Saturday, October 29, 2005

The UnAmerican Nature of Conservatism

Every good progressive could give a laundry list of what's wrong with conservatism, but too often these points don't get to the core of the problem. Conservatives, on the other hand, have been consistent, outspoken, and clear in arguing that liberalism is inconsistent with American values. They've published books that claim "Liberalism is a Mental Disorder" and say we've committed "Treason" when our standard bearer commits adultery. We call them "Liars" when they distort highly classified national security and intelligence matters. Me thinks theres it's time for progressives, liberals, or whatever you choose to call yourself, to start settling the score. Too often, progressive thinkers castigate elected officials for capitulating, or moving to the center, but who are we to speak if we allow our values to be labeled as treasonous?

So, to steal a turn of phrase from Thomas Frank, what's the matter with conservatism? Everything. Conservatism, at it's core, is the death of the American dream. Conservatism does not believe that everyone should, or can, have the opportunity to improve their lot in the world, and in doing so, leave their children a little better off than they were. Conservatism rejects the idea of community and rejoices in the unattached, uninhibited, unemotional rational actor. Conservatism sees the state of your bank account as the ultimate measure of happiness and the determining factor of "success" in this world. Conservatism rejects the idea of any public good, hiding behind the facade of the free market and a distorted view of Adam Smith's economic theory. Conservatism tells the American public to forget "ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country," and "ask what you can do for yourself." Conservatism distorts the definition of liberty to mean the "freedom to exploit all others in a race toward the golden calf of profit margin," no matter the costs that cannot be calculated in accounting sheets. And, perhaps most important, Conservatism rejects the golden rule, to do unto others as you have them do unto you.

Many who call themselves conservatives would cringe if asked to join up with a lot that espoused such positions. Unfortunately, the Conservative Movement realized this from day 1, and has unceasingly worked to set the terms of the debate in their favor. But the terms of any debate are malleable, and progressives must work to shift them in our favor. In doing so, we must not attack all "conservatives," but rather Conservatism and the Conservative Movement. Exposing the ugly underbelly of Conservatism is the first step in developing a progressive governing majority for the 21st century. The choice is a clear one, it is our job to make sure we define it ... day in and day out.

Fumbling the handoff ...

If there was one thing the Republican party in Massachusetts did have going for it, it was that there was little evidence, beyond their inept and unknown party chairman, they could be tied into the national Democratic message of 2006 - - "Republicans have created a culture of corruption and cronyism. It's time to bring back integrity, and bring about reform, and change." Unfortunately, when Quarterback Mitt handed-off the ball to second stringer Healey, things got a little interesting. It seem LG Healey's been using what little political capital she has to lock up state economic development tax credits for her husbands asset management firm. While this might seem only relatively scandalous, assuming the tax credits were used to develop areas in economic need, one need only look just below the surface to see how incredulous this influence peddling was.

First, it wasn't petty cash. Sean Healey and Affiliated Mananger's Group received $1.2 million in tax credits. These economic development tax credits were not for new projects, work or programs. Essentially, the state was paying AMG, whose VP and CFO served as the state Republican party chair (hand chosen by Mitt Romney), to stay in the Commonwealth. Not job creation, merely job retention. Second, where the state was paying to keep AMG is of significant interest. All other absurdities aside, I could almost convince myself this was a worth investment, if AMG was moving their operation to an area where they could serve as an anchor for further economic development and a pillar of the community. Unfortunately, AMG wanted to move to Beverly Prides Crossing section of Beverly Farms-Prides. Now I do not doubt AMG would be a pillar of the community, and Mr. Healey would be close to his family's palatial home, but the idea that state economic development tax credits should be used to make all this happen is ridiculous.

Thus, the Healey campaign fumbled on the first play. Now it's the Democrats job, no matter who you support in the primary, to recover the fumble, and call for a cleaning out of the Corner office. Republicans, after 16 years, have become entrenched in their ways. They have used the office to line the pockets of campaign donors instead of improve the lives of the Commonwealth's citizens. They have ignored the public interests, but responded to special interests. Make it an election about ending corruption and cronyism, and bringing progressive change and government reform.

Friday, October 28, 2005

Beltway Breeze

Howard Fineman, of Newsweek, recently said something to the effect that "Washington is a political blender, spinning furiously, and we have no idea what the result will be when it stops." This is a fact that ALL progressives need to remember. Too often, in the past week, I have heard fellow Democrats gleefully talk of the imminent demise of the conservative, Republican majority. While the current climate is one that is ripe for a sea change in the Congress, that change will only come if Democrats make themselves the party of change, the party of reform, and the party that will extricate our government from the special interest morass it finds itself in today.

In this sense, the Miers withdrawal is both a blessing and a curse. It is a curse because Ms. Miers was not an ideologue. Ms. Miers was a conservative lawyer, with conservative leanings, socially and legally. However, she was not a "movement conservative," and thus was rejected by the conservative movement. While progressives may have strongly disagreed with many of the positions Ms. Miers would have taken if confirmed, she undoubtedly would have been a more moderate justice than the next nominee is bound to be. Should the next nominee be confirmed, the Supreme Court could take a sharp conservative turn for the next generation.

Negatives aside, the Miers withdrawal does serve a purpose for progressives. Windowdressing rational aside, the withdrawal reinforces the hold that the extreme Right has on the White House and the Congressional Leadership. The Miers withdrawal has set an "ideological purity" litmus test, outside of the mainstream of American legal and political thought. Further, the withdrawal reinforces the need for reform and change of leadership in Washington. President Bush, once the steady leader who dismisses polls, has become the ultimate "finger to the wind commander-in-chief." However, the President only feels the breeze created by the howling of his base.

Not appearing on his radar, are the calls by American's nationwide for a new direction. In every state, Americans want a government that is of the people, for the people and by the people ... not the vested interests. They want a government that is responsible, accountable, and responsive. They want change, and progressives can give it to them. But simply smiling at the plight of the Right won't get us there. We must take the next year to present the public with a choice, a choice for change.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Heroes in the Gulf

The list of individuals, groups, and communities that could be described as heroes for their efforts in the rebuilding and relief efforts in the Gulf Coast region goes on for miles, but I'd like to take a chance to point out a specific group that holds a special place with this humble blogger. Americorps is probably one of the only governmental programs that Conservatives and Progressives can lend their common support and not question the motives of the other. Volunteerism, I surmise, was actually a word invented, so that opposing partisans could point to a single word on which they agree.

All kidding aside, we should all keep the young volunteers of Americorps in mind when we think of the massive relief efforts in the Gulf Region. I'm proud to say my younger sister, a recent graduate of Trinity College (Hartford, CT), has joined with over 12,000 other volunteers from across the country to help their fellow Americans begin to rebuild their lives. Many of these volunteers are recent college graduates who were merely looking to participate in various volunteer projects before moving on to grad school or the workforce. Instead, these brave, dedicated young souls have been thrust into one of the great disasters of our time. They have accepted the challenge, and by all accounts have done remarkable work.

So as the debate around how to rebuild the Gulf Coast moves forward and arguments are made, remember, some answers are already being provided by the heroic volunteers of Americorps.

Sunday, October 23, 2005

Politics as Usual

I have to admit something, I didn't vote for John Kerry ... at least I didn't vote for him in Massachusetts Democratic presidential primary. I voted for John Edwards. There were many reasons I decided to cast my ballot for the former Senator from North Carolina, but the main reason was that Senator Edwards represented something different in politics. He spoke about the politics of hope and consistently refused to attack his opponents. Senator Edwards displayed a type of leadership by example that is rarely seen in politics today.

So why do I mention this now? What drove me to make this confession? Checking my email this morning, I was made aware of a disturbing letter to the editor in the Arlington Advocate. The letter, which was written by a member of the "Deval Patrick Media Team," claimed to be a letter in support of Mr. Patrick, but was essentially a personal attack on Attorney General Tom Reilly.

The most disappointing aspect of the letter was not the rhetoric or even the misrepresentation of AG Reilly's positions (the AG's positions on gay rights and steam cell research couldn't be further from the Governor's), rather it was abandonment of the "politics of hope" by one of it's purported champions. Mr. Patrick claims to be a "different kind of leader," but it seems his campaign is just about politics as usual. How a campaign carries itself reflects directly on its candidate, and this letter does not reflect well on the Mr. Patrick.

Now I have been a consistent supporter of the AG, but I have a great deal of respect for Mr. Patrick. His record and accomplishments are impressive, but a dark shadow is cast over them when his name is attached to an attack of this nature. If Mr. Patrick truly believes in the "politics of hope" he will denounce this mean spirited letter and it's distortions of AG Reilly's positions and record.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Hometown Pride ...

There are few things that aggravate me more than when extreme conservatives take to bashing Massachusetts. As a born and raised resident of the Commonwealth, with brief stops in Providence and Washington, D.C., I take great pride in my home state. Massachusetts is the seat of liberty, the birthplace of democracy, and the state that brought our nation such leaders as the John Quincy Adams, Tip O'Neil, and JFK, among others.

That being said, I was obviously dismayed (and not the least bit surprised) a few months back when Pennsylvania junior Senator, and the 3rd ranking Republican leader, Rick Santorum made the following incendiary statements on the tragic subject of priests abusing children

Priests, like all of us, are affected by culture. When the culture is sick, every element in it becomes infected. While it is no excuse for this scandal, it is no surprise that Boston, a seat of academic, political and cultural liberalism in America, lies at the center of the storm
For his part, the current (part-time) Governor of Massachusetts, all but ignored the comments. However, one leader in the Commonwealth had the political courage to stand up for Massachusetts and demand that Santorum be held accountable. AG Reilly's demand for an apology carries with it extra weight considering that no leader in Massachusetts has done more for the victims of these heinous crimes than he. His dogged pursuit, despite pressure from the Church to allow for an internal investigation and handling, of wrongdoers may not have won him any political points, but it was yet another example of the kind of political leadership he would bring to the Corner Office.
The citizens of Massachusetts deserve a Governor who will lead by independent conviction, not by poll or interest group demand. Through his career AG Reilly has proved himself to be that kind of leader. The kind of leader that won't let Massachusetts be disparaged, but will allow Massachusetts to lead the nation, like it always has.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Roadblock?

One of the perks of having worked in DC is that I still have a password for an online subscription to Roll Call one of the two daily Capitol Hill political papers. I check the website fairly regularly, normally only to find the political gossip of the day, but tonight was a little bit different. It seems the extreme conservatives leading the GOP in the House are having trouble getting their amendment to the Fiscal Year 2006 Budget resolution passed. The article pasted below contains most of the details, so I'll let it do the talking. But it's good to see the remaining few moderates (lead by Rep. Castle (R-DE) and Rep. Shays (R-CT)) in the Republican Conference aren't going along with this fiasco.

House GOP Delays Vote on Budget Amendment
By Ben Pershing Roll Call Staff
Wednesday, Oct. 19; 06:54pm

Realizing that they did not yet have enough support for passage of their budget amendment, House GOP leaders decided Wednesday to postpone the vote on the cost-cutting legislation until next week.

Republican leaders emerged from a meeting in Speaker Dennis Hastert’s (R-Ill.) office just after 6 p.m. Wednesday to announce their decision after a long day of attempting to rally the troops for a possible Thursday vote on an amendment to the fiscal 2006 budget resolution.

In addition to their previously stated plan to bump the level of mandatory spending cuts via reconciliation to $50 billion, GOP leaders now also plan to include some type of across-the-board discretionary spending cut in the budget amendment. That idea had initially been scuttled earlier in the week following the objections of appropriators, but the leadership soon found that removing that provision cost them more votes than it gained.

“I think our Members want to be sure we’re going beyond mandatory” spending cuts to include discretionary cuts, said Majority Leader Roy Blunt (R-Mo.). In addition to the mandatory and discretionary cuts, the leaders also plan to further expand the budget amendment by including the “deprogramming” of previously authorized programs and, possibly, rescissions of previously appropriated spending.

“Members would rather have a resolution that would have all four of those points,” Blunt said.
As was the case during a similar gathering Tuesday evening, Rep. Tom DeLay (R-Texas) participated in the leadership meeting despite the fact that he no longer serves as Majority Leader.

Monday, October 17, 2005

On the Horizon ...

It's quite clear that the development practices of the 20th century have produced a mix bag of results. While the awesome advances of the time have increased opportunity and spread wealth across a greater swath of the general population than in anytime before, the practices of the recent past have done incalculable damage to our shared environment and ecosystems. As we all know, hindsight is 20/20, but forsight does not need to be blind. If we are to build a more just society in the 21st century, it is essential that development, in all arenas, take into account the environmental impacts of any action.

Understanding this reality, New Ecology, Inc. is hosting its 6th Annual Regional Sustainable Development Forum. Using a set of workshops, lectures, and networking exercises, NEI is bringing a wide variety of people together to discuss the challenges and opportunities for developing a more environmental just and sustainable society. Clearly, the task of reorienting our society is a daunting one. While the actions of NEI and it's partners are important, real answers to systemic development problems will require action from elected officials at all levels and especially at the highest levels.

Local solutions to global problems are a start, but they will not bring about the necessary solutions. In the 2006 and 2008 elections, the American public will be presented with a clear choice. While political consultants generally argue that environmental issues are non-starters, progressives should not take this as an excuse to tack right or fail to address the massive challenges that face us. Sustainable development is not just a good idea, it's a necessary reality whose time has come.

Friday, October 14, 2005

What Do We Need to Lead?

Thats the question that MA State Rep. Dan Bosley (D-North Adams) wants an answer to. Bosley is sponsoring legislation that would establish an advisory board to examine current economic trends and state spending (specifically in job training and workforce development), to determine what, if any steps should be taken to ensure that the Commonwealth is doing its fair share in preparing it's citizens to enter the workforce and sustain themselves. Ultimately, the board will determine if there is a gap between what is being provided and what is needed, and if it determines there is a gap it will make recommendations on how to close it.

Being from western Massachusetts originally, this is just the type of measured, solid approach we are used to from Bosley. Never one to have his hair catch on fire, Bosley knows what he believes, but he also knows the best way to achieve certain goals. Establishing this board, which he refers to as a "diagnostic tool," will help progressives in the state legislature make their argument for investing more in Massachusetts. By specifically focusing on job training and workforce development, Bosley shows his political acumen (he is the Chair of the Joint Committee on Economic Development and Emerging Technologies) and a true understanding of where Massachusetts economy is headed. Gone are the days of the GE's and Phizer's (as the residents of the Berkshires know), but here are the days of emerging technologies, creative new industries, and R & D that supports them.

Bosley's bill is a smart step to determining what social safety net is needed to ensure that no working citizen of the commonwealth is left behind. But we must also remember, it's only the first step. If Massachusetts is to lead in the 21st century, we need to be on the cutting edge in all areas: sustainable development, research and technology, and quality of life, etc.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Have-You-Cake-Eat-It-Too Conservatism

Scott Lehigh hit's the nail on the heard this morning. Hypocrisy might make good politics in the short run, but when the bills come due, some one is going to have to pay.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

R.I.P Compassionate Conservatism - We Hardly Knew Yee

The life and death of an ideology can be an interesting thing to observe. Depending on your personal leanings, one could argue for the death or rebirth of American conservatism or liberalism seemingly every day. This argument is generally fueled by partisans, seeking to push a defeated opponent further down or seeking to knock the current ruling party from their pedestal.

However, some moments so clearly signal the end of an era that they are accepted by individuals across the political spectrum. When we retrospectively examine the politics of the early 21st century, I believe that the post-Katrina era will mark the death of compassionate conservatism in the United States. While some debate whether compassionate conservatism was ever born, or ever produced any results, George W. Bush will be remembered in the history books as a "compassionate conservative." Just what this means, though, has yet to be defined.

If the President was truly compassionate, no matter his political philosophy, he would reject the plans, reported by Jason Deparle in yesterday's New York Times, to pay for Katrina reconstruction efforts by slashing programs that directly benefit the poor in our country. I'll admit, I was somewhat hopeful that the incredible travesty that has left the Gulf Region in utter disrepair would lead to a new debate about how we can alleviate and eradicate poverty in the United States.

Unfortunately, the extreme Republican party that has control of Washington, D.C. took this national tragedy as a chance to push a partisan agenda. Days after Hurricane Katrina, while FEMA held press conferences and the President continued his vacation, conservative pundits had started chirping the line that poverty in New Orleans was the direct result of the Great Society War on Poverty lead by President Lyndon Baines Johnson. No, they were not arguing that LBJ's programs were underfunded (as they were considering they're massive mission), rather they argued that public programs of this sort fostered a culture of dependency in New Orleans and throughout the country.

Now let me be the first to say, that for all his quirks, mistakes, and flaws, I've always been a fan of LBJ. He did more to address the issues of racism, poverty, and inequality in the United States than any President since FDR himself. And while there were a great many flaws with the Great Society, it's administration, and it's application, the efforts of that era did NOT create any "culture of dependency." The individuals who had their homes ravaged in New Orleans, and throughout the region, were not dependent, they were struggling to survive. They did not live glamorous lives thanks to welfare checks, they spent each day hoping to have enough to eat and looking for a job in an economy that has all but abandoned workers with less than a college education.

There will always be bad seeds in a crowd, even if it is a crowd of good, hard working people. Even the most compassionate efforts will be abused. But blaming well intentioned efforts to help those who need it the most in our society does nothing but divide our country, when we should be coming together.

So good riddance compassionate conservatism. We hardly knew yee.

Saturday, October 08, 2005

One Year Out ...

No matter what Republican strategists, loyalists, or supporters say, if the Congressional midterm elections were held this coming November the powers that be on the Hill could be in for a rude awakening. The confluents of events that has left the Administration and it's party in tatters has been well documented, now, it's the responsibility of Democrats, both in office and perspective candidates, to push a positive reform agenda. No Democrat should open their mouth in the next year without reform on the minds and at the tip of their tongues.

The "leadership gap" created by the White House's disconnect with everyday Americans, was highlighted in the most recent CBS poll, which has the President plummeting on all issues, even those too often cited in the mainstream media as his strengths. It's times like these when I am glad that Rep. Rahm Emmanuel (D-IL) is running the DCCC. Polling numbers of this variety signify an environment in which old maxims and theories of "safe seats" can be tossed aside. The possibility for a sea change in both the House and the Senate is there, and it is real.

But, as with all things, potential means nothing unless it is realized. Democrats and progressives must continually push a positive change agenda. Rahm did this on "Meet the Press" last week when Tim Russert brought up the bogus, "Democrats have no ideas" mantra. Each and every progressive should take it as their duty to promote a positive agenda for the country, otherwise, we'll be talking about the opportunity we missed as opposed to celebrating the change we created.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

He Talked the Talk, and they Walked

So let me give you the news. Massachusetts is investing in the future; we're investing ... To create more good jobs. - Governor Mitt Romney, Manchester, NH, June 3, 2005

When the citizens of the Commonwealth heard those words from their Governor, or read about them in their morning paper (along with the speculation that their Governor was focused on national ambition instead of his job at hand), they must have felt good. Unfortunately, what the Governor failed to mention was that he was creating jobs not in the Commonwealth that had elected him, but in it's neighbor to the North.

If you check out Sunday's Nashua Telegraph you see that while the Governor has been off making light about Massachusetts politics, businessmen in the commonwealth have been leaving from his own back yard. More important though, the jobs lost in Belmont are high-tech jobs of the technology economy which Massachusetts should be fostering an environment for and promoting the creation of.

If this had been a one time occurrence, irony aside, the Governor could be excused. If the Romney Administration was working day in and day out to create more jobs, the Governor could be excused. But the lack of attention that the Romney administration has paid to Commonwealth businesses is appalling, especially for self proclaimed chief salesman of the state. Whether it's Gillette or Medical Equipment Exchange, the Romney administration has neglected one of its top priorities: economic development.

The contrast between the energy, efforts and actions of the two Chief Executives involved in this story, Gov. Lynch of NH and Romney, couldn't be any starker. Massachusetts deserves a Chief Executive who will fight to keep jobs in the state, work to create jobs throughout the state, and will foster an environment where the jobs of the new economy will grow and flourish. The citizens of the Commonwealth deserve a Governor who will talk the talk AND walk the walk. That's the news Governor.

The Moral Mandate

As we become more and more removed from the dramatic images of the hours, days, and weeks following Hurricane Katrina, and to a lesser effect Hurricane Rita, we must not forget that our fellow countrymen in the Gulf are still suffering. In the past week, CNN has run a wide array of stories showing how people are attempting to move on and move forward with their lives. The spirit and drive of these individuals is incredible. It must be the moral mandate of the federal, state, and local governments where these individuals decide to relocate (whether it is within the Gulf region or not) to ensure that they are granted every opportunity to begin life anew. Additionally, it should be the mandate of the same group of leaders to ensure that New Orleans, the surrounding areas, and the entire region is reconstructed in the most fair, equitable and sustainable manner possible.

In today's Boston Globe Xavier de Souza Briggs, of MIT, and Margery Austin Turner, of the Urban Institute, spelled out a guideline of sorts for the equitable redevelopment of the region. Briggs and Turner's guideline echoes many of the pleas being made by progressives throughout the country. These voices see the silver lining on the cloud of Katrina being the possibility to address issues of systemic inequity through urban planning and community redevelopment. Not only is this a laudable goal, it is a goal, we would assume, that all members of our society could support. In fact, the guideline put forth in this article seems to directly echo John Rawl's theory of Justice as Fairness, as espoused in A Theory in Justice.

Unfortunately, it seems that instead of directly addressing the issues that Briggs, Turner and others have mentioned, the current Administration seems bent on handing out no-bid contracts and creating a zone free of any regulation of big business whatsoever. Instead of addressing the conditions that allowed for thousands of toxins to be spilled into surrounding water sources, the White House has floated the idea of curtailing the safeguards which had slowed the proliferation of chemical plants throughout the region. Instead of directing federal resources and energies towards a genuine poverty alleviation effort, press conferences were held and assurances were given.

In the period directly after Hurricane Katrina we came together as a country in an incredible manner. The American public was clearly ready and willing for its government to address the persistent issues of poverty and racial inequity. It should be the duty of progressives everywhere to continue to raise these issues and refuse to allow the victims of Katrina to fade into the background. Briggs and Turner's guideline is a good start, but more most be done, and more must de demanded of our leaders, at all levels.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

The Proof is in the Pudding

The UMASS Fall 2005 Survey is out, and the results look promising for a change in the Commonwealth. Voters are through with Governor (when it's convenient for him) Mitt Romney and are unimpressed with Lt. Governor Kerry Healy. Additionally, there is one candidate who consistently defeats any and all Republican challengers.

It's still a long way off before the convention and the primaries, but the numbers are promising and the opportunity is there. Now it's up to progressives to unite in commonn cause to put Massachusetts back on the right track, leading the nation in the early 21st century.

Monday, October 03, 2005

The Best Defense is a Good Offense

Too often, progressives find themselves on the defensive in campaigns and in the court of public opinion. By allowing conservative voices to define the parameters of debates, progressives cede many advantages they posses. The issue on which this is most brutally clear is taxes and tax policy. Whether its the estate tax (as they would call it, the death tax) or tax cuts for multimillionaires (as they would call it, tax relief), conservatives have consistently been on the offensive, leaving progressives in a weak, defensive position.

Understanding this political reality, Attorney General and Gubernatorial candidate Tom Reilly aggressively came out for an 18 percent decrease in auto insurance rates for Bay State drivers. Now, I know that auto insurance isn't necessarily a "tax" by definition, but to drivers throughout the Bay State it certainly feels like one. Auto insurance in Massachusetts has long been kept at ridiculously high levels, mostly thanks to Republican administration's coziness with the industry. These high rates are felt most harshly by those in our Commonwealth who have the least to spare, especially in our current economic environment. But most importantly, the AG's stance forces the Romney/Healy Administration to take an unpopular stand. Even if they were to come out for a 17 percent decrease, progressives can paint the Administration as unresponsive to the needs of working families and responsive to the needs of an unpopular industry.

Progressives throughout the Bay State, and the country, would do well to take a lesson from the AG. In political campaigns, the best defense is a good offense. If progressives allow conservatives to determine what questions will be debated in elections, we will be forced to try build a majority on their turf. While this is not impossible it is much more difficult than building a majority on our own terms.

Sunday, October 02, 2005

Disagreeing Without Being Disagreeable

When then state Senator Barack Obama gave his speech at the Democratic National Convention in the summer of 2004, many believed we were witnessing the beginning of something special. Since his election to the U.S. Senate, Senator Obama has done much to support and little, if anything, to challenge this initial impression. At no point has this been more clear than the end of last week when the junior Senator from Illinois took his turn at analyzing the current state of the Democratic party and what must be done to build a progressive majority in the United States.

Looking through the lens of the Roberts appointment and confirmation, the Senator's thoughtful insight should be required reading for progressives of all shades. For my entire lifetime, and I'm sure much longer, there has been a debate about the future of the Democratic party. This debate was first the result of the party's inability to consistently win Presidential elections, but was magnified as a result of Bill Clinton's election in 1992 as a "new Democrat" and the Republican congressional takeover of 1994. On the whole, the debate is healthy, necessary, and should be welcomed by progressives, independents, and centrists. Unfortunately, the debate has too often drifted from well-intentioned, passionate disagreement to pointless petty squabbling.

If we are to successfully build a progressive majority in the United States, the Senator argues (and I would tend to agree) that the Democratic party must truly be a big tent. Labels should be cast aside and litmus tests should not be applied to individuals who share a majority of our principles and values. Senator Obama then goes on to cite several specific examples of cases where the tenor and tone of disagreements within the party has actually hampered the ability of the Democratic party to build a majority. All of which are extremely prescient, considering the rare and important opportunity that Democrats have now.

More than anything else, the thoughts of Senator Obama are welcome for their ability to address a sensitive topic in an articulate manner. Instead of stirring the pot further, the Senator gave perspective to on ongoing discussion that is vital to the future of our country, the Democratic party, and the progressive community. His remarks and actions exemplify what it means to be an idealist without illusions, and they place him in company with some of the great leaders of the Democratic party throughout the years. Here's to hoping that someday we can look back on the Obama Presidency and think about the amazing, creative and innovative accomplishments that came with it.