Friday, November 10, 2006

An Open Letter to the Democratic Party

Hi guys. First of all, let me say congratulations. You've been out of power for a very long time and I know you've been waiting for the pendulum to swing. So, kudos and all that.

I'd also like to say that I'm, personally, happy that you took back Congress. Even if I didn't already have deep misgivings about Bush, I don't believe that it's healthy for a single party to control all three branches of government. I'm a big fan of checks and balances and I think that having one party in control erodes them.

I'll also be upfront and state that I am a liberal. I should caution you that being a liberal does not mean that I'm a Democrat. In point of fact, I think that the mapping of Democratic principles and Liberal ideals is inexact and that the contention that Democrats are a liberal party is misleading. That said, I recognize that you are the more liberal of the two parties and that having you in office does a better (albeit far from perfect) job of representing my interests and values.

Now that we've gotten that out of the way, please don't blow it.

You have a long, long history of sabotaging yourselves and I'll be frank: I think a big part of that is that I don't really think that your leadership has either a strong sense of commitment to your own purported values or the skill to pragmatically pursue your agenda items. Way too often you come across as a The Three Stooges by way of Machiavelli, which is a big part of the reason that people just don't trust you.

That said, let's talk about some specific issues.

The War

This is the big one. This election was, in fact, a major referendum on the war and I think that everyone appreciates that, including the president (why else would Rumsfeld "resign" the very next day). I think that you may not understand what, precisely, it is that people want, though.

The public has decided that the war has gone on for too long. They want it to end, and the sooner the better. However, there's two ways that it can end: victory or withdrawal.

Americans like to win. We hate losing at anything, especially wars. The reason Vietnam worked so hard against Kerry was because Americans still have a bitter taste in their mouths over the fact that we "lost" and Kerry's enemies were able to successfully associate him with the side that promoted defeat.

Given an alternative, Americans would like for us to be able to declare some sort of victory. You need to work with the president (yeah, I know -- a bitter thing to do but, unfortunately, he's still the Commander in Chief) to define a victory condition and to do what it takes to achieve it. That may well mean putting a whole lot more troops on the ground. Obviously you'll need to avoid a draft (again, that would bring up too many associations with Vietnam, to say nothing of making your base go ape shit) but do everything you can to get the job done.

I am going to strongly warn you against pushing for immediate withdrawal. I think that it would work against your interests and I also think that it would be wrong in terms of our national security (leaving behind an anti-American Islamic theocracy would be bad, m'kay?) as well as morally wrong. I think that the war was a mistake but that doesn't negate the fact that we brought about the environment for the current chaos.

If you, never the less, do make this your goal, you are going to need to figure out a way that we can do so honorably. Figure out a way that we can leave without giving every American the feeling that we have egg on our face. If you can't do that you will lose in 2008 everything that you've gained in 2006.


This is another hot-button issue which ended up costing the Republicans a lot of votes. The problem is that they correctly gauged that this is something that Americans care about and are upset about, but they misjudged how we want to deal with it.

Let's be very clear: the thought that illegal immigrants are coming to America and enjoying legal benefits pisses people off. I'll grant that a lot of the anger is over exaggerations but that doesn't alter the fact that people hate the idea of illegals enjoying a better life by violating the law.

I know that you're afraid of losing the support of the Hispanic community. You need to be aware, though, that what lost the Republicans the support of that community wasn't that they were in favor of curtailing illegal immigration. What lost them support was the over xenophobia and racism that pervaded their message.

Someone who has gone to the trouble of obtaining citizenship isn't going to be opposed to the idea that illegal aliens need to be discouraged, as long as they don't feel like they're being attacked as well.

I hate to say it but the Presidents plan actually has quite a bit of merit. Make it easy for foreign laborers to get work permits and streamline the process for obtaining legal citizenship while you're at it. Go ahead and offer amnesties to the illegals who are already here but then get serious about punishing and evicting the ones that don't follow legal routs afterwards.


This is a tough one. You and I both know that the tax rate has been kept artificially low at the expense of a rising debt. The Republicans are sincerely hoping that you will be the ones to raise taxes because they know that one of the biggest things to influence voters is their pocketbooks.

This is one case where I'm going to say that you need to be ruthless. You and the Republicans are in a game of chicken. You can not be the party to raise taxes, especially not in the first two years. Beat them at their own game. Slash spending. You can get some happiness out of this by going after their own pet programs. You might also be able to get away with letting certain tax cuts expire. If you do, only do the ones that directly benefit the wealthy (and make it loud and clear that you are). You can also score a whole lot of points by aggressively going after pork. That damned Bridge to Nowhere got you more traction than you realize. Resist the urge to gorge on your own pork and publicly criticize Republicans who pork their own districts and you can, once and for all, demolish the perception that the Republicans are the party of fiscal responsibility.


The big T. The threat of terrorism is exaggerated but the people's fear of terrorism is sincere. You can not afford to be soft on this subject. You need to aggressively promote efficient programs to combat terrorism. At the same time, though, you need to start standing up for the Constitution. I don't think that Americans are really comfortable with secret prisons and torture. Push to have terrorists brought out in the light, tried in public, and put away permanently (and yes, that means executions). You need to prove that we can fight the enemy without becoming the enemy. This is the single most important task you have before you, so don't fuck it up. If you can't make that case then I fear that the end result will be a police state. This is a matter that genuinely transcends politics, so don't be afraid to reach across the aisle. There are plenty of Republicans who don't like Bush and Company's Stasi tactics. Find them and work with them.


One word: don't. I know that the Republicans have been bashing you down unscrupulously and I know that the temptation for payback must be immense but now is not the time for it. Fortunately, you've already taken impeachment off of the table. That was a very smart thing to do. I'm worried, however, that you're still planning investigations.

Heaven knows that we need some investigations (especially if we're going to solve anything), but I know how you guys can get carried away by this.

In particular, you can not give the people the impression that you're just going to spend the next two years getting even. That's not why you were elected and that's not what America wants. If you do give in to this temptation I will guarantee that the Republicans will do a better job than you did of making it look mean and spiteful. They're just more competent when it comes to that kind of thing.

Keep your focus on what matters.

Other Issues

You need to reconnect with your core values. You are supposed to be the party of the little people. The party that stands up to big business. The party that opposes authoritarianism. You've lost that vision over the years. What crumbs you've retained are just stale relics. Rediscover yourselves and return to that which gave you meaning. That means that you need to take a hard look in the mirror.

I think a good place to start would be to take a hard, objective look at what things are important to the youth of the nation. Right now they are a very cynical bunch, which is rather strange given that youth is usually the font of idealism. Try to figure out why they are so cynical. I think you'll discover that a big part of it is that they feel that no one represents them and that no one, even more fundamentally, cares. They see you are being just another branch of the Republican party. That is a bad thing. Worse: they have a point. You can't ignore the middle but there is a point where you need to draw a line and say, "We believe this to be true!"

One of the reasons that the Republicans have been so successful is that they genuinely believe their message (they don't always practice it, but that's another story). They have a set of values that they want to promote. They have an honest to God mission. You did too, once, but you seem to have lost that. If you don't have something that you believe in, no one is going to believe in you.


These are not happy times. Humanity needs a better world than this, and America has more influence than any other country in determining whether or not that will happen. This is an historical time. Such times call for people to do better and to be better. You have an opportunity to do just that. You have the chance to help make the world a better place. It is an awesome responsibility and history will judge you by how well you handle it.

One more time: don't blow it.

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