In November of last year, my friend Kirk and I decided to cross-post on each other’s political blogs our thoughts on what the Democratic Party should do to win the 2006 elections. His blog was Left Of The Middle.net, but it was unfortunately wiped out in a hack attack earlier this year. My blog was the Pollywog Blog, but now I post over here.
Anyways, here’s my bit from last year’s bipartisan exchange, and I’ll post his tommorow. It was interesting to see how often we agreed, and where we disgreed.
We interrupt this broadcast….
Kirk and I agreed a week or so ago to cross-post into each other’s
blogs on how the Democrats can retake the Congress and the White House
in the next three years. First, a little about me. I’m Kevin Creighton,
and I post my political ramblings over at Pollywogblog. I’m in my (sob!) 40’s, married with 2 young boys, and moved here
from Canada 22 years ago. I consider myself to be center-right and
not beholden to one party or the other as the unique purveyors of
political truth. I’m pro-military, anti-death penalty, pro-life, mildly
pro-green, and whichever party makes the Macintosh their Official Computer
will have my vote for life. With that out of the way, on to the reason
for my being here.
In the 2002 election, one of the little-noticed results was the
Republicans increasing the number of seats they hold in Congress, the first
time the party holding the White House had done so since FDR. If that’s
not a shift in the political landscape, what is? Can the Democrats
reverse this? Can they come back to power in the near future? Maybe. Here’s
what I think it will take.
Take National Security seriously.
9-11 was a wake-up call to a lot of people. It made some of us
really nervous about terrorism and to decide enough is enough. I’m not going
to point fingers, as both parties previously lacked both the will and
the mandate to tackle the terrorism problem in a meaningful way. But
with 9-11, we saw just how pervasive and ruthless our enemies are. It’s
not about the war in Iraq, it’s about understanding our foe doesn’t want
rapprochement or an equitable solution or a negotiated settlement. They
want us dead. Or converted to the twisted version of their faith.
I’ve always thought of diplomacy as psychotherapy on an
international level. And just as you can’t get a person who doesn’t want to change
into therapy, you can’t get a rational discourse with people whose idea
of legitimate warfare is sending out mentally-challenged kids with C-4
strapped to their bodies to kill other children.
Stop the anti-war rhetoric leftover from 1968 and stiffen your
spine. If the war in Iraq isn’t the solution, tell us what is. A
law-enforcement based answer is what got us into the mess, so it’s going to take
more than that to get us out of it.
All your base are belong to you, but that’s not enough.
With the emergence of powerful 527’s such as MediaMatters and MoveOn
and due to the influence of Kos, Atrios, the D.U. and other popular
websites, we’re seen the Democrats move decidedly to the left as of late.
To some, that’s a good thing, as it’s energizing a lot of people and
grabbing headlines. But it’s not translating into enough votes to take on
the GOP and win.
More people voted for Kerry in 2004 than voted for Gore in 2000, but
the problem is, many more people voted for Bush in 2004 than 2000.
Getting your electoral rank and file fired up does little good if it
doesn’t win elections. Bill Galston and Elaine Kamarck helped put Clinton in
the White House (twice), and they sum up the
problems with the Democratic base as “The Myth of Mobilization”,
that the key to Democratic victory is getting the rank and file out and
in large numbers. Jimmy Carter got 72% of the liberal vote and won.
John Kerry got 85% and lost. That alone speaks volumes.
Some would argue that because the key for the GOP is to get their
base (conservative Christians) out in record numbers, the same is true
for the Democrats. In other words, the secret to winning the battle is to
fight the same way your opponent fights. You don’t have to be von
Clauswitz to know that’s the quickest way to lose a battle. The Dems need to
find their way back to the center, and fast.
It’s 2005. Act like it.
Face it: Dubya won’t get elected again. So trying to pin the
problems with pre-war intelligence or the Katrina response or whatever on
someone whose political career is almost over. Valid or not, those issue do
little to affect to political reality of today. It’d be like Newt
Gingrich fighting TravelGate (Remember that?) in 1997. Sure, Clinton took a hit in his second term with MonicaGate. But did it hamper his agenda?
Nope. But let’s say this crusade by the Dems to change the past does
work. Does it put a Democrat in the White House and change the balance of
power in Congress? Nope. Not for another 3 years at the very earliest,
roughly equivalent to two glacial epochs in national politics.
Instead, why not come up with some ideas of your own? Dubya’s
pissing off the fiscal conservatives in his party with his free-spending
ways, why not tap into that frustration, or show some concern for oil
prices by some common-sense environmental legislation? There’s enough
moderate GOP and Dem leaders in the house to make Democrat-backed bills that pander to the middle a political force to be reckoned with.
And on a related note, it’s not 1994, either. Newt &Co. were
able to march into power on the back of The Contract On America by being
combative, feisty and confrontational, but they also had an agenda to
put through. Just fighting against something isn’t enough, you have to
have something to fight for. And know your limits, too. The American
public has some finely tuned. B.S. sensors. They knew who to blame when the government shut down in 1995, and they know who to blame when Harry
Reid shuts down Congress because of a spat about pre-war intelligence.
Find your center
Since WWII , the Democrats are 1-8-1 (Carter) in elections without a
candidate who appeals to the moderate or swing voters (I’ll call 2000 a
tie because it was so close and because no one really knew what Gore
was doing. Including his campaign manager.). When they run a candidate
who appeals to the center (Clinton, Truman, JFK with his fiscal policies
and LBJ with his anti-Communism and because darn near anyone would have
been to the left of Goldwater back then), they’re 5-0-1 (See my
comments above on Gore in 2000). That’s a brutal, hard truth, and one that
Democratic Underground wing of the party finds (rightfully) hard to
swallow. But if the Democrats hope to find their way back into power, they
better start listening more to Carville and less to Kos.
In 2004, the GOP used volunteer workers who were laser-focused on
issues that could swing the center and energize the right to drive their
victory. This tactic could be very useful to the Democrats in the
future. I consider myself an evangelical, and drive a hybrid car. I’m
strongly pro-military, but know that the power of the U.S. can cause other
countries to get mighty nervous when we throw our weight around. There
are many other issues that I find myself having to pick and chose from in
the platforms of both parties, and if the Democrats can find the right
wedge to chip away center-right voters like myself from voting
Republican, their chances look good in 2008.
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September 18th, 2006 by exurbankevin