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Vision for America

From dKosopedia

This is the original version of the page. The current Framing page is at Our Vision for America

This is a vision statement. It does not represent any particular party, unit of a party, candidate, group, movement, citizen or troll's view of things. It is presented to inspire others to create their own visions and improve this collective one to the point where some party, candidate or group supports it.


Be: who?

A vision helps define who you will become by the time you finish doing what it says. A Vision for America must literally define what it means to be a Democrat. The Democratic Party's identity crisis must be resolved by our new, clear vision. Democrats ground their politics on principles such as "Equality before the law," not on expediency. We trust the people of this nation to be able to follow out the implications of principles -- and to be able to see the contradictions that follow from unprincipled decisions. Be the change you want to see!

Prologue: Reaching Laura B.

Create a value statement to solve this... what is going to "reach" Laura B.?

I work at a domestic violence shelter in a rural conservative district in Mich. that is has had its economy gutted by NAFTA and where Christianity dominates the culture.
Yesterday while reflecting about 4 more years of Bush I was talking with a woman staying in the shelter. I will give her a fake name, lets call her Laura B. Laura is 28, pregnant, (never considered an abortion). She finished high school and did a year of college before dropping out to have a couple of kids with her military husband. Living in Virginia on base with her autocratic mate (he doesn't allow the boys 3 and 4 to say "yeah" they have to answer "yes sir") drove her crazy and she was hospitalized for suicidal thoughts. Military dude divorced her and has custody.
She came home to Mom in Mich and ended up at our shelter to try and sort out her life. (Mom has no money either and her own problems.) We, like all secular agencies, have seen a steady erosion of funds.
Laura B. has found a job working in the kitchen at a local faith based Christian College. She makes $6/hour. She drives a dying Ford Escort wagon pays $2.15/gallon for gas. Her latest crisis is her insurance expired on Oct. 9 (her ex-partner canceled policy). She needs to come up with $211 to get insurance for one month or face a $1,000 fine if she gets caught driving with no insurance. We have some public transportation, Dial-a Ride, minibus runs between 7 am and 6 p.m., M-F $1.50 one-way. She has to be at work at 6am.
She has been walking to work lately but it is about 2 miles she is 5 months pregnant, it is dark at 5 am, and winter is coming. Solution? Go begging at the churches who seem to have money for these things. They will give her the money if she attends bible school. So last night she was at bible school until 9 p.m.
She has never attended our domestic violence support groups as she is too tired at night and goes to bed early but the bible study was not optional.
She was excited about "God's message" when she came back.
This week she moves into low income subsidized housing. Her newest crisis is she has found out when the college is closed for the Christmas holiday (one month) she has no employment. She is hoping to find temporary employment as a seasonal retail worker if the Christmas sales are brisk to tide her over. She doesn't know what she will do when the baby is born, hopes she can work up till the last week (she is one her feet all day with this job). She will be eligible for subsidized daycare.
She voted for Bush because of his "family values."

But there are apparently "Republican family values" and "Democratic family values" and perhaps even "Green family values" and Libertarian family values". No one sees moral values neutrally, only through the lens of their own family. George Lakoff in Moral Politics explains that people, such as Laura B. who respond obediently to authority figures such as autocratic military fathers, Bush, and God (not necessarily in that order), are most likely perceiving unconsciously some common attributes of "the father" or "patriarch", and "the state" or "leader". By contrast Democrats more likely invoke mother or nurturing images of the state. It is not hard to see from Laura's life that she can't identify with this, as the state's primary impact on her life is to tell her what to do. Like many of the working poor she believes in the systems that abuse or don't serve her, and will continue to vote for those who cause them to "cut back" while paying lip service to faith-based approaches. It isn't that such approaches are entirely bad, they are seemingly providing some solace to Laura, but at a price: reinforcing her belief in an abusive father God who insists on her obedience, which she will be told includes her vote. A comprehensive response to this problem requires deep framing of family in a way that reinforces all the conceptual metaphors that Democrats use. That bridges that gap between the popular perception and the academic theory levels:

The progressive, liberal left has spent its energy being more intellectually correct than the Republicans. Since "Laura B." doesn't care about any of that, it's imperative to reduce the Democratic program to things she does care about.

Two platforms

A long time ago, a Philosophy of Religion professor taught that all the major religions (read successful) of the world have two versions each -- a complex, philosophically bound version that the scholastic theologians discuss with great vigor and a simple, all embracing version for everyone else. Some analysts believe that the Democratic Party's "all embracing" version is what the Republicans have successfully attacked, they they are losing the "culture war" even if their policies are more rational and even if provably more rational. The technical rationality of Democrats puts blinders on them:

Democratic intellectuals don't understand how voters can possibly fall for the Republican tactics, and their response is to crank out better (read more clever) responses. Too many Americans don't understand the responses and too often conclude that they are "elite" and "condescending". "Clever" is not "wise" and it is certainly not "trustworthy".

The Democrats need a simpler, more easily understood expression of their vision. It might focus on responsibility, community, fair play, love thy neighbor, charity, mercy, the meek shall inherit the earth, team work, etc. I think the Bible should be plumbed for the real "moral values" it contains that are also the fundamental values of the Democratic party. We need to expose the lie in the Republican claim to "moral values". So using phrases like "Republican family values" is important, to illustrate that it's only one point of view on what family is.

Reframing the choices

The FrameTank lays out a solid way to re-frame the choices. Americans resent being asked to choose between a strong military and a powerful uncompromising role in shaping the world diplomatically. They resent being asked to choose between jobs and their health in the form of the environment. They resent being asked to choose between good social services and knowing that every dollar is well spent by government. They resent all the old left-right choices from the last century.

Working for women

What's more, half the people in this country are women, and they are not at all the same kind of people as women were trained to be, when those left and right wing ideas were formed. In 1776 when Adam Smith wrote the Wealth of Nations, 1848 when Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels wrote The Communist Manifesto, or in the late 1800s when John Stuart Mill was working, women's role was to work at home, hope for courtship and pray for marriage: very few had careers that lasted beyond that marriage, and many died in childbirth, as do a very large number of women in developing nations today. And just as many in absolute poverty today, the average woman would have lost several children.

Read that again: the average woman would have lost several children.

See how different we are now? In just the lifetime of the average woman voter alive today in the US, we've seen not only the loss of a child go from common experience to a uniquely shocking trauma. We've seen the sexual revolution, made possible especially by effective female contraception; the ideology of feminism and the changing educational and occupational status of women; the destigmatization of bastardy, divorce, infidelity, and abortion; the general erosion of shame and awe regarding sexual matters, and as one right winger put it, "exemplified most vividly in the ubiquitous and voyeuristic presentation of sexual activity in movies and on television." Ohh ah yeah baby. But women actually rent a lot of the pornography, and some of it is made especially for them. It's hard even to imagine the trial of Larry Flynt now.

Bottom line, women need to play the leading role in defining this new "vision":

Bottom up

We need a broad, inspiring, politically useful, truly visionary and woman-empowering and -involving VISION. We need to break some new ground, or at least explore less traveled territory, to create a unifying progressive vision that can break through to our fellow citizens. If we can't do these things, then, we aren't doing deliberative democracy and we deserve to lose' since we aren't being actual Democrats:

To remain Democrats we must:

Be the change

As an adjunct to this increasingly elaborate page, here are three discussion & brainstorming areas: First, let's make a lot of very specific issue statements on broad pages like "social justice": this abstract principle must be broken down into a large number of sub-concerns as on that page. And, we must say what we want and say what is and say what should be so brainstorming over a hundred good position statements is good exercise on how more specific issues must be stated, will resonate with people, etc. If nothing else it starts to simplify the vocabulary to remove big unwieldy words that just aren't necessary to make the core points.

Second, let's toss all our embryonic BROAD vision and values thoughts on a broad vision statements for America brainstorming page and talk about 'em. No rules here, no structure. Just pile 'em on. See vision for what this means, and how vision/threat/status is different from issue/position/argument.

Third, we need a spot for further discussion of the purpose of the Vision for America page, since I doubt that's been resolved to everyone's satisfaction. Hashing out issue, proposal (the action items from the position), and message (how to communicate it, what metaphors to use, etc.) ideas remains below.

We are the future

  1. We are the wave of the future: Just as Goldwater's people in '64 were laying the groundwork for a 40-year journey of conservative resurgence, we are now laying the groundwork for the rest of our lives. What is OUR 40 year plan as politics shifts our way, toward green economies, autonomous communities, caring social services, peaceful relationships with the rest of the world, and America making progress again?
  1. 12 point programs are great, but those are details. Details that are not fundamental to the vision can be left out. Leave them for positions. Details can be critical to ironing out elements of our vision, but let's use them for that purpose (to clarify or explore implications and alternatives, that is), rather than getting caught up -- on this page -- in getting them all just right. Once they start to get big create issue/position/argument pages to hold the complexity and detail.

Clearly many of us have strong and specific policy opinions, but a spirit of collaborative brainstorming and analysis will keep this section far more open to new ideas than a rush to hammer out the one true vision. Try to avoid adding a whole lot of text to many items at once: stick to one inadequate or missing item and try to make it perfect. Then, invite many others to look at it and nitpick your proposal/position choices, and the way you frame debates, and by the way also to pick a single area they understand, and flesh that out next.


Bulletin - July 12
Matt Stoller of is calling attention to, and has started commenting on, this long but essential article by Rick Perlstein. Rick picks apart the Democratic retreat from grand vision and suggests that it takes no leap of faith to embrace bold, long-term policies, only a good hard look at the facts. The opening parable involving the history of the Boeing corporation is fabulously instructive. I don't have time to assess the whole yet, but let's discuss it as the debate shapes up discuss Perlstein on Vision.
Excerpt: Any marketing executive will tell you that you can’t build a brand out of stuff the people say they don’t want. And what do Americans say they want? According to the pollsters, exactly what the Democratic Party was once famous for giving them: economic populism.

Suggestion: to build for the long term, cope with setbacks, and maneuver around the 'vast right wing conspiracy' that will be on the attack, we need to look at how to connect our principles and long-term goals with incremental, practical policy innovations that will effect people's lives.

That doesn't have to mean 'piddly' changes or mere fine-tuning. One strength of fundamentalist movements generally is the all-embracing support systems they tend to offer to assist their adherents coping with day-to-day problems. Despite our handicap of not thinking we have all the answers in one book, we can develop some analogous institutions and practices -- democratic (small 'd') ones -- to give people more of a reason to consider our crazy new ideas. Cultural innovations work here too, if they go beyond political badge-wearing to address people's deep seated but often necessarily suppressed desire to understand and to know how to effectively participate in shaping their world. For example, F911 is for many a catharsis, validating widespread feelings of anger and powerlessness the media never honored.

Most folk, who don't live and breath politics, are unlikely to overcome their defensive political apathy/cynicism, and to challenge the various deep-set biases fed to them by the media, until they encounter alternatives in their real life that move them and/or benefit them directly. So, imagine our journey is as tumultuous and confusing as the ride the Right has been on over the past 40 years, but compressed (Internet time) to more like 20 years. How will we keep our focus? How will we draw in and harness people's passion for whatever it is in the world that they know and love best, without burning them out? How will we build institutions and cultivate leaders that can resist all the corruptions and complacencies that lurk with the power to govern, when we achieve it?


OK, if we know who we will become, and in whose eyes, what then must we do to become that, in their eyes? And in our own?

Party Organization

The Democratic Party needs to develop a command-and-control structure that is in charge during elections and the runup to them if it wishes to fight successfully. We need these power structures although many of us dislike authority. The answer is that the puzzle of collaborative command and control must be solved. There is no other solution. If a collaborative vision can be created, then leaders will step forward to carry it. Perhaps dkosopedia itself can actually provide a lot of good examples of successes in this regard. Also there may be experiments in worker-run workplaces in campaigns, like letting the campaign workers actually elect campaign managers? Many things must be tried. But during the campaign, there must be some order.

We have to bite the bullet. We need somebody to get us in sync so our discussion of each issue hits the same points at the same time, exposes the same weaknesses in the arguments against our positions, builds on the same arguments for, and slowly wins the public mind. It is not easy to amplify our collective voice. We need a way to choose keyphrases or memes and a way to sequence their presentation. We need coordination. We need the MemeTank, the issue/position/argument structure, and, when challenged, the evidence/source/authority ("facts") to back up our arguments solidly.


A. Most Democratic ideas are better than most Republican ideas.

B. Most people who understand Democratic and Republican ideas agree with A.

Any Democratic politician who doesn’t agree with these should leave the Democratic party, or should attempt to find a meaningful life outside politics. But these obvious assumptions raise a question whose answer is not obvious –


Let’s round up all the plausible answers, then eliminate the ones we can’t do much about. What’s left will be the things we can and should change.

All the plausible reasons I could think of that we lose so many elections in spite of our Basic Assumptions being correct:

A. People don’t understand the parties’ ideas.

B. People think their Democratic candidate can’t implement his or her ideas, because the Republicans are in the majority.

C. People think their Democratic candidate can’t implement his or her ideas, because there is no assurance the Democratic leadership agrees with their candidate.

D. People doubt their Democratic candidate really wants to implement the ideas he or she espouses.

Don’t A, C, and D apply equally to Republicans? No. I’ll discuss why later, but that’s not the main point.


Let’s get these out of the way quickly, so we can get to the changes we can and should make.

A. People don’t understand the parties’ ideas. Fundraising, “framing,” savvy use of free and paid media, the Internet, etc. All well and good, all conventional, all being studied as assiduously by the Republicans as by us. I have no special insights here.

B. People think their Democratic candidate can’t implement his or her ideas, because the Republicans are in the majority. Nothing we can do about this immediately, but in due time we’ll get opportunities to win enough races. So let’s discuss how to make the best of those opportunities.


C. People think their Democratic candidate can’t implement his or her ideas, because there is no assurance the Democratic leadership agrees with their candidate.


D. People doubt their Democratic candidate really wants to implement the ideas he or she espouses.

These two obstacles to Democratic victory can be lumped together, for purposes of this discussion, as credibility. Is there a reasonable chance the candidate will do what he claims?

Robert J. Aumann, co-winner of the 2005 Nobel Prize in economics, is recognized for realizing people’s evaluation of credibility differs if they are in relationships involving repeated encounters, as opposed to single encounters. The famous example Aumann re-examined is the “prisoner’s dilemma,” in which two prisoners are charged with conspiring on a single crime. The prisoners are given this choice: If neither confesses and testifies against his co-defendant, both will get a short sentence; if both confess and testify, both will get medium-term sentences; and if only one confesses and testifies, he will go free, but his co-defendant will get a lengthy sentence. Aumann’s insight was to realize that what the participants do depends on whether the same participants repeat the scenario multiple times. If the participants go through the scenario just once, both prisoners will probably confess; but if they go through the scenario repeatedly, both prisoners will probably refuse to talk. Aumann then applied this credibility insight to describe the behavior of actors in the economic system.

What Aumann’s insight means for the Democratic party is that we cannot gain credibility with voters if we approach each election cycle as a separate encounter. Rather, we must realize each election takes place in the context of a relationship with voters that encompasses many election cycles. This is how voters see things – or else the Nobel committee gave the prize to the wrong guy.

This multiple-election-cycle-relationship viewpoint means a voter decides how to vote based not on ads, or “framing,” or candidate personalities, but on her past encounters with the parties. This in turn means to persuade the voter, we must build a track record of doing, or at least attempting, what we say we are going to do. This cannot be done on a candidate-by-candidate basis, because credibility encompasses both sincerity and ability (C and D above). A voter does not care if she can trust her candidate to attempt every single thing the voter wants done, if there is no realistic possibility her candidate can get it done. The only way a candidate can address both the sincerity and the ability aspects of credibility is by showing the voters the candidate and the rest of his party want the same things. Our candidates have no credibility without a SERIOUS party platform.

The party platform is only SERIOUS if voters are confident we will, after the election, attempt to enact it. They judge this likelihood based on what we’ve done after past elections. This means our platform is not SERIOUS -- has NO credibility -- unless we’ve tried to enact our past platforms.




Just look at the Republicans, who have been kicking our butts since 1994. Their process is not as formal as what I propose, but in the voters’ minds it amounts to the same thing. Virtually every voter in every Congressional district in the country knows the Republicans stand for cutting taxes and an aggressive military. You don’t even have to know your candidate’s name – if you want lower taxes and an aggressive military, go into the booth and pull the “R” lever. They have kept this two-point platform for about a dozen election cycles now. How’s it working? See?


If our party is to have a platform its legislators will really try like hell to enact,

A. The candidates should have a substantial voice in drafting it.

B. The candidates should be rewarded if, once in office, they vote for it.

C. The candidates should be punished if, once in office, they don’t vote for it.

To accomplish these ends, I propose for every election cycle (not just for Presidential-election years) –

1. That the Democratic party have a convention.

2. That at the convention, we adopt a simple, clear platform. 10 points (e.g., the Republicans’ 1994 “Contract With America”) is probably too many. We’ll be lucky to get voters to recall, and to get concerted legislative action on, two or three points. (Again, refer to Republican success with “low taxes and aggressive military.”)

3. That the candidates have a dominant role in drafting the platform.

4. That each candidate be asked to sign a pledge to vote for the platform once in office.

5. That any candidate who does not sign the pledge receive NO MONEY from the party.

6. That any incumbent candidate who did not vote for the last platform receive NO MONEY from the party.

That’s it. Let’s get serious. Let’s start hanging together, because since 1994 we’ve sure as hell been hanging separately.


This is only tangential, so you can skip it if you like. But the following phenomena hurt Democrats more than Republicans. In spite of this, don’t be discouraged. Politics really is the triumph of hope over experience. Have faith – most people agree with our ideas.

A. People don’t understand the parties’ ideas.

As Demosthenes observed, “A man is his own easiest dupe, for what he wishes to be true he generally believes to be true.” The Republicans promise free beer and ice cream, low taxes, etc. – you can have everything and you don’t have to pay for it. A certain percentage of people who don’t understand the issues will choose to believe this Republican veneer on the truth.

C. People think their Democratic candidate can’t implement his or her ideas, because there is no assurance the Democratic leadership agrees with their candidate.

As discussed above, the Republicans have a de facto two-point platform. Because the Republicans have consistently worked for low taxes and an aggressive military for 20+ years, voters assume their local candidate and the Republican leadership will continue to do so.

D. People doubt their candidate really wants to implement the ideas he or she espouses.

The “moral” vote favors Republicans. For whatever reason, voters who emphasize looking for candidates of upright moral character, who therefore can (supposedly) be trusted, tend to vote Republican. I don’t like it, and I think these voters are mistaken, but it’s real.

Ironically, the “cynic” vote also slightly favors Republicans. If you think all politicians are lying scum who will steer the country to hell in a handbasket, you might as well pay low taxes.

It is also possible that Republicans are better at spin and smears. They run their party like a corporation - as long as the sales pitch gets the product sold, it's all good. The Democrats sometimes act like knights gallivanting off on some crusade for Truth. While honest critical scrutiny is definitely a virtue - lets face it, this is a TV generation - we are exposed to over 3,000 ads per day. I am not suggesting that Democrats cease their logic based arguments... but if no one listens to them, go for something more immediately damning. The average American is more likely to take note of a nasty smear than a reasoned argument. Though it may make you feel terrible inside, smear.


The bottom line is that only someone of a great deal of authority can provide such coordination. That's what it takes to run the country: dealing with uncertainty. Kerry did it as the nominee, but was not backed up by truly solid detailed robust positions. He changed the language he used to state his views (something Bush rarely did), and did not ask the public to sacrifice or change anything in themselves. Why not? Because he didn't have solid enough, agreed enough, Democratic enough, support, to clearly demand, as JFK did:

Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.

Leaders are not marketers: they do not ask what the public needs. They tell. They even plead sometimes, but, they do not beg the public for guidance. If the systems of party and government aren't already listening for that, it's all over.

If somebody of intermediate authority (such as Markos) were to try to create the necessary structures, the result would be quibbling from other people of intermediate authority. They would argue over whom should be "in charge" of message, over what platform we should push, and so forth. It's no surprise, they would act independently. They would compete. The debate would never be resolved for the whole purpose of his exercise is to take part in the debate itself and therefore for the debate to continue. Thus, his ideas would not receive the necessary unified support from our party leaders. It takes the actual candidate to step forward and say, in effect, "I approved this ad".

So what do we do? Our leaders aren't leading. Our middle echelon has no support from above and won't cooperate with itself. How can we remedy the situation? Obviously we have some technology for collaborative writing here, but no clear standards on how to apply it effectively, few examples in the world of anyone else doing so. America isn't leading in this area, but it's not so far behind that it can just copy something going on in the UK or in Canada - and America is unique in that American mass media is so fragmented, there are so many distractions, and so much trivia (like street crime) masking serious issues (like the poverty or desperation or labor immobility causing the crime).

Sometimes it seems like only Michael Moore is leading or asking questions. He wins Oscars. Now let's win some elections:

"The Commitment"

First, let's dispense with "ideas". We are talking message, meme and positions and proposals to back them. If it's still an idea, put it on another page. This is for your best, most refined, most tested, known, stuff: your commitment.

Too often Progressive values fail electorally for lack of a distillation of a simple message which resonates with middle America and which they believe you have committed to. We need proposals to best distill the Democratic message into a short description. For example let's refine the following starter:

This is called a party brand by some theorists, it's similar to a brand ethic which fair traders use to express their values, or which companies use to express their values to their customers. Parties need it most of all. Most theorists advise three to seven words, only, each one of them meaningful. For instance the minor modification:

Note that this version omits "standing up for" since it can be perceived as a military metaphor that reinforces the Republican message, puts Freedom first, Fairness second, and lowercases "our" for respect for diversity on who "we" are. It adds two lowercase words to characterize this Future as both "green" (not violating the laws of nature so as to cause hurricanes or diseases etc.) and "common" (accepting that we all face ultimately the same future, rich and poor, and are increasingly part of a unified peaceful world). It's impossible to argue that the "Future" should not be "green" or "common", and the two lowercase words makes the lowercasing of "green" (to avoid seeming to endorse the "Green" party) more innocuous. This can get Green Party of the United States votes back, without offending or causing those voters to think they are compromising, since they are voting for something that's green (small g). It can even fairly be taken as a promise to seriously consider reading and endorsing parts of the Green Party program, which the Democrats really must do, as there is no other serious alternative progressive radical vision of what the world will look like 50 years from now. There are hundreds of Green Parties in the world, and, they very often feed policies to the Labour / Social Democratic / Liberal / Left parties. Keeping the three Fs however the only capitalized words means the phrase reduces to something like:


Now we are getting to something that 1. doesn't seem to endorse other parties and 2. anyone can say on the street 3. is so generic it can be defined to fit any specific program required. Being "Fair" doesn't contradict being "green" or "common", in fact, a main Democrat argument is that fairness must come before a re-organization to improve sustainability or income equity or whatever.

It might even be as effective as "I'm the NRA".

You get the idea. Feel free to invent your own messages of this nature on a list of Vision for America commitments that we can pick from later (and move this example off to an instruction instead.

Enough about who we are and how we get it across. Now let's talk about what to get across:

Abstract Goals

Specific policy goals

Some of these are MemeTank, some are positions that will need arguing to get to real proposals, others are actually specific proposals. Fill 'em in:

See also: Proposed legislation

Go: the theme issue

Someone is going to have to go to a debate with the following in their hands. Not sure who, but we know when, and why. But when they have the initiative:

What is the theme issue that they bring up? Energy independence, since this is a security, environment, job creation, and technology issue? Or global social and economic equity, since this is going to cause us conflicts forever if we don't solve it? Or living in harmony with the environment, period, since that is the only way to prosperity and health in the long term without becoming bankrupt due to environmental chronic illness, plague, hurricanes, and floods ?

They must maintain: Equality before the law, Objectivity in evaluations, Compassion in judging.

Millennium Military

(lover of controversy... let's talk some hard stuff for progressives to agree on)

First, avoid the term "21st century" since it's actually a Christian counting system and the last thing you want to do is imply that you want to invade China, where it's technically the 50-somethingth century, or Iran, where it's the 40-somethingth, or all of the Muslim World where its only the 15th century now.

Also this military has to be good enough for 1000 years not just 100 years. ;-) It's going to be relying on age-old understanding of peacemaking and war preventing, and not so much on higher and higher tech weapons that cost more.

National Service

Service in the military is a patriotic service and also provides an opportunity to people from all economic levels. National Service is the generalization of this patriotic opportunity. We envision the following types of national service opening up for a wider set of Americans:

(first draft... controversy generating?)

Moreover, we must pay those who serve our nation in a manner befitting their service. Civilian contractors in Iraq are making 5x or more what our soldiers are making, and the Bush approved pay cuts haven't helped. Democrats can be the party that supports our troops by paying them what they deserve and treating Veterans in accordance with the sacrifices that they have made.


Check this article out for some practical ideas about community economic initiatives that have wide implications (it's a short & easy read, fyi). Quotes from article:

Stirling Newberry has written some interesting stuff on economics (understatement) that is worth pulling together as part of fleshing out the implications of such practices.

Foreign Policy/Jobs

For one take on new approaches to foreign policy, check out the pragmatic peacenik Gene Sharp

A proposal/riff vaguely along such lines (from a hurriedly written post I placed on bopnews ):

Afterthoughts: is it some leftie version of hubris to entertain such thoughts of an 'army for good'? It certainly could be. Any approach close to what is sketched above could only be seriously advocated in the context of a much stronger and more visible reexamination of the US role in the world than we see today: a true popular movement toward the US becoming a more internationalist country.

Randolphe Bourne promoted the concept of a trans-national America in a 1916 essay, an ideal and idea worth reexploring. And while I don't endorse the 'great man' theory of history, we do need some really courageous leadership to help provoke and encourage the collective soul-searching that I am suggesting.

Rightly or not, I imagine Wes Clark being the person on the national stage most likely to both want to take on and to have a shot at success in such a trigger/leadership role. Dean and Gore could also lead the charge to a degree, but we would need someone who is actually a 'warrior,' I expect, to survive playing point on this issue. Of course, there are outraged warriors aplenty right now, so there may be others I don't know enough about.

I do still find it interesting to speculate what crossfertilization might exist between the Kerry of '69 and the Kerry of Fall and Winter 2004. What will become of Kerry the careful, riding the wave of disgust and mobilization from the Summer that is just getting started...?

Bushco's policy of threats and coercion has made it both more difficult and more necessary for the US to find ways to constructively engage with the world. (Indeed, Micheal Lind argues that, for a generation or so, the neoliberal/Clintonian version of foreign policy will be virtually impossible.)

See below: "trade agreements and international financial institutions" and "immigration."

2006 Democratic agenda

An effective agenda resonates with Democratic supporters and gets others to vote Democrat, whether they were previously swing voters, non-voters or Republicans.

Should the Democrats have a national agenda? How formal should it be? [YES -- PRETTY FORMAL. SEE "PARTY ORGANIZATION," ABOVE.]

The Republicans used the Contract with America effectively in the 1994 elections.

Democratic national leadership has eschewed this national approach to elections in the past.


See Strategic issues.


Below are issue areas where Dems may or may not be able to reach a consensus position before the 2006 elections.

Iraq War

health care

The USA should be divided along the Mississippi River. For 15 years, everyone on one side of the country should be placed into a single-payer health care plan, and everyone on the other side should be given a voucher with which to purchase the private insurance policy of his or her choice. The U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services would (a) insure every year that the voucher amount remained equal to the per-capita expenditure under the single-payer plan, (b) track and publicize health outcomes on both sides, (c) monitor citizen satisfaction on both sides. At the end of 15 years, whichever plan produces greater citizen satisfaction would be implemented nationwide.

election reform

REVISED PRIMARY CALENDAR: The purpose of the primary system is to select the candidate most likely to win in November. The key to winning in November is winning the swing states. Therefore, we should structure the primary system so as to select the candidate most likely to appeal to swing-state swing-voters. (Note: Not necessarily the swingingest candidate.) How to do this: use polling to determine in which states the Democratic primary voters most closely resemble the swing-state general-election voters. Let's guess for purposes of this discussion, without benefit of polling, that this will be the deep-red states. (Remember, the object is to appeal to swing-state swing-voters, NOT to swing-state hard-core Democrats.) How to give deep-red-state Democrats, serving as proxy for swing-state swing-voters, more influence on candidate selection? Back-load the calendar, so 30% to 40% of the delegates are awarded on the last day of primaries. Concentrate the deep-red states on the last day; that way their voters will have the entire campaign season to evaluate the candidates. Put a few of the deep-red states early in the calendar -- first if possible, but if not possible to go before New Hampshire and Iowa, then immediately after. Put all the other states in the middle of the calendar.

executive branch power

War Powers


independent counsel




trade agreements and international financial institutions

Insist that NAFTA, CAFTA, WTO, etc. include standards for worker safety, environmental protection, fair wages, and protection of the right to unionize. This will protect the dignity of foreign workers while somewhat lowering their cost advantage. It will prevent a "race to the bottom" to see which countries can most harshly exploit ordinary people.



Any dKossack interested in these issues should read the works of Jonathan Kozol.

The federal government should insist on results, but encourage innovation and experimentation. The federal government should also provide subsidies for poor schools. A proposed three-part plan for radical education reform:

  1. 48 percent of federal education money should be given to schools with students whose household incomes are at least one standard deviation below the mean. (This is approximately the bottom 34% of schools.) No strings attached. Motivation to spend the money wisely would be provided by parts 2 and 3 of the plan.
  2. 48 percent of federal education money should be given, no strings attached, to schools whose student academic achievement is at least one standard deviation above the mean. (About the top 34% of schools.) The kicker: student achievement should be defined as IMPROVEMENT FROM THE PREVIOUS YEAR. Schools with affluent, white populations may have the highest test scores, but will find it difficult to improve every year. Schools that figure out how to improve the performance of currently under-performing students would benefit most from this incentive funding. This incentive will most powerfully reward improving the performance of poor, minorities, immigrants -- in short, the Americans who most need better education.
  3. The remaining 4 percent of federal education money should be spent studying top-performing schools and educational methods in America and around the world, and disseminating the results. This can include sending teachers and principals on fellowships and internships to study high-performing schools or aid low-performing ones.

What criteria should be used to measure year-to-year improvement? Test scores should certainly be part of the answer, but perhaps not all of it. Can writing skills be measured on a mass scale? The SAT is currently attempting to do so, but its judging criteria are suspect. Perhaps the criteria should include proficiency on a musical instrument and student obesity rates, to encourage participation in band, orchestra, and PE.

Note: Under this plan, schools with average demographics and average performance would receive NO federal funds. This would be controversial, to say the least. But the feds can't pay for everything -- paying for successful innovation and to help the poorest are the most important priorities.

A significant increase in the overall amount of federal education spending would be good, but perhaps not necessary.


The federal government should provide loans for 100% of tuition and fees to any student accepted to an accredited college, university, or trade school. The loan would be repaid over a predetermined period (say, 20 years), as a PERCENTAGE OF THE GRADUATE'S INCOME. Thus, if the graduate took a low-income public service job, or unexpectedly became unemployed due to health problems or a recession, the graduate would not be stuck with high loan payments. Conversely, if the graduate had an unexpectedly high income, his loan payments would be higher. To keep administration cheap and effective, loan payments would be collected by the Internal Revenue Service as part of the already-existing income tax process.

Drug policy

The drugs issue appears as a subset of several important social issues:

The response to crimes that best suits the authoritarian mindset is to seek revenge against people judged to be criminals. In the Bible, both the Old and New Testaments quote: "Vengeance is mine, saith the Lord." The far right seems to want to put themselves in the position of "vengeance czar."

What is actually required of any good society is the correction of harmful behavior. The earlier problems are caught the easier they are to cure. What actually works to correct maladaptive forms of behavior is subject to objective study.

Any society will offer more than one possible form of satisfaction to its members, and among these forms of satisfaction are agents that alter mood and other psychological characteristics. Humans in the Old World have consumed alcohol for several thousand years. The pharmacological properties were known to the fourth century B.C. Chinese. Tobacco and opium also have long histories, not to mention tea, coffee, and similar alkaloids. Despite the fact that some of these substances have been available to all societies, not every person exposed to them has experienced serious consequences.

Except for some cases of medical treatment, any person who uses a drug chooses it as an alternative to other experiences, so one important question in regard to the etiology of drug use is: For the individual, what alternatives to drug use were available. Two circumstances seem clearly related to high susceptibility to drug use and dependency or addition:

  1. The lack of other, competing, satisfactions in the individual's environment.
  2. The presence of noxious stimuli against which the individual learns to self-medicate.

The individual who is bored, stifled, and unsatisfied by any pursuits available may take drugs as an escape from the monotony of the outside world, and the individual who is tormented by physical and/or psychological pain may take drugs to avoid experiencing those feelings.

Many of these agents are intensely addicting in the sense that they not only provide an alternative to whatever is present in nature, but also change the body of the drug user so that intense discomfort is felt when the drug is thereafter withheld. So some individuals who had no particular problem with enduring life may quickly develop an intense problem after brief experimental use of some of these drugs, and if an individual commonly engaged in criminal pursuits before developing a drug problem that problem would remain after the drug dependency was removed. But treating drug users as criminals first and drug users incidentally at all will not work well because if drugs are indeed a problem then they will interfere with treatment for the criminal patterns of behavior, and if the individual became a criminal only in the course of acquiring and maintaining a supply of drugs, the obvious root of the problem is the chemical dependence or addiction first, and the whole body of behavior and attitudes that may have grown out of that problem second.

A good society is one that provides adequate opportunities for all its members (life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness), and provides adequate guidance and protection at a level appropriate to the maturity of each member so that needless damage will not be done to them. People ought not to become parasites on society, and that means that every member of society must contribute to maintaining the health of the entire society. Single people in their 70s are responsible for their share of the costs of education of the youth of their society. People who live in gated communities with their own security guards are still responsible for their share of the salary of the cop on the beat who calls in fire alarms, drags kids out of flooding storm drains, etc.

A good society, then, provides both adequate nurture and timely correction when people veer off toward disaster.

Even with a society that provides nurture and some guard rails, there will be serious problems. The greater problem is the presence of organized crime in the supply line for the drug. The sale of drugs provides great wealth, which in turn protects the higher-ups. The use of drugs creates a need for high incomes, so drug users can turn to criminal activities to support their habits. The sale of drugs is perhaps as common as is prostitution. (Male prostitution is perhaps as common as is female prostitution.) Both these pursuits are "victimless crimes" and so escape some of the heat that would be directed to armed robbery and other such quick sources of income.

The organized crime aspect of this problem is very similar to the problem on transnational hate groups such as al-Qaida. They both escape they kind of inspection they would suffer if confined to one country, they both can diffuse the members of their organizations and the functions they perform over several areas of the world, etc. On top of that, the hate groups can fund their efforts by the sale of drugs.

The derivative criminal activity of drug users is the most difficult aspect for which to craft policy and correctives. A judgment needs to be made concerning the relative importance of the criminal acts and the underlying addiction that motivates the criminal acts. Perhaps the example of some courts in giving drug users the choice of spending time in prison or in a therapeutic community for drug users is one that should stand in the foreground.

Security and "War on Terrorism"

Transnational companies, transnational gangs, and transnational hate groups become more and more important as transportation and communication methodologies improve. Transnational companies can escape effective government control by reason of only having part of their resources in any one place, by incorporating in safe haven nations that impose minimal government oversight, by having control of wealth greater than that of many U.N. members, etc. Transnational gangs enjoy many of the same advantages.

Structurally, these entities are similar; their main difference lies in the goals for which they work. Al-Qaida does not have typical corporate business goals, organized crime goals, etc. But simply calling them a "terrorist" group is not helpful in understanding what they are or how to combat them.

If an individual were to seek to terrorize others without having any other motivation, he or she would most likely be regarded as highly irrational. Such an individual might be expected to have great trouble in recruiting any confederates.

If bin Ladin is not simply attempting to scare large numbers of American people, what is he attempting to do? He uses Islam as his ideological justification. He indicates that he would like to establish a new caliphate to rule the world. The motive of power is clear despite any doubts one might have about the religious motivations for seeking that power.

The goals become clearer: (1) To disrupt the abilities of the several Western nations to defend themselves. (2) To disrupt cooperation among the Western nations by creating opportunities to avoid terrorist attacks by giving subtle advantages to al-Qaida forces. (3) To encourage Western leaders to commit injustices that will drive more of the uncommitted into al-Qaida ranks. (4) To encourage Western leaders to make attacks that will be perceived as attacks not on al-Qaida but on Islam in order to give religious sanction to all Muslims to unite against the West in defense of their religion. (The requirement that all Muslims take arms to defend their religion is a key point that zealous Christians ought to be able to appreciate.)

A century ago, a rabid leader might aspire to blow up a capitol building, a parliament building, or something of that scale. An evil man might infect his enemies with smallpox or some other contagious disease. Hardly any non-governmental organizations were capable of taking actions that would do more than superficial damage to a nation or even a city.

Now the situation is quite different because of the presence of suitcase nuclear weapons, national borders so porous that larger weapons of mass destruction could enter U.S. or other ports and be detonated in the harbor, poison gas generators that are highly portable and safe until detonated, and the possibility of anthrax attacks having been at least partially demonstrated (resulting in several deaths and mass disruption of federal government functions).

In retrospect it appears that all warnings of impending danger before 9/11 were discounted as hysterical thinking by "nervous Nellies" in and out of government. Bush was warned. He said, "O.K., now you've covered your ass," and that was the end of it. (See Suskind's latest book.)

After the 9/11 attacks the problem of defending against nationless attackers armed with weapons of mass destruction came into sharp focus, but nobody knew what to do. Many things were tried, and many of them were tremendously counter-productive. What has been done so far has concentrated on narrow issues, predominantly on how to extract information from suspected irregular combatants, sweeps using dragnets with small mesh, etc.

It is not "science fiction" to imagine that a liberated Soviet era backpack nuclear weapon explodes at the point of highest population density in the U.S.

What would be the 20-20 rearview judgment of the steps that would have been acceptable to prevent that disaster? It is easy to think of steps that would not ever be acceptable. Denying the enemy their success by doing the job for them ahead of time would only be the most extremely unacceptable counter-move. Would somebody at that point say, "Better the destruction of Metropolis than that Homeland Security should ever read my e-mails!" Would somebody object to their purchase of electric vibrators by credit card being recorded somewhere on a roll of computer tape in a warehouse in Wichita and say, as the bomb went off, "It's worth the price to protect my privacy!"

On the flip side, "black helicopters," drug-bust style break-ins of front doors of somebody's 80 year old grandma and grandpa, etc., are just the kind of thing that al-Qaida wants -- because excesses drive people (especially people who are already stigmatized by ethnicity, religion, etc.) into their hands, or at least away from free cooperation with the security apparatus.

The very greatest mistake of the Bush regime has been the systematic denial of due process -- ruling it out from the get-go as a requirement of national security when the actual requirement of national security is the preservation of the fact even more than the appearance of justice and due process. Just ask the British how they got through the Twelve Year Emergency in Malaysia.

People accused in error mean an automatic overload of the security system. This situation is unlike that of the district attorney who wants more convictions in order to win reelection, and like the situation of the community in which the crime and false conviction occurs: The true danger to the community is not removed, and a new danger is perhaps created.

Crimes "solved" in error mean criminals running around free while the innocent suffer and may become embittered, ripe for recruitment by al-Qaida.

Suspects tortured become radicalized and may become one's most feared enemy.

False information offered to escape torture results in squandering energies to chase down non-existent suspects and threats.

The Bush regime has thus far perverted the course of justice, dulled the instruments of inquiry, turned the sympathies of the peoples of the world against us, and in general failed to make due diligence in objectively investigating which techniques are productive. At this point we are still flying blind because we have primarily followed through on the policies that appealed to the gut instincts of the President and Vice-President in the aftermath of 9/11. Nobody really knows what to do, and the whole area needs to be revisited by people who have been trained and tempered to be objective in the evaluation of methodologies for heading off attacks with weapons of mass destruction being used by transnational gangs.

The principles behind any effective strategy are, however, clear: justice, due process, objectivity, total situational awareness (no more ignoring container shipments while hyping far lesser threats).

Moves by al-Qaida to look forward to with trepidation: (1) Assassinations of the actually most effective of our leaders. (2) Subtle promotion of leaders who use counterproductive moves.


Social Security

Two points are essential for the campaign:

  1. If the Republicans are jumping up and down about Social Security, they are using it as a smokescreen. Social Security's problems are peanuts compared with Medicare and Medicaid. Why don't Republicans want to talk about those?
  1. Social Security can be fixed with modest tweaks -- (a) raise or eliminate the ceiling on the wage base; (b) raise the payroll tax rate; (c) raise the retirement age. Nobody is happy about these, but they are not a tragedy for anyone. While we're at it, we could exempt the first $10,000 or so of earnings from the payroll tax, and make the system more progressive, while encouraging job creation.

fiscal discipline

Yes, I remember Walter Mondale. In spite of what happened to him, we need to be honest about the need to raise more revenue. Federal expenditures, in round numbers, are now roughly 1/3 military, 1/3 entitlements, and 1/3 everything else. The deficit is as big as any third. In other words, balancing the budget without a tax increase would require eliminating 1/3 of all federal spending. That's a fantasy. We should say so.

We should make lemonade out of this lemon by seizing the opportunity to grossly simplify the tax system -- make "tax reform" a Democratic issue!

If we do this right, we get points for honesty, points for simplicity, points for favoring the little guy, points for protecting our kids from a crushing debt load, points for boldness.

I'm sure there are others out there with good ideas to add. C'mon and wikify this.

reducing corruption



We MUST start with the proposition that all people are created equal, and deserving of a decent chance to provide for their families with dignified work. The best way to reduce the pressure for legal AND illegal immigration is to work for better living standards in the countries immigrants come from. Examples: worker-safety standards, environmental-protection standards, fair-wage requirements, protection of the right to unionize. We should insist that all these be written into NAFTA, CAFTA, WTO, etc.

We need to take account of a social justice issue: The several U.S. administrations since World War II have not exercised due diligence when the presence of undocumented immigrants has worked to the advantage of employers in the U.S. Thus we are complicit in the flow of undocumented workers and in their ability to find jobs that for many of them have meant the difference between a passable life and a miserable life for themselves and for their family members who remained behind. Tacit approval of casual immigration make the U.S. a kind of "attractive nuisance" if it results in the settlement of individuals from abroad and their investment of time and energy in this country on the assumption that a kind of silent contract existed between them and the relevant federal authorities.

A double injustice exists whenever one group of potential immigrants who have dutifully taken their place in line are processed slowly for admission and another group is given tacit approval to immigrate without fulfilling any formal requirements. At the very least it creates the appearance of manipulation of the immigration process to get around the laws of this country for the benefit of a group or groups of U.S. employers.

Doing away with NAFTA, CAFTA, WTO, etc. would (a) harm our brothers and sisters in other countries who desperately need jobs, (b) increase illegal immigration to America.

We should also insist that it is unhealthy for any society to have members with no voice in governmental decisions. Therefore, anyone who is allowed to remain in America should be on track for citizenship, i.e., not a "guest worker." In fact, we might even want to REQUIRE that, after a certain number of years, an immigrant either become a citizen or return to his home country. (Particularly in cases of political asylum, it may be inappropriate to require the asylum seeker to give up his/her original citizenship. But there should also be a balance between rights in this society and responsibilities to that society.)

The government should fund free English-language classes, including night and weekend classes, for anyone who wants to attend. (This point is related to the rationale for providing adequate standards of education in K-12 schools -- that such schools provide the wherewithal to perform adequately in our society. Given that a secondary school education is no longer adequate for jobs above the level of burger-flipper, and given the rate of return on our investment in the GI Bill, we need to reconsider the funding for state universities and colleges. The most powerful countervailing force will probably be exerted by those who insist that they bear no obligation to pay for any benefits that go to others.)

Military personnel policies

What you do in private is a private matter. What you do in public can be disruptive and adversely impact group morale. People in the military services are required to avoid hitting on their co-workers (same sex or not), required to avoid topics of conversation that may be sexually suggestive and/or offensive, and required to avoid offensive behavior directed at others on the basis of personal values or prejudices.

Personnel should in all circumstances avoid behavior that may be threatening to others. That restriction applies to unwanted sexual overtures as much as to shows of force intended to be physically intimidating. Keep in mind that the person you seek to intimidate today may be the guy protecting your back in the foxhole tomorrow.


Judging other people by superficial characteristics goes against the basic values of this country. It also goes against fundamental Christian teachings: "Judge not that ye be not judged." You can find people who are so black that the pupils of their eyes cannot be distinguished from the black of their irises, and you can find people so "white" that you can see their circulatory system through the skin. What you can't find is a gap in the array of skin tones between the two. Approximately 30% of so-called "white" Americans carry genetic traits that come straight from Africa. There are no inborn labels on people that tell us their intelligence, their morality, or anything else. We need to understand that it is fundamentally unfair to judge or otherwise limit a person on the basis of some superficial characteristic such as skin color, nose shape, eyelid configuration, etc., etc. Americans endeavor to be fair, and even when we screw up we will understand that we have violated the requirements of fair play.

If we look at "ethnicity" as a word pertaining to learned characteristics of an individual such as language spoken, customs observed, etc., all that information can give us is a general idea of what kinds of behavior may seem acceptable, familiar, correct -- or their contraries. Whether a person has learned to behave fairly, objectively, honestly, etc., can only be learned by careful observation of the individual. Judging that a person is, e.g., dishonest, because he belongs to a certain group is prejudicial and therefore invalid, untrustworthy, and immoral as it affects the individual so judged.



All people have the right to worship God in a way of their own choosing. Nobody has a right to tell other people what to believe. An individual's responsibility for what s/he does cannot be given over to someone else, and anybody who does so risks becoming the agent of a bad person or a bad cause.


The federal government shall have a cabinet-level Department of Technology. It's missions will be to:

making Congress more accountable

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This page was last modified 03:37, 8 January 2007 by Chad Lupkes. Content is available under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License.

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