Progressive Democrat Issue 242
Last week I discussed why, even with the economy still limping along and uncertainty over the progress we are making, there are reasons for optimism. This week I want to discuss how Democrats can do better. And my message is for both Blue Dogs, who too often adopt right wing ideas, and for progressives, who too often become so focused on one particular solution that they (we!) start to forget that compromise is how things get done. Between too much compromise and too much purity, we need to find a good balance.
I also want to focus on something that is all to easily forgotten. It is far easier to ruin something than fix something. This is actually a fundamental aspect of physics: entropy. Simply put it means that breaking something is easy, fixing it is difficult. Bush broke our country in many ways. He left our economy broken. He spread our military too thin to be as effective as it could be. He destroyed our credibility and our moral standing. None of this is easy to fix. Add to that active Republican and media efforts to derail any program to fix any of it and getting the change we need is a Herculean task. And, of course, Democrats really have almost (if ever) been as united as they should be. Which is why I focus on the idea of unity.
But I don't want to ignore the legitimate frustration progressives feel at the slow pace of change. With Stupak (who isn't bad on most issues) mixing an anti-abortion, right wing theme with Health Care reform and some Blue Dogs using the "socialist" meme the right wing uses, we have reason to feel frustrated. The key is to focus the frustration rather than let it get you down.
First off, I want to re-recommend a book I recommend to every Democrat who wants to win elections...or even just write better letters to the editor. The Political Brain by Drew Westin should be required reading for every Democrat, from liberal to Blue Dog. It shows how to win elections by sticking with the honest and excellent messages that have been the dominant messages of the Democratic Party since FDR. And they are, by and large, the messages that progressives believe in, but aren't always good at communicating. For every candidate, every campaign manager, every organizer and every activist out there, read The Political Brain.
I also want to emphasize that political organizing does NOT have to be frustrating or unpleasant. There are some excellent ways to be a political activist that are far more satisfying than canvassing, petitioning and going to political meetings.
Let's start with Living Liberally...which advocates political action through social interaction. This includes Reading Liberally (liberal book clubs), Eating Liberally ("free yourself from the fossil fuel food chain"), Screening Liberally ("reel action inspiring real action"), Laughing Liberally (comedy inspiring liberal action), and, the most popular of the Living Liberally organizations, Drinking Liberally. Whichever activity or activities you prefer, click on the link above and find a group near you. If there aren't any, start one! It is very likely that there are like minded folks in your area who would love to join in. Most of us are very proud to call ourselves liberal and progressive. So why not have fun while proudly and publicly expressing our liberal values? Although this isn't direct action, it brings like minded activists together and that is the first step towards effective direct action. To do my part, I have been highlighting Drinking Liberal groups around the country for some time. When I can I will start adding Eating, Laughing, Reading, and Screening Liberally groups as well. And if anyone forms one of their own, please let me know so I can publicize it.
Then there is Democrats Work. Living Liberally aims to make liberal activism a fun, social activity. Democrats Work aims to make liberal activism into community activism. This includes helping out in soup kitchens, building playgrounds, cleaning up wetlands, etc. They were particularly active in 2008 but have been less so since. Colorado and Georgia in particular have had a good amount of community service through Democrats Work. What they need right now are people around the country to help organize service events in their area. The idea of Democrats Work is an EXCELLENT one, but it needs people to organize events. If you can help, Contact Democrats Work and work with them to organize community service events in your neighborhood.
Then, for more direct organizing, nothing beats Democracy for America for liberals who want to be more effective organizers. Local DFA groups act largely independently of the national organization and are good ways to get local liberal activists together getting things done. You can find or organize a DFA group or just look for individual events in your area. But DFA does more than just help organize local progressive groups and events. They also have a Campaign Academy that holds campaign training events around the country and a Night School, an online training program that allows progressives to learn the skills needed to win from their own home.
So just with these three organizations we have a way of turning our liberal values into fun, social events (Living Liberally), a way of turning our liberal values into community service (Democrats Work), and a way to organize locally and learn winning skills and strategies (Democracy for America). These are excellent tools for focusing our frustration with the slow pace of change into effective action. I will add that there are dozens of other tools/organizations as well, like MoveOn.org, and Progressive Majority.
There is a saying "don't get mad, get even." I think a more valuable version is: "don't get frustrated, get organized." Hopefully I have presented some useful tools for you my readers to channel their frustration. And there WILL be frustration, because Bush left us a HUGE mess that will take a LONG time to fix, and Democrats are notorious for being, shall we say, a bit disorganized and divided.
Here is this week's newsletter:
TABLE OF CONTENTS:
What it Means to be a Democrat
Silicon Valley Area, CA Focus
Orange County, CA Focus
San Diego, CA Focus
California 11th District Focus: San Joaquin, Alameda and Santa Clara Counties
Brooklyn, NY Focus
Queens, NY Focus
Bronx, NY Focus
Suffolk County, NY Focus
New York 19th District Focus: Putnam, Dutchess, Orange, Rockland, and Westchester Counties
Rochester, NY Focus
NEW YORK STATE FOCUS
Atlanta, GA Focus
Fayette County, GA Focus
Coweta County, GA Focus
Austin/Travis County, TX Focus
Dallas County, TX Focus
Houston/Harris County, TX Focus
Texas 10th District Focus: Turn TX-10 Blue
Texas 21st District Focus: Turn TX-21 Blue
Charlottesville/Albemarle County, VA Focus
Fredericksburg/Spotsylvania County, VA Focus
Hanover County, VA Focus
Sussex County, NJ Focus
Passaic County, NJ Focus
Warren County, NJ Focus
NEW JERSEY FOCUS
Lancaster Co. PA Focus
WASHINGTON STATE FOCUS
Arizona's Racist Sheriff Joe Arpaio Under Investigation
Michigan Secretary of State: Jocelyn Benson
NORTH CAROLINA FOCUS