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April 08, 2006

Million Buck Chuck and the Democratic Leadership

By Neil the Ethical Werewolf

Two great articles came out this week about the people at the top of the Democratic Party.  One is Ryan Lizza's profile of Chuck Schumer, the second is Amy Sullivan's piece on the Democratic leadership.  If you're looking for something that'll put a little bounce in your trot and make you a happy little donkey, I'd suggest reading both. 

Lizza's article shows you how much Schumer has already done to make sure we're playing offense, not defense, in the Senate this year.  After the 2004 defeat, I remember looking at the 2006 Senate calendar with dread -- we're defending more seats than Republicans are, and many of them are deep in GOP country. Schumer turned crisis into opportunity by trading favors to make sure that popular Democratic incumbents stayed in the Senate, and by dropping huge money on Democrats in time to scare off Republican challengers.  Take the example of Nebraska:

In Nebraska, another vulnerable red-stater, Ben Nelson, wanted to scare off a challenge from Governor Mike Johanns. Nelson came to Schumer and Reid in late 2004 and told them that if he could raise $1 million in one month, Johanns wouldn’t challenge him. Schumer personally tapped his own base of New York donors, many of whom had never heard of Nelson. They coughed up tens of thousands of dollars. In his last Senate election campaign, Nelson raised a total of $50,395 from New Yorkers; this cycle, he’s already netted $130,500. His ratio of Nebraska money to New York money used to be thirteen to one. Now it’s three to one. Sure enough, a month after the fund-raising blitz began, and with $1 million in the bank, Johanns decided to join the Bush administration as secretary of Agriculture, and other top Republicans in the state declined to enter the race.

Similar things happened in North Dakota, where the most popular governor in America declined to challenge Democrat Kent Conrad.  Schumer has recruited excellent Democratic candidates across the country.  I rather liked the story of how he recruited Claire McCaskill to run in Missouri by schmoozing with her reluctant husband.  And though the article doesn't make it clear exactly how this is happening, his agents seem to have been weakening Conrad Burns in Montana by circulating anti-Burns stories in the local press.  Schumer hasn't been perfect -- I really think he should've picked up Barbara Hafer instead of Bob Casey in Pennsylvania, and perhaps he could've averted the Hackett-Brown car accident in Ohio (though I think that Brown really is the guy we want in the end, and Schumer was right to prefer him).  All in all, though, he's had a big role in shaping the 2006 Senate picture for the better. 

One of the major themes of Sullivan's piece is how the media tends not to credit Democrats who inflict serious damage on the Bush Administration.  Schumer emerges as a hero here too, for masterminding the Dubai port scandal:

If you read the press coverage of the story, you would have thought the issue surfaced on its own. In fact, however, the story was a little grenade rolled into the White House bunker by Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.). No one was aware of the port deal until Schumer—who had been tipped off by a source in the shipping industry—held a press conference, and another, and another until the press corps finally paid attention. As for Schumer, he popped up in news reports about the deal, but almost always as a “critic of the administration,” not as the initiator of the entire episode.

It's one of the big problems with being in the minority -- if you do something awesome, the media just says that it happened, not that you did it.  And if any Republicans show up to help you out, they get the credit.  The ban on torture is regarded as John McCain's doing, and the Democrats who backed it are invisible. 

I liked what Sam Rosenfeld had to say about the Democratic leadership, in his comment on the Sullivan article:

compared to both recent and much more longstanding historical precedent, the current Democratic opposition has not only been disciplined and unified, but effective. Improvements can always be made, but it's simple ignorance to portray the state of the congressional caucuses under Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi as indistinguishable from what we saw under Tom Daschle and Dick Gephardt in the early Bush years or, for that matter, what we saw from Democrats during the 1990s, when first Democratic congressional majorities confirmed Clarence Thomas and completely flubbed a major opportunity for universal healthcare legislation, then later Democratic congressional minorities joined ranks with Republicans on any number of illiberal, corporate-friendly initiatives. The current Democratic caucus is more ideologically unified, more disciplined in their votes, and on most scores more liberal than it has been in recent history.

April 8, 2006 in Democrats | Permalink

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Comments

"though I think that Brown really is the guy we want in the end, and Schumer was right to prefer him"

Well, you were bound to get one wrong eventually, Neil...

And I find it kinda comforting to have some confirmation that you're actually not me.

Posted by: Petey | Apr 8, 2006 11:44:39 AM

I'm sad to see my streak end, Petey!

If you're interested, I did a piece on the whole Hackett/Brown situation after it ended.

Posted by: Neil the Ethical Werewolf | Apr 8, 2006 11:58:00 AM

brown's a good guy, and packed full of senator material. i also enjoyed watching hackett work up a storm against schmidt, but he didn't make it. personally, i think that if he had run this thing out, he would have been easily painted(outside those of us who are all about the politics) as a guy desperate for power, regardless of his war record. i mean, look at what happened to max cleland.

Posted by: almostinfamous | Apr 8, 2006 1:09:02 PM

I watched Kos on the Colbert report. I just wanted to see what this guy would sound like, and what Colbert would do with him. I don't agree with everything Kos says, and I'm not happy with most of his guest writers or whatever they are, but it is encouraging to see someone come from the grassroots and organizing the grassroots.

Anyway, he did a pretty good job, until Colbert started talking about what the Democrats need to do, blah blah blah. And Kos sat there and said something to the effect of "the Democrats need to get a message, they need to get unified, they need better leaders, discipline, yada yada yada." It was like they were serving Fox News Fruit Punch in the green room and Kos downed a gallon of it. The GOP is in the midst of a brutal civil war which is only beginning. We may see millions of people, led by Dobson & co., leave the GOP in favor of some God Party or whatever. Meanwhile, Howard Dean is building a 50-state party, strengthening the Democratic brand all over the USA, Harry Reid is outmaneuvering Frist at every turn - things actually might be pretty good. Let's remember that just as Democrat = soft on security is nothing more than a GOP talking point, so are all the ones about how we are so disorganized, that we have no message, etc. Much work needs to be done, but we have about as much to be optimistic about strengths in the Democratic party as we do about weaknesses in the Republicans.

Posted by: Stephen | Apr 8, 2006 2:53:09 PM

"It was like they were serving Fox News Fruit Punch in the green room and Kos downed a gallon of it."

Welcome to Markos-land.

Dude pays his mortgage by bashing the Democratic Party, not the Republican Party.

Posted by: Petey | Apr 8, 2006 3:46:01 PM

"If you're interested, I did a piece on the whole Hackett/Brown situation after it ended."

Yup. You do nail the biggest caveat about Hackett - that he wasn't going to be disciplined.

But I'm a firm believer that when the talent is big enough, it's the coach's responsibility to make the relationship work, not the player's. And Hackett was a big enough talent.

I saw Hackett as a missionary from the Democratic Party to some areas that really need an effective Democratic missionary - Western Ohio, Kentucky, and Indiana. When you've got someone who might be able to fulfill that kind of role, you make some allowances for a certain lack of professionalism.

Now, of course, there are limits. And since I wasn't in the rooms with the principles, I can't say that I know for sure that Hackett wasn't simply too hopeless a case in his habits and attitudes.

I'm normally a big fan of the Chuckster, but in this case, I really do blame him for not making things work with Hackett. It's a real missed opportunity for growth of the Democratic coalition.

Posted by: Petey | Apr 8, 2006 3:58:44 PM

Thank you for writing this Neil.

It amazes me that after reading that piece and seeing all that Schumer is doing to strengthen the Senate, all many netziens can seem to concentrate on is that part about him "protecting his marginals" Oh My GOD! Schumer is a DINO who hates Democratic Values!!! ATTICA ATTICA!!!!!

Posted by: Dustin | Apr 8, 2006 5:03:17 PM

Dude pays his mortgage by bashing the Democratic Party, not the Republican Party.

Gimme a break, Petey. Kos spent his time bashing the institutional leadership of the Democratic Party and its informal adjuncts, not Democrats. (I'm not sure you can even say that anymore, as I think he likes Reid and appreciates Pelosi.) You've spent the last year blowing Beinart on the web, so I infer that you like the DLC/TNR institutional leadership, and believe things have gone well to date.

As the DLC and TNR essentially put out a hit on Dr. Dean and the "loony left" that was against the Iraq war, I think you can make a better case that they've (you've?) been paying their (your?) substantially bigger mortgages bashing Democrats. Cripes, in what world does anyone in the Democratic Party hire Marshall Whitman. Representative recent comment: "The Moose has just heard disturbing news that some in the Democratic Senate leadership are obstructing the compromise for a false short term political gain." Yeah, it's Kos who's attacking Democrats, not you guys.

By the way, Stephen, I agree with you on the new people at dKos - not crazy about them. They're pretty over the top.

Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Apr 8, 2006 7:11:48 PM

Petey, I think the relationship between the Senate leadership and Paul Hackett wasn't going to be very coach / player, or at least not for long. I don't see Hackett as willing to take that kind of direction from those guys.

Tim, I thought Kos appreciated Pelosi until the past month, when he attacked her for not supporting censure, and immediately put up a poll on his site where people gave her something like a 19% approval rating. There's a lot of things I think Kos has gotten right in the past -- for instance, I was happy with how he handled the aftermath of Hackett/Brown. But I'm definitely in the Rosenfeld camp on Pelosi, and I think Kos is wildly off base here.

Posted by: Neil the Ethical Werewolf | Apr 8, 2006 7:49:59 PM

"Gimme a break, Petey. Kos spent his time bashing the institutional leadership of the Democratic Party and its informal adjuncts, not Democrats."

Well, since my comment was: "Dude pays his mortgage by bashing the Democratic Party, not the Republican Party", I'm not sure you're really disagreeing with me.

-----

Because the electorate is 40% Conservative and 20% Liberal, the Conservatives get a party of their own while the Liberals don't. Informed Liberals can react to the Democratic Party under these conditions in one of two ways:

OR

- Seeing a majority Democratic Party is the best vehicle for achieving liberal aspirations in this country, understanding that such a party will contain more moderates than liberals, and thus accepting the lack of a Liberal dominated Party.

- Making demagogic attacks on the Democratic Party to less informed Liberals to feed into their frustrations at not having a Liberal party in this country, despite knowing full well that a Liberal dominated Party will be doomed to being a minority party.

Markos has chosen the second path for himself. And while it's probably his best choice in terms of building his bank balance, I find it a less appealing choice as someone who cares about the future of the country.

I often find it illuminating to trace intellectual heritages. Markos not only rose to prominence while working for Joe Trippi, but he has repeatedly proclaimed Trippi his mentor. Joe Trippi has spent the past fifteen years repeatedly and explictly proclaiming his desire to destroy, not strengthen, the Democratic Party. I don't accuse Markos of following Trippi that far down the path, but I do think he's built his structure on similar foundations.

-----

"Cripes, in what world does anyone in the Democratic Party hire Marshall Whitman."

In a world where the Democratic electoral coalition has been a minority electoral coaliton for the past generation. In a world where building a Democratic electoral coalition that can govern involves poaching a substantial number of voters from the other side.

-----

Y'know, Tim, this is the third or fourth time you've referred to me in the blogosphere as being involved in a crude sexual relationship with Peter Beinart - a figure you seem much more interested in than I am. If you want to continue doing so, feel free, but I'd invite you to go fuck yourself with a sharp, splintery wooden stick.

Posted by: Petey | Apr 9, 2006 1:03:58 PM

Misplace "OR", but I think y'all can piece it together...

Posted by: Petey | Apr 9, 2006 1:04:55 PM

Guys, I am imposing a moratorium on discussion of unpleasant sexual activity involving, among other things, Peter Beinart and splintery objects. Comments will be edited/deleted.

Posted by: Neil the Ethical Werewolf | Apr 9, 2006 2:10:00 PM

It's pretty clear that Petey is a "centrist" in the general category of "Whatever insanity the Republicans are pimping, split the difference with them."

The question for "centrists" (which they never answer) is "Who do you want to throw under the bus to gain power?" They always point to some nebulous "leftist" cadre they claim is inside the Democratic Party, but refuse to acknowledge the effects of their preferred policies on actual people (women and gay people in particular, since those are the cultural positions they want to throw to the theoretical swing voters).

Posted by: paperwight | Apr 9, 2006 3:37:23 PM

"It's pretty clear that Petey is a "centrist" in the general category of "Whatever insanity the Republicans are pimping, split the difference with them."

I'm actually pretty far to the left of the spectrum, FWIW.

I am a "centrist" in terms of strategizing to occupying the center of the electorate on the first Tuesday of every November. Because without that particular center, Democrats are the minority party.

"The question for "centrists" (which they never answer) is "Who do you want to throw under the bus to gain power?"

When Democrats are the minority party, fucking everybody gets thrown under the bus.

I don't think it's immoral to strategize for the left to form a majority coalition with the center to create an alliance that can exercise power in this country. If anything, I think it's immoral for the left not to strategize that way.

Posted by: Petey | Apr 9, 2006 5:29:54 PM

I'm generally in agreement with Petey's last comment. The two things I'd want to add are (1) we can get where we want to go by conceding a lot on style and very little substance, and (2) Marshall Wittman is an opportunist whom I don't trust to help us.

Posted by: Neil the Ethical Werewolf | Apr 9, 2006 5:52:44 PM

I don't think it's immoral to strategize for the left to form a majority coalition with the center to create an alliance that can exercise power in this country. If anything, I think it's immoral for the left not to strategize that way.

Right. So where is the center, and who gets thrown under the bus?

Answer the questions. Don't just spout platitudes about finding some mythical center that won't keep moving Republicanward as long as you're triangulating. Laments that "everyone gets thrown under the bus" don't mean anything unelss you're willing to say who you're willing to keep throwing under the bus to triangulate with the Republicanward pull.

Oh, and Wittman is a Republican, and not a moderate. People who think he's "helping" really need to check his bio, which he's never repudiated.

Neil, I want to like what you have to say, I really do, but "style, not substance"? Do you seriously think that that (a) people are that dumb, or (b) if they're that dumb, that they won't fall for the Republican bellows of "Freedom" instead?

Posted by: paperwight | Apr 9, 2006 6:18:06 PM

Guys, I am imposing a moratorium on discussion of unpleasant sexual activity involving, among other things, Peter Beinart and splintery objects

Yeah, I regretted that bit just after I posted the comment. I retract and apologize. As a Dem, I feel obliged to note that I neither said nor implied that having sexual relations with that man would be unpleasant.

1.Well, since my comment was: "Dude pays his mortgage by bashing the Democratic Party, not the Republican Party", I'm not sure you're really disagreeing with me.

I said that Markos bashes specific individuals and groups that hold specific positions within the larger Democratic Party infrastructure. You seem to be claiming that such criticism amounts to criticism of the Democratic Party, broadly. I honestly can't see the functional difference between that sort of a claim and the claim that anyone who criticizes the President or the Republican Congress is criticizing America. I'm assuming you think the latter is an unfair criticism; if not, we disagree.

2.Marshall Whitman has made it clear, over and over again, that his preferred Presidential candidate in '08 is John McCain, who is the current front-runner for the Republican nomination. Claiming that bringing him into the Democratic fold is the way to poach "a substantial number of voters from the other side" (and I and the '04 vote totals quibble with "substantial") strikes me as roughly similar to arguing that Zell Miller did the Democratic Party well by speaking at the Republican convention. That's nuts.

3.Because the electorate is 40% Conservative and 20% Liberal, the Conservatives get a party of their own while the Liberals don't.

There are reasons to distrust arguments based on relative categories like "conservative" or "liberal." See Waldman. As an imperfect proxy, it's worth noting that Gore won Independents by 10%, and Kerry won them by 8%. And it looks like Independents' sentiments track more closely with those of Democrats since the start of Bush's second term.

Moreover, the "centrist" and "liberal" labels get misapplied all of the time. As has been noted many times, neither Dean nor Kos is particularly liberal; both would, in normal times, be considered centrists.

4.Underneath all of this, there are really two issues.

(a) Where do Dems go for more votes - the South or the West. We've discussed this ad infinitum, and I simply disagree with both of you (Petey and Neil). You both believe that the South can be put in play without sacrificing any of our core values. I don't. You both doubt that there are enough votes in the West to win a national election. I don't. At some level, this probably has something to do with geographic affiliation. I love the West, and increasingly distrust the South. I suspect that you both have, at a minimum, strong favorable feelings about the South.

(b) I suspect that the current extra-governmental Dem institutions, like the DLC, worry more about keeping their relative position of power in the party than about winning elections. To the extent that election results vary independent of the specific efforts of the parties, this makes sense as a policy for the DLC types. It may make sense even if party efforts do make a difference; there may be much more value in leading the opposition than being one among many in the majority. This, I take it, is the heart of Kos's argument with the party institutions. I assume that neither of you believe this to be an accurate description of the state of affairs. Perhaps I'm too cynical; perhaps you're too naïve. I can't think of any evidence that would strongly demonstrate that one view was more likely to be true than another.

Sorry about the length.

Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Apr 9, 2006 7:06:53 PM

paperwight writes:

Neil, I want to like what you have to say, I really do, but "style, not substance"? Do you seriously think that that (a) people are that dumb

Tim writes:

There are reasons to distrust arguments based on relative categories like "conservative" or "liberal." See Waldman.

Petey writes:

I'm not the first person to note that the American Presidency is the job of king/head of state along with the job of prime minister all rolled into one.

When I read arguments like Waldman's saying that most Americans are actually liberals but don't know it, I agree with him entirely on one level.

But on another level, I believe that when American self-identify as 40% conservative, 40% moderate, and 20% liberal, they're actually conveying something important about what motivates their voting preferences. These numbers have held steady for more than a generation now. Their not an artifact of some recent effort to discredit liberals.

Waldman's reasons of why Americans are subconscious liberals is all about their positions on issues. But what if something other than issues plays a part in voting preferences?

One way of explaining the discrepancy is to say that the median American voter wants a conservative king and a liberal prime minister. Americans want their issues liberal, but they want their style conservative.

------

In regards to Wittman:

I don't agree with anywhere close to everything the Moose says. I don't think he should be trusted. He used to be a Republican, now he's an independent, and he's never professed to be a Democrat. He's given strong hints that he is personally loyal to the expected '08 G.O.P. nominee.

But all that said, I read him religiously. I believe that while he can't be trusted for future allegiance, he's intellectually honest. And I believe he's a source of some good food for thought for the left.

And Marshall does have at least one Really Big Idea that should be at the fulcrum of basic Democratic strategery.

He's written repeatedly about about the group he sees as the low hanging fruit for Democrats to grab to effect a re-alignment that would produce a Democratic majority electoral coalition. And that group are the progressive traditionalists, which he defines as folks who are progressive on economics and traditionalists on cultural values.

We're not talking about reactionary wingnut fundamentalists here. We're talking about folks with a weak Republican attachment who think the GOP is in bed with corporations, but are still concerned about their social traditions being uprooted too rapidly. Remember the 10% in approval polls Bush lost in the immediate aftermath of Katrina? Those are the kinda folks Wittman is talking about as potential converts to the Democratic coalition when he talks about progressive traditionalists.

You don't have to take the Moose as gospel to find some good ideas there.

-----

And to come full circle, those progressive traditionalists are looking for a liberal prime minister, but a conservative President. They can be appealed to with someone who is liberal on policy but conservative on style.

And since I'm much more interested in the policy that comes out of Washington than the style that comes out of Washington, it's a way of expanding the Democratic coalition that holds great appeal to me.

Posted by: Petey | Apr 10, 2006 4:24:22 AM

So...you want to throw Women & Gays & Blacks under the bus?

Posted by: Dustin | Apr 10, 2006 5:06:22 AM

Thanks, Tim.

Paperwight, don't forget that we lost the last presidential election by only 3%. Minor stylistic changes can put us over the top. What kind of stylistic changes? I think that Kung Fu Monkey summarized them in Learn to say ain't.

Most swing voters don't look at the issues first and then decide who to support. They pick up the stereotypes that the media presents about the candidates, make unreliable predictions about their issue stances based on that, and vote for the package that they like best. (Did you see those polls about how wrong Bush voters were about Bush's actual positions?) Winning their votes is in large part a matter of getting a candidate up there whose stereotypes will be favorable.

I think the answer is to nominate a charismatic, liberal, working-class Southerner. He'll fit stereotypes that make him culturally unthreatening to the white working class, and they'll project whatever views they like onto him. He'll be liberal enough that women, blacks, and gays will actually be driving the bus, but only smart liberals and infuriated conservatives will know it.

Posted by: Neil the Ethical Werewolf | Apr 10, 2006 5:48:51 AM

"Paperwight, don't forget that we lost the last presidential election by only 3%. Minor stylistic changes can put us over the top."

While I'll agree with your prescription for change, I'll quibble a bit on how close we currently are.

While Kerry won over 48% of the popular vote, due to the way the the Senate and House lines are drawn, he did much worse when you map his results on the Congressional lines.

Kerry ran ahead of Bush in only 19 out of 50 states and only 180 of 435 Congressional districts. So that 48% of the popular vote translates thusly:

Dem 38% - Senate: Kerry 38 Bush 62
Dem 41% - House: Kerry 180 Bush 255

One meaning of this is that even in a 50/50 election, the current Democratic coalition gets badly beat in the House and Senate. Look for example at the Gore race in 2000 where despite winning more votes than Bush, he still got massacred by Bush in both Congressional districts and states:

Dem 40% - Senate: Gore 40 Bush 60
Dem 45% - House: Gore 194 Bush 241

Another meaning of this is that all votes don't count the same. Winning one more Democratic vote in rural Missouri can be worth a lot more to achieving a national electoral majority coalition than winning two more votes in urban Cleveland or winning five more votes anywhere in Massachusetts.

The storm clouds brewing suggest we'll do quite well this current November, but until we win a bunch of permanent new converts in the Republican strongholds of inland America and rural America, we'll continue to be fighting an uphill battle most Novembers. The difficulties Chuck Schumer faces in winning races in red states will persist until we welcome enough voters into our tent to turn those states a bit less red.

"I think the answer is to nominate a charismatic, liberal, working-class Southerner."

Happily, I think that's also the best way to solve the regional / demographic problem I'm describing.

Posted by: Petey | Apr 10, 2006 7:07:40 AM

So...you want to throw Women & Gays & Blacks under the bus?

Yes, that's exactly what I heard Petey say. He wants the Dixiecrats back, with less overt racism, more homophobia and misogyny, or at least a head fake in that direction to theoretically peel of some soft culture war believers. Because the Southerners need to be pandered to -- they're too parochial to ever vote for someone who doesn't suck up to their cultural insecurities.

Except what's funny is the prescriptions that he and Neil want play right into the culture wars, which the Dems are always going to lose. Does anyone believe that the Republicans won't sell out women and gays harder and faster than the Democrats?

The other question, of course, is what one actually does to build a movement, not just slide by in one election. And I don't hear anything from either of them (despite Neil's occasional laments about poverty) that would unwind the corporate control of both parties, which is at the heart of the accurate perception that the Democrats don't really stand for working people.

Why people like Neil and Petey want to play the populist game in the culture wars instead of economics is beyond me. The Republicans will always win that game. I wrote a while ago about Bernie Sanders, who destroys Republicans in parts of Vermont that go Republican by 20+% for the other parts of the ticket.

I would humbly suggest that Neil and Petey might want to consider why they think that economic populism (or at least giving a damn about working people) paired with a cultural liberalism wouldn't work in the South, and why they might not want to pander to the undercurrents that make that the case.

As a coda, I might also note that I have a hard time taking seriously anyone who thinks that Marshall Wittman is intellectually honest.

Posted by: paperwight | Apr 10, 2006 10:42:34 AM

But on another level, I believe that when American self-identify as 40% conservative, 40% moderate, and 20% liberal, they're actually conveying something important about what motivates their voting preferences. These numbers have held steady for more than a generation now. Their not an artifact of some recent effort to discredit liberals.

Well, Waldman points to a Reagan quote. And discrediting liberalism must go back farther than that or else his line about "the dreaded 'l' word" would just have fallen flat.

I'm not sure we aren't talking past each other. You say Americans want their issues liberal but their style conservative, other people here say that right-wingers have successfully demonized liberalism. The two are not contradictory. People aren't born preferring Coke over Pepsi, learned preferences and marketing influence it. And since well before 1988, right-wingers have been disseminating far and wide the idea that "liberal" should be dreaded.

And I agree with Dustin. You don't intend it, but sacrificing a constituency - in this case, probably core constituencies - would be the inevitable consequence of depending on moving to the center as a path to victory, rather than moving the center.

"The center" isn't permanent. Today (or at least, 12 months ago) it's to the right of where it was 10 years ago, and 10 years ago it was way to the left of where it was 50 years ago. Acting like it's permanent is... actually, inherently conservative, now that I think of it.

Compromise on individual day-to-day issues is necessary, I'm not arguing against that, but if your long-term, general strategy is a rightward shift (at the expense of previously loyal supporters, by the way), then the status quo shifts. The other side takes for granted that victory. Its extremists start pushing for the next thing they want, or the next step towards what they want, and our gains among their moderates are slow and minor. Because in addition to all the obvious reasons - they're used to thinking of us as the enemy, compromise doesn't look principled or project strength even when it is a good idea - the status quo, the conventional wisdom, is different and at least some of them will just make their peace with it or even like it despite expectations. Example: how many Democratic Congressmen voted for the AUMF and got defeated anyway?

And then it starts all over again on the next issue.

Showing principles, spine and competence, getting rid of or countering the right-wing noise machine, and letting Bush discredit his own policies would be much more effective ways to win the "center" than pandering to so-called progressive traditionalists by stuff like opposing gay marriage. With the added benefit of being morally right.

Posted by: Cyrus | Apr 10, 2006 10:50:52 AM

Does anyone believe that the Republicans won't sell out women and gays harder and faster than the Democrats?

This is where I wonder whether paperwight actually bothered to read the last paragraph of my previous comment.

The point is that selling out women and gays isn't really the thing that the more culturally conservative people among swing voters want. (Hard-core right-wingers absolutely want it, but while the swing voters will go for it, it's not absolutely at the core of their desires.) Bashing gays, for example, is just another way to reassure this crowd that you're really not different from them.

You can win these voters while being liberal on abortion and gay rights, as long as you find some way to give them that basic reassurance. Being from their part of the country, with their ethnic background and their accent, while fighting for popular and common-sense economic proposals (raising the minimum wage) will do the trick. Only us liberals have to know that John Edwards has a 100% rating from NARAL. Playing the good-old-boy part means you can actually be very liberal on cultural issues, and nobody will know the difference.

Posted by: Neil the Ethical Werewolf | Apr 10, 2006 2:08:03 PM

Playing the good-old-boy part means you can actually be very liberal on cultural issues, and nobody will know the difference.

No, I read it, and it's a minor variation on every "pick a Southerner" article that I've ever read: pick a Southerner who pretends that he's not a liberal, cuz the South is full of (a) stupid people, or (b) people who are so childish that they will ignore his actual positions because he has their accent and it makes them feel loved. Didn't work for Carter. Gore was smeared as a wackadoo liberal despite being from Tennessee. Clinton was actually a moderate Republican and a campaigning genius, the like of which you might see once in a generation.

while fighting for popular and common-sense economic proposals (raising the minimum wage) will do the trick

Yeah... about that. You are aware that the DLC and the Blue Dogs are a big part of the problem on the absence of a "support the working people" platform, right?

Look, I don't care where the next nominee is from or what kind of accent he or she has. I'm not parochial that way. I voted for the Southerners that the Dems ran each time they were up (which is most of the time). (Funny that the Southerners won't do that for other people -- again, I leave it to Neil and Petey to decide whether they're comfortable pandering to the reasons.)

But I also think that the "paper it over with an accent" strategy is patronizing and doomed to failure given the people that are likely to actually put together the campaign, and it damn sure doesn't create a movement. Sliding by on a drawl is not a strategy.

Posted by: paperwight | Apr 10, 2006 3:09:41 PM

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