(Jim Himes is running against Chris Shays in CT-04. Please welcome him in the comments, and you can make a valuable end-of-quarter contribution to his campaign here — the goal is 500 contributors by Monday night, so even $5 would be great! — jh)

Hello FDL community, and thanks very much for having me back for another liveblog. What a great way to end a year! And thanks, by the way, for your continued attention to the growing challenges our country faces and for your engagement.

The last year has been fascinating and challenging. The Bush administration and its supporters in Congress, like Chris Shays, have so wildly bungled nearly every aspect of governance that it is hard to know where to start. Our fiscal deficit has balooned, our credibility abroad has been destroyed, our economy is hostage to foreign creditors and spiralling oil prices, our Constitution has been tossed aside like so much used Christmas wrapping, and the really critical problems facing most of America–healthcare, education, rocketing energy prices–have been ignored. Seriously . . . where to start?

I certainly intend to point out that Chris Shays has been a senior member of the government oversight committee through this period. What oversight, you ask? Good question. Chris Shays’ answer was to demand the chairmanship/ranking member slot of that committee from his own party and to threaten to not run or resign if he weren’t so promoted. Is that what is meant by promotion on merit?

In all seriousness, I came across Rockwell’s "Freedoms" paintings some time ago, and I was struck by "Freedom from Fear". The paintings, of course, were based on Roosevelt’s "Four Freedoms". Fredom from Fear . . . imagine! The administration has used fear–fear of attack, fear of people who look, pray or think differently, fear of immigrants, fear of change–for so long that it’s now part of the background noise. I was in Bridgeport for a meeting with community activists a few weeks ago, and a burly African American man stood up to talk passionately about the fear he feels, the sense that government has devoted itself not to giving people like him a leg up or a catch should he fall, but to the narrow interests of people who really don’t need its help.

I think a big part of distilling the progressive message in the face of universally bungled government will consist of taking seriously the notion of Freedom from Fear, and addressing the anxiety I sense around my district by pointing out that government once not only protected the vulnerable and the needy, but did great ambitious things that benefited all of us (ironic note as I post this on the internet!). Sounds almost quaint, no?