Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Outlander of the Day ~ Joe Turnham

Pictured to the left is Alabama Democratic Party Chairman Joe Turnham. Joe nearly won his race against Mike Rogers in 2002 which would have him in DC representing Alabama's 3rd District. I supported him in 1998 when he ran against Bob Riley for that same seat. Joe is of course the son of long time Alabama pol Pete Turnham. Pete served in Alabama's House for some forty years! I supported Joe and would perhaps support him again. However, today I'm wondering what the hell he's doing "leading" the Alabama Democratic Party.

Per Danny, here is what Joe Turnham said today that has my Scots up:

“While I respect Guiliani’s record as mayor of New York City, I am surprised that his liberal record on abortion, gun rights, and illegal immigration would find such a warm reception among Alabama Republicans. In fact, I believe all the leading Democratic candidates are more in line with Alabama values than Rudy Giuliani.”
I'll let the "I respect" mess go beyond wondering if Joe could have not run with plenty of Rudy's record there in NYC (hardly a perfect one Joe!), his business profiteering, Rudy's ties to Bernard Kerik ...? Giuliani's positions on reproductive choice, reasonable restrictions on assault weapons, and comprehensive immigration reforms are hardly where I'd attack him as even here in Alabama you'll actually get a rather broad spectrum of opinions.

Here's the problem I've got ... Why use "liberal record" and "Alabama values" in this statement and in this context? What do those phrases mean? Not only does it seem that Joe is using the frames of the right, he is more importantly also missing a chance to talk up a vision of our party that embraces Progressivism and/or Populism. I've mentioned before that the Alabama Democratic Party "leadership" seems to favor Republican Lite strategies yet Joe has had days to prepare for this opportunity. And this is the best he could do?

Why does Joe so easily fall right into the "liberal" label trap the Republicans have been laying for us for so very long? First of all, I'm a proud liberal. Here's the definition:
Liberal: adj. 1. relating to or having social and political views that favor progress and reform. 2. relating to or having policies or views advocating individual freedom. 3. giving and generous in temperament or behavior. 4. tolerant of other people. (Collins Concise English Dictionary)
Even if Joe wants to run from "liberal", and I'm not sure what the Alabama Democratic Party is about if the Chairperson does, allowing an opponent to frame what constructs mean is often fatal. We lefty types can't get past the language often and darned if we didn't do the framing for them in this case.

Somebody please buy Joe this book, this book, this book... We'll hope he'll visit Rockridge Institute and study up on Professor George Lakoff's work on framing. Surely in Alabama the biconceptualism material is an area he'll want to master. Read some Paul Krugman Joe. There are plenty more yet these will do for a start. Think of our role in the national picture for the party please. Please!

Alabama values? What are those? I don't expect Joe to talk negatively about the state and yet we've hardly been doing everything we should do here. And what of universal values like fair play, justice, education, environmentalism, affordable health care, diversity, broad prosperity, opportunity, tolerance, engagement, independence from foreign/fossil oil, open government ... ?

I can't promise that if Joe and the balance of the leadership in our party will get with the program then Progressivism/Populism will once again immediately get a foothold in Alabama. But I can promise you that continuing to head right, all the while falling for the right wing traps and frames, dooms this state party and perhaps the state as a whole. Economic Populism and Proud Progressivism is the way Joe. Peace ... or War!

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