Campaign Crawlers

Adventures in Harvard America

Efforts to rebuild the Democratic Party run short of building materials.

By 4.7.05

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BOSTON -- Try as I might I could not find the Harvard Law School Democrats' conference on "Re-Building the Democratic Party and the Left," but I did come across a few others who likewise couldn't get to Point B. The whole thing seemed oddly appropriate; lost, wandering around Harvard unable to get to where I wanted to be. Make Harvard America, me a liberal Democrat and the mysterious conference building the White House and you've got yourself a metaphor.

I can't say I was terribly broken up about missing yet another event wherein Joe Trippi explains how the Internet would have saved the world from George W. Bush if only Howard Dean hadn't fired him. Later, however, when I went to the website of the Principles Project, a group on hand at the Harvard conference to push its Declaration of Progressive Principles, I got a feel for what these folks were pushing.

Ostensibly built to elucidate the clearly superior progressive values (i.e. "If only we could get our message out no Republican would ever, ever win again") it's a bit on the fluffy side. So I attempt below to translate, for a non-progressive, heartless conservative audience, a few of its main points:

We believe in defending dignity: We believe in America's historic promise of liberty, justice and the expansion of opportunity for all people. These commitments to fundamental human dignity and a better nation for all animate the American spirit and give us a sense of common purpose.

What a bravo beginning! Surely an opening like this will turn the tide in the Democrats' favor. After all these years of listening to Republicans go unchallenged as they called for the end of liberty, the contraction of justice, and the imposition of fundamental human indignity, progressives have finally found a purpose in life!

We honor these commitments by recognizing that with the great freedoms afforded us comes an even greater responsibility to see that those freedoms are extended to all people in all places.

Okay, was I wrong to expect something a bit heavier than warmed-over paraphrased Spiderman? I realize Uncle Ben -- who told Peter Parker in the film, "With great power comes great responsibility" -- was unemployed, but that doesn't necessarily mean he was a Democrat. And even if he were he wouldn't run a campaign for such traditional superhero adversaries as either the Joker or the Riddler, both of whom, I understand, are frontrunners for the Democrats' 2008 nomination.

All people have the right to lead their personal lives in accordance with their own beliefs, free from imposition or monitoring by others.

Government expansion is going to do that for us? It's so counterintuitive it just might work! So first we abolish the IRS and then, along with the Department of Peace, let's open a Department of Government Intrusion. It will be a bureaucracy charged with tying up all other government bureaucracies with paperwork. How does $40 billion a year sound for a starting budget? Don't worry! George W. Bush doesn't do vetoes!

All people have a right to the basic necessities required to lead dignified lives and to pursue happiness.

Boy, I could have fun defining this one for the government schlub who shows up at my door to find out what "basic necessities" I need to lead a "dignified life" and "pursue happiness." I'm going to start with an overhaul of my home entertainment system and some Chilis' gift certificates. Also, to bolster my self-esteem, can I get a friendly Hallmark picker upper card from the government along with my Social Security updates? I take checks in U.S. dollars and Yen.

We believe in strengthening democracy

Radicals! Strengthen democracy?! Never!

It is the shared responsibility of a nation to ensure each citizen's freedom, security and equality.

Is this a ploy for the militia movement vote? If so, is it a militia where we'll just sign online petitions for tax increases, or will we actually get to shoot guns and have bunkers. I want an answer before I sign up.

Through government, we honor our responsibility to promote the common good.

Yawn. Why don't you think that one through a bit more while taking a midnight stroll through a government housing project?

Government must be transparent, accessible and open to all citizens who wish to oversee its workings and share in its benefits.

Any fears I had about Sandy Berger having a hand in drafting this just dissipated.

America must work to enhance the democratic process by ensuring an educated citizenry, equal opportunity for influence, honest public debate, competitive elections and robust civic participation.

To paraphrase Thomas Frank, bestselling author of The People Are Too Stupid to Figure Out What's Best For Them, a.k.a. What's Wrong With Kansas?, educated people are people who vote Democratic, the "public debate" is "honest" when Democrats come out on top, and "civic participation" is "robust" when Democrats win.

A healthy democracy requires tireless vigilance against corruption and abuses of power, and a government that is accountable to its people.

Does this mean if I help vote progressives into office I might finally get an answer on why tanks and military snipers were sent in to Waco and Ruby Ridge? And to think all that happened before John Ashcroft or the Patriot Act!

We believe in promoting progress.

No, seriously, do you have a point? Is there an anti-progress voting block I'm unaware of?

We must promote innovation and entrepreneurship, cultivate the arts and sciences, and ensure a quality education for everyone. When we invest in individual potential, the benefits are shared by all.

Wait, I thought it was "through government" that "we honor our responsibility to promote the common good." This sounds like you might actually let some businesses escape the great nationalization of resources, comrade! How kind! How benevolent!

America must continue to be a welcoming home to all people. We believe that diversity of faith, culture and perspective enriches our nation.

Whatever culture or faith you are, though, realize we want all the states as blue as a cloudless sky.

America must keep a watchful eye on the economy to ensure fairness, transparency and genuine opportunity for all.

Translation: Tax the bejesus out of the rich and give lazy people money so they don't feel bad about themselves.

Each generation has a duty to protect and improve those resources we hold in common -- our community spaces, our public institutions and our natural environment.

This last is fraught with contradictions. Perhaps the best thing we could do for our natural environment, for example, would be to stop mowing our community spaces. Give the park back to the squirrels. Or maybe our natural environment is getting in the way of the expansion of our public institutions. After all, we need land for the new wing George W. Bush and Teddy Kennedy are building onto the Department of Education.

All this and I still haven't gotten to the section on foreign policy. Pity, but then again, you probably can guess what it says. And, of course, there's always tomorrow.

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