Monday, March 27, 2006

The New WWF – Wrestling With "What (W) We're (W) For (F)"

The New WWF – Wrestling With "What (W) We're (W) For (F)"
Dan Carol

We all know that we can't fight something with nothing -- and that saying no to Bush, to the Iraq war, and to conservative cronyism does not a message make.

Yet when Democrats and progressives sit down to decide what we're for (WWF), we often put the other WWF -- the World Wrestling Federation -- to shame.

So here's a first cut at an a la carte menu of no-brainer, change-oriented principles I'm pretty sure that most progressives, New Democrats, moderate Republicans and independent-minded folks in America crave.

I hasten to add that this draft menu is emphatically NOT an attempt to build or call for a national Democratic message platform or contract that all our candidates should run on.

As posted repeatedly, I think that nationalizing the election is NOT the way to go if we want Congress and subpoena power back, and that any message beyond we need to restore "checks and balances" is pushing it with voters who are sick of both political parties.

In other words, forget one fixed recipe: we just need a solid menu of good ideas, themes and proposals for local Democrats to pick from and run on, in their own voice.

So here's an initial taste test -- feel free to add your own flames and recipes. And I'll keep posting here as plans for the Regime Change Café Menu bake on up to a final form.

Our hearts on our sleeve.

We want candidates like Paul Wellstone who run -- and win -- with the courage of their convictions, beliefs and if they so choose, their faith. To such core progressive values as an open heart, tolerance, privacy, opportunity, and responsibility -- let us also embrace a sense of humor and humility about how right we are, all the time. And then we can repair the world.

A smart war on terror.

"No war on Iraq" does not a winning message make -- not when fear-mongerers like Karl Rove are out in force. So we need to make the case for being safe -- that we can find Osama without losing our values along the way at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo. That takes global ethics and engagement, building economic hope, and acting tough as nails when necessary.

Starting gate equality.

The American dream -- a melting pot of opportunity for all -- has been left sitting on the back burner for too long. We need to care for our children and pay our teachers like our future depends on it. We need a living wage, health care for all and high road economic security policies that effectively answer the challenge of "If Not Walmart, Then What?" That will take thinking at bold scales, and delivery via reformed institutions that work across traditional boundaries. And it will take serious money and investment we must find at all cost.

Doing the math on government spending.

Whining that Republicans are hypocrites on budget deficits doesn't change the fact that there will be red ink and investment shortfalls for as far as the eye can see. To jumpstart payback policies and move from incarceration to investment, progressives should strongly favor economic and social "impact assessments" on all forms of spending and tax giveaways, so we are calling for the most bang for the buck on government spending -- not conservatives. Guess what. Smart investments in preventative health, infrastructure, childhood education and clean energy that pay for themselves over time will look good compared to prison construction and silly corporate tax breaks.

A new vision of the Commons.

The Me Decade and The Ownership Society have been excellent cover stories for the raping and pillaging of billions of dollars worth of our land, air and water. But guess what -- it's our stuff, dammit! -- and it's time we made the case for protecting, enhancing and naming our common assets and public spaces. This isn't just about parks and lakes but also about new forms of critical shared resources -- such as community Internet systems open to all Americans.

Not left, or right, but forward.

We live in the era of post-political party, change-based politics -- where half of America doesn't vote and people are tired of bickering on both sides of the political aisle. But the progressive majority -- and our issues -- can't be realized or marketed effectively if our agenda is "owned" by either political party. We therefore heartily embrace a new dynamic for strange bedfellows politics, where the parties and politicians are reaching higher for big bold ideas like energy independence, not selling out for least common denominator policies that offer little vision. Doing this is just the push that Democratic candidates need to move from weenies to winners.