So tonight, Eric Alterman was in San Francisco at A Clean, Well-Lighted Place for Books to promote the aforementioned The Book on Bush, the new opus penned by himself and Mark Green. I have only read the first few pages, but it looks to be worth the cash.

A couple of caveats to begin with. The first weblog I ever noticed (completely by accident, I might add) was Altercation. That was over two years ago, and now I spend a (too) large portion of damn near every day both reading weblogs and posting on them and of course, posting on my own. And since I try to find articles or opinions that aren't already covered everywhere else, I spend a lot of time scanning the political or national news pages, often to no avail. Fortunately, I'm a night owl, so I tend to read tomorrow's news before I go to bed and talk about it here so if nothing else, I beat a lot of these guys to the punch.

Not that it does me a damn bit of good.

But back to Alterman. He's gotten a lot of crap from Dean supporters both at Altercation and at Kos for what we perceive is his having it in for Dean. I still think that at one time he did have it it for him, but one thing has always come through in his writing, and its making its way to the forefront more clearly now--Alterman likes what Dean did for the party last year. He loves it, in fact. Tonight he gave Dean effusive credit more than once for lighting the fire beneath the Democratic party in general and under the two leading candidates for the nomination in particular.

What he didn't like was Dean the candidate. I disagree of course, but that's what this whole primary thing is about. But the overall message Alterman conveyed was that because of people like Dean, we come into this election year with hope, hope we didn't have after election day 2002. We know it won't be easy to unseat Bush, but at least now we feel we've got a fighting chance. We feel like we can take it to the radicals in charge and come out ahead.

Alterman's also glad that the Democratic primary battle is shaping up the way it has thus far, for the same reasons many other pundits are glad. the longer it goes on, the more the Democratic party message gets out there, and when the election is about message, we win, because the American people agree with us on the substantive issues. Our problem is and has been for a long while now, framing the debate.

So how do we do it? Here's an idea, courtesy of Alterman. When we're talking about taxes, don't talk about "the rich" or "the middle class." Those terms are vague and too many people who don't fall into those categories think they do and so are afraid they're in for a hike. Put a hard number on it. When people ask if their taxes are going to go up, tell them that if they make more than $200K a year, the answer is yes (I think that number should be half that, but that's another story), and that if you want to keep more of your tax money instead of putting it into infrastructure and security and education, then you need to vote Republican. They probably do anyway, so it's no great loss.

But if they make less, then tell them no and mean it. That's how you frame the debate.

But we're not there yet. There's a lot of road between now and November, and who knows what kind of crap lays ahead of us. The media is doing a better job recently, but we can't count on them to keep it up. Bloggers are doing their part to hold journalists' feet to the fire, but it takes more than that. It takes an informed electorate to make sure the current charade comes to an end. Instruct yourselves.

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