Tuesday, March 07, 2006

A No Point Agenda

By now you've probably heard about or read yourself, this NYT--frontpage--column detailing, again, that although the Republicans are in trouble, Democrats don't have an alternative plan to present to voters, thanks to Howard Dean the party is short of cash on hand, and the party leadership and its 2006 candidates are divided on Iraq, health care, taxes, and whether or not to campaign on George Bush's rug fetish.

No doubt articles like these, which seem to be used as regular page A1 filler about every other day now, have got you down, and combined with the rather underwhelming efforts to enumerate a Contract with America like document by the DNC and the CAP, have you ready to go hunting with Dick Cheney.

But fear not.

Read this. And this. And what E.J.Dionne says, too.

I've come to believe, as these authors have, that there's no great need, and very little utility in, having Democrats come up with a national plan of bulleted items for its candidates to campaign on.

Why not? Well, the Democrats main objective needs to be to blunt the Republicans' agenda. Electing Democrats is the best way to do that. And if the Democratic Party is going to return to majority status someday, it probably is going to do so by assembling a weird patchwork of coalition partners spread across different regions, united by its diversity. The Republicans are the party whose ideology over the long run demands conformity and uniformity. The liberalism of Democrats, I would argue, does not.

But there are some more immediate reasons why trying to assemble a unifying message right now is unlikely to work. For one, the issues, and the various messes the country finds itself in right now--exploding deficit and national debt, the war in Iraq, cleaning up from Katrina, rebuilding FEMA as well as the Gulf Coast, brewing conflicts in Iran and North Korea, the election of Hamas in Palestine, etc--don't lend themselves to quick or simplistic solutions or slogans. And they don't necessarily carry the same weight across every state or congressional district. Finally, when the enemy is drowning, don't throw them a life-line. The public seems to have gotten the message that the Iraqi conflict has not gone as planned, and is not close to being resolved peacefully, without the aid of an informative, unbiased media, and without the aid of a visible anti-war movement. The Democratic Party doesn't have to help by giving the Republicans an easy target--such as would be the case for example if the party decides to run with a "bring the troops home now" kind of message (more about this later). Letting individual candidates decide on the best strategies for their campaigns and their regions is a more likely key to success than any awkward attempt to establish some kind of consistent theme or themes equally relevant and compelling to all the country's voters.

So, let's not take the bait being offered here to force the party or any of its particular candidates into a box of the media's, or the Republican Party's, liking. We're ahead--but the media is intent on lowering the expectations bar for Democrats. Let's keep it that way.

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