Tactics and Substance in the 2004 Elections GoogleNews: Howard Dean

November 3, 2004

by V

Strategizing for 50.1% = Failure

That the security-heavy 2002 midterms were mishandled by the Democrats is widely understood in liberal circles and has been for some time. But the party's done very little to change the underlying fundamentals that led to the debacle of '02 so the similarly disappointing results in 2004 shouldn't come as a huge surprise.

The frustrating thing is that despite losses in three election cycles in a row, the Democrats are consistently close to majority status, which has tended to impede any impulses to really re-think how business is getting done in favor of the belief that slightly better political gamesmanship can produce a win.

--Matthew Yglesias

Let's think, what issues could: 1) be consistent with the modern Democratic Party's principles, 2) be implausible as an issue of the modern Republican Party, and 3) be appealing to a big chunk of moderate Republicans who haven't signed on for the whole Red Agenda?

I'll go first: Fiscal Responsibility/Discipline. Before you scoff, remember how much it was turned into a moral (and morality) issue in the 80s when it was a Democratic Congress playing the bad guy.

A strong commitment to Being Good Stewards and Not Squandering Our Kids' Futures plus frequent decrying of the immoral irresponsibility and appalling waste of money that is the exploding Republican National Debt (and the interest on it) would resonate with a lot of moderates and independents, I believe -- and this administration is ripe for a great deal of ridicule, mockery and accusations of selfish hypocrisy on this front, all fine ingredients for a partisan whipping.

Also, the Democrats actually have some credible history to point to on this topic (as ably pointed out by Howard Dean in his campaign). Republicans used to own this issue, but they've clearly abandoned it since they took the House. So: beat them over the head with it!

Unless, of course, you have a better idea for other winning issues - let's hear it, eh.
Posted by V at November 3, 2004 08:44 PM

Fiscal Responsibility/Discipline is definitely a good start. And I think you're onto something with turning it into a moral issue.

It's not an "issue" per se, but that's my suggestion. The Democrats need to start talking about morality. Constantly. Supposedly, "moral issues" were the biggest factor in yesterday's election.

So, let's talk about the morality of killing thousands of innocent Iraqis and going to war under false pretenses. Let's talk about the morality of giving enormous tax cuts to the wealthy while the take home pay of average workers falls. Let's talk about the moral issues swirling around our healthcare system.

Letting the Republicans own the language of morality and letting them get away with the ludicrous claim that gay marriage and abortion are the big moral issues of our time is the biggest mistake the Dems have ever made.

Posted by: allen at November 3, 2004 10:32 PM

Thus far the morality debate has been one-sided, focusing on private morality (e.g. who can do what to whom in the privacy of their bedroom). Democrats can own the public morality side of this issue. "Whatsoever you do to the least of my brothers, that you do unto me," is not just a Catholic sentiment, but a humanist one.

Posted by: Nanovirus at November 4, 2004 09:01 AM

I don't think this can be framed as a "morality" issue per se.

I believe this is about values. Our values as liberals/progressives, specifically. We've got the infrastructure in place to get the message out. What we've been forgetting about is the message.

It's pretty clear to me that Bush voters aren't voting based on issues. There's no way they could vote for him if that were the case. They're voting for him based on perception of values.

Posted by: carla at November 4, 2004 11:25 AM

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

In Association with Amazon.com