Sallow Depressives on the march

Bob Salladay gets charming with the party activists yesterday:

For both parties, the honor of delegate status normally attracts sallow depressives who enjoy debating meaningless bylaws more than, say, interacting with human beings. In politically manic places such as San Francisco, people actually campaign and spend money to get the awful job.

Mr Salladay writes here as a spectator. It’s fine to poke fun and god knows a lot of bloggers (including me, I’m sure) need it, but it’s important to get the story right, too. And in this case, Mr Salladay (uncharacteristically) misses it. The degree of new energy being aimed at the party in this state over the past few weeks is unprecedented, even while it’s a clear and linear continuation of processes that have been happening for at least four years now…

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RootsCamp this weekend in SF

If you’re in the Bay Area, this weekend from 10am on on both Saturday and Sunday, there’s going to be a fun event for grassroots activists, RootsCamp…

Click on the logo for more details, but this is an “unconference,” an ad-hoc, open schedule meeting where people get together and talk about whatever is on their minds, usually around a certain topic. The focus this time is going to be on grassroots activism. This one will be at the New Progressive Coalition offices in SOMA. I haven’t had a day off in two months but I’ll probably be there on Saturday at least. Click on the link for details and I hope to see you there!

The Work We Have To Do

Cross-posted on Governor Phil
Tuesday’s election results were not what we wanted. And electing Arnold Schwarzenegger over Phil Angelides will not move this state forward as a leader for the nation. This we know. What is less clear, and what we must sort through now, is why we got the results we did.
There will be a lot of theories as to what caused Phil’s loss. Certainly there were a variety of factors, not the least of which is going up against a celebrity incumbent Governor who can summon an admiring gaggle of print and tv journalists with the snap of his fingers. But we also must confront the brutal facts of our own weaknesses, and the weaknesses of this campaign, if we want to learn anything from this experience and prepare for the fights ahead on the road to 2010.
At the top of the list for California progressives is figuring out the language and the narrative around taxes. We tried to push this on Governor Phil, but Phil’s own website still invoked conservative frames of “tax relief” when discussing his economic plans. As this race showed, relentless anti-tax attacks are about the only thing left for Schwarzenegger-style Republicans to beat us on. It is very easy for them to steal all of our other progressive issues and win over Democrats (minimum wage, environment, education.) We can expect the next moderate Republican candidate, who I predict will be newly elected Insurance Commissioner Poizner, to follow this formula in the future.

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It’s the philosophy

Great article in the SF Chron today about the Republican party civil war that’s just getting under way. The only thing it’s missing is an identification of why exactly it is that their revolution is falling apart, which is that their governing philosophy never made any sense and still doesn’t. Libertarian-anarchist extremist and conservative movement darling Grover Norquist’s thoughts, charming as ever:

“I’m more radical than these idiots who are whining that we haven’t gotten there fast enough,” Norquist said. “I work every day trying to move the party and the government toward the more-freedom and lower-tax position. I know why things aren’t moving faster — because it’s difficult.”

(Emphasis added.) “More-feedom and lower-tax:” that is the essence of the problem. The American people simply do not agree with the relentless conservative obsession with the sole kind of freedom they care about, the freedom that comes from owning property. The vast majority of us like the freedom that comes from having education and opportunity available to everyone. We like the freedom that comes from security, whether it’s related to retirement or the availability of high paying jobs or (we wish!) health care. Those freedoms are utterly incompatible with a relentless program of tax cuts and attempts to starve “the beast.”
The Republicans have run into the problems they have not just because they’re corrupt, which at this point they have carried beyond anyone’s wildest imagining, but because it turns out that the people they represent really don’t mind the beast. They don’t think of it as a beast at all. The Republican revolution has failed because of the weakness of the underlying philosophy. The coming progressive revolution will no doubt find new and interesting ways to fail and falter, but it won’t be because of the underlying philosophy.
People like Tony Blankley, Gingrich’s former press secretary and now the editorial page director of the conservative Washington Times, are in denial:

“As much as I wish the Republican majority had controlled spending better, I don’t have the slightest doubt that if the Democrats were in, particularly if they had a Democratic president, the spending would increase and the deficit would increase. So you’re not going to gain anything.”

What, like under Clinton? Look at the numbers, Mr Blankley. As Phil stated unequivocally in last night’s debate: Bill Clinton showed us the way to run an economy and starving the “beast” has nothing to do with it. Lowering taxes and protecting the wealthy doesn’t give anyone more freedom, it just turns our economy into a kleptocracy. It’s time for this philosophy and its adherents to find new lines of work.

Do more than vote

Congratulations to the Cosmopolity Do More Than Vote crew for throwing a kickin’ event last night at 111 Minna in San Francisco. Nothing like a (packed!) room full of young people who care connecting with organizations and campaigns that need help to renew your faith in humanity. There is a whole lot of energy floating around for this cycle; the question now is whether we can convert it into effective tactics. (Stylish footwear courtesy of DMTV organizer Kelly Lange)

How about the politics of passion, instead?

In today’s NYT:

SANTA BARBARA, Calif. – Headed for what she called “conservative boot camp,” Christina Pajak grabbed the essentials: dress sandals, her Bible and “The Politics of Prudence” by Russell Kirk, the celebrated writer who a half-century ago gave the conservative movement its name.

Reminder, there’s a full progressive response to Kirk here and more on this topic in the progressivism topic on dkosopedia.

Flashreport freedom smackdown

I’m in the process of reading George Lakoff’s latest, Whose Freedom? The Battle Over America’s Most Important Idea. It’s great, and obviously something I’ve been thinking about a lot too. I’m only about a third of the way through, but so far Lakoff is taking a much different approach to understanding the conservative notion of freedom than I have. He’s either being more charitable or more nuanced, or he’s just flat out wrong.
My take on conservative freedom is that it all pretty much boils down to property rights, and Russell Kirk had it about right when he put it seventh out of ten and after a bunch of stuff about defending the moral order. This is what is behind the endless bellyaching about taxes we get from the conservative punditry: It’s becauase they’re just not really into any kind of freedom beyond that, whether you describe it as substantial freedom or FDR’s four freedoms or cognitive liberty or whatever. And the reason the current occupant of the White House talks about it so much is pure Orwell: it’s a pretty word and it sounds nice in speeches and hopefully no one will notice what a shallow mockery they’re making of the concept in their actual policies…

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More on the importance of labor

[As part of our ongoing coverage of labor issues, please consider this crosspost from UAW member and UC-Santa Barbara grad student Daraka-Larimore Hall, author of hoverbike. This can be a tough issue for some progressives, especially those of us that are new to the movement and that grew up under Reagan. But it’s incredibly critical, not just for the success of our movement but for the day to day existence of so many Americans. Give it some thought. -da]
Let’s get a few things straight. Labor is not a special interest. Unions are not anachronisms. The modern economy has not made worker’s organizations obsolete. One would think that these would be uncontestable principles among progressives in the United States. Unfortunately, waning union strength, years of effective conservative propaganda, and the predominance of middle-class professionals in Democratic circles have conspired to make us somewhat forgetful of these basic truths.

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Unions 101

There’s an interesting, thoughtful and deeply researched post over at dkos today. It’s a must read. The anti-union sentiment in the comments is a little disturbing, although it does seem to be mostly just kvetching. The simple fact is that there is no way to build a global economy that works for everyone without unions.
The left hasn’t done such a great job of telling our economic story over the past few decades, but unionism is a natural and maybe even inevitable consequence of the rights to free speech and free assembly. It is a huge part of the story of the American economy. The legal and cultural barriers we have placed on forming unions in this country deeply impact those two substantial freedoms.
If you need an illustration of how this plays out in workers’ day to day existence, read about the Wal-Mart workers that are practically forbidden from even talking to each other in Barbara Ehrenreich’s Nickel and Dimed. Are there unions that need their gates crashed? Sure, but the solution to fixing any democratic institution that needs help is never to just walk away and give up. Individual organizations are different – sometimes those need to be given up on and rebuilt from scratch. But democratic institutions like parties and unions need to be treated with a greater level of respect.
This comment in the thread, with the usual poorly-reasoned anti-union litany of excuses certainly sounded familiar. I heard all of these and more (they forgot “whining about coercion”) while trying to organize UC tech workers for UPTE. I think the eventual route to organizing techies may be more along the lines of a workplace democracy kind of movement, which a lot of workplaces are moving towards anyway since the limitations of the worker/management model are constantly getting more obvious.
While on the subject of thoughtful dkos posts, the last two foundations diaries of mine got picked up in the front page “diary rescues” like this one, which resulted in some interesting discussion, especially for the response to Russel Kirk one. Commenters there asked both for a more summarized form as well as elaboration, and I’ll be trying to provide both very soon.

Foundations III: Ten progressive principles, a response to Russel Kirk

With the roots of the philosophy of progressivism – interdependence and expanding substantial freedom – covered now in slightly more detail, here’s a first take on a full progressive response to Russell Kirk’s Ten Conservative Principles that dates originally back to 1957, the hazy dawn of movement conservativism.

Being neither a religion nor an ideology, the body of opinion termed conservatism possesses no Holy Writ and no Das Kapital to provide dogmata. So far as it is possible to determine what conservatives believe, the first principles of the conservative persuasion are derived from what leading conservative writers and public men have professed during the past two centuries.

The ideology dodge here is a little bit of a funny tactic. Kirk protesteth a bit too much and he returns to it again and again. Don’t look behind the curtain, there’s no idelogy here! But there’s more:

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