Tuesday, January 18, 2005

Be Like Newt?

The Moose avers that Newt was not just engaged in destruction.

The Moose has long argued that Democrats can learn much from the Newt Gingrich's efforts to seize power. Newt was the Moses of the Republican Revolution who led them out of the wilderness and into the promised land. Once there, however, the elephant was transformed into ethical philistines.

Michael Crowley has an important piece in the New Republic that also suggests that the donkey emulates Gingrich. Crowley, though, primarily focuses on Newt's smash mouth campaign against the Democrats. This is his key point -

"There were, of course, many factors behind the Gingrich revolution that would topple the Democrats 15 years later. But there is one that today's Democrats could replicate: Gingrich's knack for ruthless, all-out partisan warfare--even if it means turning public opinion against Congress as an institution and offending leaders of their own party.'

The Moose does not take issue with the argument that a critical aspect of the Republican revolution was a take no prisoners attack on Democratic ethics. That is worthy of emulation against the DeLay crew of corruption.

However, it is important also to note that Newt operated in a far different political environment. In 1992, Clinton barely won the Presidency by running against liberal type and interrupting a conservative ascendancy. Gingrich exploited Clinton's shift to the left in '93 and '94 and captured Congress. Today, Democrats do not enjoy such a friendly political milieu as conservative outnumber liberal voters by at least a 3-2 margin.

David Brooks astutely points out in today's New York Times,

"The Democrats today are in a very different position. They already have all the liberals. What they lack is support from middle-class white families in fast-growing suburbs. But by copying the Gingrich tactics - or what they think of as the Gingrich tactics - of hyperpartisanship and ruthless oppositionalism, they will only alienate those voters even more.

"They won't turn themselves into the 1990's Republicans. They will turn themselves into the 1930's Republicans or the current British Tory Party. They will become a party caught in a cycle of negativity and oppositionalism. They will score occasional victories against the majority party, which will yield no lasting benefits to themselves. They may delay Social Security reform, but that doesn't mean voters will trust them with power any time soon."

Newt also valued ideas and offered an alternative vision for his party. He shrewdly appealed to the Perot voters with a reform agenda. The Contract with America provided an affirmative, concrete legislative agenda that complemented Newt's attack politics.

Democrats should certainly aggressively skewer Delayican corruption. But they should not delude themselves that an merely an anti-Bush strategy will be sufficient. Democrats must also address their weaknesses in the areas of national security, values and economic progress with forward looking ideas and message.

Call it creative destruction.
-- Posted at 8:23 AM | Link to this post | Email this post