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Friday, March 17, 2006

Interesting Question

E.J. Dionne, in his Post Column today asks "Can Democrats Play This Game?" He's referring to the game of politics in Washington DC, and the nation. Based on his assessment, which is normally a little slanted to the left, the answer is NO.

Now, I have some issues with his column today (no surprise), because he misses a huge point, but he does make some good ones also.

His good points are that the Democratic leadership is running from it's base to the middle, which is why they have all but abandoned Russ Feingold with the Censure Resolution, which has gained a whole 1 co-sponsor in 4 days.

There is good reason for this, as he points out, there are mid-term elections coming up. While Russ is trying to gain more credibility with the base f0r 2008, that base won't win a chamber of Congress in 2006.

The 30% of voters that identify themselves as either hard core Democrats or Republicans can't carry an election, it's the 40% in the middle that you have to attract. His party sees that 40% as people who by and large support Bush on the wiretaps. If Democrats join Feingold and alienate them, they give up possible gains this year for his cause in '08.

The party bigs also realize that for all his appeal to the hard core voters on the left, Feingold doesn't have a snowballs chance in hell in 2008. Howard Dean, Wesly Clark, and John Kerry showed that in 2004. They aren't going to, as Dionne puts it, jump on a grenade for someone who they can't win with. If Hillary Clinton, Evan Bayh or Joe Biden had introduced this it might be a different story.

The portion I disagreed with came in this paragraph of the editorial:

"For two decades, Republicans have used their idealists, their ideologues and their loudmouths to push the boundaries of discussion to the right. In the best of all worlds, Feingold's strong stand would redefine what's "moderate" and make clear that those challenging the legality of the wiretapping are neither extreme nor soft on terrorism"
The first part is correct, in a way. The truth is though, you can't "push a conversation" in any direction without clarity in the conversation, and people willing to move that way with it. The way the GOP moved the conversation was by showing how 40 years of Democratic rule in congress didn't work. They also told people their plan, from Reagan to Gingrich, they let people know what they were doing. Bush 41 didn't do such a good job with that in 1992 and lost.

The Democrats haven't tried to have a conversation, as much as a lecture, telling people why they are wrong. And if you get past the politically correct leaders, to the actual people who are in the party, it's often a rude lecture. For instance, I found the following on the blog of someone who visited recently:

We all need to scrub and scrape and push and rub and scrub and scrub until we Get That Shitstain Out of the White House.

That isn't a conversation, that's telling anyone who supports Bush that they are a party to the shitstain. Not exactly the way to attract converts to your cause. While the person who has that as their mantra may well have some great ideas, how many who are unconvinced are going to read farther than that to find out?

Read the Huffington Post, Daily Kos, Trey Ellis and Ted Rall and others sites behind the Democrats and you get the same thing. Which means you immediately alienate a good chunk of that 40% you need to attract.

The problem with the second part of that statement is that while the Democrats wanted (very badly) to sell the wiretaps as something done against "Americans" the rest of the country understand who's suspected of being on the other end of those calls from overseas.

Unless they can convince the President to quit reminding people that these are directed at intercepting communications from terrorists, that line isn't going to sell. And I doubt very much that he will be convinced to quit reminding people.

There was a much better way for them to come across when this first hit the news, and not sound as though they are defending terrorists rights to make calls to the US. However, there is now so much tape of their canned statements on the issue that they will never make it look moderate. I think that idea has dawned on the leadership, which is why they are avoiding Feingolds grenade.

So to answer E.J.'s question, no, the Democrats don't know how to play the game. Right now they need a good coach to help them out.

(Updated 3/18)
Eleanor Clift over at Newsweek calls Feingolds resolution a "life raft" for the GOP. A Senior Fellow at the DLC calls it the equivelant of "calling for a filibuster from Davos".

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Blogger shoprat said...

Evidence is beginning to appear that the Democrats are not as confident as they claim to be.

9:03 PM  
Blogger Crazy Politico said...

I think they are confident, they are just disorganized, which generally overcomes confidence.

If I look at how they are squirming trying to figure out what issues should be important, it becomes evident why so many get beaten on for flip flopping. Feingold at least has stuck to his principles and positions. Many of them won't in search of that elusive "undecided" voter

6:18 AM  
Blogger ablur said...

The democrats are all over the map with no real position on anything. Every issue has a multiple choice answer and many of the choices stink. We are not interested in a person who simply rolls the dice or licks their finger each morning. We need real leadership in a time of war.

4:42 PM  

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