What's most provocative in this year's crop of books about renewing the Democratic Party is what's missing. The old sectarian fights about ideology, between the Democratic Leadership Council and labor-left factions, seem to have disappeared. None of the four books reviewed here makes the argument that the Democratic Party is in a substantive way out of line ideologically. None argues that the party needs to move as a bloc to the left, right, or center. The prevailing tone, particularly in James Carville and Paul Begala's Take It Back, is more along the lines of, “Pick something and stand for it!”Talk to Nancy Boyda and you hear this frustration, too. She ran a campaign in 2004 based on Washington consultants whose advice was not to say anything that might offend anybody. This year, they aren't invited. She told me "Their idea – that we win in red states by pulling our message into the center – basically translates: 'if you don't offend anyone, they might vote for you.' … Democrats have a lot of things to say. We don't need to be mean-spirited about it, we don't need to lie, we don't need to emulate the Republicans in that manner, but we need to be bolder. And I think there needs to be stronger leadership."
This year, she's forgoing the Washington advice and the insider endorsements. She's taking her campaign to the streets, raising money from small donors and building her own organization right here. No more wishy-washy DC consultants, no more risk-averse, one-size-fits-all campaigning. She wants change, and that doesn't come by hiding your feelings.
I'd say that her campaign will be an example of the sort of grassroots, people-powered campaign envisioned in Crashing the Gate: Netroots, Grassroots, and the Rise of People-Powered Politics (by MyDD founder Jerome Armstrong and DailyKos founder Markos Zuniga). The main focus of the campaign is her 20/20 teams, ("20/20, a vision for a brighter tomorrow!"). Each person in the team will find 20 people willing to donate at least $20. With a target of 1,500 team leaders, she stands to raise at least $20 each from 30,000 people, yielding as much as $600,000 in early money.
Jim Ryun is one of Tom Delay's closest allies, a big donor to the Delay legal defense, and he votes in near lockstep with Delay. Unless Tom Delay has an uncanny ability to write laws that benefit Kansans, that means the 2nd District isn't being represented by anyone, and the Texas 22nd is getting an extra vote.
Her major complaint, though, is that no one is being represented. Farm policy isn't being set by congressmen, but by Montsanto and Cargill. Tax policy is being sent by accounting firms, and Jack Abramoff was setting the agenda in Congress and the White House.
It is in this context that I note a new poll from Pew:
The single word most frequently associated with George W. Bush today is "incompetent,"and close behind are two other increasingly mentioned descriptors: "idiot" and "liar." All three are mentioned far more often today than a year ago.It's worth noting that "sucks" has dropped in frequency, while "ass" has risen. The really remarkable finding is the massive drop in "honest." This doesn't meant that people no longer think he's honest, but it no longer is what people think of when they think of the President. Which is unfortunate in a cosmic sense (the dignity of the office), but well deserved.
We have an unpopular president who is seen as dishonest and incompetent, but Senate Democrats don't have the balls to censure him for illegally tapping phones. Wimps. Sirota is right that if Dems don't shape up the question of the coming election will be "will voters support the GOP's culture of corruption, or will they support Democrats' culture of weakness?"
That weakness doesn't come from the roots. Sometimes the parts of a plant too far from the roots get a little wilted. The Democratic roots are strong and growing, whatever becomes of the weakness at the top.
You can do your part right here in Kansas, by sending Nancy Boyda to Congress.