The Karl Rove Syndrome
It’s not about winning at any cost; it’s about winning with a philosophy that resonates with the American public. There seems to be a lot of Rove envy within the ranks of the Democratic Party that continues to foster the idea that if we only had a tactician like Rove, we could win elections too. While I too believe that political strategy is sorely lacking in Democratic campaigns, what we really are missing is a philosophical thrust, a core of beliefs at the center from which our political rhetoric can flow.
The Republicans have been catapulted into the highest echelons of power because they have been able to sell their brand of Americanism to the public, but the packaging is but a small part of the deal. There is a clear agenda that is driving them, control of the Middle East, privatization of as many government agencies as possible, tax cuts for the rich and unlimited power of corporations without all that pesky government oversight. This is what gets the conservative kids out into the streets to raise money for the Republican Party. This is what opens the floodgates of cash into the GOP coffers and this is what drives Young Republicans on college campuses into right wing think tanks after graduation. What do we offer young liberal thinkers who want to contribute to the cause? Usually nothing more than an Internet petition or an envelope in which to send money to the DCCC.
Markos Moulitsas at the Daily Kos is thankfully gaining some influence within the Democratic Party leadership and his daily tirades telling the Democrats to stop shrinking from a fight and take the GOP on in as direct a way as possible, is a port in the storm for most of us. If they are smart, they will listen, as it may be their last chance to move beyond their current sidelined status. But what Kos is offering is all flash and no substance. His tactics are right on, but there is a huge chunk missing. The policy behind the politics is what will win elections and more importantly what will keep Democrats in power if they are ever able to make it that far.
Where is the liberal economic think tank that has a counter proposal to the draconian policies touted by Grover Norquist’s “Americans For Tax Reform”? Surprisingly, the answer is a long list of organizations all working independently of one another, and not surprisingly are all under funded. The inherent problem with working for social justice is that there are not corporations lining up to bankroll a project that provides no direct benefit to them and in fact will most likely affect them adversely. Striving to give those without the money to buy a place at the table a chance to participate in the process may be a much more worthy cause, but it is one that doesn’t exactly bring in the cash. The fact that there are any non-profits working on developing liberal economic policy is amazing, but the fact that there is not one, sharing the limited resources, is just sad.
One of the best characteristics of the Democratic Party is the diversity of the people who belong to it. Paradoxically, one of the greatest weaknesses of the Democratic Party is its lack of unity. Get two liberals in a room and you will have two very well thought out plans of how the party should proceed. Get two hundred liberals and you get two hundred plans. See the problem? There are plenty of rich liberals, but they are not going to throw money to ten think tanks that will come up with ten competing economic proposals that will in turn be chosen by one of ten candidates. We need to consolidate our resources to come up with one, well thought out, cohesive plan for each of the problems facing our country. Let there be fewer jobs available in these think tanks and then let’s pay them the same wages they would get from Grover Norquist. We should show liberals that we understand the value of what they have to offer. There must be an honest and hard fought debate at the bottom, allowing for the best ideas to rise above the rest. But unless we want to continue to be a fragmented party, we must give these great ideas somewhere to go.
Our current Democratic leaders are floundering around, looking for a message, any message that will help them to take advantage of their current good fortune in Bush’s sagging poll numbers. But any message is not the answer. The best possible message crafted from the best possible policy goals is the only way to win the hearts and minds of the American people. Tell us what you’re going to do for us, then and only then, wrap it up in sparkly paper with a bow on top. We are tired of pretty packages with nothing inside. Liberals are not lacking for good ideas, what we lack is a structure that will harness and hone the ones that we have. Kos has the paper and the bow all ready. All we have to do is fill up the box.