Friday, March 25, 2005

050315 Progressive Update

Victory is Ours—It appears that Georgie’s attempt to cripple Social Security has failed. In today’s New York Times, conservative columnist David Brooks writes “At this point there's no better than a one-in-four chance that some form of Social Security reform will be passed this year. There's no sign that Republicans will bend on their insistence on private accounts or Democrats on their opposition. There's no sign that enough Republicans will tolerate tax increases or that enough Democrats will tolerate benefit cuts.” Democrats stood together with the American people, and demanded that Bush abandon his attempts to dismantle this public program with private accounts. Letters to the editors, meetings with politicians, emails, and other efforts were able to derail this train wreck. Good job!

Framing is Key—The victory with Social Security provides proof that progressive values can prevail over conservative values, as long as they are communicated at a high enough level. Standing together, security for seniors, and other value-based goals trumped the heck out of giving a windfall to wall street.

To learn more about framing, first read George Lakoff’s book Don’t Think of an Elephant (check Amazon), and afterwards, read the Feldman diaries from . Professor Jeffrey Feldman teaches at NYU, and the Progressive Democrats of Delaware brought him to Wilmington in February for a wonderful workshop. My church, the UUFN (Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Newark,, is hosting a workshop on framing this Friday at 7pm.

The FrameShopIsOpen site offers us tools to effectively respond to questions on current issues, such as liberal professors, tort reform, a free Iraq, and most recently, on American fascism. It offers an Elevator Speech. To effectively turn the tide, progressives need to unify our message, and permanently rise above the fact-only level.

My Framing Experiences—I joined other progressives in a meeting with Senator Carper’s staff late last month. I began my comments with ‘I want to be proud to be an American again. Our president has two leadership mantras—Do As I Say, Not As I Do, and Because I Said So.’ This set the stage for my comments, which at the fact level opposed the bozos Bush is presenting again for judicial nominees, and which opposed the ‘nuclear option’ of eliminating the filibuster in the US Senate. While I was preaching to the choir, I felt that it is important to remind progressives to lead with the frame, and stay within it where practical. This requires that we restrain ourselves from our natural tendency to state the obvious (our country’s founders instituted the filibuster to defend the rights of the minority in this country, and these recycled judicial nominees were awful last term, and they aren’t any better now). I was able to stay in the frame with pointing out that eliminating the filibuster is an example of Because I Said So leadership, leadership that does not with to consider any other alternatives. Further, the nuclear option is an example of the Do As I Say, Not As I Do, as the proposed Iraqi constitution includes the filibuster, a feature that is quite valued by the Kurds—the filibuster is good for Iraqis, however not for Americans.

My point is that in political discussions, letters to the editor, etc, identify the highest ideal that supports your issue, and lead with this ideal. Only after you have tried to gain consensus on the ideal should you travel down to how your issue supports the ideal.

Your Framing Experiences—I urge you to explore the Frameshopisopen site, find one or two key issues that tug at you, and see how Feldman suggests you communicate your values about that issue. Practice this to the point where you can effectively have a dialog on the issue with others, and more effectively write letters to the editors and legislators. Check it regularly for updates, for comments from viewers, to get refreshed. I met with several colleagues on Friday night, several of whom are arch-conservatives. I had ‘boned up’ on the FrameShop’s approach to discussing Social Security, and was far more effective in heading off the crap that was flung around.

Arctic Natural Wildlife Refuge is under attack again by Georgie. Contact your US Senators now to ask them to support the Cantwell-Kerry Amendment.

Delaware House Bill 36 (ending Discrimination based on Sexual Orientation) is moving through the House where it is expected to be approved. The Senate is another matter …

Local Politics Update—I am now a member of the local (23rd Representative District) Democratic District Council. Our district’s state representative is newly elected Democrat Terry Schooley (co-sponsor of HB36), who has been active recently on the Newark Country Club and the Newark Crime Spree issues, along with finding her way amongst Dover lawmakers. The Committee is hosting the 10th Annual Spaghetti Dinner and Auction from 6-9pm on Friday April 15th at the UUFN church. New Castle County Executive Chris Coons will be the auctioneer—this is well worth the cost of admission. I have a limited supply (sure) of $10 tickets. Let me know if you’d like to buy a ticket, before we sell out (sure)! The proceeds will enable the committee to help local and less-local Democratic candidates’ campaigns.

You can meet Terry Schooley on Wednesday mornings from 7:30 to 8:30am at the Eagle Diner. She would welcome a visit from you.

Keep it progressive!

Paul Baumbach

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