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March 28, 2005

Step 1: Don't Blame the Victim
Posted by Heather Hurlburt

OK, tired of finding different groups to blame for Democrats' inability to get over the wall on national security.  Here's my proposal for a ten-step program to get Democrats back on the map:

Step 1.  Don't Blame the Victims (grassroots progressives).  Beinart lost a lot of credibility with me when he published an op-ed blaming the problem on liberal Iowa voters.  It's our job to help them figure out what to think about national security... isn't it? 

Step 2.  Stop caricaturing what both progressives and the general public want in foreign policy.  They think much more sensibly than we give them credit for -- and then don't find candidates who express what they think.

Step 3.  Send all senior-level party functionaries and would-be candidates off to learn something about the fundamentals of foreign policy.  Don't let 'em back until they have.  Oops, that would require...

Step 4.  Create progressive institutions that are focused not on media grandstanding, arguing with other progressives or debating how many Security Council seats can fit on the head of a pin, but actually educating our own and giving them products they can use.

Step 5.  Send all progressive foreign policy experts off to learn something about the country we live in, how our political system works, and how to talk to normal people without condescending, so that they can then populate the institutions created in step 4.

Step 6.  Every progressive takes a personal vow to learn something about our military, how it works, what its ethos is, and how it affects our society at all levels -- as well as what it does well and less well in the wider world.

Step 7.  Reformed policy experts can work on crafting what Suzanne mentioned in her post -- a larger agenda that speaks to the core values and beliefs of our voters, into which we can slot all our favorite policies and programs because the larger concepts would reassure voters that they can trust us.  (Suzanne mentioned several concepts that don't cut it.  Let me add another from the campaign:  "Strengthen core alliances."  I'm a liberal, for heaven's sake, and even I know that alliances are not an end in themselves but a means to do things we want done.)

Step 8.  Said constructs then have to be framed (you knew I'd get to Lakoff eventually) in a way that vaults over the wall of fear and mayhem that our opponents and the media have conspired to construct in regular folks' minds about the world.

Step 9.  Reformed party bigs then concentrate on making this agenda an organic part of an overall progressive agenda, and send out candidates who look credible.

Step 10.  Progressive rank-and-file then has to take a deep breath and get into this.  Then, if it still doesn't work, we can follow Peter Beinart and blame our troubles on those Iowa progressives.  But not before. 


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I know this blog is new, and maybe you're just using early posts to let people know what you're all about... but I hope you plan on talking about actual foreign policy issues instead of how to use foreign policy issues to promote the democratic party.

The post on Kofi/Kojo is good... this post would be better suited for dailykos.

Active comments are nice... hopefully they can stay. Thanks.

Agree w/ many of these points as well as your WaMo article from a while back, but it's worth stressing that it's high time Dems just started showing rather than telling. All this relentless shirt-rending and forelock tugging serves no valuable purpose and is in fact counterproductive if it becomes the dominant narritive on Dems and foreign policy. Just lead by example and others will follow, as you suggest in #1.

What praktike said. And if you're serious about step #6, suggest you link to sites such as mine that have some serious military discussions other than cheerleading and liberal-bashing.

The military works on an authoritarian system of command and control. Everyone in the service knows their place in the hierarchy, whom to obey and who to command. For the lower ranks it is a welfare system of people who cannot make it on the 'outside,' in the market place economy. For the higher ranks it is a career of establishing contacts with contractors while in the service and then exploiting them for lobbying jobs upon leaving for self enrichment. The military's ethos is obey your commander and make him look good, while doing everything you can to pad your wallet. All of this corruption affects our society quite a bit, including the killing of tens of thousands of innocents while Americans wave their arms in church celebrating the forgiveness of their sins on Easter morning. The military is very good at operating bases all around the globe, teaching foreign military leaders how to torture and and 'disappear' troublesome people. The military has more trouble with its domestic domain, with the lower ranks and their families barely able to make ends meet and lots of domestic violence. My views are not the Democratic party's, but they ought to be. Americans are prompted by platitudes to goose step whenever anyone brings up the military. The military should be reduced to pre WWI levels and the money saved should be spent prosecuting all of the corrupt officers, businesses, and bureaucrats.

Platitude bound Americans, especially the 'moderate' Democrats, believe America must have an overwhelmingly strong military in order to protect the world and America's legacy of super duper power after WWII. They think that an anti-military candidate cannot win over the electorate, changing the political economy of graft and military spending. But it has never been tried as a real platform that mass media has allowed to be communicated. Arsenal is in this category, thinking Americans need to be manipulated with chauvinism and military bullyism in order to win political power. Perhaps he is correct, but someday we have to learn to live without war lordsrunning the country.

Punji: "My views are not the Democratic party's, but they ought to be."

Thank god they're not... Let the education begin, quickly...

I agree with most of the points raised in the main post--and I love the general point, which is developing a vigorous democratic foreign policy. It's very Rovian--in the sense of, attack your opponents' strengths, and if you beat them there, you win.

I would also like to point out that there seems to be an awful lot of foreign policy agreement on national security/foreign policy issues, that doesn't seem to get pointed out all that often. Some examples:

1) Democracy promotion is a good thing. For pete's sake, how did this become Dubya's issue anyway? We're the ones who support human rights, one person, one vote, and all those good things. Yet Dubya is able to strut around like he invented it.

2) Use of the military to stop genocide (Kosovo, Bosnia).

3) The development of international law, especially regarding the conduct of nations (and not free trade, which is a bit thornier)

4) Foreign humanitarian aid is a good thing, not a waste of taxpayer dollars.

5) Foreign military aid is usually a bad thing, and not a prudent investment in security.

And so on.

OK, so I just read the "progressives anonymous" post and I think the last paragraph on "democratic consolidation" hits the nail on the head, and pretty much covers my points 1, 3, and 4, above. Sorry for repeating, however, it does make my point a bit stronger that we have a lot of areas of aggreement to build on.

Stept 4: Check out International Crisis Group: Zbigniew Brzezinski, Wesley Clark, Sen. George Mitchell, Morton Abramowitz, etc.

Their policy recommendations are exactly what Dems should be pushing and are written in clear, accessible language.

Oops, my "Step 4" suggestion (check out ICG) is already covered, you've got a link on the left and a former deputy director as a contributor.

But see?? It was a good suggestion anyway, right?

Great points!
The message you're presenting isn't being stated elsewhere loudly, clearly and succinctly enough, so thanks for doing so!

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