Too Cute By Half
I know I've been writing about the lack of Democratic backbone quite a bit lately. But the hits just keep on coming.
Over the past week, a story has been emerging that the Democratic bigwigs and "some" netroot/liberal bloggers (read Kos and David Sirota) are discouraging Paul Hackett from running for the Senate. Hackett, who recently lost his bid for the House in 2004, appeared to be a darling of the Democrats because of his service record, war achievements, and bold leadership in attacking Bush while campaigning in one of the most conservative districts in Ohio.
In other words, he showed some leadership and guts.
Oh...and he didn't lose by much....3,573 votes to be exact.
Yeah right...for about 20 seconds:
[Hackett campaign adviser Michael] Brautigam said Hackett is considering his options this weekend while on drill duty with the Marine Reserves. He said Hackett was dismayed by a phone call Thursday from New York Sen. Charles Schumer, head of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, hinting "that Paul should get out of the race." Hackett is "not interested in getting in a bloody internecine fight in a primary when the real target should be Mike DeWine," Brautigam said. But if Hackett doesn't run for the Senate, he said, he's likely to bow out of politics."Thanks a lot Paul for softening up the enemy for us. Ah..would you now mind stepping aside for a pro? Why don't you go play army and we'll do lunch sometime."
Paul must be feeling a bit like a bowling pin.
In case you've not been following it, they're throwing cold water on Hackett because Sherrod Brown has now thrown his hat in the ring and the Democratic number crunchers think he has a better shot at beating Republican incumbent Mike DeWine.
Smooth move Schu.
Not surprisingly, Brown's reversal has infuriated the Hackett camp. Hackett not only had begun assembling a staff in recent weeks, he also had bought a $130,000 motor home for campaigning around the state, says friend and adviser Michael Brautigam.No shit.
"He did that when he firmly committed to the race, right after Brown looked him in the eye, and said, 'I'm not running. Good luck,' " said Brautigam. "Politicians who shake someone's hand, look a person in the eye and say one thing and then do exactly the opposite is what's wrong with politics in America today."
This is nonsense and a great lead into what I've been meaning to write about for a few days now.
Why does the data show that the country has more "Democrats" vs. "Republicans", but more "conservatives" vs. "liberals"? Via Kevin Drum:
I suspect there are many reasons and no shortage of analysts in the Democratic party that could answer my question.
I've been writing about how progressives screw themselves here, here, here, to name a few. The Hackett situation is yet another example that I think helps explain the above charts. And yes, I'm going to engage in the age old Democratic tradition of analysis.
Increasingly, it's become more fashionable to call yourself conservative, while historically the Democratic party has held an advantage in party affiliation. Voters will maintain party affiliations for generations out of tradition. But when asked about their personal philosophy, they'll change that readily depending on how the wind blows. Polls have tended to show that liberal policies are favored by the public, yet the conservatives have done a much, much better job of marketing themselves...."Branding" if you will. And you'll notice that identification with the Democratic party "brand" does not have a good trend.
Well, Hackett represents an opportunity for Democrats to improve their "branding" (who the hell is Sherrod Brown anyway?) Hackett represents strong leadership, decisiveness, guts, willingness to challenge authority all done under the American flag of moral leadership. Oh, and he happens to be very bright too. His surprising finish in the Ohio district in which he was given NO chance at all was amazing. There is no doubt in my mind that the guy struck a chord with people and was (yet another) opportunity for Democrats to improve their brand. And, oh yeah. Do something we haven't done much...win a Senate seat in a iffy state.
So. What do Dems do with this gift?
The "in" crowd takes a look at the numbers, examines the precinct data, looks at the experience quotient, makes a coupla phone calls to the buds, and declares that the newcomer Hackett should go peddle his papers.
If I were Hackett, I think I'd give up politics too. The choice between the fascists and the gutless analytical types that are liberals, is not much of a choice.
Once again, the Democrats are acting stale and unimaginative. The party leadership is taking a golden opportunity to help build a dynamic party and turning it into party divisivenss and wimpiness. And besides discouraging fellow Democrats (again), they are (again) validating the conservative claims (again) that we're eggheads and gutless.
Do polls drive policy? Or does leadership on the issues drive the polls? I suspect a little of each. But one thing the GOP has demonstrated over and over again in the past decade or two is that the appearance of strong leadership and the appearance of good candidates can blot out the issues. Voters may care much less about a candidates position but do respond to the meta message. And in this case the Dems actually have a twofer!
Paul Hackett has a great meta message.