"We can't win by playing defense and catch up"Douglas C. Smyth, a friend and colleague in The National Writers Union, writes:
I think the election should cause us to reflect a bit on what was offered by each side.I agree with most of what Douglas says. I think the real task is to strengthen all those organizations that defend the true, foundational moral values of our country, the ones spelled out in our Declaration of Independence and our Bill of Rights. The National Writers Union is one of those organizations.
As your email below reflects [a call to NWU members to plan how to respond to the election results], Democrats were largely on the defensive. What was offered was NOT BUSH, not something positive. A mailing from Tikkun also pointed out that Democrats did not address themselves to moral values. There were a lot of other moral values at stake besides gay marriage, such as corporate rip-offs, killings in Iraq, and the prison abuses there, caring for those less fortunate, and so on, but neither Kerry, nor Edwards were particularly comfortable with presenting issues in that way, and in fact the last Democrat to do so somewhat effectively was Jimmy Carter. Think of the moral outrage of Martin Luther King jr. That would have resonated with many of those white evangelicals who turned out in such numbers for Bush.
Democrats and liberals have let the Christian right define the moral issues, when really the moral issues are on the liberal side. And they still are, and will continue to be: issues of justice, freedom and caring.
And, as my despairing son (in Madrid at the moment) pointed out, Democrats will never win anything if they don't come up with new ideas and better ways to present them. Despite Kerry's skill in the debates, he was terrible at presenting ideas, because the ideas he presented were so complicated and convoluted and so much of "better not different" from the Republican policies he was criticizing.
Think how simple it would be to present the Single Payer Health system compared to Kerry's "plan." Or Bush's position on abortion, vs Kerry's, or on gay marriage. (I am just using these as examples: I hate Bush's simple positions on these).
Until our side can present a clear moral vision, and an inclusive one, and a simple platform that offers hope for everyone, we will continue to face election outcomes like the one on Nov. 2.
We can't win by playing defense and catch up.
Oh, and by the way, we did organize, but no organization can trump clarity of vision, when there is equal or better organization on the other side and that clarity as well.
I worked hard, volunteered, gave money, traveled for the campaign (I never did before), and so did thousands of others. I think our efforts went for little (we did win PA and NH and Wisconsin) because Kerry didn't really stand for much, except NOT Bush. I do hope that this is the death of the DLC, at least, and the beginning of a truly alternative (dare I say unequivocally progressive?) opposition to the radical Republicans who have taken control of our nation. At least the Republicans will make it extremely clear what we're really against, but we have to offer something positive, not just a slightly more humane version of the same.