Friday, December 09, 2005


More on Judgment and Ideology

One thing we Democrats like to complain about is the obvious double standard of Democrats getting judged worse for screw-ups when in office than Republicans get judged.

This, however, is not necessarily an unfair double standard -- as it relates to the principles of our party. Since Democrats actually believe that government can do some good, we must when in office be good at government. Republicans, who do not believe in good governance at some fundamental level are not hypocrites if they are bad at government. The same goes for judgment issues: Democrats need to display good judgment as we believe in good judgment. Republicans do not as they do not believe in it. It can work the other way too -- Democrats needn't be such good sports about politics as we often are, because we take politics seriously. OTOH, Republicans can afford to be good sports, and should be better sports than they are, as politics is to them a game and power play.

Not only do we need to be good at governing and to make good judgments (and we should probably not run a candidate who judged the situation poorly and gave GW Bush the power to go to war in Iraq -- remember, Bush pretty much said in 2004 that Kerry was not fit to be president 'cause he displayed bad judgment in giving Bush power to go to war in Iraq -- and this argument resonated!), but we can turn this into a strength rather than a source of double standards and weakness.

How? We need to convince people that good government is actually a good thing. How? Well, a lot of people may have deep moral commitments (*) to certain causes (e.g. pro-life/pro-choice, various views on gay marriage), but what really irks them about gummint are local things -- use of traffic citations to raise money for corrupt political machines, stupid alcohol laws, etc. -- and all politics is local. If we Democrats can root out our machine and corrupt local politicians and have a national campaign to run clean local governments and can do so effectively, this will not only move a lot of people to support Democrats (as they will happily support any party that addresses issues about which they care personally -- and people may have strong opinions on national matters, but except for a few mega-polluting big business types, etc., what really irks people are local matters -- and if Democrats can address these instead of making them worse, then people will like the Democrats) locally but also allieve the fear a lot of people have about government programs. If we Democrats do well in governing locally, not only will we convince people that we are good at government but that it is good to be good at government! And that will make the case not only for our party but also for our ideology.

(*) Speaking of moral commitments ... we may walk the walk in terms of actually having a set of programs that address public morality (more so than the Republicans, in fact -- which does even the Levitical code, with its reputation for being obsessed with ritual purity and propriety, care more about: sexual mores or fair distribution of wealth? considering that the whole point of the code is the sacrificial system in which food gets shared and the laws of the Sabbatical and Jubilee years in which property gets redistributed ... I would think the latter! Morality may involve who you have sex with but it more involves taking care of the widow, orphan, et al. And not just at a level of individual charity -- the whole point of Leviticus is that these activities must be handled by a centralized and legislated system ... in today's terms, "big government".), but what matters in politics is talking the talk. Allow me to suggest an example of someone who knows how to talk the talk: Barbara Boxer. She has a lot of support accross the political spectrum, even from hard core social conservatives? why? Because she is always talking in terms of things being right and things being wrong ... in terms of things being moral and things being immoral. And she doesn't sound forced or pandering when she does it. Certainly she knows the world is full of shades of grey, and her record largely reflects (although it is not quite pure enough ideologically for me ;) ) the views of the reality based community. But she also communicates a deep sense that she has certain principles and these principles are based on a deep seated sense of morality. She is a person that people accross the political spectrum can respect, can trust to not be so ideologically inflexible that she will not bend if the situation requires, but also someone who sincerely has a sense of right and wrong and will do the right thing -- whatever that right thing is. I am not saying that Barbara Boxer is my favorite Pres. candidate idea (or that she would even be electable when it comes to a national race ... being able to get votes for a Senate seat in Cali even from social conservatives -- and Cali has some hard-core conservatives! -- is different than being able to win even those votes to be the Head of State ... of course, we did try electable last time, and look at where we got: fair or unfair, we need to win by a large enough margin that even if they cheat, we can still win!), but it would behoove Dems to pay attention to how she speaks and what she says and make sure to run people who sound like her!

I didnt read the whole thing, but here are my 2 cents worth!

Democrats: Hey lets give some money to house the katrina victims in hotels beyond the middle of december.

GOP: Screw 'em.
More GOP: Lets spend money to house POWs from the Iraqi war (even though we have no business being there.)
Way to debunk the right-wing political spin that saying "the party of moral values" means that all those values are for the greater good. :)
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