Saturday, August 26, 2006

Accountability and Corruption

MyDD :: Direct Democracy for People-Powered Politics
MyDD :: Direct Democracy for People-Powered Politics

There have been a few posts over on MyDD over the past few days (see Democratic Leaders to Run on Iraq War Accountability and Republican Corruption Back in the Fore?) Republican corruption and Republican lack of accountability and how that the Democrats can make use of these issues. To my mind, one of the most striking aspects of this discussion, here on MyDD and elsewhere, is the tendency to treat these issues as two separate issues. They are not. The Republicans have been claiming for the past few decades that they are inherently more virtuous (using as evidence their overt Christianity, or their attitudes towards sex, or their wealth, etc.). The Democrats cannot, and should not, being trying to argue that they have the greater inherent virtue and furthermore must make clear that they are not arguing that. The liberal position has been for centuries that the thing needed to keep corruption at bay is accountability and oversight. As long as humans are involved in government, relying upon their virtue is a mistake. And not because there are no virtuous people, but rather because in the absence of oversight even the most honest will loose their way,

The Democrats can capitalize on the Republican corruption, but they need to make clear that the reason for the growing Republican scandals is the lack of oversight, the lack of accountability. The Democrats will restore that accountability but make no claim to inherently superior virtue.

The point of this for the upcoming election is that the issue the Democrats need to focus on accountability. The Republicans have abandoned that principal and as a result we see the problems in Iraq, growing corruption in government, the failures of the Katrina response, the growing deficit. The Democrats will return to the vital principal of holding the government accountable. So corruption should be part of the Democratic talking points, but as an example supporting the main talking point of accountability.

One other thing on using corruption as an issue. We Democrats suffer horribly from impatience. The 'Culture of Corruption' as an election issue was started earlier this year. So far, having been used for six months and not bringing victory in the one case where it was used, we are thinking that it needs to be dropped. The Republicans started pushing the Democrats as weak on defense in the 1964 election and finally archived that as a fundamental view on Democrats by maybe 1972 (1968 at the earliest). Could be give it a little more time, with a little more variations in how we use it before giving up. We do tend to come up with these ideas that are very good, but abandon them very quickly when they don't bring immediate success. The culture of corruption will be a fact of Republican governance for as long as they abandoned oversight. We need to make it an issue for that same period of time.

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Sunday, August 20, 2006

Kerry on Lamont/Lieberman

ABC News: Kerry Calls Lieberman the New Cheney

I find it interesting that Kerry is out front on this and I applaud him for doing so. At the time that Kerry first got hit by the Swiftboaters I did not agree with the oft stated liberal opinion that he should have come out against them. His performance with respect to them was fine. Had he come out against the Swiftboating, there would have been a week of John Kerry v. John O'Neil for favorite Vietnam Vet, while George Bush ran fro president unopposed. Kerry did the right thing by staying focused on George Bush (he ultimately did other things wrong, but not, in my opinion this.) What was needed at the time was for other Democrats to come out against John O'Neil and the Swiftboaters. So I applaud Kerry for taking the lead in attacking Joe Lieberman, so that Ned Lamont can run for the Senate race against his Republican opponent.

I also think that Kerry is taking the right tack and treating Lieberman as being an illegitimate distraction from the real race. The man claims to be an 'Independent Democrat' which is a complete fiction, while running on a vanity party named after himself, and appealing only to Republicans. This is an absurdity and an insult to the Democratic process. In my opinion, Lamont would be best off keeping focused on Schlessinger (but cleverly framing his message to cover Lieberman as well, see below.) and other Democrats, like John Kerry and the blogs, should be taking out Lieberman.

I say that Lamon't message should cover Lieberman. What I mean is that Lamont should present himself as one who will hold George Bush accountable unlike his opponent Schlessinger and the rest of those in Congress who have allowed this administration to run wild without check or oversight. The only person mentioned is Schlessinger, but clearly the message applies to Lieberman as well. Similar things can be done with other parts of Ned's message.

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Saturday, August 19, 2006

CT Race

There is an informative back and forth going on between Josh Marshall and Steve Gilliard (with the added input of Atrios) on the importance of the Connecticut Senate race. See also here, here and here.

For what it's worth, I'm with Steve and Atrios. The defeat of Lieberman is extremely important and growing more so as Lieberman's campaign goes on. Steve's arguments are all on point, I just have a few things to add. The most important thing for the Democrats to do, both for the country and for the party, is to strike a clear and distinct difference between them and the policies of the Bush administration so as to hold the administration accountable. This Lieberman is totally opposed to doing, and by staying tied to the Democratic party he makes it very much harder for the Democrats to do this.

The analogy that I think best illustrates the political process as the public expects that process to be carried out, is a trial. The Democrats are then counsel for liberalism and the Republicans are counsel for conservatism. The two counsel are expected to put forth their cases, singularly favorable to their 'clients', in a forceful, direct and clear fashion. The Democrats adoption of 'triangulation' might have served well to better select the 'clients' they would support, but it has since morphed into a plan to take a position halfway between your client and opposing counsel's client. This, not surprisingly, turns out not to work well. The Democrats need to get back to advocating for progressive positions. Joe Lieberman, however, is an absolute, unswerving proponent of taking a position between that of his client and that of his opponent's in all cases. It is a surefire path to failure.

But consider after the election. Joe Lieberman is making it perfectly clear that he feels free to sabotage any legislative program devised by the Democratic caucus if he does not like it. Having a Senator of that mind set will make it nearly impossible for the Democrats to have success even if they do control the Senate.

Having said all that, there is room for serious debate as to how much exactly we dedicate resources to this races. Even as important a race as CT is, it is still possible to dedicate too much time and money to it and too little elsewhere. However, Lamont v. Lieberman is definitely not "a carnival sideshow" nor a "distracting spectacle."

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