Thursday, November 04, 2004

Okay. Listen up, Democrats!

You've had your 24-hour period of mourning after the election. Now it's time to decide whether you'll fade into irrelevance like the Whigs, or pick yourselves up, redefine what you stand for and fight. Yes,I am not a Democrat. But the only thing I hate more than a two-party system is a one-party system. And your blatant incompetence is making that possibility more likely.

So I am, this one time, going to tell you what you need to do to win in 2008. Some of it may bother you. Some of it you've already heard. And, after reading this, head over to Slate and read William Saletan's piece, which I will quote throughout.

1. Do not run Hillary in 2008. I cannot emphasize this enough. If you want to execute the winning strategy, you can't have her as your candidate. She isn't sincere enough to pull it off, and she is too polarizing. You already have the guy. He was your VP candidate. John Edwards is the man you want. Obama needs a term in DC for seasoning, so don't push him yet. And the other side of this...

1a. Run against George in 2008. No matter who the GOP puts up in 2008, make it about W. The GOP did this to devestating effect in 2000 with Clinton, enabling them to cancel out the rosy economic news just enough to send the election into a tizzy. Now it's payback time.

2. Take back God from the GOP. Democrats have to get over their fear of religion. And yes, you are scared of it. Don't be. This is a religious nation. But not in the way the GOP has manipulated it.

The GOP is using God to scare people, to demonize gays, to place fear instead of compassion into our souls. Look at the red swath in the South. These people have faith in God. But they also have low wages, lack health care, both parents have to work. How can the GOP, which addresses none of these issues and, in fact, exploits these people, keep winning? They manipulate the message of Christian faith. You, the Democrats, have to fight this.

How? Seize the "moral" message back. Your core beliefs speak more to this than the GOP does. And you must embrace this. As Saletan says:

Be the party that rewards ordinary people who do what they're supposed to do—and protects them from those who don't.

If you think this kind of moral talk is anathema, you're the sort of person Karl Rove wants to be running the Democratic Party. Get out, or get a new attitude.

Tough love, people. That's what we're providing for you.

It's so obvious. Fighting poverty. Affordable health care. Fighting to hold corporations accountable for their skating on taxes, eliminating pensions and sending jobs overseas. Not allowing wealth to concentrate into the hands of a few. If you can't couch these arguments in moral terms, you aren't using your brain. And the inevitable "class war" retort? Screw it! Don't kneel before it. Label it the bullshit message it is. There is nothing "classist" about demanding that the rich pay taxes and businesses are held accountable. That rural people have access to healthcare.

If you speak to the moral righteousness of your message, you will do a lot to win back those voters in the red states. Bush and the GOP use God to demonize other groups of people. You need to remind people that Jesus' message was "Love one another as I have loved you." That he cast the money lenders out of the temple and said "If a man asks for your coat, give him your shirt as well."

3. Ditch the hard left. One of the other steps you'll have to embrace is losing the baggage the far left holds you down with. These are the people who see any extension of US power as wrong, who cringe at any mention of God, who see government as the solution to any problem. The people the GOP uses to demonize you in the eyes of the rest of the nation.

So cast them loose. There aren't as many as you think. And they cost you big-time on the key issue of terror. Yes, Bush isn't fighting it. But no one believes YOU will, not matter what you say, when the far left of your party talks like America is the bad guy in the fight. Again, William Saletan:

People are voting Republican because they think you're weak. And, let's face it, you are weak. You say you'll defend this country, but then you go on about consulting other governments, cultivating goodwill, and playing well with others. You make a world full of terrorists sound like kindergarten. (my emphasis - teddy)

Democrats in the Roosevelt-Truman years didn't have this problem. They called tyrants by their name, and they didn't sound like they were faking it. A party that believes in right and wrong at home must be assertive about right and wrong abroad. You need a serious antiterrorist agenda. Otherwise, when you object to a war like Iraq, you sound like the peace party.

It is what it is, people. You can either face it, or ignore it.

Look at it this way. The one genius thing the DLC has done is forced the GOP to move further to the Right. Now the Democrats occupy more of the middle. With the proper message, you can cast off the chains of the radical left, pin the GOP with the label of "extremists" and capture even more of the middle.

4. Embrace the label of "Responsible". The GOP has given you a golden opportunity to become the party of responsibility. With their ham-handed execution of the war in Iraq, the spiraling deficit, the empty Federal Treasury... c'mon people! Haliburton is skimming almost 70% of the Iraq reconstruction money while our troops are wearing Vietnam-era flak jackets and dying because of it! The hyper-wealthy who earn income through investment are paying 10% in taxes, while people who work for a living are paying 21%! This is not a responsible way to run the country.

Freeing ourselves from oil dependence. Slashing the deficit. Making sure our children our healthy and educated. Ensuring that everyone pays their taxes and contributes to our national health. Fighting an actual war on terror, and cherishing our armed forces enough to commit them only when they are properly equipped, and in the proper theatre. That when you talk of healthcare, poverty relief and the like, that you're talking about "a hand up, not handouts." THAT is repsonsibility. Couch your beliefs in that theme, and you'll be unstoppable.

5. The real base is in the North and West Coast. Everyone talks about how the GOP has the "southern base." But do they? I'd say the real base in in the northeast, industrial midwest and the West Coast. There is nothing the GOP, in its current form, can say to these people to get them back.

But the Democrats, preaching a message of true "moral" values and responsibility? Oh, that message will resonate in the midwest and south. And it will capture even more moderates. With the right message, the Democrats can win states like Virginia, Ohio, North Carolina, North Dakota and Colorado. But the current GOP couldn't say anything to give them New York, California or Maryland. Use that.

6. Federalism. This will be the most controversial piece. It's one even I'm not 100% comfortable with, because it involves some real Machiavellian reasoning. But here it is.

The GOP used moral values to win this election, painting a Kerry adminstration as one where 10-year old girls could get abortions on a whim and forcing their sons to wear leather chaps and marry Barney Frank. Yes, it's a dirty lie. Yes, it's foul, offensive and disgusting. Yes, it is a bigoted crock of shit.

But it worked.

And while that says little for those who used that strategy, you have to fight it. And the strongest way to do so is federalism.

Let the states do it. Gay marriage in Massachusetts won't mean it happens in Alabama. Why? Because of federalism. Parental notification can happen in Florida and not in New York. Why? Federalism.

As to the question of abortion itself...I won't advocate sacrificing Roe v. Wade's national reach to deny the GOP this weapon. But the Democrats have to do some hard thinking about it.

Because in the end, framing these issues as state issues rather than national policy denies the GOP their use as a cudgel.

So there it is. Six steps to slapping the GOP down. And hopefully casting the theo-con element out of there once and for all. You can use it or ignore it. But if you continue down the road you are on, you will not win a Presidential election any time soon. Bank on it.

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