can kill a local economy.

The jobs are generally low-paid, and the pressure to keep the scenery pretty gets used to block any other sort of industry, even quite small scale.

Ah, here's the URL...

Jim Webster's writing

#116 ::: Michelle K ::: (view all by) ::: November 30, 2005, 11:43 AM:

Dave Bell,

The problem is that in the areas of WV where tourism is being pushed, there isn't really an option for any other industry.

Essentially, a family on vacation may be willing to take curvy, hilly, two lane roads to reach their scenic destination. But there is no way that any sane industry will build in a place where there is no direct interstate access but only two lane highways, and many roads become impassable in bad weather.

I love living in West Virginia, but the roads here? Despite the millions already spent, a lot of roads are still terrible.

#117 ::: Michelle K ::: (view all by) ::: November 30, 2005, 11:49 AM:

On the other hand, the bad roads may be the only thing that's keeping the entiretly of WV from becoming a DC suburb, so perhaps I shouldn't complain.

#118 ::: fidelio ::: (view all by) ::: November 30, 2005, 12:20 PM:

The road issue, as well as the tourism and real industry with real jobs issues are big items here in Tennessee, as well. Ned Ray McWherter, the governor before the one before the current one, made it a major goal of his administration to construct or improve at least a good two-lane road (suitable for heavy truck traffic in nearly all weather), if not a four-lane one, between each county seat and the nearest interstate or four-lane US highway. This has not brought reliable industry to every part of the state, but it's made a big difference; it's also been very expensive. If we had been dependent on bond issues for this work, it wouldn't have happened. Tennessee has a dedicated highway tax and manages to pay directly for construction. Otherwise, as tax-averse as we are, we'd still be on dirt roads in a lot of places.
We have, luckily, not been as dependent on extractive industries as WV and Kentucky, but in some places, they're virtually the only other option besides tourism.

Of course, transportation isn't everything; if it was, Cairo, Illinois wouldn't be crumbling into decrepitude.

#119 ::: Lucy Kemnitzer ::: (view all by) ::: November 30, 2005, 12:21 PM:

Dave: "The pressure to keep the scenery pretty" --I have some local experience with that and it doesn't support the thesis.

The Monterey Bay Area is a place which has had its economy bolstered by the creation of a very large marine sanctuary (the largest in some measurement, I forget what -- nationally? the world?). We've always had an important tourism industry, as well as agriculture, fishing, and what you might call extractive industries (sand and gravel mining, logging, that kind of thing) and a bunch of huge military stuff (Fort Ord, now closed and being converted to other uses, including a college) and I forget the name of the huge thing that surrounds Lake San Antonio) . In the early sixties local businessmen succeeded in getting the University of Californiato put a campus here, and what followed inevitably was tree-huggers and political reformers (another time I will talk about the good old boys who used to run this place, and the stolen ballot boxes and stuff).

The tree-huggers fought the local businessmen who brought them in, got the marine sanctuary created, and incidentally saved fishing and small farming from near-destruction as well as creating new sources of income that the businessmen have now embraced. Those same people who predicted doom and impoverishment from the sanctuary and who bitterly resented the ban on offshore drilling here have embraced the sanctuary as if it were their own idea.

Tourism-related jobs are mostly still ill-paid, but a good labor movement can fix that, and tourism-related jobs which are also marine sanctuary-related tend to be much better paid.

So it's not all one thing.

#120 ::: Michelle K ::: (view all by) ::: November 30, 2005, 01:27 PM:

tourism-related jobs which are also marine sanctuary-related tend to be much better paid.

West Virginia will have to wait a bit for that--until global warning gives us all beach front property.


We've built roads--lots of 'em. Just not enough to help the most rural counties.

And back to the subject of Democrats--the Republicans are putting up a lot of money to try and take down our Senator, Robert C. Byrd. Feel free to send your pennies his way if you want to help keep him in the Senate.

#121 ::: fidelio ::: (view all by) ::: November 30, 2005, 04:12 PM:

Transportation can only do so much--we have some counties with populations under 20,000, which just aren't convenient to anywhere, good roads or not. It's very hard to get industry to take a second look at most of these places, and people there tend to end up like a lot of other rural workers, patching together an existence between several part-time jobs and a small plot of land. Plus deer. Deer are perhaps as big a resource for rural Tennesseans now as in the days of the Cherokee and the Chickasaw.

#122 ::: Michelle K ::: (view all by) ::: November 30, 2005, 04:32 PM:

Well, lack of roads combined with low population is deadly--according to the last census data we've got 10 counties with less than 10,000 people. (I had to look all that up last year for a Rural Elderly class. I don't just know that stuff off the top of my head.) And of course no one will move there, because there aren't any jobs, and they won't retire there, because there aren't any services.

West Virginia, Tennessee, Kentucky... in many ways we're all screwed. There isn't really a good way to bring in jobs without destroying the rural nature that draws/keeps many of us here.

And I know lots of people who hunt so they can feed their families. I think it's pretty common throughout Appalachia. It's one of the things that used to confuse me about those who were opposed to hunting, till I realized that there are two different types of hunters.

#123 ::: Lucy Kemnitzer ::: (view all by) ::: November 30, 2005, 05:06 PM:

Michelle, the principles of sanctuary being good for the local economy can probably apply to places that don't have oceans, but have other stuff worth preserving.

In my state, bird hunters were early conservationists. I can't imagine how to work this to the advantage of any particular place, but I bet somebody else could.

#124 ::: Michelle K ::: (view all by) ::: December 01, 2005, 08:53 AM:

Lucy Kemnitzer,

Well, I'm not sure about preservation, but around here you see plenty of bumper stickers that way I (heart) Mountains, and much of the tourism we draw in is directly related to being "the Mountain State."

Whether this will stop the worst of the environmental degradations, I can't say. (Or to put it another way, if you think coal fired power plants are bad, they're nothing in comparison to mountain top removal--they're the big battle around here.)

And for what it's worth, I don't see tourism as a bad thing, despite the fact that the jobs are lower paying that coal mining jobs. Tourism is also bringing in retirees from all over the place, and that should help local economies just as much if not more than vacationers.

#125 ::: Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: December 01, 2005, 08:59 AM:

Michelle --

You need high value, high area economic activity; single malt whiskey is probably the easiest example, but there are all sorts of things like that (cheeses, Vermont's maple syrup industry, Nova Scotia's small-shop cabinetry...) if you want both a reasonable economy and to retain a rural character.

Must have good comms and transport to connect up with markets, of course, but there are some things that pretty much require low population density and cheap land to do. (High quality hardwood growing comes to mind...)

It's not the sort of thing American banks will invest in readily these days; no one is looking for this sort of opportunity at all, but it can be done.

#126 ::: fidelio ::: (view all by) ::: December 01, 2005, 10:13 AM:

Interestingly, the population of the southern part of the Cumberland plateau turned their faces against a large-scale coal exploitation scheme several years ago--the financial advantages didn't seem to outwiegh the many other drawbacks, in their eyes.

Wineries, check. Whiskey, check (there's even a brave soul who's started making rum here in Tennessee). Hardwoods, check. Both these industries are up and thriving in rural Tennessee--and some of the liquor even has taxes paid on it. However, trees, even down here where it's a good bit warmer and the growing season runs from March until early November, do grow somewhat more slowly than corn. Also, the sort of logging that cuts select hardwood doesn't employ lots and lots of people--and often, as it's a small-shop operation (as are many of the sawmills that process the wood), doesn't come with useful benefits like health insurance. There are also plenty of small artisan businesses out there, like cabinet-making and such. The problem is finding a way to occupy the lower-skilled workers*; another one is how many cabinetmakers (at a living wage) can the market absorb? There's also a limit to how many brands of whiskey the market can absorb, as well as the total quantity of liquor people will drink.

The economic development people are hard at work on this problem here, and certainly in West VA and New England and some interesting solutions have been found, but there's a limit to what's possible without outside industrial development.
Ms. Jacobs is right about concentrations of population.

*Not everyone has the talent to make a living as a craftsman; not everyone--even skilled craftsmen--has the nous to succeed as a small business owner.

#127 ::: Debra Doyle ::: (view all by) ::: December 01, 2005, 10:27 AM:

Having lived briefly in the Monterey Bay area of California, and also for nearly the past two decades in rural far northern New Hampshire, I feel compelled to observe that by comparison with the latter, the former has neither cheap land nor low population density. To be specific: in the year 2000, Seaside CA -- just one town in the Bay area -- had a population of 31,696 people and a land area of 8.8 square miles, while Coos County, New Hampshire, had a similar population of 33,111 people spread out across a land area of 1,800 square miles.

I'm not at all sure that the problems of the two areas can be profitably compared.

#128 ::: Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: December 01, 2005, 11:38 AM:

fidelio --

Ms. Jacobs is certainly right about import replacement; you'll note that she has some very harsh things to say about the efficacy of having outside industrial development dropped in. (It doesn't last and it doesn't spread.)

Deciding to remain a hinterland for quality of life issues is an entirely reasonable choice; you then get to decide what city (or cities) you're the hinterland of, and what imports you're going to try to replace.

#129 ::: Michelle K ::: (view all by) ::: December 01, 2005, 12:02 PM:


We've got small scale stuff--several decent wineries--plus stuff like Tamarack which showcases WV craftspeople. (Craft shows are a bit thing around here, and luckily most of them are jurried)

As far as liquor, I used to know people who ran illegal stills, but I don't think that's quite the same.

Hardwoods would have been nice if they'd thought of that when the clearcut the state 100 years ago.

And I think it might be easier to get a small business loan here, simply because the state has been pushing to try and get small businesses to start.

And as far as being in "the hinterland" the Internet and Amazon have done a LOT of make that more tollerable. Being able to get things I can't find locally delivered to my door takes a lot of the sting out of living in an area with few resources.

#130 ::: Lucy Kemnitzer ::: (view all by) ::: December 01, 2005, 09:13 PM:

Debra, you just compared a growing city with a whole county, but I don't know exactly to what purpose. I've lost any reference to the Monterey Bay Area that wasn't mine and subsequent to mine, so I think maybe you're saying that the greater population density of selected spots in the Monterey Bay Area makes irrelevant the idea that an economy can be helped by taking advantage of conservation efforts, which to me sounds like saying the fact that the soil is quite different in the two areas means the same thing. I mean I don't see how population density makes the idea applicable or inapplicable. (I got the comparison you really want: Coos County: 7/sq km: Monterey County 47/sq km: Santa Cruz County:222/sq km: San Benito County: 20/sq km -- and Santa Cruz County still can't get rid of its rural designation by the Feds!)What makes it helpful or not is whether there are angles that can be worked locally.

A really important principle for any local economy is diversity. You can't make it on only one thing. Probably even especially the high-return, extra lucrative, exclusive things. An unbalanced economy is fragile and full of inequities and has no ability to improve.

Another good investment for local economies is higher education. Lots of jobs, especially the precious blue-collar craft jobs, in college campuses.

#131 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: December 01, 2005, 09:42 PM:

What Debra was trying to say is that Monterey is by no stretch of the imagination rural.

Coos County: 4,743 km^2 population 33,111 = 7 people/km^2

Monterey County: 9,767 km^2 population 401,762 = 41 people/km^2

You're trying to compare an urban area with highways and cities to a rural area with two-lane blacktop and villages. Solutions for one are irrelevant to the other, because the problems of one don't resemble the problems of the other. You can't take California plans into dirt-road America and expect them to work.

#132 ::: Lucy Kemnitzer ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2005, 10:54 AM:

James, I got that. But it doesn't make any sense. Not at all. For one thing, I wasn't offering a prescription for anybody: I said, total, that wildlife sanctuaries can be used in a total long-range economic plan in ways that benefit local industries. Period. That's all I said. It's not a "California solution:" it's a possible strong component in whatever complex local solution.

Second, if you're saying that Monterey County and the Monterey Bay Area are by no stretch of the imagination rural, you simply haven't been here, or if you have, you haven't been anywhere but the ten-mile coastal strip. The Monterey Bay Area includes vast areas with one-lane roads, many of them dirt if you insist on that. You read Steinbeck? His Salinas Valley still exists, side by side with all the other stuff. I get tired of people thinking California is this world unto itself, out of touch with reality, untouched by regular forces. Would you say that upper New York State is not rural, because it's in the same state as New York City? That's the same as saying that Greenfield and San Ardo are not rural because they're in the same county as Carmel.

I might add, though I am not sure what relevance it has, that the approach of embracing wilderness conservation in economic planning is taking hold in Northern California -- I don't mean Marin, I mean in the mountains, where you have some counties with single-digit population densities . . .

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