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"Losing my faith in humanity ... one neocon at a time."

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Hope for the Progressives?

posted by Mike at 1/26/2005 11:20:00 AM


Each evening, I go home and among other things fire up my newsreader, NetNewsWire, which scans the RSS feeds of at this point about 110 websites. (That sounds like a large number of websites, but reading newsfeeds is actually a very different experience than hitting each individual website. You spend a lot less time yet are able to keep up on your favorite websites' contents, including ours. (See the "RSS feed" button at the top of the page.) If you've not begun using RSS, you're missing out on quite a lot — one colleague said it pretty much revolutionized his use of the Web, and he is most definitely not prone to hyperbole. Try NetNewsWire if you're on a Mac or FeedDemon if you're on a Windows machine.)

Anyway, I've gone a bit off-topic. One of the above-mentioned feeds is a feed generated by a website I've mentioned before, GovTrack.Us, which culls statements by Durbin, Obama, and Schakowsky from the Congressional Record. And so I found myself reading Sen. Durbin's speech in Congress about the legislative priorities of the Democratic side of Congress. (Why is this significant to all, and not just Illinois residents? Since Durbin is the Senate minority whip, he's essentially second-in-command of the Senate Democrats, with Tennessee's Sen. Reid being the minority leader.)

As I began to read Durbin's remarks, I grew very disappointed. The bulwark of his comments centered around the same old problem lately of the Democrats not sending a clear message of what progressive principles they stand for, and instead spending most of their time attacking (and thus reinforcing) the message the other side is giving. (As Lakoff once put it, it was fatal for Nixon to say, "I am not a crook," because it meant that Nixon was introducing the concept of "crook" into that situation, even in negation.)

Durbin can't seem to articulate what Democrats' first priority is, first saying:

On the Democratic side, we have a different approach. Our first priority is the title of "putting America's security first, standing with our troops."

but later saying:

We believe on the Democratic side that funding education across America is our highest priority.

Which is it? And, of course, there was this disgustingly tasteless choice of analogies:

I said at a press conference today, and I believe it, the political tsunami that is about to hit us in the United States relates to pensions and health care for retirees.

Yet as I read the conclusion of Durbin's remarks, I perked up a lot, because he seemed to almost quote directly out of Lakoff's concepts and speak about progressive principles in general:

[W]e also understand that in many instances the strength of our Nation is when we stand together — for fairness when it comes to health care, for opportunity when it comes to education, to have protection when it comes to your pension and your future.

We need a balance. Walking away from Government, as an evil entity, is ignoring the fact that Government, in many instances, is just the American family at large. As my wife and I care for our children, we care for others in this country and those who are shortchanged by this system and who are not protected. Even if it does not affect me directly and personally, it affects this country, and it affects my future.

So I hope we can find some balance. I hope, when it is all said and done, we do not get so caught up in this alluring notion of the ownership society that we forget, as we are learning with our military, we have learned in our history, there are times when we need to stand together as a nation for fairness and for justice. We say here is security, opportunity, and making certain people have responsibility in their actions.

Now that was fucking inspiring to see from a Democrat's mouth, pardon ma français. I hope we hear a lot more of that kind of talk in the 109th Congress from all the Democrats. It's time that Democrats actually grow a pair and start advocating progressive principles, instead of just decrying neoconservative ones.