Thank You Blue America

Like so many of you, I am still somewhat in awe of what we accomplished as a nation last Tuesday night. After eight long years of George Bush and Dick Cheney, of Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib, with unprecedented challenges facing us on the economy, energy, the environment, and health care — in one instant, by electing a new generation of leadership, we sent an unmistakable signal to the entire world that America is back.

I was humbled to be a part of that special night by being elected the first Democratic Congressman from Connecticut’s Fourth District in forty years. And starting in January, I will be honored to help President Obama bring change to Washington D.C. on all of these issues that need our attention now.

Early last year, Blue America got behind our campaign when my name recognition in Connecticut was in the single digits and our campaign was working out of my living room. You contributed, you volunteered, you gave us your thoughts and ideas, and last week it all paid off as together we accomplished something truly amazing — knocking off a 21-year incumbent and turning all of New England blue. For that, you have my sincerest gratitude.

One of the rookie mistakes I have already made as a Congressman-elect was thinking that, after election day, I might have a few hours to rest and recover. Not so. In the last few days the phone has been ringing off the hook with congratulatory calls, constituent requests, and media requests (including many from Peru, where I was born). Our transition team is already hard at work making sure the handover goes as smoothly as possible, because it is clear that we will need to hit the ground running starting in January.

Of course, now comes the hard part.

The challenges that President Obama and the 111th Congress will face in governing are huge. If we are going to do what we absolutely need to in order to make sure that we get our economy back on track, that middle-class families continue to have a shot at the American Dream, that our children have access to the education and health care they need to compete, that we build a green energy economy here at home, and that America leads again as a respected nation in the world — if we are going to do all of this, we simply cannot afford more of the same gridlock in D.C. In tackling these problems, I will need your input, your feedback, and your support as a Congressman just as much as I needed it as a candidate. That’s why I want to continue to have as many meaningful discussions and interactions like this with you as possible, both online and offline.

Thank you so much for your support over the past two years. I’ll be around in the comments for the next half hour to answer any questions.

Blue America Welcomes Jim Himes

(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 (more…)

FDL Book Salon Welcomes Jim Himes, Drew Westen and The Political Brain

9781586484255.jpg(Please welcome in the comments author Drew Westen, author of The Political Brain, and Jim Himes, our Blue America candidate who is running against Chris Shays in CT-04 — JH)

Two years ago, I was days away from giving a speech at the annual fundraising dinner for the affordable housing foundation that I lead in New York. I had prepared a list of our accomplishments and an explanation of our objectives. Then the story broke of Nixzmary Brown, the seven year old girl who was starved, chained and malnourished in her awful Brooklyn apartment until she was killed by a blow to her head by one of her abusive parents.

I have young children. It was a day or so before I could compose myself enough to reflect on the small ways in which decent affordable housing can help prevent the kind of outrage visited on Nixzmary. I threw away my speech and read the New York Times report of the murder to 400 people. I really didn’t know what else to say. I asked how that could happen, and whether we were doing all we could to prevent it. I don’t think I was conventionally articulate. But I was moved.

You could hear a pin drop. The brief story of Nixzmary’s short life touched (and outraged) nearly every deeply embedded emotion and value we have: fairness, protection of the weak, concern for children, personal responsibility. That evening changed the way people in that room thought about affordable housing, which is usually far less viscerally appealing to donors than hunger, education or healthcare. And visceral is what it is all about, according to Drew Westen’s fascinating new book, The Political Brain.

Westen, who is completely upfront about being a deeply committed Democrat, has written a devastating critique of the Democratic Party, its candidates and their consultants. It is the job of political parties and their candidates to literally and figuratively move voters, and Westen argues that voters are not primarily moved by facts but by appeals to deep seated values and emotions, what Westen calls “activating networks”.

He uses example after example to illustrate the Democratic penchant for being really smart but leaving people absolutely cold. Think Mondale, Dukakis, Gore, Kerry: smart as hell and yet they lost. He accuses Democrats of having a “dispassionate vision of the mind”, that is, assuming that people carefully and rationally weigh candidates’ policy proposals to determine which will maximize their individual utility. In fact, he argues, voting decisions are driven by a complicated interaction of values, emotions, images, analogies and oratory, in which logic is only a bit player. Bill Clinton, of course, is the Democratic exception that proves this rule.