Democrats, environmentalists, and other left-leaning sorts are arguing heatedly over whether to move the party to the left or to the right in the wake of the election (those who aren’t arguing over whether the election was legitimate, that is).  One wag challenged those who disapprove of any rightward slide to ask themselves: “What states did John Kerry lose that Howard Dean would have won?”

I find this line of argument terrifying.  If we have to make the left into the right in order to win, I don’t want to win.  The problem isn’t Dean or Kerry.  The problem is that the left has utterly, drastically failed to generate a broadly compelling discourse about America.  We absolutely could do that — could saturate the nation with a democratic (small d and large) vision of justice, fairness, hardwork, opportunity, creativity, exploration, unity, diversity, solidarity, and success.  We could also expose the current far-right agenda for what it is really about: fear, control, cronyism, corruption, exploitation, homogeneity, and government and corporate control.

Instead, we’re squirming around inside the narrowminded narrative of the right, trying to carve out some tiny, safe, identifiable space that is ours.  It’ll never happen.  We can’t beat them on their terms — only when we begin to define the rules of the game.