Wednesday, January 04, 2006

 

Opening Day

Welcome to my blog. On the off chance you are not a family member or an insomniatic friend, I thought it might be useful to tell you a little about who I am, what I aim to communicate in this forum, and how I hope to illuminate in some small measure the inanities and insanities of American politics today.

I come to the blogosphere and political commentary with an inside-out perspective -- as a former reporter turned Capitol Hill staffer turned exiled consultant; and as a free-thinking, orthodoxy-challenging Democrat (yes we still exist, most evidence on the Web to the contrary).

[FYI: Here is my full bio.]

I spent my first four years out of college (Harvard ’89) reporting for the Hartford Courant before getting seduced by the promise and energy of the Clinton campaign in 1992, which made me realize I was too passionate about big issues to continue sitting on the sidelines and feigning objectivity. In Clinton the candidate, I did not see a different kind of Democrat, I saw a different kind of politician – one who had the potential to unchain our deadlocked, braid-dead system and actually translate new ideas into social progress. (What 42 did with that potential is subject for a longer conversation to come.)

So I made the leap to the other side and hooked on with my home state senator, Joe Lieberman, with whom I spent 10 incredibly rewarding and simultaneously frustrating years. During that time, I advised Lieberman on education, communication, and social/cultural policy; wrote speeches; managed his Senate press operation; had a front row seat to the ugliness of the Lewinsky scandal and impeachment drama; served as national spokesman for Lieberman's vice presidential campaign in 2000 and a senior strategist on his presidential campaign in 2003-04; and constantly struggled with how to hold onto my ideals in an increasingly warped and amoral environment.

I lasted as long as I could, largely out of loyalty to my boss. His integrity, while widely and rightly praised by many outside observers, can only truly be appreciated by watching up close how he withstood the overwhelming and omnipresent pressure to do the expedient and self-serving thing to stand by his convictions and try to serve the larger public interest.

But after a decade the weight of all the Beltway bullshit grew too much to take: the empty triumph of ideology and spin over ideas and facts -- and the shallow, reflexive thinking and vacuous, repetitive debates it produces; the routine failures to bridge differences and forge meaningful common ground – and the ritualistic dance of denial and blame that follows; the cynical, manipulative campaigns of fear, smear and scandal -- and the perverse and pervasive win-at-all-costs mentality that fuels them.

The last disillusioning straw was the outrageously disrespectful way Lieberman was treated by the party in the 2004 Democratic primary process. Here was a model leader and loyal Democrat who had marched with MLK and devoted his life to advancing the party’s core values of opportunity and freedom and tolerance, yet was persistently vilified by the activist base as a sell-out and a traitor primarily for standing by his vote to authorize the use of force against Iraq. (Unlike some of the other leading primary candidates, who cynically wilted and waffled on that issue to curry favor with anti-war voters).

I knew then that I was officially homeless politically. I also knew that to preserve my mental health I had to get out of town. (For a fuller explanation of why I left Washington, you can read a speech on the subject I gave almost a year ago at Penn’s Fels Institute of Government.) So I moved to New York, where I ended up launching my own commnications consulting practice, which specializes in advising non-profits and advocacy groups on how to win public arguments.

[For more background on Dan Gerstein Consulting, go to my website: www.DanGerstein.com]

The move has been liberating – in more ways than one. The distance enabled me to fully appreciate just how perverted our national politics had become. More importantly, with the freedom that comes from having nothing left to lose, I have had an opportunity as an unaffiliated pundit to share my inside-out perspective on what’s wrong with the Democratic Party and our political system as a whole and offer some ideas on how to deal with the dysfunction. [Here is a sampling of my offline commentaries, including three op-eds published in the Wall Street Journal.]

I decided this was the best way for me to apply my experience and knowledge as an ex-insider and continue making a contribution – to put a name to what too many people still working in public life are avoiding or denying, to make and articulate moral judgments, and to help push our polity in a different direction.

In doing so, I have tried to avoid the gratuitous personal attacks that have become standard fare in so much political commentary, while speaking candidly and at times provocatively about sensitive subjects and challenging preconceived notions.

That, in a nutshell, will be the focus of this blog. Dangerous Thoughts is a play on my name/web address, but it’s also an aspiration. I want to do my part – on a regular basis -- to shake things up. To inject into major debates of the day ideas and arguments that are literally politically incorrect, that threaten intellectual dishonesties and reflexive assumptions, and that hopefully can in some way enlighten and enrich our public discourse.

I obviously have a special interest in the future of the Democratic Party, and I plan on engaging some of my more traditional-leaning friends in a spirited yet respectful dialogue about the direction and duties of the donkey set and what it means to be a true progressive. But I will also speak with equal force and frequency to the follies of President Bush and the Republicans, as well as the general foibles of American politics. I am a not a partisan (except when it comes to the Red Sox), and I don’t intend to blog like one.

Along the way, I will weigh in on the bigger cultural controversies of the moment that are tinged with political overtones and touch on the deep values divisions plaguing our society – such as the fight over intelligent design, the so-called War on Christmas, and the Terry Schiavo tragedy. These conflicts desperately need some light to go with the heat they generate, especially on the Democratic side, and I’d like to see if I can help add to the dignity and understanding of these discussions.

I hope you find what I have to say interesting, informative, and ideally constructive. If you do, or even if you don’t, please feel free to share your feedback with me. I welcome different perspectives – and often learn from them.

Thanks again for visiting. And away we go……

Comments:
Will unfunny parrot jokes be a separate category?



http://blogs.courant.com/colin_mcenroe_to_wit/
 
Site looks great. And the content is even better. I look forward to making this site the second of the two blogs I read regularly. The other one, Red State Rabble, at http://redstaterabble.blogspot.com/, is an excellent place to go for the Intelligent Design Debate with a Kansas perspective.
 
Can anyone point me to a good lobster restaurant where I can sit back, relax, and contemplate the claim that the only reason Lieberman is considered a sellout is because of one vote on the war?
 
Just what the world needs, another partisan Red Sox fan. Good luck Dan, I'm sure this will be a hit even if your favorite baseball team couldn't pull the trigger to keep Johnny Damon.
 
Unfunny parrot jokes are permanently barred, as are lame references to them.

Servings of Lobster are welcome, though, as are crow.
 
Welcome! I look forward to your views. Joe Lieberman and a comparison of party planks is the only reason I remain a Democrat at this time.
 
In doing so, I have tried to avoid the gratuitous personal attacks that have become standard fare in so much political commentary, while speaking candidly and at times provocatively about sensitive subjects and challenging preconceived notions.

Ok.

and as an free-thinking, orthodoxy-challenging Democrat (yes we still exist, most evidence on the Web to the contrary).

Smearing everyone who publishes on the web while pointing to your own integrity as above personal attacks? Great start to your blog!
 
keep up the great work!
 
A collection of Bloggers and political operatives are talking about forming a national Centrist PAC to raise money and votes for Centrist candidates of either party. Maybe bridge the gap between the DLC and the RMSP. This could go nowhere or it could explode into a meaningful force.

If you are interested let me know at pjsilver@yahoo.com
 
Dan, when are you going to take on Sheldon Silver? And that disgraceful mess known as the New York State Legislature?
 
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