Digby has an interesting response to my rebuttal to Kos (got all that?). Digby's point is that the Republican definition -- smaller government and lower taxes, family values, and a strong national defense -- is a stance, not a legislative agenda nor a statement of class/constituency solidarity. Instead, it lays out a set of principles as the founding blocks of conservatism. As counter, he suggests the Democrats adopt something like: "fair taxes, a secure safety net, personal privacy, civil rights, and responsible global leadership".
I think he's right, and I think I was unclear. The Republican definition isn't just an agenda, it's certainly a statement of principles as well. The genius thing is that it's both -- it's what they believe in, but also what they'll (theoretically) do. That's why it works. One interesting thing about their platform is that it moves in a certain direction -- lower taxes, smaller government, stronger defense. That's why it succeeds: it not only explains what they believe in, but what they want to do. Digby's alternative, alternatively (redundancy ain't no crime), has principles but no direction. What are fair taxes? What are civil rights? What is responsible global leadership? It say where we'd like to go but doesn't reassure anyone that we know how to get there.
The problem with Kos's idea ("Democrats are for working people") and, to a lesser extent Digby's, is that it doesn't explain what we'll do. It explains who/what we're for, but they're not things the right is explicitly, publicly, against. So it sounds good, and even lays out some clear ideas on what we'd like to see, but it doesn't differentiate us. Attaching ourselves to policy goals that the right doesn't support, however, would offer us our own identity. "Universal health care" lays out a clear path forward. "A livable wage" explains where we think the country needs to go. What we need to do is combine principles with direction, or to use another word, leadership. Being for good things is easy, specifically articulating how to achieve them is more dangerous.