I argued (obviously unsuccessfully) in 1996 and 2000 that the Democratic Party should be defined as the party that believes in the power of government to change peoples' lives for the better. Government in the right hands can dramatically improve the lives of our citizens, and Democrats could and should be articulating positions in which government acts in a manner to improve our collective plight.
Republicans on the other hand espouse a philosophy of less government, with the individual and the private sector stepping up to improve the quality of lives (remember the "Thousand Points of Light" speech?). Political philosophy helps define positions on issues so that elections can be about competing philosophies rather than single-issue referendums.
There is nothing wrong with two powerful political parties debating the great issues of the day through this fundamental framework. Democrats should never be ashamed to propose innovative solutions to big problems through the effective use of government. Republicans should never be ashamed to oppose government programs in favor of more effective solutions through nongovernment means.
But when a political party sacrifices its quintessential philosophy in favor of a marketing campaign designed to admit anyone and everyone into the tent in hope of staying in the majority, then that party is destined for failure.
West Virginia Democrats need to explain why government involvement in health insurance is a good thing for most West Virginia citizens and small businesses -- not simply rail against "Obamacare" like Rush Limbaugh on speed.
Democrats need to explain why government investments in education benefit the overall economy of the state. With government inspecting our meat supply, testing our drugs before they are approved for sale, building our roads and bridges, and providing a police and military to keep us safe, Democrats can make a case for the use of government as a positive force in our lives and the lives of our children and grandchildren.
Please stop with the big-tent mentality while there is still a chance to save the Democratic Party in West Virginia. Otherwise let's all simply agree to throw Sen. Rockefeller a nice retirement party, sign up to work for Jeb Bush, and start serving tea at our parties.
Lees is a Charleston lawyer long involved in Democratic politics and West Virginia reform issues.