Sunday, March 26, 2006

Editorial: Who's hiding in the shadows and who's waving their Feingold?

What do you say when you're too scared to say anything?

Listen to the proclaimed leadership in the Democratic Party.

You talk a lot of nonsense. You support a war the people have turned against.

You grab some Republican talking points and use them yourself with an emphasis on 'fine tuning.'

I would've fought the war differently, you say. Or I would've run that program differently.

You make the Republicans your base line. You make them your touch stone. And everyone else's because if the opposition party (so called) is going to take on the ideas of the party in the power, then they are the base line.

As the 2006 elections draw nearer, we hear more talk of "middle class families." Oh, there's a tough issue! Reality is that most people think they are "middle class" (polls have demonstrated this -- or that they at least select that to identify themselves). LBJ wanted to fight a "war" on poverty but those days are gone. "Poor people, you're on your own" is the message. (Unless you want to pin your hopes on RFK wanna be, neolib and star of Dude, Where's My Barber? John Edwards -- seriously, get a hair cut, Florence Henderson could barely pull off that long lager in the back and she was blonde.)

In the 2002 elections, the Democrats collectively avoided the issue of the war. In 2004, John Kerry alternated between "Wrong war at the wrong time" soundbytes and pledges of how he's fight it "smarter."

Anything you can do I can do . . . smarter?

That's a platform. That's a way to win voters. (Even the ones hollering out, "No, you can't!" to your "Yes, I can!") It's a one-sided game of Red Rover (Red Rover, Red Rover let Harry Reid come over!) that allows the right to always set the terms of the debate and to be portrayed as the baseline by the corporate media.

That's not a winning strategy. Standing in place and critiquing the other party's policies isn't presenting new ideas or demonstrating a vision.

Does the entire leadership have a bad case of the (Evan) Blahs?

In 2002, if they were good boys and girls and sat in their seats and didn't disrupt, they were guaranteed to win back at least one house because that always happens. Only it didn't in 2002, did it?

In 2004, the campaign message often appeared to be (for the presidential ticket), "Vote for me, I'm not Bully Boy!"

While that may indeed be enough to persuade us, other voters wanted something more.

Where's the vision. Betsy Wright could have written, "It's the vision thing" -- but she didn't have to write it, she kept the Clinton campaign focused on the big ideals. (Which, some would argue, amounted to little more than vague plans and no follow up; regardless, voters got a sense that a vote for Bill Clinton was a vote for change.)

Playing it safe didn't results in massive wins in 2002 and it didn't in 2004. But somehow, it's going to be different in 2006?

Nothing changes if nothing changes.

And nothing's changed. The Patriot Act passed. There's still not a significant number of Congress members calling for impeachment (or for it to be explored). Russ was left with his Feingold dangling in the breeze as Hillary, Harry and assorted others went running for cover. And always there is Iraq.

There's room in the "big tent" for Joe Lieberman's constant war mongering but not for an anti-war voice? Is that what it is? Is that how it will be?

The slate of "warrior" candidates, are they going to crash and burn as happened in 2004 when we were all supposed to rally around a candidate, with no experience and no platform, just because he'd served in Iraq? If so, that's their fault but it's also the party's fault. When you run novice candidates, you need to educate them. When you back them (and select them, some would argue), you need to offer something more than, "Just don't say anything that wouldn't get said on This Week or Meet the Press and you'll do fine."

Over the years, the Democratic Party has always had one card to play when everything else failed -- the choice card. Having allowed Alito and Roberts to be confirmed to the Court, that card may not play well. Not because the pro-choice position has lost traction (it hasn't, it's still popular with the public) but because the Democrats demonstrated that all the talk was just posturing.

The "vision" (such as it is), is to hope a Republican steps into a trap or fumbles badly. That's not vision. That's not even good strategy. That does, however, appear to be the plan.

There's a war waging in Iraq and people are dying. Silence on the war is not "prudent" -- it's cowardly. On every issue, there's a lot of that going around. If you're serving in Congress currently and have failed to wave your own Feingold around, you might want to kiss good-bye notions and dreams of running for president in 2008.

If you want to win elections, you have to campaign. Not stand around, stand in place, hoping for a screw up while you say, "What he said, only I'd fine tune differently." That's not vision. That's not bravery. That's not how an opposition party ever finds itself in the majority. That is how a sidelined party remains hidden in the shadows.
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