ARC's 1st Law: As a "progressive" online discussion grows longer, the probability of a nefarious reference to Karl Rove approaches one

Thursday, March 09, 2006

There's more to seizing opportunity than re-wording slogans

From the Washington Post, there is an article about the sad state of the Democratic Party. Some highlights:

Democratic leaders had set a goal of issuing their legislative manifesto by November 2005 to give voters a full year to digest their proposals. But some Democrats protested that the release date was too early, so they put it off until January. The new date slipped twice again, and now House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (Calif.) says the document will be unveiled in "a matter of weeks."
How bad must it be that your much vaunted "legislative manifesto" slips not one date, but several times, over a period of months. Sort of a "the checks in the mail" from a political party.
Some Democrats fear that the hesitant handling is symbolic of larger problems facing the party in trying to seize control of the House and Senate after more than a decade of almost unbroken minority status. Lawmakers and strategists have complained about erratic or uncertain leadership and repeated delays in resolving important issues.
You don't say? I guess that answers the question. "Pretty bad."
The conflict goes well beyond Capitol Hill. The failure of congressional leaders to deliver a clear message has left some Democratic governors deeply frustrated and at odds with Washington Democrats over strategy.
Uh-oh, you mean its a party-wide thing?

Party leaders, for example, have yet to decide whether Democrats should focus on a sharply negative campaign against President Bush and the Republicans, by jumping on debacles such as the administration's handling of the Dubai port deal -- or stress their own priorities and values.
Well so far they've only been doing the negative campaign bit, and while that may reduce Bush's poll ratings, it won't necessarily win any house seats. So if they decide to stress their own priorites and values, what pray tell would those be? More on that later.

How is the image of the party doing to those middle of the road voters, those voters that you were trying to win with the attacks against Bush?
"It could be a great year for Democrats," said Rep. Jim Cooper (D-Tenn.), but the party must present a more moderate face and distinguish itself more clearly from the GOP on issues such as ethics. "The comment I hear is 'I'd really like to vote for you guys, but I can't stand the folks I see on TV,' " Cooper said in a telephone interview from Nashville.
Oooh... Sorry, guess those attacks haven't been helping. It just shows the party is a party without any "priorities and values."
The Democratic leaders in Congress -- Pelosi and Sen. Harry M. Reid (Nev.) -- are the party's chief strategists and architects of the agenda, which they view as a way to market party ideas on energy, health care, education and other issues. They have held countless meetings to construct the right list, consulting with governors, mayors and just about every Democratic adviser in town.
Hmm.. Ok, so there are the priorities. Wait, what's missing? Oh yeah, national security. That must be lumped in there with "other issues." Surely the party is not so blind as to see that national security is the true national issue facing the country today. The last elections were certainly focused on that issue, since they democratic party decided that they had to nominate a military veteran to highlight the issue.

So Reid is one of the architects, huh? So Senator Reid, where is that manifesto you've been promising us?
"By the time the election rolls around, people are going to know where Democrats stand," Reid said.
Oh, ok. We'll just check in with you before November 2nd then. When should we expect to see it? Sometime around before then I would hope? A question for you Senator Reid.... Um... Why do you need an election to tell us what you stand for? Have you maybe thought about checking with members of your party (say some of the governors) for what you might want to stand for?
But many in the party have their doubts. On Feb. 27, Reid and Pelosi appeared before the Democratic Governors Association. At one point in the conversation, Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack, noting that the two leaders had talked about a variety of themes and ideas, asked for help. Could they reduce the message to just two or three core ideas that governors could echo in the states?
Sounds like a reasonable plan, how about it, Mr. Reid, Ms. Pelosi?
According to multiple accounts from those in the room, Reid said they had narrowed the list to six and proceeded to talk about them. Pelosi then offered her six -- not all the same as Reid's. Oregon Gov. Ted Kulongoski said later: "One of the other governors said 'What do you think?' and I said 'You know what I think? I don't think we have a message.' "
Oooh... Perhaps Mr. Kulongoski's been reading Another Rovian Conspiracy.
Even the party's five-word 2006 motto has preoccupied congressional Democrats for months. "We had meetings where senators offered suggestions," Reid said. "We had focus groups. We worked hard on that. . . . It's a long, slow, arduous process."
It's a long, slow, arduous process to come up with a 5 word motto? I'd hate to see them with the majority in either house. How long, slow, arduous a process is the legislative process?
That slogan -- "Together, America Can Do Better" -- was revived from the 2004 presidential campaign of Sen. John F. Kerry. It was the last line of Virginia Gov. Timothy M. Kaine's response to President Bush's State of the Union address, and Reid, Pelosi and Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean have used it in speeches. But there is an effort afoot to drop the word "together." It tests well in focus groups and audiences, Democratic sources said, but it makes the syntax incorrect.
Nothing should be revived from the campaign of John F. Kerry. That's their first problem.
Governors privately scoff at the slogan. They also say the message coming from congressional leaders has been too relentlessly negative. "They want to coordinate. They want to collaborate. That's all good," said one Democratic governor who declined to be identified in order to talk candidly about a closed-door meeting. "The question is: Coordinate or collaborate on what? People need to know not just what we're against but what we're for. That's the kind of message the governors are interested in developing at the national level."
So why the lack of developing a unified message? Or at least a unified approach to the biggest issue addressing the nation today, national security?
Perhaps the Democrats' greatest dilemma is how to respond to the Iraq war. It looms as the biggest question mark over Bush's administration and the Republican lawmakers who have backed him on the conflict almost without question.
And why is it a dilemna? Pick a side and stick to it?

Congressional Democrats have been split over the war since 2002, when many voted to authorize military action. The ground shifted last November when Rep. John P. Murtha (Pa.), a leading Democratic voice on military matters, called for U.S. troops to be withdrawn as soon as possible. Two weeks later, Pelosi endorsed his stance.

Although Pelosi said she was not speaking for her caucus, some colleagues complained that she was handing Republicans a gift by enabling them to tag Democrats as soft on terrorism and forcing Democratic candidates to explain whether they agreed with their House leader.

And so we get to the core of the problem. Democrats want it both ways. They want to be against the War on Terror, but also for it. Just like John Kerry's position in 2004. And as we saw in that election, that stance only alienates both sides, and doesn't conjure an image of leadership.
"There are lots of skeptics," Schumer conceded. But the polls look better and better, he stressed. "There may be some inside-the-Beltway babble, but it's not affecting the voters," said Schumer, who wants the agenda delayed again -- until summer.
Well at least they'll get to the job of leading the country. Sometime. Just not today.


Your Co-Conspirator,
ARC: Brian

Comments (2)
St Wendeler said...

Well, let's be honest. The Democratic leadership is way to the Left of the American voter... and even to the Left of the Democratic Party. They're from small enclaves in the West and the Northeast, with no real connection to the Midwest. Thus, when the leadership suggests a message or a policy, the reality-based democrats (ie those from outside of these enclaves of liberal orthodoxy) try to bring them back into the fold.

When the question of the WOT or the War in Iraq comes up, the leadership immediately adops the policy stance of MoveOn.org... and they're then challenged from those that have to return to "jesusland" and answer to the voters.

Brian said...

Right, which is why I think this article is indicative of the problems the Democrats are going to face in trying to gain a majority in the House and Senate. It just ain't going to happen. Let's face if they had a good story, they'd be selling the story.

It didn't take Bill Clinton 2 years to come up with "Its the economy, stupid."

They don't have a message, and they aren't going to come up with one before the elections. They are going to run on "We're not Bush".