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"America has two great dominant strands of political thought - conservatism, which, at its very best, draws lines that should not be crossed; and progressivism, which, at its very best, breaks down barriers that should never have been erected." -- Bill Clinton, Dedication of the Clinton Presidential Library, November 2004

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Monday, February 16, 2004


Politics The Art of the Possible

posted by Dana at Monday, February 16, 2004 permalink View blog reactions
(I had planned to post this late Tuesday, but given the nature of the threads here I decided we need it now. -- db)

Why were we so naïve as to think the nation could be taken back with a few months of rallies, a couple of bats, and the most attractive (in a political sense) Presidential candidate in decades?

Answer: we’re Americans.

But power isn’t given. It must be seized. When both the media and politicians of all stripes turn on you, the only answer is to change the game.

This campaign is the start of that process, not the end. We now have the tools, and the people power we need, to take this country back. But it won’t happen at once. It will happen one town at a time, one race at a time, one issue at a time.

We know what we stand for. Deanism, if I might coin a phrase, favors balanced budgets, progressive taxes, social diversity, a cleaner environment, a bias toward small business and a foreign policy based on American values. We can, we must, start fighting for those values in our towns.

Take my town. I live in Georgia. By conventional political calculation that’s hopeless ground. Maybe, in the short run, it is. But we have Atlanta here, we have a million-person county dominated by black folks. We have more young, creative Dean-type voters than any other state in the South.

We also have needs and issues. Right now the State Legislature is moving to put a gay marriage ban into our Constitution, trampling the rights of the Community Church that might marry gay people. We have an education department taking science out of our schools, by degrees, backing off on the word “evolution” but dumbing things down behind the scenes. We have people driving 90 minutes and more, each way, to work, and more subdivisions sprouting further out. Our water supply is fought-over among three states, and Atlanta (a city of 400,000) faces a $3 billion sewer bill it can’t pay. For starters.

We can win back this state. But we’re going to have to rebuild from the ground-up, from the neighborhood-up, finding small fights we can win, organizing block-by-block. We have the tools to do this, now. We have the people to do this, now. We have the support, in each other, to do this, now.

In the wake of Wisconsin the question is do we have the will?

Dean ran to the right of most Democrats on many issues. He was to the right of Kerry on the budget, on health care, even on the War. Our failures aren’t his alone. They’re collective. We scared people. There were so many of us, in our orange hats, in our firm belief. What we saw as a joyful crowd looked to outsiders like an angry mob.

We saw Frank Capra. They saw Pat Robertson.

So let’s take a page from both. Robertson took over the GOP after 1988 by organizing locally, through his Christian Coalition. In Capra’s “Meet John Doe,” the same thing happened. The John Doe clubs had a central structure, but were all organized on the local level. They had a simple premise – know your neighbor. And when you knew your neighbor, you turned him (or her) from a stranger to a friend, from an outsider to an insider. You could help them. And in that people became united. At the end of the film it wasn’t the girl, and it wasn’t the moguls, who talked John Doe out of jumping off the building. It was the people.

The movie served, in 1941, as a wake-up call against fascism. A media mogul had organized the Does into a mob, into a tool for his personal power, and that of his friends. But in finding each other, the Does found they didn’t need the mogul, or any single leader. They could each take turns, each in a cause they cared about. Working together they took back control over their own lives.

Isn’t that what we want? Isn’t that what Meetups are all about?

So use these tools, and stay in touch. I’m here when you need me, and I know you’re here, too.

Together we can still take our country back, and we will. One life at a time.


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About Nation-Building

Nation-Building was founded by Aziz Poonawalla in August 2002 under the name Dean Nation. Dean Nation was the very first weblog devoted to a presidential candidate, Howard Dean, and became the vanguard of the Dean netroot phenomenon, raising over $40,000 for the Dean campaign, pioneering the use of Meetup, and enjoying the attention of the campaign itself, with Joe Trippi a regular reader (and sometime commentor). Howard Dean himself even left a comment once. Dean Nation was a group weblog effort and counts among its alumni many of the progressive blogsphere's leading talent including Jerome Armstrong, Matthew Yglesias, and Ezra Klein. After the election in 2004, the blog refocused onto the theme of "purple politics", formally changing its name to Nation-Building in June 2006. The primary focus of the blog is on articulating purple-state policy at home and pragmatic liberal interventionism abroad.