October 12, 2003


Notion Building (MATT BAI, 10/12/03, NY Times Magazine)

''The rise of the machinery of ideas on the right has been impressive,'' Podesta told the gathering, to nods of assent. ''People have noticed it, and we have talked about it. But we haven't really found the vehicles to compete with what's coming at us.''

Going back to Barry Goldwater, Podesta said, conservatives ''built up institutions with a lot of influence, a lot of ideas. And they generated a lot of money to get out those ideas. It didn't happen by accident. And I think it's had a substantial effect on why we have a conservative party that controls the White House and the Congress and is making substantial efforts to control the judiciary.''

Podesta laid out his plan for what he likes to call a ''think tank on steroids.'' Emulating those conservative institutions, he said, a message-oriented war room will send out a daily briefing to refute the positions and arguments of the right. An aggressive media department will book liberal thinkers on cable TV. There will be an ''edgy'' Web site and a policy shop to formulate strong positions on foreign and domestic issues. In addition, Podesta explained how he would recruit hundreds of fellows and scholars -- some in residence and others spread around the country -- to research and promote new progressive policy ideas. American Progress is slated to operate with a $10 million budget next year, raised from big donors like the financier George Soros.

''The question I'm asked most often is, When are we getting our eight words?'' Podesta said. Conservatives, he went on, ''have their eight words in a bumper sticker: 'Less government. Lower taxes. Less welfare. And so on.' Where's our eight-word bumper sticker? Well, it's harder for us, because we believe in a lot more things.'' The Center for American Progress, Podesta said, was concerned with articulating these principles carefully, over time, rather than rushing out an agenda to help win an election in 2004. ''We're trying to build an idea base for the longer term,'' he said, to bring about ''an enduring progressive majority.''

The problem for the Left is that everyone knows what those eight words are and they just aren't terribly popular in much of America: "More government. More Taxes. More welfare. And so on." The more forthright the Democratic Party is about what it believes in, the more it becomes a party of those groups that depend on government and, on the one hand, that's enough to remain a force in politics because enough people do so, but, on the other, it's hard to form a governing majority out of groups that really only care about receiving their own checks, not about broader ideological issues.

Posted by Orrin Judd at October 12, 2003 5:59 AM

Podesta: "we believe in a lot more things."

Yes, and they want us to pay for them all.

Posted by: Jerome Howard at October 12, 2003 3:47 PM

Conservatives, he went on, ''have their eight words in a bumper sticker:'Less government. Lower taxes. Less welfare. And so on.'

Not only that but liberals can't count. The above slogan is 9 words

Posted by: Robert Schwartz at October 12, 2003 9:06 PM

If only... The modern Democratic Party is the party of the state. The confusion they have between love of country and love of Washingto,D.C. is troubling. Higher taxes, freedom concieved as a government cost and the belief that the nation consists of groups to be ecouraged in their grievances is the Democratic Party. It's no way to go through life or to govern.

Posted by: Tom C., Stamford,Ct. at October 13, 2003 3:22 PM