Friday, October 07, 2005

Curb Your Enthusiasm

The Moose suggests that the elephant's sleaze alone will not return the donkey to power.

The GOP is increasingly deep trouble with the various scandals that are enveloping the party. Republicans are in a funk fearing the new indictment or betrayal the next day will bring. Democrats are increasingly optimistic about their chances. Time for a reality check.

As the Moose has previously indicated, the '94 Republican Revolution is a useful model. At that time, the Congressional Democrats were perceived as a corrupt, entrenched establishment. However, it was also significant that the Clinton Administration appeared out of touch with the country as the President betrayed his commitment to be a "different kind of Democrat" and lurched to the left.

Republicans were able to run as reformists both against corrupt power and left wing policies. They offered a conservative-independent agenda as an alternative to the Democrats. That is important to remember because some Democrats believe that the Republican's sleaze will be sufficient for the party to return to power.

Republican policies, however, are not exactly that popular these days - slashing taxes does not have the resonance that it once did. And social security privatization was a flop. Immigration is an issue that divides Republicans and the GOP has squandered all its credibility on the fiscal front.

Democrats should not, however, draw from this that they should run a left wing ideological policy campaign for Congress - this is a relatively conservative country - conservatives enjoy more than a 3-2 advantage over liberals. What the Democrats should develop is a progressive agenda that appeals both to the base and independents and moderate Republicans.

Democrats must play against type.
That is why fiscal responsibility is so critical for the Democrats - it helps show that the Democrats will not return to their big spending and taxing ways if they return to power. Republicans will tag Democrats as a bunch of liberals who just want the chance to raise taxes and reward their special interest groups. The donkey needs to allay those concerns.

The base alone will not be sufficient - the mighty middle needs to be persuaded. Democratic leaders spend plenty of time with the Hollywood crowd in pursuit of their dollars - hopefully they'll spend some time with the Wal-Mart crowd to see what's on their mind in pursuit of their votes. And most Americans have never read a blog and don't' belong to People for the American Way.

Democrats would be wise to read a new report issued by the Third Way by William Galston and Elaine Kamarck which is an updated version of their seminal work, The Politics of Polarization.

The original version of this work was an instrumental guide for Democrats winning the White House in 1992. In fact, the Galston and Kamarck study echoes exactly what the DLC has been saying for years about the importance of the politics of the vital center rather than merely depending on base mobilization.

Al From wrote in July, 2003,

"Despite the unprecedented progress the country made under a Democratic president in the '90s, no Democrat will take back the White House in 2004 unless he recaptures the trust of ordinary Americans as Bill Clinton did in 1992. We're all for turning out the Democratic faithful, but energizing the liberal base is not enough to win nationally. For a decade, the electorate has been 30% conservative, 20% liberal, and 50% moderate. There's a reason Mr. Clinton was the only Democrat elected and re-elected president in 60 years: he inspired Democrats, but also went after the independents and moderate Republicans he needed to win."

Yes, the Congressional Republicans are corrupt crowd - but if the donkey is going to throw the bums out they have to be engaged on the plane of ideas and policy.
-- Posted at 8:26 AM | Link to this post | Email this post