Friday, September 22, 2006

The Coming Democratic Debacle

Mark Graber

Contrary to conventional wisdom, 2006 is shaping up as a Democratic debacle for some reasons suggested by Sandy's last post. The debacle will not be that Democrats lose seats, but that they do not gain nearly the number of seats that they might have, given that 2006 is quite clearly a bad year to be a Republican. Rather than run, as Republicans did in 1994, as a party committed to a particular program, Democrats are running as the party not as bad in vaguely specified ways as the Republicans. This leaves every Democratic candidate highly vulnerable to the dominant Republican strategy, which is to say, whatever you think of Republicans nationally, the particular Republican in your district or state is not so bad and, more importantly, the Democrat in your district or state has real weaknesses. Democrats are poorly positioned to defeat these personal attacks because the only thing they presently stand for is not being Republicans. Of course, they wink at people like me with the message that there will be less torture if they are elected, but the truth is that no one knows what their commitments are, other than to low risk political strategies.

At the heart of this strategy is a question of party leadership. Republicans could not gain control of Congress under a leadership that was content to declare they weren't as bad as the Democrats. What Republican leaders could do with such a strategy is maintain their leadership positions in the Republican party, positions that had a good many perks. A party coup d'etat was necessary for victory in 1994. Alas, no coup seems on the wings for the Democrats. Playing it safe is the best strategy for Hilliary Clinton, Nancy Pelosi, John Kerry, Joe Biden and the rest. They get reelected, and when the Republicans temporarily collapse, they might even win a presidency or two. But what is in the interest of the Democratic leadership is no longer in the interest of the party. Not every year is going to be a bad year for Republicans. And when there is a better slate of GOP candidates in 2008 headed by a more attractive presidential aspirant, Democrats are going to understand that their leadership is employing the strategy of a permanent minority party, that majority parties stand for something, and that Democrats missed a chance to become a majority party by employing the safest possible strategies in 2006.


Does anyone ever stop to think thath perhaps it's not ust a democrat debacle but that they may have to actually change their policies to win elections.

Bill Clinton NEVER won more than 50% of the vote. He got in in 92 with 43%, tha mean 57% of Americans didn't want him. In 96 he couldn't even crack 50 against Bob Dole.

Do dem has gotten more than 50% since LBJ in 64, that means by 08 it will be 44 years since a dem received a majority of the votes. 44 years!

Since 64 dems have won 3 of 10 elections. 30%. Pretty putrid.

The GOP won in 2000, they won big in 2002, and they won again in 2004.

Maybe it's time to realize that outside of Berkley, NY and the other blue state islands, the country just doesn't agree with the dem policies.

As someone who tends to side with dems on domestic issues but values foreign policy and security issues above all else when voting, I wish the dems could go back to the FDR/Truman dems who were real men. Who knew how to win. Who had no compunction about wasting Kraut kids or Japanese women if that's what it took to win. Who called the enemy by their rightful names and din't practice the appeasement and pussitude of the current dem party.

This is hyperventilating (and demoralizing) nonsense. No one knows how well the Dems will do out of 2006, but no one doubts they will pick up seats. The electorate is split 50/50. The idea that you will win big if only you are "clearer" is a delusion held by ideological partisans everywhere.

But - the coup is underway. Dean's 50 state strategy will result in lots of new faces in a Dem-controlled house and a 50-50 Senate. These new faces will have been elected as populists. Control will shift. This will be obvious a year from now. Was 1994 obvious in September? No. It's only in retrospect that it seems like a watershed. This will be a watershed for the Democrats.

i read this blog regularly and on occasion throw in my own two cents. as those who read and contribute regularly know, i occasionally implore those who comment to keep the level of discourse respectful and courteous, as befits the issues we talk about. this having been said, if ms. weddington believes that it is respectful and adding something constructive to the discussion by referring to "real men" who knew how to win by "wasting kraut kids or japanese women", we have reached a new low.

if you have something constructive to say that adds to the dialogue, by all means please say it. if you merely wish to dip into the sewers and feed into the nonsense we all see on the cable talk shows, please just stay home, watch the shows and allow the rest of us to treat each other with a little bit of respect.

Mark, it's scary just how apt your post is - I'm an Australian, and with the appropriate substitution of party names it's almost as if you'd written that piece about our political system.

For some stupid reason the Opposition parties are trying to be all things to all people, which means they're too scared to take a stand on anything. Taking a nebulous position that avoids offending anybody is a great tactic for an incumbent to hold power, but it makes for a terrible campaign from Opposition.

Do your Dems seriously think they can just hunker down and wait for the Government to screw up badly enough to piss off the populace? That seems to be the thinking of the Labor Party here, and it scares me that so many people think it will work.

The Democratic leadership from California and the East Coast may be spineless and playing it safe, but they're not the ones who seem poised to win competitive races in "red" states.

I give by way of contrast the following quote from the September 24 issue of the Great Falls (Montana) Tribune (quoted on dailykos), covering the debate between Republican Sen. Conrad Burns and his Democratic challenger, John Tester:

Burns said he also supported programs monitoring international telephone calls against those suspected of terrorism.

"He wants to weaken the Patriot Act," he said of Tester.

Tester sought to clarify:

"I don't want to weaken the Patriot Act, I want to repeal it. What it does, it takes away your freedom ... and when you take away our freedoms, the terrorists have won," Tester said.

He came back to the subject near the end of the debate, when Burns tried to link him to New York Democratic Sen. Chuck Schumer, who is, Burns said, pro-gun-control.

"With things like the Patriot Act," Tester said, "We'd damn well better keep our guns."

Those are not "safe" positions, nor are they positions of the party line--rather, they are the sort of true opposition positions that we ought to be hearing. And they're positions that appear to be playing well in Montana, where Tester has recently been polling 5-7 points ahead of his incumbent rival.

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