Why are the guys who said environmentalism was dead now advising the Democrats on moral values?  I never did understand all the stuff about their environmentalism criticism, but I know it very much irritated me.  

First, here is what I read in The American Prospect today. I nearly threw up my arms in despair over this article.  It sounds like the Third Way is about to have its way with the Democratic policy.  Third Way..that is the DLC/PPI wing.  It is a long article, so just a couple of bits.  Then something about this group’s environmental stuff.

My fear is that getting us to back off issues that are vital to our country and concentrate on “moral values”, we will be playing right into the hands of the GOP.  Maybe that is the intent of some. This is already happening, and if they have not even come out with their report yet….just imagine how much more moral stuff we will be talking.  I am very much into issues right now, health care, jobs, equal rights.
I want our Democrats to leave the strategists like this behind and listen to us.  

Remapping the Culture Debate

In the great debate about how Democrats can stage a comeback (beyond simply waiting for the coming Republican implosion that never seems to arrive), American Environics rejected some of the more popular recommendations out there. Rather than focusing on reframing the Democratic message, as Berkeley linguistics and cognitive science professor George Lakoff has recommended, or on redoubling Democratic efforts to persuade Americans to become economic populists, as another school of thought suggests, the American Environics team argued that the way to move voters on progressive issues is to sometimes set aside policies in favor of values. By focusing on “bridge values,” they say, progressives can reach out to constituents of opportunity who share certain fundamental beliefs, even if the targeted parties don’t necessarily share progressives’ every last goal. In that assessment, Shellenberger and Nordhaus are representative of an increasingly influential school of thought within the Democratic Party.

By the beginning of fall 2005, American Environics had presented its data to key Democratic leaders and a who’s who of Democratic interest groups: Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, the NDN (formerly the New Democratic Network), Third Way, Planned Parenthood, the Center for American Progress, People for the American Way, the Economic Policy Institute, and OMB Watch. They did so quietly, swearing their viewers to silence. (They will be releasing the data publicly early in 2006.) Few media outlets saw the presentations, but the Prospect was given an early copy of their research.

The data contradicted the slew of polls that show Americans to be strong supporters of Democratic issue positions, such as universal health care, despite voting habits that have made Republicans the dominant political actors. Instead, American Environics’ extensive plumbing of Americans’ attitudes laid out a darker, more nuanced vision of what the nation actually believes. Far from being a purely dour assessment, though, in it can be found the seeds of a new understanding of the interrelationship of culture, the economy, and politics — broadly defined — that should give progressives hope.

Sometimes I want to stand up and scream and shout, and I want to tell our Democrats to quit sounding hesitant, quit listening to strategists and just say what you think and believe.  The article devoted a paragraph to the moral values of Tim Kaine.  All well and good, but he is about to sign into law a bill that restricts gay marriage.  And in the process his aide made sure to say that he does not approve of civil unions.  That is going against the grain of the majority of the country, who do approve of civil rights for this group.

Now to the question of why is the same strategy group which environmentalism is dead, now advising the Democratic groups on moral and religious values.  Here is more about those strategists who swore these groups to secrecy on the upcoming policy.

Ted Nordhaus, a self-proclaimed “recovering pollster,” and Michael Shellenberger, a former San Francisco public relations executive, began quietly sending out e-mails in the spring of 2005. Love your work, they’d write people they thought would be like-minded. We should meet. The duo had created a minor stir that fall with the essay “The Death of Environmentalism,” which took environmental interest groups to task for being out of touch. After having been dubbed “the reapers” by critics for their grim diagnosis of the health of the very progressive community of which they had long been part, they were interested in forging new networks. But they also had a new project in the works, one that may ultimately prove far more significant than “Death,” now slated for book publication by Houghton Mifflin in 2007.

In April 2005, Nordhaus left his job at the opinion research firm Evans/McDonough Company to start, along with Shellenberger, an American branch of the Canadian market research behemoth Environics, which specializes in the study of consumer behavior, right down to the level of “neighborhood lifestyle segmentation.” Though such data are not collected on behalf of political figures, it’s the kind of information political operatives often use to slice and dice the electorate into ever thinner pieces. Similar data allowed Republicans in 2004 to make sure they targeted last-minute calls and fliers to domestic SUV-drivers, subscribers to hunting magazines, and women who watch Will and Grace. American Environics intended to use the detailed data its parent company had collected since 1992 for a different purpose, however: to challenge progressive interest-group orthodoxies and the progressive movement itself.

That is from the above article at TAP.  I don’t understand all they are saying, it sounds like political spin to me instead of standing up for what we believe as Democrats.  Always targeting.  

Here is more about their previous stance the environment.  I did not really like their attitude on that subject, and I feel a few spins coming out this year on issues and policies.  None of it seems to be about the people…us…it just seems to be geared toward those we might reach who are not already party members.  Getting tiresome.
From Salon:

Dead movement walking?

Roiled by harsh internal criticism and confronting four more years of Bush, environmentalists face a dark night of the soul.

…”For instance, instead of presenting the nightmare future that will result if America doesn’t take action on global warming — soon! now! yesterday! — environmentalists need to change the conversation: “We don’t have to talk about global warming,” Shellenberger says. “What we need to talk about is what we want America to look like: what a sustainable, economically prosperous America looks like in the 21st century, and what we need to do to get there. And we need to articulate that in the context of a vision that does something about global warming, but also, more importantly to the average American, offers something more than that to them, offers them hope for their own future, for the kind of life they want to live.”

Werbach, who is friends with Shellenberger and Nordhaus, echoed that think-positive sentiment in his talk to the Commonwealth Club: “I have come to believe, after a decade’s work on this issue, that saving ourselves depends not on our ability to shock but rather to inspire.”

But if you have trouble imagining a message that could get millions of Americans excited and simultaneously fight global environmental destruction, you’re not the only one.

“It’s hard to get aspirational around Love Canal. It’s hard to get aspirational around the destruction of temperate rain forests around the world. You can’t gloss over the problems,” says Christina Desser, a member of the San Francisco Commission on the Environment who was the executive director of Earth Day in 1990.  And it’s hard to get hopeful about the heating up of the climate. “Global warming is the hardest issue that I’ve ever worked on, and I don’t think that anyone who works on global warming thinks that we’re winning, but we also know that we can’t give up,” says Dan Becker, director of the Sierra Club’s global warming program. Baker, one of 25 environmentalists interviewed for Shellenberger and Nordhaus’ paper, felt misused by it. “I think that it’s hard to solve an issue without ever naming the issue,” he says.

They reveal something near the end of the TAP interview, which shows they are not listening to the core of the Democratic Party.  I will put this portion, and it says it all about what they are doing.  Twisting and spinning, tired of it. It is a different pollster, but same thing after all.

In the spring of 2005 Kaine’s pollster, Peter Brodnitz, of the polling firm Benenson Strategy Group, decided that the campaign needed to develop a strategy to handle such charges. It convened a focus group of white, conservative, religious voters, and explored different ways Kaine could reach out to them. The result was startling. Brodnitz found that once Kaine started talking about his religious background and explaining that his opposition to the death penalty grew out of his Catholic faith, not only did charges that he was weak on crime fail to stick, but he became inoculated against a host of related charges that typically plague and undermine the campaigns of Democratic candidates. “Once people understood the values system that the position grew out of, they understood that’s he’s not a liberal,” says Brodnitz. “We couldn’t even convince them he was a liberal once we’d done that.”

It convened a focus group of white, conservative, religious voters, and explored different ways Kaine could reach out to them.

That says it all.

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