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Wiring the Vast Left-Wing Conspiracy [Or: The on-going demise of the Dem Party] (NYT)
The NY Times Sunday Magazine ^ | July 25, 2004 | MATT BAI

Posted on 07/24/2004 11:59:03 PM PDT by summer

NYTimes.com > Magazine (11-page article)

Wiring the Vast Left-Wing Conspiracy

By MATT BAI

Published: July 25, 2004

Andy Rappaport made his millions as a venture capitalist,searching out what he calls ''ideas that change the world.'' About six years ago, for instance, when most everyone else in the high-tech industry thought wireless communication was going to depend on new, exotic semiconductors, Rappaport threw $2.5 million into a start-up called Atheros Communications, whose founders were focusing instead on building low-cost radios using common chip technology. It was a smart move. When the company went public last February, the initial investment by Rappaport and his partners was worth more than $60 million.

Rappaport is also, increasingly, an avid investor in liberal causes, and in this context he might be called a political venture capitalist. Rappaport and his wife, Deborah, whose philanthropic activities in recent years include several million dollars in donations to art museums and after-school music programs, have committed at least $5 million this year -- so far -- to support a bevy of fledgling liberal groups, like Music for America and Punkvoter.com, aimed at mobilizing younger voters.

I met Rappaport, who is 46, in early June in his firm's offices on Sand Hill Road, Silicon Valley's answer to Wall Street. As we talked in a plush conference room flanked by a sunlit terrace on one side and a pool table on the other, events in the world outside seemed to be tilting strongly in the Democrats' favor. Public support for President Bush's handling of the war in Iraq was dropping precipitously. The price of oil had shot up to $42 a barrel. Only hours earlier, voters in South Dakota sent a Democratic woman, Stephanie Herseth, to the U.S. House in a special election -- a race widely viewed as a potential harbinger for November.

But if all of this made John Kerry a good bet to become the next president, it did nothing, in Rappaport's view, to solve the Democrats' underlying problems. When I asked if he was skeptical about the direction of the party, he smiled, then said dryly, ''If you've been able to discern a direction on which to be skeptical or optimistic, then you're doing pretty well.''

In fact, Rappaport was surprisingly downcast about the [Dem] party's prospects, which, he said, would not be improved simply by winning back the White House. Though he sat and thought about it, he said he was unable to name a single Democratic leader in the years since Bill Clinton left Washington who he thought was articulating a compelling new direction for the party. ''There is a growing realization among people who take very seriously the importance of progressive politics that the Democratic Party has kind of failed to create a vision for the country that is strongly resonant,'' he said. ''And our numbers'' -- meaning Democrats as a whole -- ''are decreasing. Our political power has been diminishing, and it's become common knowledge that the conservative movement has established a very strong, long-term foundation, whereas we've basically allowed our foundation, if not to crumble, to at least fall into a state of disrepair.
So there are a lot of people thinking, What can we do about this?''

Actually, Rappaport says he may be on to an answer. Last summer, he got a call from Simon Rosenberg, president of the New Democrat Network, a fund-raising and advocacy group in Washington. Would Rappaport mind sitting down for a confidential meeting with a veteran Democratic operative named Rob Stein? Sure, Rappaport replied. What Stein showed him when they met was a PowerPoint presentation that laid out step by step, in a series of diagrams a ninth-grader could understand, how conservatives, over a period of 30 years, had managed to build a ''message machine'' that today spends more than $300 million annually to promote its agenda.

Rappaport was blown away by the half-hour-long presentation. ''Man,'' he said, ''that's all it took to buy the country?''

Stein and Rosenberg weren't asking Rappaport for money -- at least not yet. They wanted Democrats to know what they were up against, and they wanted them to stop thinking about politics only as a succession of elections. If Democrats were going to survive, Stein and Rosenberg explained, men like Rappaport were going to have to start making long-term investments in their political ideas, just as they did in their business ventures. The era of the all-powerful party was coming to an end, and political innovation, like technological innovation, would come from private-sector pioneers who were willing to take risks.

For Rappaport -- who, like other Democratic donors, had grown increasingly doubtful that his donations to the party were being well spent -- Stein's pitch came as something of a revelation. This was a new way to look at progressive politics (politicians who 10 years ago called themselves liberals now prefer the less-demonized label ''progressive''), and it was an approach he understood as well as anyone.

In March of this year, Rappaport convened a meeting of wealthy Democrats at a Silicon Valley hotel so that they, too, could see Stein's presentation. Similar gatherings were already under way in Washington and New York, where the meetings included two of the most generous billionaires in the Democratic universe -- the financier George Soros and Peter Lewis, an Ohio insurance tycoon -- as well as Soros's son and Lewis's son. On the East Coast, the participants had begun referring to themselves as the Phoenix Group, as in rising from the ashes; Rappaport called his gathering the Band of Progressives. More recently, companion groups have come together in Boston and Los Angeles.

What makes these meetings remarkable is that while everyone attending them wants John Kerry to win in November, they are focused well beyond the 2004 election. The plan is to gather investors from each city -- perhaps in one big meeting early next year -- and create a kind of venture-capital pipeline that would funnel money into a new political movement, working independently of the existing Democratic establishment. The dollar figure for investment being tossed around in private conversations is $100 million.

''You're talking about raising a lot of money,'' I said doubtfully.

Rappaport tilted his head to one side. He looked as if he felt sorry for me.

''A hundred million dollars,'' he said, ''is nothing.''



As Democrats converge on Boston this week to hold their party convention and formally anoint Kerry as their nominee, all the talk will be of resurgence, unity and a new sense of purpose. Don't be fooled. It's true that a kind of all-consuming, blue-state animosity toward George W. Bush -- not just for the war and the tax cuts, but also for what Democrats see as his venality and secrecy, his contempt for all things coastal, the way he walks and the way he laughs, the fact that he was ever sworn in as president to begin with -- has, remarkably, brought a sense of coherence to a party that had been groping for a mission. Nearing the end of his first term, Bush has at last delivered on his promise to be ''a uniter, not a divider,'' except that the people he has united will be crammed, standing room only, into Boston's FleetCenter for the next four days, rhetorically -- if not literally -- burning him in effigy.

But whether the Democrats win or lose in November, what will happen -- to put a twist on the old Engelbert Humperdinck song -- after the hating? Four years from now, in 2008, these same Democrats will come together again, in Miami or Phoenix or Las Vegas, perhaps to renominate President Kerry or perhaps to give the stage to Hillary Rodham Clinton or John Edwards or to some now-obscure governor. Either way, Bush will be receding into history, and the party's left and center factions will again be wrestling over free trade, social programs and tax cuts for the middle class. The questions that will loom over the Democratic Party will be the same ones that have resurfaced regularly since the end of the Great Society: what, beyond a series of disconnected policy proposals, is the party's reason for being? What does it stand for in the era after big government?



Andy Rappaport isn't the only one asking these questions. The [Dem] party's decline is a constant source of gallows humor among Democrats in Washington. It is true that in terms of voter identification, the country remains more or less evenly divided between Democrats and Republicans, and in fact, the best data show that Democrats still enjoy a slight advantage among the ever-shrinking pool of voters who do identify themselves with one party or another. But the historical arc of the parties tells a different story. Since the 1950's, when nearly half of all voters called themselves Democrats, nearly one in six Democrats has left the party, according to a University of Michigan study, while Republican membership has held close to steady.

Reflected in this trend -- although it is by no means the entirety of the problem -- is that the Democratic Party has seen an exodus of the white working-class men who were once their most reliable voters. In the suburbs, according to the Democratic pollster Mark Penn, the percentage of white men supporting the party has plummeted 16 points just since Bill Clinton left office.

When measured in terms of electoral success, the growing imbalance between the parties is quantifiable. From the election of Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1932 until the Republican takeover of 1994, Democrats never lost control of the House of Representatives for more than one election before regaining it, and that only happened twice. They have now failed to control the House in five straight elections. Similarly, for 46 of those years, Democrats ruled the Senate by a margin of at least 10 seats. In contrast, they have spent most of the last decade in the minority, and during that time they have never enjoyed a majority of more than a single vote. More sobering for Democrats, the realignment that began in the 1960's -- when the battles over civil rights and Vietnam began to drive white men and rural voters away from the party -- has finally begun to erode the party at its very foundation: the state and local level, where it was dominant for decades. Thirty years ago, Democrats could claim outright control of 37 state legislatures, compared with only 4 for Republicans; Democrats now control just 17.

''The deterioration is steady, and it's spreading like a cancer,'' says Patrick Caddell, the onetime strategist for Jimmy Carter and Gary Hart, who has been compiling this data from statistical abstracts. ''So much for thinking that if we could just go back to the glorious 90's, the party would be fine. The 90's were our worst decade since the 1920's.''


Privately, and sometimes publicly, leading Democrats will admit that the party's shrinking influence has its roots in the most basic problem of ''message.'' Despite having ruled Capitol Hill for a half-century, during which time they successfully enacted a staggering array of innovative programs, Democrats have been maddeningly slow to adapt their message to the postindustrial age. ''The truth is that a lot of the people who ran the Democratic Party in the 70's and 80's ran it into the ground,'' Simon Rosenberg said. ''The imperial Congress was in charge of America for 50 years, but we lost our way, and we've got to fight back.''

In his 1992 campaign, Clinton vowed to drag the party into the new economy, bringing it toward the center on social and economic issues that mattered to an anxious middle class. Parts of that agenda, like a middle-class tax credit and welfare reform, met with success. But weakened by the Republican takeover of Congress and then his impeachment, Clinton's lasting legacy to the party seems to have amounted to something far less than an ideological modernization; somewhere along the line, Clintonism devolved into a series of rhetorical gimmicks -- ''fighting for working families,'' ''working hard and playing by the rules'' -- aimed at appeasing conservatives and winning over pet constituencies like ''soccer moms'' and ''office park dads.'' Underneath all the now-tired mantras, there remains a vacuum at the core of the party, an absence of any transformative worldview for the century unfurling before us.

Into this vacuum rushes money
-- and already it is creating an entirely new kind of independent force in American politics. Led by Soros and Lewis, Democratic donors will, by November, have contributed as much as $150 million to a handful of outside groups -- America Coming Together, the Media Fund, MoveOn.org -- that are going online, door to door and on the airways in an effort to defeat Bush. These groups aren't loyal to any one candidate, and they don't plan to disband after the election; instead, they expect to yield immense influence over the party's future, at the very moment when the power of some traditional Democratic interest groups, like the once mighty manufacturing unions, is clearly on the wane. Meanwhile, Rappaport and the other next-generation liberals are gathering on both coasts, having found one another through a network of clandestine connections that has the distinct feel of a burgeoning left-wing conspiracy. They have come to view progressive politics as a market in need of entrepreneurship, served poorly by a giant monopoly -- the Democratic Party -- that is still doing business in an old, Rust Belt kind of way. To these younger backers, investing in politics is far cheaper than playing in the marketplace, and the return is more important than mere profit: ultimately, they say, it is the power to take back the country's agenda from conservative ideologues.

Spurred on by legal reforms that were in fact supposed to reduce the torrent of private money into politics, the new political venture capitalists see themselves as true progressives, unbound by any arcane party structure. If their investment ends up revitalizing the Democratic Party, so be it. If they end up competing with the party to control its agenda, or even pushing the party toward obsolescence -- well, that's fine, too.

As the old union bosses and factional leaders who dominated the Democratic Party in the 20th century file into the FleetCenter this week, waving signs and hooting for their heroes, be sure to take a long, last look. The Democratic Party of the machine age, so long dominant in American politics, could be holding its own Irish wake near Boston's North End. The power is already shifting -- not just within the party, but away from it altogether.

By the time this election year ends, George Soros will have contributed more than $13 million to the independent political groups known as 527's. (The term is shorthand for the section of the tax code that makes them legal.) For this reason, Republicans insist that the 74-year-old Soros, who may become the largest single political contributor in history, has resolved to buy the Democratic Party.

This is, on its face, a little silly. To put things in perspective, $13 million is a fraction of what it takes to run a serious modern presidential campaign, let alone control a party. And Soros, who made his fortune as an international investor, is worth an estimated $7 billion; his foundation alone gives away some $450 million every year. In other words, if George Soros really felt like buying the party, you would know it. For Soros, spending $13 million on a campaign is like you or me buying 100 boxes of Thin Mints from the Girl Scout next door.

The real significance of Soros's involvement in politics has little to do with the dollar amount of his contributions. What will stand out as important, when we look back decades from now at the 2004 campaign, will be the political model he created for everyone else. Until this year, Democratic contributors operated on the party-machine model: they were trained to write checks only to the party and its candidates, who decided how to spend the money. But by helping to establish a series of separate organizations and by publicly announcing that he was on a personal mission to unseat Bush, Soros signaled to other wealthy liberals that the days of deferring to the party were over. He became what the financial world would call the angel investor for an entirely new kind of progressive venture.

To understand why Soros matters, you have to slog, however briefly, through the mind-bending swamp of the nation's campaign finance laws. Democrats in the 90's became obsessed with erasing the Republican advantage in fund-raising, so much so that it was fair to wonder which party wasn't representing the rich and privileged. Under Clinton, who became the most powerful money magnet the Oval Office had ever seen, the Democratic Party and its various committees began sucking up mountainous contributions from what are known in politics as access donors -- corporations, Wall Street firms and trade associations whose leaders had an interest in certain legislation or who coveted a ride on Air Force One. Unlike the ''hard money'' checks that an individual might write to a candidate, these corporate contributions to the party were ''soft money,'' meaning they had no legal limits; it was as if both parties were drawing cash from an endless equity line, with power as its only collateral. During the 2000 presidential election cycle, lawyers and law firms gave more than $33 million to the Democratic Party, while securities and investment firms anted up more than $25 million, according to the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics.

For ideological donors like Soros, whose goal was to effect changes in Democratic policy, these were not the best of times. You could give millions of dollars in soft money to the Democratic Party, if you were so inclined, but a lot of ideological donors were not. (Soros gave $100,000 to the party in the 2000 cycle.) Donors had no control over how the money was spent -- badly, a lot of them suspected -- and because the party was getting so much money from large industries, the influence that might have been gained through such a contribution was instantly diluted. In other words, a $5 million check might buy you an invitation to a state dinner, but it wasn't going to make anyone at the Democratic National Committee listen seriously to your idea for a national health care plan.

A lot of ideological donors continued to give money to independent interest groups like Emily's List, Naral Pro-Choice America and the Sierra Club. These issue-based groups, however, were notoriously balkanized and territorial. Your dollars might be useful in organizing pro-choice voters or in preserving Pacific woodlands, but there was no way to contribute money that would have an impact on the overarching framework of Democratic ideology.

Then came the campaign finance law passed in 2002, known informally as McCain-Feingold (after its iconoclastic Senate sponsors, John McCain, a Republican, and Russell Feingold, a Democrat), which prohibited the parties from accepting soft money. Overnight, the era of the access donor essentially ended. Individual lawyers and executives could still wield influence by bundling small personal contributions from employees or colleagues, but their firms could no longer write the giant checks that let them rent out the party as if it were a billboard or a blimp.

For the ideological donors, however, the new era seemed quite promising. McCain-Feingold left untouched and unregulated a vehicle that had been little used on the national level up to that point: the 527. And last fall and winter, the surprising success of Howard Dean's campaign convinced a lot of wealthy liberals that a new ideological movement could be nurtured outside the constraints of the Democratic Party. By controlling 527's, donors believed, they could determine, to a greater extent than ever before, the message and the strategy of a Democratic presidential campaign. ''This is like post-Yugoslavia,'' Andy Stern, president of the Service Employees International Union, told me. ''We used to have a strongman called the party. After McCain-Feingold, we dissolved the power of Tito.''

Having financed projects in the former Communist bloc, Soros understood the opportunitites that political tumult can create. He and the more reclusive Peter Lewis began by contributing about $10 million each to America Coming Together (ACT), the largest of the new 527's, which was designed to do street-level organizing for the election; the donations enabled ACT to expand its canvassing campaign from five critical swing states to 17. ''I used 527's because they were there to be used,'' Soros said bluntly during a conversation in his Manhattan office.

Soros's and Lewis's donations made it possible for longtime leaders of Democratic interest groups to do something they had never done in the modern era: work together. Now the insular factions have begun to form alliances. The founders of ACT included Ellen Malcolm and Carl Pope, the heads of Emily's List and the Sierra Club respectively, Andy Stern from the service employees' union and Steve Rosenthal, the former political director of the A.F.L.-C.I.O. Suddenly, because they no longer had to compete with one another for contributions -- and because they had such a galvanizing villain in Bush -- the leaders of the party's most powerful adjunct groups were able to look beyond the more limited interests of their own membership.

Strangely, for someone who is supposedly staging a hostile takeover of an entire party, Soros said he is only nominally a Democrat, and he evidenced an obvious distaste for the business of politics. ''I hate this kind of political advertising,'' he said at one point, complaining about the anti-Bush attack ads he had paid for. ''I always hated it, but now that I've sort of been involved in it, I hate it more.'' Soros said his only goal is to get rid of Bush, whom he believes is endangering American democracy. After that, he said, he didn't expect to continue meddling in politics at all, and in fact, he seemed eager to be rid of it.

And yet, even if they walk away after 2004, both Soros and Lewis have begun to expand on what they started -- by handing off their political portfolios to the next generation. Both Jonathan Soros, a 33-year-old Harvard-trained lawyer, and Jonathan Lewis, a 45-year-old restaurateur, have become deeply involved in monitoring their fathers' political investments day to day. They have also traveled extensively throughout the country, asking their contacts in different circles -- business types for Soros, while Lewis hits up the Hollywood crowd -- for million-dollar checks.

Both sons, and particularly the younger Soros, are also looking to play a deeper role in the future of Democratic politics. Last January, at the invitation of Alan Patricof, a New York venture capitalist who has been one of the Democratic Party's most reliable fund-raisers over the years, both Jonathans attended a hastily planned meeting of wealthy Democrats at Patricof's Park Avenue office. George Soros and Peter Lewis were there, too, along with some 45 other Democratic donors. No one at the meeting quite knew why Patricof had summoned them. Then he introduced them to Rob Stein and his PowerPoint slides.

My first meeting with Rob Stein occurred over breakfast at the Four Seasons hotel in Washington. Our conversation was strictly off the record, a sort of get-to-know-you chat. Our second meeting took place on a sun-bathed balcony outside a Starbucks near his home in northwest Washington. Stein, who is a young-looking 60, has a full head of gray curls and an air of serenity about him. He is a native West Virginian, although his accent, oddly, makes him sound like a Yankees fan. He carried with him a metal loose-leaf binder, which he laid on the table and kept always within his reach. In a short while, Stein said, I would become only the third person in Washington to possess my own copy of his presentation.

By the time we met, in the middle of May, Stein estimated that some 700 people had seen his PowerPoint show. He told me his story and explained how he had ended up at the center of a minimovement. He had been a Democratic operative, rising to become chief of staff at the Commerce Department under the late Ron Brown. Then he managed a venture capital firm. After 2000, he, like a lot of Democrats, watched with growing alarm as his party ceded ground at every level of government. ''I literally woke up the day after the 2002 elections, picked up the paper, had breakfast and we were living in a one-party country,'' he said. ''And there it was. That was my wake-up call.

''I said: 'O.K., there's now Republican dominance down the line. It's not only that they control the House and the Senate and the presidency. But it's growing. There's no end in sight.' It wasn't only that they had reached a milestone, but they were ascendant.''


Stein read a few reports that liberal research groups had published on the rise of the conservative movement. Then he began poring over tax forms from various conservative nonprofits and aggregating the data about fund-raising and expenditures. He spent hours online every night, between about 9 p.m. and 1 in the morning, reading sites like MediaTransparency.org, which is devoted to tracing the roots of conservative groups and their effect on the media. To call this an obsession somehow seems too mundane; Stein spent much of the spring of 2003 consumed with connecting the dots of what Hillary Clinton famously called the ''vast right-wing conspiracy'' and then translating it into flow charts and bullet points.

The presentation itself, a collection of about 40 slides titled ''The Conservative Message Machine's Money Matrix,'' essentially makes the case that a handful of families -- Scaife, Bradley, Olin, Coors and others -- laid the foundation for a $300 million network of policy centers, advocacy groups and media outlets that now wield great influence over the national agenda. The network, as Stein diagrams it, includes scores of powerful organizations -- most of them with bland names like the State Policy Network and the Leadership Institute -- that he says train young leaders and lawmakers and promote policy ideas on the national and local level. These groups are, in turn, linked to a massive message apparatus, into which Stein lumps everything from Fox News and the Wall Street Journal op-ed page to Pat Robertson's ''700 Club.'' And all of this, he contends, is underwritten by some 200 ''anchor donors.'' ''This is perhaps the most potent, independent institutionalized apparatus ever assembled in a democracy to promote one belief system,'' he said.

''What you need to understand about me is that I try to be respectful and objective about this,'' Stein went on. ''Not only is it a legitimate exercise in democracy, but I think they [the conservatives] came up with some extraordinary ideas.'' The problem, he said, was that conservatives had moved beyond those policy ideas, into the realm of attack and innuendo. And Democrats had to understand that they were overmatched.

Nothing in Stein's presentation seemed notably new, even if the details were nicely laid out. I had seen David Brock, the one-time conservative smear specialist who wrote a book about his defection to the other side, draw similar diagrams of the conservative power structure on a piece of paper. John Podesta, the former White House chief of staff, echoed many of the same ideas when he founded the Center for American Progress last year; they were, in fact, the basis for that new liberal policy group. What made Stein's work compelling was the genius of its packaging. For some reason, perhaps because most political operatives don't function in the business world, no one had ever thought to unearth all the evidence and put it on color-coded slides in a way that ordinary people could immediately grasp.

''I describe myself as having a master's degree in the right-wing conspiracy,'' Podesta said. ''Rob got the Ph.D.''

Stein was convinced that the left needed to focus on the long term, on building its own network of well-financed nonprofit groups, rather than simply strategizing for the next election. But he was not an especially powerful man in Washington, and all he had to work with was a slide show. For a while he considered writing a book. Instead, he began lugging his slides around town, hoping someone could tell him what to do with them. He was like a traveling salesman, convinced he was hawking a valuable new invention but not quite sure what it did.



In the spring of 2003, a friend Stein knew from the Clinton White House arranged for him to meet Simon Rosenberg at the New Democrat Network. Ambitious and hyperarticulate, Rosenberg once worked for the Democratic Leadership Council, the centrist group that laid the groundwork for Clinton's '92 campaign, before splitting off and forming his own political-action committee in 1996. Although he made his name in the party as a centrist New Democrat, Rosenberg, now 40, saw opportunities for his organization -- and, naturally, for himself -- in the increasingly confrontational slant of the party's base during the Bush administration. He didn't agree with all of Howard Dean's positions, but Rosenberg was among the first centrist Democrats to embrace Dean, sensing early on the potential of Dean's following. While the Democratic Leadership Council attacked Dean for his angry brand of populism, Rosenberg looked for a way to tap into the genuine passion among Democrats for a more creative, more defiant kind of politics. He talked to donors around the country, like Andy Rappaport, who were angry at the Clintonesque rhetoric that obscured the sharp ideological divide between them and the Rush Limbaugh right; they were desperate for new policy ideas and for a more aggressive, coherent strategy.

Rosenberg had hired a Silicon Valley consulting firm to suggest ways for the New Democrat Network to find a niche in this new world. One recommendation, which Rosenberg embraced, was to bring together a group of progressive contributors to talk about financing new kinds of ventures outside the party structure. It was Erica Payne, his New York director, who put a name to the fledgling project: the Phoenix Group. Payne, a business-school graduate and one-time Clinton campaign official, seized on the name one night after getting sucked into a Harry Potter book.

To Rosenberg, then, Stein's presentation was like an elaborately wrapped gift on Christmas morning: the deeper into it he got, the more enthusiastic he became. Stein had given him, in 30 minutes' worth of slides, a jolting summary of the challenge that needed to be met if the Democratic Party was to avoid total collapse. And the idea was inherently neither centrist nor leftist. Here was something he could take to donors and say: This is why you're losing. Forget this election. Plan for the future.

Progressives needed more than a single think tank, like Podesta's group, to counter 30 years of well-targeted conservative philanthropy, Rosenberg argued. The same kind of donors who were willing to shell out millions for political 527's could have a greater impact if they also threw their dollars at nonprofit foundations or institutes. ''If you're a 32-year-old state legislator and you're a conservative, you get to go through all these philosophical trainings,'' Rosenberg said. ''You get all these organizations that are trying to put you through their leadership institutes. You get all these groups sending you their materials.

''Now, you're a 32-year-old Democratic state legislator, and what you do is you learn how to check boxes,'' he continued. ''You learn how to become pro-choice. You learn how to become pro-labor. You learn how to become pro-trial lawyer. You learn how to become pro-environment. And you end up, in that process, with no broad philosophical basis. You end up with no ideas about national security. You end up with no ideas about American history and political theory. You end up, frankly, with no ideas about macroeconomics and economic policy, other than that it's scary.''

Rosenberg became convinced that the donors had to take the lead. This was already beginning to happen in reaction to the Bush presidency -- wealthy liberals taking it upon themselves to seek out and give money to entrepreneurs with new ideas. MoveOn.org was founded in 1998, during Clinton's impeachment hearings, by Wes Boyd, inventor of the once-ubiquitous flying-toaster screen saver; it was a fringe group until Soros and other donors, mobilized by the debate over Iraq, discovered it in 2003 and started pouring in money. MoveOn now has 2.2 million members and is the most dynamic online enterprise in politics. Rappaport adopted Music for America when it was raising money for the Dean campaign, and he helped keep it going after Dean dropped out. But these were chance encounters, random collisions of money and ideas. What Rosenberg envisioned was a ''virtual marketplace,'' patterned very consciously after the kind of incubators that venture capitalists set up in the 90's, in which major investors could systematically get to know like-minded bright, young innovators. Then the investors, given a choice of ideas, could decide which projects they wanted to get behind.

''We will only succeed if we build an entrepreneurial culture in Democratic politics,'' Rosenberg said. ''What we are is this beleaguered group of badly funded, nonscalable nonprofits. You know, Luke Skywalker was able to kill the Death Star with his beleaguered band of warriors, but I'm not sure that that's the model we should shoot for -- shoot the thing down the middle of the tube and hope it blows up the Death Star. We need to build our own answer to the Death Star.''

Rosenberg introduced Stein to Payne, his New York director, who in turn hounded Alan Patricof, the 69-year-old venture capitalist, until he agreed to hold a few screenings of the slide show. Word that the Soroses and Lewises were involved swelled attendance from a handful of participants at the first meeting to close to 50. The network spread. In Silicon Valley, Rappaport began to hold regular meetings, drawing crowds of 80 or more, and he and his wife flew into New York to attend a session there as well. In Washington, Bren Simon, an Indianapolis-based donor to Democratic causes, brought together a Phoenix Group meeting. Last month, Chris Gabrieli, another major contributor, held his first showing of Stein's presentation for financial executives and dot-com types in Boston, with Jonathan Soros as the star attraction. In Los Angeles, the director and activist Rob Reiner helped set up a chapter for Hollywood liberals, too.

The group's name made it sound like a highly selective hedge fund, but in fact it was more like a self-help program. The gatherings became primarily a forum to air frustrations over the state of the party and ruminate on what a liberal answer to the vast right-wing conspiracy might look like. ''The Phoenix Group does not raise money,'' Patricof said when we first met in May. ''The truth is nobody knows why they're coming to these meetings. They don't know what they'll do afterward. We just have an interest in politics.''

When I talked to Patricof earlier this month, however, he said the nebulous approach of the Phoenix Group had started to come into focus. A dozen principals from across the country had gathered in New York to formulate a plan, he said, and they decided that soon after the election, all the participants will come together for a massive investor meeting, with, perhaps, regional meetings to follow. There, they will hear pitches from progressive entrepreneurs with ideas that need money, and it will be up to the individual members to determine where their money is best spent. No one expects the new progressive organizations that the Phoenix Group backs to look like mirror images of the Heritage Foundation or other conservative behemoths. The goal, instead, is to find the equivalent of these 1960's political models for a faster-moving online world.

The different geographic factions of the Phoenix Group seem to have different ideas about which models should be financed. In New York, where the financial markets rule, there is an inclination toward investing in proven entities -- people like Podesta and Brock, who recently founded his own organization to monitor the conservative media. In the Bay Area, however, where the new economy already feels old and where jeans and loafers remain the standard business attire, Rappaport's group leans toward more interesting and idiosyncratic kinds of investments. As Rappaport explained it to me, donors should focus on finding the unknown -- young entrepreneurs with risky ideas and no money to test them. The more projects that are given time and capital to germinate, he said, the better the chance that one or two would ultimately generate the kind of ideas that might someday match the momentum of the right wing.

''In Silicon Valley, there is a great belief in the strength and power of individual entrepreneurs who are not yet a part of -- and may in fact have exclusively broken off of -- the existing institutions of power,'' Rappaport said. ''So there's a natural belief that David can slay Goliath, and that, in fact, Goliath inevitably will be slain. It's only a question of finding the right David. And by the way, because it's hard to find the right David, we can tolerate the fact that for every one David that slays a Goliath, there are going to be 99 that won't have so much to show for their efforts. And that's O.K.''

Given how desperately the activists behind the Phoenix Group want to dispatch Bush this November, the paradox is that their longer-term goals, from a purely tactical standpoint, may be better served if he wins. Millionaire Democrats are being driven to act by a perception of powerlessness and deterioration. If Kerry wins, some of the passion will likely drain away, and a lot of Democrats will tell themselves -- like gambling addicts after a hot streak at the blackjack table -- that everything is just fine and that, despite the statistics and the polling, the party remains as vibrant as ever. Raising $100 million for a bunch of think tanks might no longer be so easy.

But if Kerry does not ascend to the presidency, and Democrats fail to make significant gains in Congress, then the party and its various factions will be as close to debilitating disunity and outright irrelevance as they have been in almost a century. Leftist investors will see their opening -- a chance, at last, to swoop in and save the party from empty centrism. The struggle for control in 2008 will begin almost immediately.


''If John Kerry loses, we're going to have a real fight for the soul of the Democratic Party, which began in my campaign,'' Howard Dean told me. His new political action committee, Democracy for America, is giving money to liberal candidates in states where Democrats are edging toward extinction. ''And whether the progressives win or not,'' Dean said, ''will determine whether the Democratic Party has a future in America.''

It is, perhaps, futile to try to predict what the Democratic Party -- or much of anything in politics, for that matter -- will look like in 2008 or 2012. Terry McAuliffe, the party's chairman and one of the best fund-raisers in its history, says the party's continuing relevance in American life is assured, no matter how many rich donors establish their own competing groups or how many factions vie for dominance. With a new high-tech headquarters, $60 million in the bank and 170 million names in a voter database, McAuliffe said, the old party apparatus isn't going anywhere. ''In 30 years, the institution of the Democratic National Committee will be stronger than it has ever been,'' he said with characteristic bluster.

And yet implicit in Dean's prediction are two possible outcomes worth considering, if only because they lend themselves to historical precedent. The first is that the new class of Democratic investors could conceivably end up skewing the party ideologically for years to come. A lot of the political venture capitalists were strong supporters of Dean in the primaries, in the fervent belief that his campaign -- which became, in effect, a classic liberal crusade, in the Jerry Brown mold, only with more money -- was leading the party back in the right direction. Although several [Dem] donors described themselves to me as ''pragmatic'' in their worldview, the moderate Kerry seemed to elicit in them all the passion of an insurance actuary (Soros labeled him ''acceptable''), and they manifested a pointed distaste for Clintonism as a political philosophy. The way they look at it, centrist Democrats spent a decade appeasing Republicans while the right solidified its occupation of American government. The donors see themselves as the emerging liberal resistance, champions of activist government at home and multilateral cooperation abroad.

There is, of course, a striking disconnect between the lives of these new Democratic investors and those of the party's bedrock voters: laborers, racial minorities and immigrants, many of whose faith in sweeping social programs has been badly shaken and who tend to be more culturally conservative than the well-off citizens of New York and Silicon Valley. But if the multimillionaires harbor even the slightest doubts about their qualifications for solving social and geopolitical ills, they don't express it.

To see the potential effect of such motivated ideological donors on a political party, you need only study the modern Republican Party. The families who contributed the seed money for what would become the conservative movement were philosophical rebels who followed Barry Goldwater. Like the new venture capitalists, these ideologues started out not with specific policy ideas but with a broad sense of fear, a notion that the system of free enterprise was under siege from radical forces. (The guy who most kept them up at night, oddly enough, was Ralph Nader.) Their money spawned academic proposals, some of which, like privatized Social Security or missile defense, were so far beyond the mainstream of their time as to be considered ludicrous. Not only did these ideas ultimately infiltrate mainstream Republican thought, but much of the agenda ultimately triumphed in the broader arena of public opinion.

That success built a governing majority for Republicans, but it may have come at a cost to politics as a whole. In 1965, the Republican Party was an inclusive organization, comprising not just Nixonian pragmatists and Goldwater zealots but also liberal followers of Nelson Rockefeller and Henry Cabot Lodge. Forty years on, it is getting increasingly difficult to find a true moderate in the Republican Party, let alone a liberal, so far to the right has the party's equilibrium tilted. This was in large part -- if not entirely -- a consequence of the kind of political philanthropy that Stein and Rosenberg have come to emulate. The culture of the party came to reflect the ideology of the men who subsidized it, and the national dialogue, as a result, has grown less temperate and less tolerant.

Perhaps the New Age, liberal analogue of this can already be seen in a group like MoveOn.org, which has leveraged its big donations to create a remarkably committed and democratized membership; in April, the group raised $750,000 from its followers in a national bake sale. As a reactionary force, it also demonizes Republicans with an apocalyptic fury. MoveOn was castigated by its critics for displaying on its site an amateur ad comparing Bush to Hitler. Lately, MoveOn has called, repeatedly, for Congress to censure Bush and for Donald Rumsfeld to resign.

Every time I talked with someone about the Phoenix Group, I posed these questions: even if you succeed in revitalizing progressive politics, might the Democratic Party, like the G.O.P., be pushed toward extremism? And if so, might that make it all but impossible to repair the party's standing in huge swaths of the country -- the South, the West -- where Democrats are fast becoming a permanent minority?

''Deep down, that question is in the subconsciousness of all the people who are involved in this, if not in their consciousness,'' Stein said. But he didn't have an answer. Perhaps the most illuminating reply came from Robert Boorstin, a former White House aide who now works on national security at the Center for American Progress. ''Everything has risks,'' he said. ''I would rather take that risk than keep it the way it was.''

The second potential outcome to which [Howard] Dean alludes -- that the Democratic Party, per se, might not always exist in America -- might sound, coming from Dean, characteristically overwrought. But it does raise a significant question about the political venture capitalists: what if, in the future, they decided not to support Democrats at all? Suppose there came along an independent candidate, free from the baggage of Democratic Party politics, who espoused with conviction the kind of agenda that donors of the Phoenix Group or America Coming Together really wanted to hear? The forbidding barrier to independent candidates has always been money. But the 527's aren't tied to a party; they can provide unlimited amounts of money to support any cause they want, provided they adhere to certain legal technicalities.

When I suggested this to Stern, the service employees' union president, he thought about it for a moment before answering. ''There is an incredible opportunity to have the infrastructure for a third party,'' he said. Stern assured me that he himself has no interest in that, but, he added, ''Anyone who could mobilize these groups would have the Democratic Party infrastructure, and they wouldn't need the Democratic Party.''


We tend to think of the two political parties that have ruled American politics for the last 150 years as being cemented into the framework of the Constitution. In fact, parties, like the political movements that sustain them, have shelf lives. In the 1840's and 1850's, the Whig Party, at various times, controlled the White House and both houses of Congress. By 1860, at a loss to coherently address slavery, the defining debate of the time, the Whigs vanished from the planet like a bunch of pterodactyls, replaced by Republicans. It is not unthinkable that the privatization of Democratic politics is a step toward institutional obsolescence. People like Andy Rappaport and Jonathan Soros might succeed in revitalizing progressive politics -- while at the same time destroying what we now call the Democratic Party.

What seems all but certain is that the future of Democratic politics will more closely resemble MoveOn.org than it will resemble anything that happens on the convention floor in Boston. On Memorial Day, I spoke with Harold Ickes, who had been running the Media Fund, a 527 charged with airing anti-Bush ads in the period before this week's convention. Ickes -- like his father, who was a close confidant of Franklin D. Roosevelt's -- has spent a lifetime in service to the Democratic Party, reaching its very highest levels. As we talked about the influence that millionaires and independent groups will have in the years ahead, Ickes sounded more weary than excited, like a man who has accepted change in the family business without entirely embracing it.

''When you go out and talk to them, people are much more interested in something like MoveOn.org than in the Democratic Party,'' Ickes said. ''It has cachet.There is no cachet in the Democratic Party.

''MoveOn raised a million dollars for a bunch of Texas state senators, man,'' he went on to say. ''Plus their bake sale. If they continue with their cachet and really interest people and focus their people on candidates -- boy, that's a lot of leverage. No party can do that. And what the political ramifications of that are -- '' Ickes's voice trailed off. He shrugged. ''Who knows?''



Matt Bai, a contributing writer, is covering the presidential campaign for the magazine.


TOPICS: Editorial; Philosophy; Politics/Elections
KEYWORDS: 2004; 2008; 2012; dems; future; vlwc
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There is, of course, a striking disconnect between the [Dem] party's bedrock voters: laborers, racial minorities and immigrants, many of whose faith in sweeping social programs has been badly shaken and who tend to be more culturally conservative than the well-off citizens of New York and Silicon Valley. But if the [Dem fundraiser] multimillionaires harbor even the slightest doubts about their qualifications for solving social and geopolitical ills, they don't express it.

No, of course they don't express it - they are not communicators.

I really believe the Dems as a party are finished because their leaders stopped caring, a long time ago, about their own rank and file party members. They place too much emphasis on seizing power instead of problem solving.

They also seem to reject, absolutely, a bottom up model of thinking. Everything with them comes from the top down.

The Republican Party seems very different to me. It does not reject the ideas of its members. Nor does it function solely from a top down model. And, it seems to have more of a core belief system, with a sharper focus on the issues and problems confronting us.

The Dem Party seems limited to only selling to voters the idea that the GOP leader currently in power should be out. There is never a vote "FOR" emphasis in that Dem Party, probably because, as the article points out, the Dem Party has no message.

By 2012, I don't think there will even be a "Dem Party" anymore. But, I believe there will be a number of smaller, new political parties -- much like the way specialty magazines and cable tv have now totally segmented a marketplace once dominated by a few general interest periodicals (like LIFE) and network tv. No more though. POlitics will eventually catch up to that new model. And, the Dems will rarely win an election when it happens. Much like now.

1 posted on 07/24/2004 11:59:07 PM PDT by summer
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To: Dog Gone

Interesting article. A long read, but, a big picture.


2 posted on 07/25/2004 12:00:01 AM PDT by summer
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To: summer

''Man,'' he said, ''that's all it took to buy the country?''


What a pig. These rich liberals are all textbook cases of "projection", seeing ones own failings in others. I highly recommend that we do not "sell" our country to the Democrats. Not now, not ever.


3 posted on 07/25/2004 12:09:56 AM PDT by jocon307
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To: summer

Hey Rappaport..... try the dems solution.....Swedish taxes on Ethiopian wages.


4 posted on 07/25/2004 12:12:08 AM PDT by spokeshave (strategery + schadenfreude = stratenschadenfreudery)
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To: jocon307
Also -- Moveon is a turn off for swing voters, IMO, because of what the article described here:

As a reactionary force, it also demonizes Republicans with an apocalyptic fury. MoveOn was castigated by its critics for displaying on its site an amateur ad comparing Bush to Hitler. Lately, MoveOn has called, repeatedly, for Congress to censure Bush ...

This is not appealing to an independent.
5 posted on 07/25/2004 12:12:26 AM PDT by summer
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To: jocon307
Also -- Moveon is a turn off for swing voters, IMO, because of what the article described here:

As a reactionary force, it also demonizes Republicans with an apocalyptic fury. MoveOn was castigated by its critics for displaying on its site an amateur ad comparing Bush to Hitler. Lately, MoveOn has called, repeatedly, for Congress to censure Bush ...

This is not appealing to an independent.
6 posted on 07/25/2004 12:13:17 AM PDT by summer
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To: spokeshave
Swedish taxes on Ethiopian wages.

???? I see I missed something here!
7 posted on 07/25/2004 12:14:11 AM PDT by summer
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To: summer
The Democrats stand for nothing except raw naked political power.

The Republicans meanwhile stand for:

shrinking the size of government
cutting federal spending
defunding agencies like the NEA
promoting pro-life candidates
stemming the tide of illegal immigration
upholding the Second Amendment from left-wing gun-grabbers
upholding the First Amendment freedom of political advertising for all
winning the War on Terror.

At this rate, both parties may be dinosaurs by 2050.

8 posted on 07/25/2004 12:33:28 AM PDT by Tall_Texan (Ronald Reagan - Greatest President of the 20th Century.)
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To: summer
Great article. Having dealt with many of the major players in the VC industry in Silicon Valley it always tickles me when I read articles about their support of the Democrats. In the Board Room they are the most Republican SOB's you could ever meet. Perform or quit is their modus operandi. They don't waste time on people who can't deliver and they won't continue to fund companies that aren't growing at their forecasted rates.

Since the social plans the Dems are famous for are not easily measured for effectiveness one has to wonder about their motivations. There are some obvious things like easily acquired work visas for their imported technical workforce, to tax breaks on R&D, etc., etc.

I'm too tired to think about it more deeply but it's just darn funny when you know the way these guys function in real life.

LBT

-=-=-
9 posted on 07/25/2004 1:07:26 AM PDT by LiberalBassTurds (Al Qaeda needs to know we are fluent in the "dialogue of bullets.")
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To: Tall_Texan
At this rate, both parties may be dinosaurs by 2050.

The Scottish Jurist and Historian Sir Alex Fraser Tyler published a collection of lectures in 1801. He advanced a theory of democracy based on historical observation:

"A democracy cannot exist as a permanent form of government. It can exist only until voters discover that they can vote themselves largesses from the public treasury. From that time on, the majority always votes for the candidate promising the most benefits from the public treasury, with the result that a democracy always collapses over loose fiscal policy, always followed by a dictatorship.

"The average age of the world's great civilizations has been 200 years. These nations have progressed through this sequence: From bondage to spiritual faith; from spiritual faith to great courage; from courage to liberty; from liberty to abundance; from abundance to selfishness; from selfishness to complacency; from complacency to apathy; from apathy to dependency; from dependency back again to bondage."

Maybe Sir Tyler was right?

10 posted on 07/25/2004 1:07:28 AM PDT by upchuck (You do know that the Tasmanians, who never committed adultery, are now extinct, don't you?)
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To: summer
Thanks for posting the entire article. It took time and it is appreciated.

Rush Limbaugh has been saying the liberals have no real substance for some time. He is right and the author of this article is right.

I found it interesting Republican Jewish intellectuals and supporters are described by the main stream press as "neocons." When almost every hitter and contributor to this new change in this article has a Jewish surname, no mention is made.

IMHO the glue that binds all the liberal elites is an intense dislike for traditional values and mores and a marked antipathy or barely restrained tolerance for religious belief. We are in an undeclared culture war and the outcome is yet to be determined.

11 posted on 07/25/2004 2:43:38 AM PDT by shrinkermd
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To: summer

"They place too much emphasis on seizing power instead of problem solving."

Yup - I left the Democratic Party when I came to the realization that their lust for power trumped any love they had for this nation.

Good article too.


12 posted on 07/25/2004 3:37:09 AM PDT by Fenris6
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To: summer
I really believe the Dem's as a party are finished because their leaders stopped caring, a long time ago, about their own rank and file party members. They place too much emphasis on seizing power instead of problem solving.

I agree, summer. But with one caveat:

Over the past four years, nay all the way back to 1993, the Dem's have sought to keep, retake, overcome, whatever, the power base in Washington for the purposes of raising taxes and to "punish" the rich, while shielding the foibles of the standard bearer from public scrutiny.

13 posted on 07/25/2004 4:07:17 AM PDT by woofer
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To: LiberalBassTurds
Yes, but the real meaning of this article is that the Rats now see that they need to reinvest billion in their disinformation machine and bring it to new venues such as the internet. Conservatives should not be too sanguine about this as the Rats may well succeed. One must never forget that a large portion of the electorate is exceedingly gullible and that the Rats have much deeper pockets then we do. They also have absolutely no scruples. We should not be crowing about the pending demise of the Democrat party. These people survived the Civil War, for Pete's sake.

If Kerry wins these people will be so emboldened that it is truly frightening to contemplate what they will do.

It is time for Conservatives to take the gloves off. THis means exposing the socialist agenda for what it is and in no uncertain tone.

14 posted on 07/25/2004 4:11:59 AM PDT by CasearianDaoist
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To: LiberalBassTurds
Yes, but the real meaning of this article is that the Rats now see that they need to reinvest billion in their disinformation machine and bring it to new venues such as the internet. Conservatives should not be too sanguine about this as the Rats may well succeed. One must never forget that a large portion of the electorate is exceedingly gullible and that the Rats have much deeper pockets then we do. They also have absolutely no scruples. We should not be crowing about the pending demise of the Democrat party. These people survived the Civil War, for Pete's sake.

If Kerry wins these people will be so emboldened that it is truly frightening to contemplate what they will do.

It is time for Conservatives to take the gloves off. THis means exposing the socialist agenda for what it is and in no uncertain tone.

15 posted on 07/25/2004 4:11:59 AM PDT by CasearianDaoist
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To: summer

Fine, we've broken their hold on the legislature -- now how do we get them out of the universities and the media?


16 posted on 07/25/2004 4:12:53 AM PDT by Graymatter (Cowboys make the best presidents)
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To: CasearianDaoist
But notice how the article did not give even one example of a "progressive" idea that these funders were going to promulgate. The *only* message they are funding is a variation of "I hate Bush," I hate Christians," "I hate gun-owners," "tax the rich," "two Americas."

What is the "progressive" message today other than hatred? How is that going to win over even the gullible?

17 posted on 07/25/2004 4:27:22 AM PDT by HateBill
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To: summer
As the old union bosses and factional leaders who dominated the Democratic Party in the 20th century file into the FleetCenter this week, waving signs and hooting for their heroes, be sure to take a long, last look.

The Democratic Party of the machine age, so long dominant in American politics, could be holding its own Irish wake near Boston's North End. The power is already shifting -- not just within the party, but away from it altogether. By the time this election year ends, George Soros will have contributed more than $13 million to the independent political groups known as 527's. (The term is shorthand for the section of the tax code that makes them legal.) For this reason, Republicans insist that the 74-year-old Soros, who may become the largest single political contributor in history, has resolved to buy the Democratic Party.

At least the Steelworkers, The Auto Makers and the rest of the union guys had the guts to prevail in a war. This Soros funded 527 Deaniac crew is going to sink our ship if the country tries to depend on them in wartime. I can't imagine a worse force to unleash in a country that is fighting for its future against an implacable foe.
18 posted on 07/25/2004 4:27:49 AM PDT by hedgie
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To: HateBill
" What is the "progressive" message today other than hatred? How is that going to win over even the gullible?"

BC turned all the dim winning issues into losers. And anyone who would vote for these losers is likely a loser as well. Some notable losers ...

Gun control got wiped out by CCWs
Abortion has been wiped out by technology
Welfare got wiped out by reform
Forest fires wiped out the tree huggers
The sun is doing a number on the global warming crowd

... and tax the rich is being killed off by the economy.

So what's left.

Security is the big issue this election IMHO. Nobody wants to get blowed up, not even dims. The terrorists changed everything, no matter how much the media try to tell you otherwise.
19 posted on 07/25/2004 4:42:43 AM PDT by snooker
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To: summer

Uh-huh. And all this big-money entrepreneurship goes to fund exactly those ideas that drive lunch-bucket Dems away from the party in the first place. The Dems can do one of two things: Drop the gay agenda and the abortion agenda, and lose the radicals. Or embrace the radical agenda and lose the middle class. You can't parse that difference.


20 posted on 07/25/2004 4:48:42 AM PDT by MoralSense
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To: All

This article, unintentionally, reveals what's wrong with the Dems.

They are focused on the need to copy the Republicans and conservatives when it comes to money and organization. But there is virtually nothing in the article about any IDEAS that could change the debate in the Dems favor. They would prefer to talk in organizational terms because, deep down in side, I think they realize they have nothing to offer but higher taxes, soft socialism and moral ambiguity.

This article reminds me of the failed approach of Air America and the Al Franken crowd. They thought they could compete with Rush, O'Reilly et. al by raising some money. The didn't focus on the fact that their message wouldn't and didn't sell.


21 posted on 07/25/2004 5:35:05 AM PDT by governsleastgovernsbest
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To: summer
I found this article very interesting and it humored me on this Sunday morning.

A couple of observations:

The goal, instead, is to find the equivalent of these 1960's political models for a faster-moving online world.

This line cracked me up. The whole premise of looking at the future of the Democratic Party was shattered by this statement. They are always looking back (i.e. the old playbook. This is why you see the party trying to make gay issues a civil rights issue.

Another comment I found funny was the view of the conservative movement ideas.

Their money spawned academic proposals, some of which, like privatized Social Security or missile defense, were so far beyond the mainstream of their time as to be considered ludicrous

This gives you a flavor of how the left views sensible ideas. Chile has had a very successful privatized social security system for years. Why would this idea ever be considered "ludicrous" in this country? As for missle defense, would you not do whatever is humanly possible to protect the country from nuclear destruction? Show me where that concept was ever an absurd idea. To make these people even look more like idiots, missle defense is in place today and working!

There were several reference made to the "right wing". Not once was the words "Left Wing" ever used. I realize this is to be expected, but I still find it funny.

Finally, money seemed to be the over riding theme to solving the Democrats/Lefts problems. This is no surprise being that they do this in every policy proposal.

Rush Limbaugh is a great example of how money does not insure success. He started his program on a shoestring and succeeded. It was his ideas and his presentation of the news that generated his success not millions of dollars in investment from NY or Silicon Valley venture capitalists. Where is Air America today??? This point should keep the left awake at night.

Overall, I think there is some optimism to be gained from this article, but also a wake up call for Conservatives to take our movement to the next level.

22 posted on 07/25/2004 5:40:29 AM PDT by GWB00
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To: summer

OOps. I kind of feel like an idiot myself when I made the comment that not once did the article refer to the "Left Wing". It is in the title. However, I did not see it mentioned in the article. Perhaps my hypersensitivity.


23 posted on 07/25/2004 5:44:21 AM PDT by GWB00
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To: The Raven

Did you see this???


24 posted on 07/25/2004 6:07:11 AM PDT by Molly Pitcher
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To: summer
When measured in terms of electoral success, the growing imbalance between the parties is quantifiable. From the election of Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1932 until the Republican takeover of 1994, Democrats never lost control of the House of Representatives for more than one election before regaining it, and that only happened twice. They have now failed to control the House in five straight elections. Similarly, for 46 of those years, Democrats ruled the Senate by a margin of at least 10 seats. In contrast, they have spent most of the last decade in the minority, and during that time they have never enjoyed a majority of more than a single vote.

The reasons that the People dispatched the Democrats in 1994 have not changed.

But the Peoples' belief in the Republicans as change agents was never solidified, and is now fading fast.

Deservedly.

We have never had a period when both major parties were exhausted and ready for replacement at the same time.

Until now.

The American Crisis, Part II.

25 posted on 07/25/2004 6:21:18 AM PDT by Jim Noble (Now you go feed those hogs before they worry themselves into anemia!)
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To: Molly Pitcher; summer



"....he said he was unable to name a single Democratic leader ...articulating a compelling new direction for the party."

Why a new direction? As long as I can remember they call Republicans stupid, tax the rich, increase government, and spew propaganda from their pores.

That approach will always work. With a lock on schools, the judiciary, and the media, they ain't gonna dissolve.


26 posted on 07/25/2004 6:30:50 AM PDT by The Raven (Fair and Balanced)
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To: summer; Molly Pitcher

>>By 2012, I don't think there will even be a "Dem Party" anymore.

THe ultra-liberal Scandinavia countries seem to all hit a stopping point. Probably when they've maximized pilfering the country's wealth, and not because they've run out of spending outlets.

They need some capitalism to pay for their socialism, but I can't see any of them going backwards (disassembling socialism).

Milton Friedman observed that economic freedom is a necessary part of general freedom, and it's too bad our Founding Fathers did not capture it in the Bill of Rights.

The Dems survive on the wealth produced by capitalism and it feeds their power. Looking back at Clinton's legacy - his major accomplishments - welfare reform, the economy, and NAFTA, were all surprises - since they were all Republican ideas (As for the economy - the Reagan leftovers helped, but Clinton was the first Dem to discard Keynes monetary policy and Newt's Congress kept him in check)


27 posted on 07/25/2004 6:46:15 AM PDT by The Raven (Fair and Balanced)
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To: HateBill

Oh they will find something, trust me.


28 posted on 07/25/2004 7:04:05 AM PDT by CasearianDaoist
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To: LiberalBassTurds
I'm too tired to think about it more deeply but it's just darn funny when you know the way these guys function in real life.

I know what you mean -- however, I think some of these guys have actually split from the Dem Party. But, the Dem Party continues to put on a brave face, and knowingly turn a blind eye, not yet ready to acknowledge those defections.

Thanks for your post. This writer, Matt Bai, has written some good articles about politics for the NYT.
29 posted on 07/25/2004 7:22:11 AM PDT by summer
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To: LiberalBassTurds

PS I read your profile page. My sincerest sympathies to you, for those you lost on 9-11.


30 posted on 07/25/2004 7:24:23 AM PDT by summer
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bump later read


31 posted on 07/25/2004 7:25:11 AM PDT by prairiebreeze (The RATS are throwing a big party in Boston! Big deal...)
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To: summer

All the Dims need to do ...is enforce the country's borders, support concealed carry aboard planes, support private management of one's retirement goals and objectives, create a flexible public/private health care system easy for an individual and a provider to segue in and out of as it meets/does'nt meet their needs, abolish the sixteenth ammendment and use a tariffs system to provide federal funding, and re-establish the Senate as it was meant to function as elected by their state's legislaures......its easy enough if they really WANT to lead....they PREFER to control.


32 posted on 07/25/2004 7:28:50 AM PDT by mo
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To: shrinkermd
Thanks for posting the entire article. It took time and it is appreciated.

My pleasure. Thanks for your kind words.

You might be correct about what binds liberals together, but I also see this trend, repeatedly: there is a complete lack of ability or interest by Dem Leaders in identifying those in their own party who have something to offer; so, they ignore talent and the talented people eventually realize they can actually go somewhere else.

That's why the Dems have no "farm team" of candidates in FL. They do not nurture talent at all.
It's like treating people as if they were garbage, while the other side is constantly recognizing these treasures the liberals have thrown away. One side disgards; one side recovers what has been abandoned.

I don't know if that came out the way I meant it, but it is based on my own observation, which is also mentioned in that article -- that people are always leaving the Dem Party. The movement is not that people are fleeing the GOP - it is the Dem Party they flee.
33 posted on 07/25/2004 7:31:18 AM PDT by summer
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To: upchuck
These nations have progressed through this sequence:

upchuck, I think the historical sequence you cite may be changing due to technology. The sequence will not now end in bondage, thanks to the net.
34 posted on 07/25/2004 7:33:33 AM PDT by summer
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To: Fenris6
Good article too.

Thanks, Fenris6. I appreciate your entire post.

I am always amazed how many former Dems I meet on this forum. :)
35 posted on 07/25/2004 7:36:07 AM PDT by summer
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To: Fenris6

(But, maybe I shouldn't be!)


36 posted on 07/25/2004 7:36:39 AM PDT by summer
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To: woofer
...while shielding the foibles of the standard bearer from public scrutiny.

Yes, I hear you on all that.

BTW, speaking of "foibles" of the Dem Party -- have you read the current issue of TIME magazine? They have an article about this recent indictment in NJ of a major Dem donor, named Kushner, who was being investigated for wrongdoing in campaign financing of I believe Dem gov McGreevy. So, to intimidate witnesses, Kushner hired prostitutes, lured witnesses, videotaped encounters, and is now being accused of obstructing justice. One of the videotaped prostitute encounters was with a hooker and his brother-in-law, and Kushner is alleged to have mailed that videotape to his own sister, who was cooperating with investigators.

When you read articles like this, it just makes "public service" seem like the last profession you would ever want to get into.
37 posted on 07/25/2004 7:43:04 AM PDT by summer
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To: woofer

Also, woofer, thanks for your comments here. :)


38 posted on 07/25/2004 7:43:38 AM PDT by summer
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To: CasearianDaoist
the real meaning of this article is that the Rats now see that they need to reinvest billion in their disinformation machine

Yeah, but you have to wonder - why does it take them so long to do anything? Why is Air America only in existence (barely) now? Why are Dem forums so far behind a forum like this one in terms of functionality? Why did Jon Podestra only recently form the first Dem "think tank"? Where have Dems been for the past few decades or so? And, why does all the money they seem to be able to raise appear to fly out the window?

They are not organizers. They are bumblers in terms of building long term foundations. Short term criminal acts seem to be a speciality, but long term acts to appeal to a moral electorate is not yet part of the plan. That's part of the reason, IMO.
39 posted on 07/25/2004 7:48:41 AM PDT by summer
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To: HateBill
Re your post #17 - Yes, you're right about the lack of ideas from their side. And, the article does expressly point that out.

I also noticed one Dem person quoted in the article was genuine enough to admit the following about conservatives:

''What you need to understand about me is that I try to be respectful and objective about this,'' Stein went on. ''Not only is it a legitimate exercise in democracy, but I think they [the conservatives] came up with some extraordinary ideas.''

His comment rang true to me with respect to the best conservative leaders, even though it is a comment the typical Dem leader hates to make -- because that comment acknowledges that while core beliefs are part of the conservatives, the best of them are, in fact, very innovative.

Dem leaders have lost that claim over time due to the way they are structured and their lack of ideas. But conservatives can legitimately make that claim now.

And, that claim is a very potent magnet that attracts swing and independent voters, IMO.
40 posted on 07/25/2004 8:11:09 AM PDT by summer
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To: HateBill
Re your post #17 again - from the article:

Underneath all the now-tired [Dem] mantras, there remains a vacuum at the core of the party, an absence of any transformative worldview for the century unfurling before us.
41 posted on 07/25/2004 8:12:12 AM PDT by summer
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To: Graymatter

Re your post #16 - LOL...I don't have time to comment on your posts (and others) right now, but I will when I have more time. :)


42 posted on 07/25/2004 8:14:03 AM PDT by summer
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To: Graymatter

PS Thanks for sharing your thoughts. :)


43 posted on 07/25/2004 8:14:43 AM PDT by summer
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To: summer
The thing that is interesting about all of this is that they seem to want to form a power structure but have no basic idea what their core beliefs are. In other words, they are once again just throwing money at a problem.

The one thing they will go for is socialized medicine, the only problem with that is, about the time they start really spending money on getting the idea sold, the countries who have instituted socialized medicine will be conceding that their system is bankrupt and they can no longer sustain it.

If these people actually believed in anything they would spend their money on the actual causes instead of attempting to gain power to direct government money to their causes. The problems they worry about could be wiped out with even half the money they are currently spending.

What it boils down to, is they hate religion and they hate religious people. It's faith they want to wipe out.

44 posted on 07/25/2004 8:37:30 AM PDT by McGavin999 (If Kerry can't deal with the "Republican Attack Machine" how is he going to deal with Al Qaeda)
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To: Graymatter
"Fine, we've broken their hold on the legislature -- now how do we get them out of the universities and the media?"

The universities are for later. For grade school, we beat them up with private vouchers.

For the media, we attack the credibility of the more partisan sources, we compete using our own outlets, and then we sequentially infiltrate and dominate one medium after another (e.g. talk radio, then the Internet, then Hollywood via a Mel Gibson/Schwarzenegger future path, etc.), or failing that, we bash a recalcitrant medium such as the printed press into oblivion (cancel subscriptions, cancel advertising, boycott, etc.).

5 Legislative Days Left Until The AWB Expires

45 posted on 07/25/2004 8:46:33 AM PDT by Southack (Media Bias means that Castro won't be punished for Cuban war crimes against Black Angolans in Africa)
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To: summer
bumping

great insight....

"Rosenberg looked for a way to tap into the genuine passion among Democrats, the sharp ideological divide between them and the Rush Limbaugh right; they were desperate for new policy ideas and for a more aggressive, coherent strategy."

46 posted on 07/25/2004 8:48:38 AM PDT by prognostigaator
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To: Jim Noble
"But the Peoples' belief in the Republicans as change agents was never solidified, and is now fading fast."

Your statement above is purely uninformed nonsense from someone who hasn't paid attention. 2001 - 2004 has seen the Republicans institute more radical changes than in any other timeframe. One form of abortion was banned. That hadn't happened since roe v wade. Missile Defense has been deployed. That hadn't happened before (save for a nuke system that got canned). Prescription drugs for seniors. Campaign Finance Reform. Arming pilots with guns. Waging pre-emptive war on Iraq. Disarming Libya, peacefully. Multiple income, dividend, and estate tax cuts.

You've overlooked *all* of these radical changes:

Presidency of George W. Bush -- the first 43 months

 


President Bush signing a federal ban on Partial Birth Abortion

Banned Partial Birth Abortion

Reversed Clinton's move to strike Reagan's anti-abortion Mexico Policy

Stopped foreign aid that would be used to fund abortions.

Supported and upheld the ban on abortions at military hospitals

Signed E.O. reversing Clinton's policy of not requiring parental consent for abortions under the Medical Privacy Act

Killed the Kyoto Global Warming Treaty

Killed U.S. involvement in the International Criminal Court

Killed Clinton's CO2 rules that were choking off all of the electricity surplus to California

Killed Clinton's "ergonomic" rules that OSHA was about to implement; rules that would have shut down every home business in America


First Missile is Installed For NMD on July 23, 2004

Killed the U.S. - CCCP ABM Treaty that was preventing the U.S. from deploying our ABM defenses


Has CONSTRUCTION in process on the first ten ABM silos in Alaska and California so that America has a defense against North Korean nukes

President Bush pledged to Israel on 4/14/2004 that it could keep parts of the West Bank, giving international legitimacy to Jewish settlements there

Denied Palestinian refugees any right of return to what is now Israel, saying they should be resettled in a future Palestinian state instead

Part of coalition (Russia, Israel, EU, Palestine, USA) for Israeli/Palestinian "Roadmap to Peace"

Pushed through THREE raises for our military

Increased Defense Dept funding which had deteriorated during the previous 8 years

President Bush's Grand Strategy (click here)

President Bush's Environmental Record - 2004 (click here)

Signed TWO bills into law that arm our pilots with handguns in the cockpit

Currently pushing for full immunity from lawsuits for our national gun manufacturers

Ordered Attorney-General Ashcroft to formally notify the Supreme Court that the OFFICIAL U.S. government position on the 2nd Amendment is that it supports INDIVIDUAL rights to own firearms, NOT a leftist-imagined *collective* right


Told the United Nations we weren't interested in their plans for gun control (i.e. the International Ban on Small Arms Trafficking Treaty)

Signed the 2004 Omnibus Budget 1/26/2004 that now MANDATES that gun buyers' background check information be fully and permanently destroyed within 24 hours of the completion of the check, no matter what.


Disarmed Libya of its Chemical, Nuclear, and biological WMD's without bribes or bloodshed

Won an agreement that U.S. Navy sailors may now freely board thousands of commercial ships in international waters to search for weapons of mass destruction under a landmark pact between the United States and Liberia, the world's No. 2 shipping registry (signed Feb 11, 2004), and Panama 5/10/2004 http://www.nytimes.com/2004/05/11/international/americas/11ship.html).

Successfully executed 2 wars: Afghanistan and Iraq. 50 million people who had lived under tyrannical regimes now live in freedom

 

Executed a WAR ON TERROR by getting world-wide cooperation to track funds/terrorists (has cut off much of the terrorist's funding and captured or killed many key leaders of the al Qaeda network)

Bush Administration diplomacy led to the 5/25/2004 peace accord that ended a massive 20-year civil war between Sudan's Islamic north and Christian south after two million deaths Click Here

 

Brought back our EP-3 intel plane and crew from China without any bribes or bloodshed

Started withdrawing our troops from Bosnia and has announced withdrawal of our troops from Germany and the Korean DMZ.

Signed the LARGEST nuclear arms reduction in world history with Russia

Initiated comprehensive review of our military, which was completed just prior to 9/11/01, accurately reported that ASYMMETRICAL WARFARE was critical.
Created NATO's Rapid Response Force

Changed the tone in the White House, restoring HONOR and DIGNITY to the Presidency

Reorganized bureaucracy...after 9/11, condensed 20+ overlapping agencies and their intelligence sectors into one agency: the Department of Homeland Security.

Initiated discussion on privatizing Social Security and individual investment accounts.

Improving govt. efficiency with .8 million jobs put up for bid...weakening unions and cutting undeserved pay raises. Wants merit based promotions/raises only.

Orchestrated Republican control of the White House, the House AND the Senate.

Killed the liberal ABA's role in vetting federal judges for Congress.

GWB signed an executive order enforcing the Supreme Court's Beck decision (re: union dues being used for political campaigns against individual's wishes)

Turned around an inherited economy that was in recession.

Passed tough new laws to hold corporate criminals to account as a result of corporate scandals.

Signed 2 income tax cuts ---- 1 of which was the largest Dollar-value tax cut in world history

Reduced taxes on dividends and capital gains

In process of eliminating IRS marriage penalty.

Increased small business incentives to expand and to hire new people

Eliminated the Estate Tax (AKA "Death Tax") that was taking small farms and businesses from families


Signed into law the No Child Left Behind legislation delivering the most dramatic education reforms in a generation (challenging the soft bigotry of low expectations)

Reorganized the INS in an attempt to safeguard the borders and ports of America and to eliminate bureaucratic redundancies and lack of accountability.

Signed trade promotion authority

Committed US funds to purchase medicine for millions of men and women and children now suffering with AIDS in Africa

Passed Medicare Reform (authorized $39.5 Billion per year for preventive medicine such as drugs and doctor visits as well as included a ten year Privatization option)

Urging federal liability reform to eliminate frivolous lawsuits

Supports class action reform bill which limits lawyer fees so that more settlement money goes to victims


Submitted comprehensive Energy Plan--awaits Congressional action (works to develop cleaner technology, produce more natural gas here at home, make America less dependent on foreign sources of energy, improve national grid, etc.)

Endorses and promotes The Responsibility Era ("In a compassionate society, people respect one another and take responsibility for the decisions they make in life. My hope is to change the culture from one that has said, if it feels good, do it; if you've got a problem, blame somebody else -- to one in which every single American understands that he or she are responsible for the decisions that you make; you're responsible for loving your children with all your heart and all your soul; you're responsible for being involved with the quality of the education of your children; you're responsible for making sure the community in which you live is safe; you're responsible for loving your neighbor, just like you would like to be loved yourself. " -----this quote was too good to leave out)

Started the USA Freedom Corps

Initiated review of all federal agencies with a goal to eliminate federal jobs (completed September 2003) in an effort to reduce the size of federal gov while increasing private sector jobs.

Challenged the United Nations to live up to their responsibilities and not become The League of Nations ( in other words, completely irrelevant)

Nominated strong, conservative judges to the judiciary.


President Bush opened up an additional part of Alaska for domestic oil drilling. In 2004, the National Petroleum Reserve, an area west of the existing Prudhoe Bay field, was approved for new energy exploration and production.

Changed parts of the Forestry Management Act to allow necessary clean-up of the national forests in order to reduce fire danger.

As part of the national forests clean-up, the President restricted judicial challenges (based on the Endangered Species Act and other challenges) and removed the need for an EIS (Environmental Impact Statement) before removing fuels/logging to reduce fire danger.
New Forest Rules Gives States Power Over Federal Forests Inside Their Borders
Significantly eased field-testing controls of genetically engineered crops.

President Bush signed the workplace verification bill to prevent hiring of illegal Aliens
S. 1685, the Basic Pilot Extension Act of 2003, was signed by President Bush on December 3, 2003.
It extends for five years the workplace employment eligibility authorization pilot programs created in 1996. It expands the pilot programs from the original five states to all 50 states.


U.S. Forces In Baghdad

5 Legislative Days Left Until The AWB Expires

47 posted on 07/25/2004 8:59:11 AM PDT by Southack (Media Bias means that Castro won't be punished for Cuban war crimes against Black Angolans in Africa)
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To: summer
thanks for your comments here

Very kind, summer. However, I am but a mere, faint shadow to many on this forum that are far more articulate and studied in their reasoned posts and responses.

A day never passes that I am not awed and enlightened here.

48 posted on 07/25/2004 9:01:03 AM PDT by woofer
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To: summer

As long as single welfare-mothers, athiests, screeching feminists, abortion enthusiasts, Hollywood drunks, condom throwers, government-addicted minority "victims", gold-chained union thugs, France-appeasers, pornographers, and all the rest of society's losers, parasites, and weirdos constitute the Democrat "base", the Democrat Party will never be viable on a national (or even statewide) level.

The fact is that normal, traditional American families look at that Democrat base and ask themselves, "Why would we vote along with THEM?" To do so would be like taping 'kick me' signs on their own backs. Of course, there are still many normal, working, traditional Americans who DO (inexplicably) vote along with those core Democrats listed above, but as this article points out their numbers are shrinking every day. Traditional America is waking up.

All the Republicans need to do is relentlessly and mercilessly continue to show the American public the faces of the Democrat Party.


49 posted on 07/25/2004 9:34:25 AM PDT by Lancey Howard
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To: woofer
A day never passes that I am not awed and enlightened here.

Amen. I've always felt that I learn more from other Freepers than the articles posted. This article was truly remarkable, though, and I find it truly scary that these millionaire/billionaire progressive liberals are finding it so easy to buy the Democrat Party and shove socialism down the throats of the American public.

50 posted on 07/25/2004 9:39:03 AM PDT by Tamzee (Tell me honestly, Honey... do these classified documents make me look fat?)
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