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American Prospect Hosts Debate on Tactics for the Dems

A November 19th debate in The American Prospect between Terence Samuel, chief congressional correspondent for U.S. News & World Report and American Prospect staff writer Matthew Yglesias considers alternative strategies for the Dems. Here’s a taste of the exchange:

Terence Samuel:

For Democrats trying to figure out what they need to do as an opposition party, there should be little confusion about how to approach the new role, or the newly acknowledged role. They have to come out slugging.

Republicans didn’t just let the Democrats dig their own grave, though that wasn’t an implausible strategy. They knew what they wanted and they fought for it… They actively went out and undermined and discredited the very foundations of the Democratic Party, slowly disassembling its coalition and appropriating its power

Matthew Yglesias:

On the point that the Democratic Party needs to fight, you'll get no argument from me. The question is which battles to fight and in what way. The model of the past four years has been characterized by the Republicans -- not unfairly -- as obstructionism, trying as hard as possible to block as many administration proposals as possible…

A better path would be to dedicate the bulk of Democratic time and attention to fulfilling the role played by opposition parties in the parliamentary democracies that the United States increasingly resembles. In other words, to outline an alternative agenda for the future.

There’s a lot more and it’s worth reading


The Democratic stance for the next two years should be very simple to grasp. The Republican agenda has proven itself to be completely destructive. I can't think of ANY measures or policies they have furthered that have been beneficial for the country. As a result, the plan to save the nation and the world should be a simple and emphatic:



"There aren't too many states in the union redder than Montana...But in November, a Democrat, Brian Schweitzer, won the state's race for governor. Schweitzer not only won, but he also won decisively, beating his opponent Bob Brown, the Republican secretary of state and a two-decade fixture in Montana politics, by a solid four points. His victory was so resounding and provided down-ballot party members such strong coattails that Montana Democrats took the state senate and four of five statewide offices."

"...in addition to a winning personality and strong populist convictions, Schweitzer had an innovative, three-part political strategy, one that perfectly fit the current conditions in Montana, but which Democrats across the country could learn from. First, Schweitzer took advantage of public dissatisfaction with two decades of insular one-party rule in the state capital, casting himself as an outsider and a reformer. Second, he rallied small business, usually a solidly GOP constituency, to his side by opposing the deals Republicans had cut in Washington and Helena to favor large or out-of-state corporations over local entrepreneurs. Third, and most interesting of all, Schweitzer figured out how to win over one of the most important, reliably Republican, and symbolically significant groups of voters: hunters and fishermen."



In the race to see who could fill the most buckets, Rove and Reed with a good bit of help from Luntz went after the low hanging fruit plus any laying on the ground. Swift Boat Liars, Flip-Flop, Gay Marriage, Abortion, Fear, Patriotism, ... all worked and all together provided the winning margin.

Yet, it was Bush's surrogates who contributed most. Rush Limbaugh, Sean O' Whatever, and a slew of fundamentalists prelates, in toto, had more to do with the vote total than Bush's campaign itself. Dems have forfeited the lead on the ground, and on the AM dial (they aren't going to ever get back even in that venue). No. 1, the corporate control favors Rush and ilk. No. 2, this medium doesn't work well for the Dems because they like to pick farther up on the tree. No. 3, they aren't very good at it the yell and scream schtick.

The Dems need to send forth their leaders such as Kerry, Dean, and Gore, meet with the masses in every village and town and define the debate in terms of reality. (Remember, before Rush, Ronnie wandered in the wilderness for nearly 20 years. Just as with Bush, it wasn't the 1980 campaign.) Another avenue with promise: digital radio circumvents the Clear Channels, provides some 80% of the nation options currently denied, ... gives those red state residents something other Rush and Brother Joe Bob.