Last September, I put Commonwealth Commonsense on what I thought would be a two-month hiatus, as I worked on David Poisson’s campaign for the House of Delegates. But then I couldn’t resist the temptation to spend the winter at the lovely Richmond sausage factory, so CC remained on hold.

While there, I came to the conclusion that despite the gifts of incompetence and reactionary ideology bestowed by House Republicans, Virginia Democrats must craft a compelling narrative and policy ideas to win control of the General Assembly before the next redistricting. The challenges are similar to those facing the national Democrats. Fair or not, “Democrats don’t have a message” is so ingrained in the collective public and media psyche, that without rising to that challenge, progressives will find it nearly impossible to win enough Republicans and independent voters in 140 precisely carved districts to become the majority. And if they do so without the message, they’ll be on shaky ground. Being the “other guy” is not the foundation for a lasting political power base.

My thoughts are echoed in a provocative paper recently published by John Halpin and Ruy Teixeira, “The Politics of Definition,” published in four parts, here, here, here and here. Many other Democrats and progressives are arguing for an aggressive, pro-active agenda that gives voters a reason not simply to vote against Bush’s incompetence and crass politics, but to vote for something.

So I come back to this blog, first published in early 2004, with a narrower focus: to discuss how Democrats can articulate a message that produces not just an electoral shift in one cycle, but a lasting philosophical and programmatic agenda that might enjoy the impact that the neo-conservative movement has for the past 25 years. While I’m especially interested in the Virginia General Assembly, I suspect many examples of the ideas and messages that work — and those that don’t — will be played out as this year’s national elections approach.

I welcome your thoughts.