A National Party of Opposition, a Local Party of IdeasLiving in a Country dominated by Republicans, there is an intriguing debate going on the blogosphere about whether Democrats should be a party of ideas, or a part of opposition. People like Chris Bowers have, to my mind, spoken pretty convincingly about why we need our Democratic Senators and Congressman to adhere to that party of opposition viewpoint. Simply put, nationally, we do not control the debate and do not have the votes. As such we simply have to keep fighting tooth and nail to maintain as much of our past gains as we can. Any new ideas or policies that we have will either be stolen (at very best), ignored, or twisted around, and introduced as legislation called "Clear Skies" or "No Child Left Behind." Nationally, in the world of George W. Bush, our best case scenario is to present an aggressive, united, line of defense.
Locally, however, this is not the case. Here is where Democratic ideas can flourish. Here is where we can have policy and politician incubators, so that when it is our time to lead again, we have a sense of what, and who, we need to see our collective vision for the Country succeed. This incubation happens on a State level (think Vermont giving insurance to all), or on a more local one (such as the City of Philadelphia providing affordable Wi-Fi to all City residents).
Democrats will always win in places like Philadelphia. But we need to ensure that these leaders are not only serving local needs, but understand that in the grand scheme of things, they are serving a much broader purpose: they, and their policies, are the future of the Democratic Party. Having patronage driven, vision-less, ineffective, and yeah -conservative- Democrats, representing us on local levels provides quite a dim vision for the future. Just the opposite, having local politicians who understand the need for reform, for engaging their community and for challenging the status quo, give us a future to look forward to. That is why we need to think big about the Mayoral race in 2007. And, much more pressing, why we need Seth Williams as District Attorney. He is the complete package- experienced, idea-driven, progressive, and simply a fundamentally decent man. We have a chance in three weeks to make a statement about what kind of City we want, and what kind of party we are, and I hope we do not blow it.
I have previously laid out plenty of reasons for Seth, so I will not bore you with more. But, again, a few quotes of his that I always come back to:
I'm running for District Attorney to bring the criminal justice system into the 21st century. Today, it's not enough to be "tough" on crime. We have to be smart. After more than a decade as a Philadelphia prosecutor, I know what it takes to make the system work for all Philadelphians. It takes partnerships within each community -- with town watches, schools, police and neighborhood organizations -- to build a justice system that works just as hard to prevent crime as it does punishing criminals.In the above, you can almost take out the criminal justice system, and insert "Democratic Party." It is not enough to be tough on crime, and on a local level, it is not enough to simply have Democrats in office. We need more.
And, of course, there is this, and why I think we can pull in people from outside of the Philadelphia borders:
As one of the most visible faces of national law enforcement and the head of the largest law firm in Pennsylvania, the DA has a special obligation to be a leading advocate for justice reform and modernization in Washington and Harrisburg.With great coverage in the Inquirer, and with events like this weekend's large motorcade, Seth is clearly gaining momentum. It is up to us to help him keep pushing the envelope, both for the future of Philadelphia, and for the future of the Democratic party.
Building on all of this, and on the previous Day of Action, we are going to attempt to nationalize this race. I cannot give all the details immediately, because they are not completely fleshed out. But, Democrats in more places than Philadelphia have a stake in this race. And, as a result of that, we are going to try to put something to the test: Can we mobilze a national group of grassroots activists to a local cause? Especially when, in a election where 100,000 votes gives us the win, we can make a real, tangible difference? Philly bloggers came together in an unprecedented manner last week. And now, with some help from our national friends, we will see just how powerful a combination of national and very local blogs can be.