Monday, June 20, 2005

Democracy Fest Report 2


An all star cast: Howard Dean, Jesse Jackson, Jr., DailyKOS founder Markos Moulitsas Zuniga, MyDD founder Jerome Armstrong, Tom Hughes and Chris Warshaw of Democracy for America, and a host of Texas big wigs - Molly Ivins, Jim Hightower, Lou Dubose, Rep. Lloyd Doggett, Rep. Glen Maxey, plus Joe Ely and Tish Hinohosa.

The second day of Democracy Fest was really a big post-election coming out party for Deaniacs and other progressives who'd like to jump start the Democratic Party, if not kick it in the ass.

Some of us admitted we'd basically taken off the last seven months since the election, ruminating, recuperating, hiding under a rock (not hiding behind Iraq). This was our excuse to get back into the fray - and get an earlier start on "framing" and winning the next big campaign cycles.

George Lakoff has become the godfather of "framing" and Democrat-oriented progressives. Many speakers prominently mentioned Lakoff's book, "Don't Think of an Elephant." Democracy Fest attendees feel the dire need to take a new, fresh and vigorous command of "the vision thing" and how we "bullet" our themes and messages. As the Republicans seem to have known since the Reagan revolution that began in 1976, it's how you say it and even the language that you 'own' that count.

I think these were the top three sessions, in order:

1. "Framing for Democracy" with Jeffrey Feldman, founder of Frameshop on the web. Feldman is an extremely well-spoken disciple of Lakoff and the language hounds. He gave us a little workshop on coming up with a revitalized mission statement for Democrats.

2. "Religion, Democracy and the Common Good" with professor of theology at Radcliffe, Harvard, et al, Rita Nakashima Brock, "heretical" Unitarian Universalist minister Davidson Loehr, professor of ethics at the University of Texas at Austin Paul Woodruff and others.

Brock made an eloquent and moving case suggesting the conservative movement in this country is conducting a campaign to alienate the non-elites and society at large, in favor of isolating consumerism and "a theo-fascist... war against love" at many levels. (The Dems could be the party with heart.)

Loehr's theme was that conventional religion is not as persuasive or powerful as many analyses of the 2004 election have implied, suggesting that secularists can take back and own the values cards in future elections if we can come up with compelling frames (a la Lakoff again) for the "three essential vocabularies: patriotism, nationalism and morality/personal responsibility."

Woodruff referred to his elegant little book "Reverence," suggesting ways we might reframe the culture's perspective on virtue. He said reverence for quality living is good, humility is not. Pride is good, hubris is not. We need to be more reverent of ourselves as a society, all in this together to avoid arrogance and aggression.

3. "What It Means to be a Progressive" with professor Charles Grapski, who founded Democracy University online. Grapski gave an ardent and ambitious talk on how to really think of the divide between conservatives (wanting the status quo or a regressive version of the status quo - to go backward) and progressives (wanting to make changes for sustainability, security and the common good). Grapski said we have to choose between democracy and deference, democracy being participatory, populist government "of, by and for the people", deference being our subjagation to an aristocracy, a ruling elite. He said the second American revolution is right here, right now.

The evening shindig at Stubb's Bar-B-Que just off the partyin' Sixth Street was the highlight of the weekend. Howard Dean used to say he was not a rock star, but to many, he IS the rock star of progressive politics, and really his appearances take on that hyper-celebrity quality. It does seem the man will get more than fifteen minutes of fame and more than a footnote in future histories of the Democratic Party and American elections. So many of us in the crowd of 2000 couldn't think of any else more likely to turn the tide for the Democrats.

I was in the room that night in Iowa when Dean let out the scream. Hell, we were making so much noise for the guy he had to! And now, back in such a boisterous crowd of Deaniacs, he at least felt comfortable enough tp joke about his shouts and passion some more. And as he said, "and then we're going to Dallas and Des Moines and Boston and Los Angeles and DC and take our country back!" you could feel the thrill had come back - that in that relentless momentum Dean exudes, we felt hope again, for real.

Lots of energy!

You have the power!


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