Tactics and Substance in the 2004 Elections GoogleNews: Howard Dean

March 20, 2004

by V

"Before we begin, I'd like to cede half of my territory to my opponent."

Matthew Yglesias: Save Us, Lord
On NPR this morning I heard some Democratic Party strategist or state chair or something saying that in 2004, unlike in 2002, Democrats weren't going to lose all the Southern Senate election because this time around, the election is going to be about domestic issues. NO! NO! NO! NO! NO! NO! NO! NO! NO! NO! NO! NO! NO! NO! NO! NO! NO! NO! NO! NO! NO! NO! NO! NO! NO! NO! NO!

The election is not going to be about domestic issues as long as making it about foreign issues is in the overwhelming interests of the Republican Party. Democrats don't need to beat Bush on national security, but they've got to come close enough that it's even possible to change the subject.

2002 wasn't "about" Iraq because of some intrinsic ontological property of the year, it was about Iraq because Republicans made it about Iraq and Democrats didn't know what to do. But you've got to do something.
I'd love to know who that was so I can give him an earful. This sounds like the kind of 'insight' that professional "every election is JUST LIKE one of the last four " fetishists like CNN's Bill Schneider specialize in. To have a Democrat spewing BS like that is inexcusable, and the party should send out some talking points right quick to cut out this crap.

Translated party hack: "Yes, we'd like the election to be about domestic issues, because we suck on the foreign policy stuff, and we'll never get any better. Don't hurt us! Please!"

You can argue that Democrats are generally perceived as weak on FP, but that perception is based not just on years of Republican spin but also on Democrats' own weak-kneed, timid, backfilling rhetoric. Yglesias himself even indulges in this when he says Democrats just need to 'come close' to Bush. Why begin by setting your opponent above you? Yeesh!

I actually believe Kerry would do a better job on FP than Bush, and that Democrats should say so loudly (much like, say, Dean has). I know they're out of practice, but do they want to win, or not?
Posted by V at March 20, 2004 07:10 AM

I swear, Democrats are like battered spouses who've internalized the esteem-reducing abuse "You're fat! You're ugly! You're stupid! You're weak! You spend too much! You have no foreign policy! You hate America!" being spewed at them by their abuser.

The difference is that the Democratic party actually has the resources and the talent to stand up and fight back -- the Republicans are bullies and just need a good pop in the nose -- and choose to cower in the corner instead.

That's my tortured analogy for this Saturday morning.

Posted by: J at March 20, 2004 08:02 AM

I agree that the starting point should not be one of "we have to get close to Bush" but should be "Bush has done a horrible job. A monkey with tourette's syndrome could have done it better and luckily we have someone far, far, far better than that, better than anyone the Republicans have right now, ready to take the job."

However, I think what that poster was also getting at was the idea that the election itself will be about foreign issues because that's what the republicans are trying to make it about. There's a bit of fatalism in that too, basically admitting that the republics set the agenda. But let's be honest here. They DO set the agenda. That's one thing they've always been very good at. And they hold the bully pulpit which makes them stronger at holding the message.

The Democrats have got to figure out how stand together to redefine the agenda. They have to work together, the way the republicans have always done, to not let the Rovians define what the debate should be about.

So far, I'm very encouraged by what I have seen. I love that Dean has moved into the role of defending Kerry. I don't remember the last time I've seen the Democrats pull together like that. As long as they work together *as a team* we will win this.

Posted by: Andy at March 20, 2004 09:28 AM

"I don't remember the last time I've seen the Democrats pull together like that."

I do. When they were shredding Dean.

Posted by: Janis at March 21, 2004 03:15 AM

Good point.

We should get all the bigwig Democrats in a room, show them a picture of Dubya, say "Pretend he's Howard Dean! Sic 'em!"

Posted by: J at March 21, 2004 07:56 AM

LOL! That's it! I love it!

McCain and Lieberman are now calling for a more civil debate. I know what's next "I will if they will" type rebukes.

I do wonder what happens if this stays nasty. Maybe we will have President Nader...

Posted by: Andy (or should I say "A") at March 21, 2004 01:50 PM

The Art of War would say you attack the opponent at his perceived strength. The weaknesses will become obvious without any help.

Posted by: Kevin Hayden at March 22, 2004 05:49 PM

Recommended Reading:

The Politics of Truth: Inside the Lies that Led to War and Betrayed My Wife's CIA Identity: A Diplomat's Memoir
The Politics of Truth... A Diplomat's Memoir

Worse Than Watergate: The Secret Presidency of George W. Bush
Worse Than Watergate: The Secret Presidency of George W. Bush

Against All Enemies by Richard Clarke
Against All Enemies: Inside America's War on Terror

LIES by Al Franken
Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them: A Fair and Balanced Look at the Right

The Great Unraveling
The Great Unraveling

The Great Big Book of Tomorrow
The Great Big Book of Tomorrow

Clinton Wars
The Clinton Wars

Blinded by the Right
Blinded by the Right: The Conscience of an Ex-Conservative

Waging Modern War: Bosnia, Kosovo, and the Future of Combat

Subject to Debate: Sense and Dissents on Women, Politics, and Culture

Living History

The Hunting of the President: The Ten-Year Campaign to Destroy Bill and Hillary Clinton

John Adams

Founding Brothers: The Revolutionary Generation

Code and Other Laws of Cyberspace

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