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September 29, 2005

Talkin' Strategy

Man, I usually agree with Oliver, but his latest post is just a 12-car smashup of wrongness. Top to bottom, it's just got less sense than a Heritage intern after a three day bender with David Horowitz. Oliver thinks that Democrats should be out there talking up the DeLay scandal, adding their voices to the chorus, making sure the media pays attention and the American people get the message?

Is he insane?

Democrats have a tried and true protocol for these sorts of situations. Give the media a couple days to peck at the not-yet-dead corpse, and then, when their coverage slows, let the Republicans pop to their feet with an overwhelming counterstrike that sucks up so much televised oxygen that Chris Matthews ends up in the hospital. Meanwhile -- and here's the beauty part -- Democrats get to take a vacation! You see, our caucus is overworked, our congressmen underpaid, our senators jonesing for some time on the links. Now that DeLay has been indicted by a soon-to-be-smeared prosecutor who does yoga and talks about "holistic justice", this election is as good as won. Nancy Pelosi should start buying furniture for that bigger office. It's off to Fiji for the Dems! See ya in 2006, suckas!

As it is, some folks misunderstand the lesson of Newt Gingrich. It wasn't his relentless efforts to publicize and push scandal that helped him torpedo the Democratic majority. Nah, that's but a misconception. His promise to never let a speech go by without mentioning a Clinton infraction? Sheer folly. But even such folly couldn't triumph over such a glorious white mane and funny, reptilian title. Newt! How sweet is that!? And how could you've expected the American people not to elect such a memorable name?

But "Nancy's" kinda dull. So the thing to do is completely disappear from the scene while the Republicans mount their counterattack. We did it with the SwiftVets and we'll do it now. Folks like Oliver should settle back and watch some pros -- we're Democrats, we know how it's done.

September 29, 2005 in Electoral Politics | Permalink

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» Democrats Want To Lose from Oliver Willis
Wednesday was the first time in history such a high ranking member of congress has ever been indicted. And the opposition party has done nothing to capitalize on this. Why? Why in Gods name is the Democratic party completely AWOL from the en... [Read More]

Tracked on Sep 29, 2005 4:00:32 PM

» A Coalition of the Left? from Simianbrain
There's an interesting cross-blog discussion happening right now, taken up today by Cernig. As I and others have noted, it appears that the Congressional Democrats are going to nap through the current round of massive scandal that is enveloping the... [Read More]

Tracked on Sep 30, 2005 9:58:23 PM

» A Coalition of the Left? from Simianbrain
There's an interesting cross-blog discussion happening right now, taken up today by Cernig. As I and others have noted, it appears that the Congressional Democrats are going to nap through the current round of massive scandal that is enveloping the... [Read More]

Tracked on Sep 30, 2005 10:13:19 PM

Comments

You type very well with you tongue in your cheek. However do you manage?

Posted by: LowLife | Sep 29, 2005 2:47:09 PM

I agree Ezra. The worst thing Democrats could do is go on the attack here. All that would do is add credibility to the Republican meme that this is all based upon partisanship.

It is especially a bad idea now, because there is a chance that DeLay will be exonerated in court (even OJ and Michael achieved that) and if he is, it will hugely backfire on the Dems if they overplay now.

It is also pretty hard to view corruption as a singularly Republican problem. (New Orleans? New Jersey? James Traficant?)

The best way that I can see Democrats to capitalize on this is to promote higher ethics standards and similar measures. You don't need to directly mention DeLay, simply try to make the image of the Democratic party the party that is against corruption and let DeLay create the Republican image.

I think that it will be pretty tough for the Dems to do that. I also expect that they won't miss this opportunity to miss an opportunity.

Posted by: Dave Justus | Sep 29, 2005 2:48:14 PM

Dude, newts are amphibians.

Posted by: JWP | Sep 29, 2005 3:08:27 PM

Nah, newt was definitely a reptile ;)

Posted by: Ezra | Sep 29, 2005 3:14:06 PM

Absolutely, right on, Ezra! Democrats can rely on liberal bias in the media in a way that Republicans cannot. Republicans need message discipline, because without it, Wolf Blitzer on CNN would be repeatedly labeling Ronnie Earle a "partisan Democrat" and otherwise implying that the prosecution was bogus, carrying the liberal message like only CNN can do. And, those liberals over at the The Note would be driving home the liberal message on ABC News, while same liberals at the Washington Post and New York Times, who gave us the Whitewater scandal would be creating scandal out Rove-Plame, Katrina-FEMA, Frist's insider trading, the pork-laden transportation bill, the $8 billion that disappeared in Iraq, the total failure of Halliburton et alia's $18 billion Iraqi reconstruction, and all manner of perfectly innocent Republican policy triumphs.

Democrats can relax, because in our liberal media, the fix is in. You turn on the Sunday news talk shows, and all you see are liberals! Even PBS and National Public Radio -- its all liberal, from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting down to the dearly departed Bill Moyer!

Posted by: Bruce Wilder | Sep 29, 2005 3:23:03 PM

Is David Justice a parody or a milquetoast robot? I couldn't tell from the website....

Posted by: Zedd | Sep 29, 2005 3:23:14 PM

You're so right, Ezra.

I don't know what Willis has been smoking.

If we used Delay's misfortune to go on the attack, none of those conservatives that don't ever vote for us anyway may not vote for us this time either. We don't want to offend anyone.

Posted by: Bulworth | Sep 29, 2005 5:05:35 PM

SNARRRRRRK! I love it.

Posted by: Adrock | Sep 29, 2005 5:17:38 PM

As James Carville says, "When your enemy is drowning, throw him an anvil."
Who cares about Traficant or the NJ corruption (which is bi-partisan) when you have Bushco pirates starting a war in order to profit from gov contracts, who install half-brained twits to run procurement so they can steal billions?

Posted by: CParis | Sep 29, 2005 5:19:56 PM

When the throat's exposed, ya go for it. If you wanna win, anyway.... Excellent post, Mr. Klein. You should talk to your peer Drum, and give him a clue about how liberals need to approach politics.

Posted by: sglover | Sep 29, 2005 5:35:50 PM

I've been trying to use one of them handy-dandy anagram generating programs, but it can't seem to get "DLC" out of "Dave Justus". So, I'm thinking that the program is bogus, because Mr. Justus sure as shit sounds like the good ol' "when the Rethuglicans smear you, DON'T DON'T DON'T HIT BACK!!! It'll be viewed as mean-spirited and partisan!!" wing of the Democrat Party.

You know, the one that masterfully orchestrated John Kerry's stunning upset of George Bush last year.
The one that destroyed (metaphorically, of course) the Swift Boat Liars.
The one that called bullshit on every one of Chimperor's lies.
The one that has liberals and moderates rallying to it because it is exerting a strong presence as the opposition party.
The one that will help the Democrat Party march to super-majorities in both Houses of Congress.

The one that is doing its best to aid and abet the Rethuglicans in destroying this country.

Mr. Justus should move from Spokane to Connecticut, so that he can help Joementum win re-election, etc. etc. etc. Or maybe Delaware, so that he can help Biden work on his situational-backbone problems.

God, I need to go read Rude Pundit to calm down

Posted by: SFAW | Sep 29, 2005 11:20:55 PM

SFAW, Dave isn't a DLCer, he's an actual Republican. (And, I should say, a fairly thoughtful Republican who I'm happy to have around these parts.)

Posted by: Neil the Ethical Werewolf | Sep 30, 2005 1:08:01 AM

Thanks Neil, I appreciate that. While I am certainly more of a Republican than most around here, I don't profess particular partisan loyalty to the GOP. The compromise that is the Republican party matches my views a lot closer than the compromise that is the Democratic party though.

Still, when I talk strategy, I do it from a neutral perspective and I honestly think that going nuts over DeLay would be a major tactical mistake for the Democrats.

Given that I align with the Republican party closely on foreign policy on economic issues (or what the Republican party claims as their position on economic issues) and not with them very much at all on social issues I actually am hoping that this will hurt DeLay and his ilk pretty badly. I don't think it will though, and I think it has the potential to hurt Democrats even more. Tactically, the Democrats just don't seem very clever to me most of the time. Blame the DLC, or blame the far left, or blame the fact that the DLC and the far left spend all their time blaming each other, when it comes to campaigns you guys seem clueless sometimes.

I would prefer a Democratic party that at least raised a strong challenge to Republicans personnaly.

The old adage is you can't beat something with nothing. The more you focus on Republicans, the more you make DeLay the story and give him the focus the more power he will have.

And most especially, don't claim victory until you actually win. Winning against DeLay isn't indicting him it is convicting him.

Posted by: Dave Justus | Sep 30, 2005 1:24:25 AM

Dave -
I guess I don't know if I should apologize for labeling a Repub as a DLCer.

That being said, your idea of going easy on Delay, because it will hurt the Dems to do so, is ignorant of recent history (i.e. past 25 or so years). The Rethuglicans have gone after Democrats much harder, for much smaller transgressions, and they don't appear to have suffered for it. In fact, it's what has put them in power. Newtie, Delay, Rove and surrogate Roves, Bush senior, Cheney, plus the psycho righties in the media and blogosphere, have beat the drum endlessly - and most of their spiel is "factually challenged" - to demonize LLLLLLLLLLLLiberals. The adjunct to that is going after Jim Wright for some piss-ass book thing, going after Clinton for a blowjob from Lucianne's girl-pal, and so forth.

If Delay beats the rap on this one (no matter how guilty he likely is), there's plenty more (Abramoff) to work with. Of course, the great thing about Abramoff is that so many of the Rethuglicans used him as their bagman, this Administration will hopefully be playing defense for a long time.

One last thing: if it were Clinton or someone in the Clinton Administration were being indicted for a "technicality" - as the Rethugs are calling this - with the current Congressional makeup, there would have been screaming from the right, far in excess of anything you'll see from the Dems, and for a lot longer.

People used to talk about how attack-dog politics is distasteful; unfortunately, it works, and the Rethugs won't stop doing it anytime soon. As the saying goes, when the Dems offer the Rethugs the hand of bipartisanship/compromise, all they get back is a bloody stump.

On the plus side, the last two paragraphs in your first post are close to reasonable - I just wish you weren't right about "they won't miss this opportunity to miss an opportunity."

Posted by: SFAW | Sep 30, 2005 10:36:32 AM

SFAW,

I think you only have a partial understanding of the 'recent history' you are talking about. The Republicans certainly attacked, but they did so as a larger narative of 'this is what we stand for', as oppossed to what the Democrats stand for and used various things to illustrate what they were saying the Democrats stood for.

Obviously, the Democrats focus on the second aspect of that, and see it more clearly and personally, but without the first aspect it doesn't work well at all.

I will also remind you of the '98 elections to illustrate the dangers of overreach. Part of that was that Clinton defeated the impeachment, part was that many Republicans were revealed as hypocrits on the sexual matters, and part was simply that Republicans were too loud and shrill about it.

To build a successfull meme about corruption would be a difficult thing I think. You would have to in some manner link not being corrupt to the Democratic core belief structure (and that can't be just the Democrats think corruption is bad, everyone thinks that.) Then you would have to be sure that your party was insulated from charges on hypocracy (difficult, as many politicians are corrupt on both sides) and lastly, you would have to make sure that your charges held up. That means a conviction of DeLay if he is the centerpiece. Abrhamoff won't serve as the centerpeice either, he is to obscure a figure for non-wonks to get excited about.

If I was a Democratic strategist, I would judge that the difficulties were to great, and the chance of backfire WAY to great to embrace such a strategy directly. Yes, I would try and keep the Republicans on the defensive about this issue, but I would do so by taking a 'higher ground' approach. I wouldn't be screaming about how bad DeLay was, I would instead be saying we need tougher anti-corruption laws and better ethical standards. If you make the DeLay thing too much of a political weapon directly, people will tend to disregard it as a just a political weapon. That is the last thing you want.

Posted by: Dave Justus | Sep 30, 2005 11:29:30 AM

Dave -
Thanks for your concern re: whether I understand "recent history". Although I agree that the Democrats' "message" is murky, and the Rethugs are able to define their purported set of beliefs better, the "tipping point" (as deep thinker Tom Friedman would call it) came in 1994, which was the culmination of Newtie's GOPAC et al. demonization of Dems. Yes, I know the "Contract on America" was an important part as well. However, it's highly unlikely he/they would have had such success had he stuck to the "higher ground" path. And, as we've seen the results for the last 10-20 years of Democratic "higher ground", such a path is for chumps. Or have I been asleep, and John Kerry actually won the Presidency? The Dems have taken back Congress? As Mr. Dooley noted and Karl Rove has proved, politics ain't beanbag. And frankly, given the polling that a too-large number of people STILL BELIEVE that Saddam had something to do with 9/11, for example (aided and abetted, of course by Bush and Cheney implying or baldly stating such), I am not sanguine that the electorate is intelligent enough to be sufficiently swayed by your "higher ground" approach.

You appear at least to have granted that the Rethug attacks played a role in their rise to power. Good. Now, if I can only get you to realize that they were at least as important, if not more so, than their BS about "values", then my purpose in life will have been fulfilled ....

DeLay, although vile/evil and relatively highly visible (at least to those who follow politics), can never be the centerpiece. And although Abramoff is currently too obscure, so were the Plumbers. Most people - even those around during Watergate - cannot name more than two or three of them at best. Does that mean their effect was not far-reaching?

Although some refinement of message is needed, here's what the Dems need to do: the message need to be three-fold:
1) Bush and his Administration lie about everything: the big stuff, the small stuff, the stuff that matters, and the stuff that doesn't
2) Although they/he talk(s) a good game, the Rethuglicans/Bush DO NOT have the best interests of the citizenry as their guiding principles. And that includes "values", not just the economic interests.
3) There is enough corruption in this Administration for any five "normal" Administrations

and combine the above with a better PR job regarding what the Dems stand for. Back in January, I believe, Harry Reid put forth a list of programs and priorities. Most/all of them were designed to enhance quality of life for most Americans (i.e. "higher ground"). That part is the carrot. However, the carrot does not work as well without the presence of the stick. The Stick would of course be used on the Rethugs, not the populace.

Now, the above list is certainly not all-encompassing, and there is any number of sub-topics which can provide fodder for taking it to the Rethugs and Bush, and in fact my "plan" may need some tinkering. (No, I don't flatter myself into thinking that I am the source of all strategic political thinking, to put it mildly). But it will work a whole lot better than a "higher ground" approach, especially if the Dems, unlike the Rethugs, just use the truth as the weapon. (The comment "So you [Bush] will stop lying about me [Kerry], if I stop telling the truth about you?" comes to mind).


As I said earlier, Delay is not the centerpiece. If he were the only corrupt Rethug, he would be. But Jim Wright was relatively small change, and that didn't stop Newtie et al. The key here is to go after them, everywhere, all the time. Eventually, voters will wise up.

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Posted by: louis | Jun 12, 2007 3:26:01 AM

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