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Thursday, December 29, 2005

Digby says 

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Patrick Henry Democrats

by digby

As much as I appreciate all these Republicans offering us advice about how we are endangering our political prospects by not supporting NSA spying, I have to wonder if they really have our best interests at heart. I just get a teensy bit suspicious that it might not be sincere.

The truth is that I have no idea where the NSA spying scandal is going and neither do they. The Republicans would like it to go nowhere for obvious reasons and so they are trying to psych out timid Dems. What I do know is that the most important problem Democrats have is not national security; it's that nobody can figure out what we stand for. And when we waffle and whimper about things like this we validate that impression.

In Rick Perlstein's book, "The Stock Ticker and The Super Jumbo" he notes that many Democrats are still reeling from the repudiation of the party by the Reagan Democrats. And while they continue to worry about being too close to African Americans or being too rigid on abortion or too soft on national security, they don't realize what the most vivid impression people have of the Democrats is this:

"I think they lost their focus"
"I think they are a little disorganized right now"
"They need leadership"
"On the sidelines"
"fumbling"
"confused"
"losing"
"scared"


The reason people think this is because we are constantly calculating whether our principles are politically sellable (and we do it in front of god and everybody.) We've been having this little public encounter session for well over 20 years now and it's added up to a conclusion that we don't actually believe in anything at all.

Perhaps the NSA scandal is a political loser for Dems. We can't know that now. But it is a winner for us in the long term. We believe in civil liberties and civil rights. With economic fairness, they form the heart of our political philosophy. If this particular issue doesn't play well, that's too bad. People who believe in things sometimes have to be unpopular. Over time, they gain the respect of the people which is something we dearly need.

A party that is described as fumbling, confused and scared is unlikely to win elections even if they endorse the wholesale round-up of hippies and the nuking of Mecca. People will listen to us if we can first convince them that we know who we are and what we believe in.

I'm of the mind to adopt "give me liberty or give me death" as my personal motto. If I have to kowtow to a bunch of childish Republican panic artists who have deluded themselves into believing that fighting radical Islam requires turning America into a police state, then it's just not worth it.
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