Monday, October 10, 2005

Tacking to Oblivion

Everyone's talking about a report (pdf warning) put out by the Third Way Middle Class Project called The Politics of Polarization. Since in my header I promise an opinion on EVERYTHING, here she goes.

The premise of this report is that there are more conservatives than liberals. Thus, Democrats cannot win without a large majority of the vote of moderates. Does this sound familiar (hint hint: Joementum/Dino/DLC alert)? I think there's some truth in this assumption. A very small amount. But I think it misses much of the problem for Democrats.

Bill Clinton used a strategy of tacking right and winning the moderates. From then on, the conventional wisdom by all candidates has been to follow the Clinton example. And I think this is fundamentally flawed and a serious mistake.

Clinton won because of Clinton. He had a good meta message and a charming persona that transcended policy. This got votes across the board and he won. And being a southerner with an accent didn't hurt either. Democrats, in replicating this strategy have consistently LOST THEIR ASSES. And remember these cute little graphs ? The Democratic brand has been tanking. So how in the world do these people keep coming up with the same losing thesis?


Tristero who is subbing for Digby makes an interesting point that made me want to cheer at my computer screen:
In my own case, I donated thousands of dollars to Democrats in 2002 and 2004, far more than I ever had before, and far more than I could afford. That is how serious I felt the situation was.
Me too.
I suspect I am far from alone. If the Democrats tack right, they may find that their liberal base is more mythological than real. The Third Way authors fail to take into account how thoroughly disgusted many of us are. We're not disgusted with politics (and Republicans are beyond disgust). We're disgusted with the Democratic leadership and their failure both to win and to articulate a compelling platform. (my emphasis added).
This paragraph hints at what I think is a key point. One I've mentioned previously. What constitutes leadership? Do you lead based on polls, or is it a leaders responsibility to stand for belief and influence the polls? These questions are political science 101 and are ultimately, definitively unanswerable. But we do know that both factors are involved in leadership, not just one.

Then Tristero hits it right on the head:
This second flaw - that values can be applied to a pre-existing party apparatus and changed as the polls change - is fatal, in my opinion, to their analysis. It fails to take into account that we voters perceive such behavior as the height of cynical opportunism.
There is little doubt what the Republicans stand for. And you know what? They've articulated their stance for a long time...long before it was "popular", long before they were winning. In fact, the grandfather of core conservative beliefs were articulated by one of the biggest Republican losers, Barry Goldwater. Once articulated, they have used the conservative message machine to hammer and hammer and hammer and..... well you get it. After awhile, it becomes conventional wisdom with both the media and voters.

Democrats. The "reality based" party, have tried the "cute route" earning the reputation as opportunists. The Democratic party, by taking on Bill Clinton's personality is like me deluding myself that I'm Brad Pitt. Stupid. And voters see it.

This is exactly my beef (amongst a few others) in the Paul Hackett situation in Ohio. Read the polls. Evaluate evaluate evaluate. Then dump a great candidate.

As Tristero articulates, I too have stopped giving money to the Democrats. I have given locally to candidates I know. I have given to organizations who support causes for which I believe. But if Democrats are counting on my automatic support in 2006/2008, they are sorely mistaken.

I'm not about to throw money away again until I see that the party "gets it", and shows some real leadership, beginning to actually stand for something. And I'm not calling on ideological purity. I did not agree with Bill Clinton on everything nor do I expect the party to reflect greyhair's platform. But frankly, until they act a bit like they're worth respecting, they'll not get a dime from me.


At 3:46 PM, Blogger Lynne said...

I think there are lot of us out here waiting to see if the Dems can produce leaders. If not, we will donate on a candidate by candidate basis.

At 7:25 AM, Blogger Marla said...

I feel your pain, Greyhair.

I realized one day, not so long ago, that the Democratic Party is run by a bunch of spineless weasels. and since I don't have a stick shoved straight up my ass, I can't really relate with the Republican Party, either. I suppose you could say I'm a moderate. or a Libertarian. I'm not really sure. I'm so confused! ARRRRRRRGHHHHH!

It frightens me, actually, that the country is SOOOOO divided along political lines. It seems like they can't agree on ANYTHING anymore. Not that they ever really COULD, but it just seems like they have both gone to frightening extremes as of late. Which is scary. What is that old saying "You can't see the forest for the trees." Well, neither can the Democrats or Republicans, and instead of trying to do ANYTHING that might be in our best interest (our, as in the American citizens, since politicians ARE public servants), they are having a never-ending constantly-ongoing pissing match with one another.

Since when did a pissing match accomplish anything? Argh.

At 8:59 AM, Blogger Lynne said...

I think the crux of the problem is that we really don't have two distinct parties anymore. As Kurt Vonnegut pointed out in the 1970s we have the right and left wings of the American Business party.

At 9:50 AM, Blogger Greyhair said...

Marla, I completely agree. Interestingly, as a psychotherapist, we always knew we were dealing with some pretty sick people (like Bush) when everyone else BUT THEM ended up fighting with each other.



It just leaves me with no place to go. I want to be effective in politics. But I don't want like either party right now.


At 3:40 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The Green Party is waiting with open arms for anyone fed up with the Democrats' failure to lead on issues important to liberal values.

At 3:48 PM, Blogger Greyhair said...

I know...I know....


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