Fresh Paint
Sunday, December 05, 2004
Whither Democracy?
Just back from an event sponsored by the Democratic Party of Evanston and Jan Schakowsky's office on the topic, "What Now?"

Since there were more than 30 people in line for questions when I finally left, it may not yet be over. I'm hoping a transcript will be available somewhere. I asked Alex Armour, Jan's staffer, how many people he thought were stuffed in, and he figured it was more than 300, maybe 350, since he put out 250 chairs and they were all taken well before I managed to find parking 2 blocks away. I'm sure some circled the block and went home because of the crowd.

From my point of view as a voter, hearing Jan reiterate that she will not, nor should the other Democrats, flee toward the center was the best news of the day.

People, if you've never heard her speak before, try to catch her on C-SPAN someday. If we could clone her and distribute her around the country, it would be a better place. While I am as fond of political speeches and beautiful rhetoric as the next person, and can be enthralled by a speaker such as the eloquent Bill McNary of Citizen Action Illinois, who also spoke, I appreciate someone like Jan, who just talks like a normal person and that you can imagine sitting down and having coffee and a good gossip with.

She told us one delightful tidbit about a meeting she had had with Don Rumsfeld, when she asked him about Iraq, and how many Iraqi casualties had been reported.
Rumsfeld looked at me like I was a bug.

"Well, how should I know that?" he replied testily. [insert astonished laughter from the crowd]

I said that one of his staffers must have the figures. He brushed me off, remarking, "Maybe in a few years some historian will make a study."
What she particularly emphasized was that the Republicans own it now, and that all news stories (I guess that counts us bloggers too) should always say, for example, "the Republican-controlled House" or "the Republican-controlled Senate". OK.

We must speak with conviction, conviction, conviction about the "values" debate and not become Republican Lite. That 1 out of 5 children lives in poverty in this country is a values issue.

So much, so much. Jan's husband Bob Creamer, a political consultant, talked about where the Dems went wrong, and concluded that the thing we were worst at was persuasion. "They discussed right and wrong. We discussed plans and programs. People want a connection to the emotions in a president. We let them take it from us."

Pete Giangreco, pollster to the stars, also gave a summary about what the polls tell us, and it's not that voters are suddenly more moral. We lost non-college and older women for the first time, and Latinos. "We should have realized the patriotism of new citizens," he said, "and that they are over-represented in the military." He pointed out that toward the end, George didn't go anwhere without "Laura stapled to his side" to get the women's vote. He said that in New Mexico, the Secretary of State (or maybe the Lieutenant Governor or Attorney General), a woman, had to fight her way through the crowd of men surrounding Kerry to get to the podium when he spoke. "Not good visuals," he said.

Jan said that the House Democrats have all read the book, "Don't Think of an Elephant," and will be meeting with its author this Wednesday. This is a very interesting development.

Another mistake we made was pointed out by Bill McNary. The "3 M's" of a campaign are "mobilization, message, and messenger." "We fattened frogs for snakes," he said. We got the voters turned out to the polls, but they may have voted for the other guy.

Daniel Dennison spoke briefly about our efforts in Wisconsin and elsewhere and upcoming plans for projects we can work from right here at home to prep for 2006. This will be an exciting development, and I'm sure I'll have more on it later. You can always keep up with this on his blog, Search for the Democrats' Soul.

Finally, Doug Cassel of Northwestern University spoke about foreign affairs and human rights and what we can do. He suggests building a bridge to the Christian right on common causes, like the genocide in Darfur, abuses in Cuba, progress made in Taiwan.

So much more, so much more, but I should post this now.

I regret not having pictures, but pictures of people talking to a large group are rarely interesting.

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