June 29, 2005

Advice for Democrats

Howard Dean is exactly the wrong person to put forward as the face of the national Democrat party. What he says might make the party faithful happy, but it pretty much turns off everyone else. What your party needs is a spokesperson who can clearly articulate the goals and/or vision of your party, and what path one should take to achieve those goals. Screeching that the other party is evil, calling them a bunch of hypocrites(even when warranted) and just saying "NO!!!!" to everything your opponents offer is a losing proposition. The last decade should have taught the Democrats this. There are many reasons why the group called former Democrats continues to grow.

In any event, Megan McCardle provides some thoughtful analysis on the current state that the Democrats find themselves in. Excerpt:

A lot of Democrats think that they can reach for the goodies without building the platform, a belief that should have been thoroughly dispelled by the last three election cycles. That means compromise, and coming up with programmes that are bold without attempting to force the rest of America to embrace a value system they clearly dislike. So far Democrats are good on either bold (national health care) or agreeable (job training!), but little in their idea-basket is both.

That, I think, springs from a larger problem within the liberal progressive movement--even larger than the belief that if they change their name, somehow people will like the brand better. (Memo to progressives: didn't work for Anderson Consulting Accenture, won't work for y'all. It wasn't the name that people objected to).

On the one hand, you've got the folks who think that if Democrats can just turn themselves into Republican Lite--one third less dour moralism than regular GOP!--they will storm the storied "middle" and seize the reins of power. This is unlikely--the mathematics of winning an election without a motivated base are unappealing, which is why 3rd party candidates do so poorly. Worse, it's pointless. The moderate middle, almost by definition, produces little in the way of big ideas, and its little ideas generally end up as muddy messes--if you start compromised, what you generally end up with is pork-laden monstrosities. And why should people put out the phenomenal amount of energy it takes to get people elected in order to get 2% more spent on teacher salaries?

The other wing of the progressive movement appears to think that all they really need to do is shout louder, since America seems to be getting a mite deaf. I watched Howard Dean on The Daily Show last night, and rarely have I seen a major political figure so thoroughly, even painstakingly, inept at appealing to voters. His remarks elicited cheers from the true-blue supporters in the audience, but only at the expense of alienating every single other person in the country. If he wasn't making ham-fisted attempts to prove Democratic moralistic superiority* by selective and theologically shallow quotation from the bible--an activity that even bible-thumping Republican congressmen undertake with more caution (and erudition) than Mr Dean did--he was claiming that his was the party of real moral values. Cringe. When was the last time you heard an RNC chair say something like that? Answer: you don't, because the "Family values" guys know that you do not garner votes by saying "Everyone who voted for the other guy is immoral" . . . especially when the other guy got a majority. You get votes by talking about what your values are, which (other than gay marriage) Howard Dean had a hard time doing.

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