Tuesday, June 22, 2004

Bruuuuuuuuuuuce!

If you're from the Northeast and anywhere less than 45 or so, you grew up with Bruce Springsteen. I'd do this just to have him give another concert.

I finally saw Springsteen in concert in Portland, Oregon in 2002. Broke my hand at the concert tripping UP a flight of concrete stairs, but had to stay to the end. Worth every pain-filled, self-anesthetizing (beer only) moment.

Check out this site: www.draftbruce.com or click the Bruuuuuce headline above and sign the petition!

Democrats and Faith

A Matter of Faith
By DAVID BROOKS

Published: June 22, 2004
When Bill Clinton was 8, he started taking himself to church. When he was 10, he publicly committed himself to Jesus. As a boy, he begged his Sunday school teacher to take him to see Billy Graham. And as anybody watching his book rollout knows, he still exudes religiosity. He gave Dan Rather a tour of his Little Rock church, and talked about praying in good times and bad.

More than any other leading Democrat, Bill Clinton understands the role religion actually plays in modern politics. He knows Americans want to be able to see their leaders' faith. A recent Pew survey showed that for every American who thinks politicians should talk less about religion, there are two Americans who believe politicians should talk more.

And Clinton seems to understand, as many Democrats do not, that a politician's faith isn't just about litmus test issues like abortion or gay marriage. Many people just want to know that their leader, like them, is in the fellowship of believers. Their president doesn't have to be a saint, but he does have to be a pilgrim. He does have to be engaged, as they are, in a personal voyage toward God.

Clinton made this sort of faith-based connection, at least until he sullied himself with the Lewinsky affair. He won the evangelical vote in 1992, and won it again in 1996. He understood that if Democrats are not seen as religious, they will be seen as secular Ivy League liberals, and they will lose.

John Kerry doesn't seem to get this. Many of the people running the Democratic Party don't get it either.

A recent Time magazine survey revealed that only 7 percent of Americans feel that Kerry is a man of strong religious faith. That's a catastrophic number. That number should be the first thing Kerry strategists think about when they wake up in the morning and it should be the last thing on their lips when they go to sleep at night. They should be doing everything they can to change that perception, because unless more people get a sense of Kerry's faith, they will feel no bond with him and they will be loath to trust him with their vote.

Yet his campaign does nothing. Kerry talks about jobs one week and the minimum wage the next, going about his wonky way, each day as secular as the last.

It's mind-boggling. Can't the Democratic strategists read the data? Religious involvement is a much, much more powerful predictor of how someone will vote than income, education, gender or any other social and demographic category save race.

Can't the Democratic strategists feel it in their bones how important this is? After all, when you go out among the Democratic rank and file, you find millions of Democrats who are just as religious as Republicans. It's mostly in the land of Democratic elites that you are likely to find yourself among religious illiterates.

But of course this is the problem. Forests have been felled so people could publish articles and books on the religious right's influence on the Republican Party. But as the Baruch College political scientists Louis Bolce and Gerald De Maio have suggested, the real political story of the past decade has been the growing size and cohesion of the secular left, and its growing influence on the Democratic Party.

According to the American Religious Identification Survey, the number of Americans with no religious affiliation has more than doubled since 1990. There is now a surging but unself-conscious power bloc within the Democratic Party.

Like the religious right in the Republican Party, the members of the secular left are interested primarily in social issues. What unites them more than anything else is a strong antipathy to pro-lifers and fundamentalists. While 75 percent of Americans feel little or no hostility to fundamentalists, people in this group are far more hostile to them than to other traditional Democratic bête noires, the rich or big business. They don't like to see their politicians meddling with religion in any way.

Just as Republicans have to appeal to religious conservatives but move beyond them, Democrats have to appeal to the secular left but also build a bridge to religious moderates. Bill Clinton did this. John Kerry hasn't. If you want to know why Kerry is still roughly even with Bush in the polls, even though Bush has had the worst year of any president since Nixon in 1973 or L.B.J. in 1968, this is one big reason.

Monday, June 21, 2004

Idaho Democracy - R.I.P.

From the Idaho Falls Post Register - by Marty Trillhaase

Idaho's democracy: 1890-2004

Idaho's democracy, born with such promise on July 3, 1890, passed away on May 11. It was just shy of its 114th birthday and had been in failing health for most of the past 10 years.

An autopsy revealed the following:

* Idaho's once-robust electorate had atrophied. Only half of the voters bothered to show up. Last month's primary had one of the lowest turnouts in recent years.

Voters were also less informed. They didn't read newspapers as much. Weakened by well-meaning reforms, political parties engaged in less voter education. Money took over and much of it came in big chunks from special interests. In Idaho's last election, for example, just 73 contributors provided 20 percent of the $7.85 million spent on campaigns.

* Competition disappeared. The supply of sacrificial lambs and millionaires willing to spend their own money to create the illusion of campaign contests ran out.

Sen. Mike Crapo, R-Idaho, became the first Idaho incumbent re-elected by default since the 17th Amendment to the Constitution set up direct election of senators in 1913. Democrats failed to come up with an opponent by the May 11 deadline.

For the moment, 1st District Congressman Butch Otter, R-Idaho, also has no opponent. Democrat Naomi Preston intends to withdraw. If that stands, it would be the first time since Idaho got its two congressional districts in 1918 that an incumbent won without a fight. Democrats plan to name a replacement in a couple of weeks.

And the campaign for Idaho's Legislature is all but over. Of Idaho's 70 House seats, 34 are already decided - for lack of serious opposition. Of the 35 Senate seats, 15 are essentially uncontested.

* Politicians started giving Idaho voters the brush-off. Last week, Crapo and his fellow Republican Sen. Larry Craig voted against Idaho's interests, their own governor and their fellow Idaho Republicans in the House to back the Department of Energy's ploy to leave some high-level radioactive wastes - and thereby save money - in South Carolina. It's a precedent Gov. Dirk Kempthorne said could hurt Idaho's ability to get its wastes cleaned up and removed from the INEEL.

State Senate Majority Leader Bart Davis, R-Idaho Falls, and Senate Pro Tem Bob Geddes, R-Soda Springs, pushed the state to cough up an estimated $50,000 to $60,000 to overturn the voter-passed tribal gaming initiative. Davis did so even though his own constituents supported the gaming pact.

When Kempthorne appointed his former chief of staff and Republican Ÿber lobbyist Phil Reberger to the council responsible for nominating and policing judges, nobody stopped him.

And nobody seemed all that upset about high-level appointees trading on their political connections. Kempthorne's natural resource adviser, Scott Turlington, went to work for Tamarack Resort near the Cascade Reservoir. The resort needed and got a 49-year lease of state lands during the time Turlington advised the governor.

The State Board of Education's chief academic officer, Randy Thompson, signed up as vice president for marketing and business development for the American Board for Certification of Teacher Excellence. Before that, he helped the outfit get State Board approval so it could sell computerized tests to certify Idaho's public school teachers.

Idahoans aren't condemned to this fate. They could allow parties to fill ballot vacancies more easily. And public financing of campaigns would yield a dividend of real choice at the ballot box.

But without that, this corpse is headed to the morgue.

May our late democracy rest in peace.

Marty Trillhaase

Tuesday, June 08, 2004

A Good Northwest Political Site

Randy Stapilus, longtime Idaho newspaper reporter and author has expanded his political monitoring and commentary to his new home in Oregon. He's an informed observer of Northwest politics and his site has good insider political chops.

Here's a link to his site:

www.ridenbaugh.com