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  •  Getting a spine. (none)
    Democrats have had trouble in recent elections by thinking to take Republican votes they must move to the right.  This is the Third Way "thinking" that only worked for a very skilled politician like Bill Clinton, and even then, not very well.  

    This is not how to take Republican votes in the long run.  

    Americans are quite liberal when polled on issues, and do not want Democrats to be Republicans-lite.  They want strong leaders, and even though they don't agree with Republicans on most issues, Republicans at least say boldly how they will lead.  They offer a clear message, a clear vision, and they say it boldly.  

    In short, the better strategy for Democrats would be to move left.  Do it boldly, and unapologetically.  Build a coalition with Nader and the Greens.  Develop a clear ideology -- "not Bush" or "Republican-lite" will not do.  

    Find common ground there -- on the left-- not among Republicans.  Finding commonalities on the right was Gore's losing strategy.  Remember those Gore vs. Bush "debates" in which they agreed on everything?  

    •  Thanks for the response. (none)

      Here's my argument with that: Americans are polled liberal on generic topics: yes, everyone should have health insurance, nobody should starve.  Everyone should be able to feed their family if they work full time.  Vast majorities believe these things.

      The problem is, most Americans also distrust government.  This is my impression from first-hand discussion, but also from polls.  When Clinton came to office, only 19% of respondants to a national poll said "government can do more".  By the end of Clinton's term, about 38% said so due to Clinton's management.  Governments may be overcorporate and compremised in big ways, but they do reflect the public whim to a large extent.  The Dems lost the Congress in 1994, according to most accounts I've read, because of the anti-health care demogagery (sorry, need to learn to spell that) and because of their gasoline tax, the sad remains of the BUI.  The fact is, "big government liberals" don't win.  That's why the Repubs run against them.

      The answer for Democrats isn't to move left (a topic on which, OK, we disagree).  It hasn't worked nationally in the past: Clinton won reelection only by hauling off to the right and running as a Republican after the 1994 debacle (and humiliating Dole in his ads).  I do agree that Dems need to grow spines -- but that's a different topic.  I'm quite neo-lib myself but I'd much rather have a yellow dog liberal who'd go on TV and say what he means than a neolib who caves into conservatives.  Much of the best criticism of Bush has come from the centre, not the left.  For instance, I -- and polls suggested in late 2002 that this was a common perception -- was more sympathetic of criticism of the Iraq War from a strategic position: the dangers of unilateralism, the strain and resulting vulnerability on the military, the "pre-emption" precedent we didn't want to set, the dangers of not being able to pacify and democratize what was basically a Third World country that was already prejudiced against us, the fact that Bush isn't fit to oversee a military operation.  I was less impressed by the "war for oil" and "war is never good" arguments coming from the left (not all of course, there were also some very eloquent criticisms coming from the left but in general it wasn't very convincing).  If Democrats fought the right from the centre instead of caving in and leaving the fighting to the left -- and frankly most Americans don't give a whit was Nader or Dennis Kucinich or Noam Chomsky think -- we might have been able to prevent this dumb, destablizing war.

      Absolutely, finding commonalities is a losing strategy for Democrats, which is why Bush ran in 2000 as Al Gore with a bigger tax cut and a more winning personality.  But the Bush team was smart: they ran to the centre in order to push Gore left and alienate voters.  Americans aren't so much rightists as they are libertarians.  The cutlural aversion to Gore wasn't because he was too liberal, it's that he was too "socialist": a man who believes government nees to intervene in people's lives to prevent them from hurting themselves (he is a real Calvinist when you get down to it).  If you go back and read National Review or Weekly Standard or even Sully in TNR, that's how they played it: big government socialist is going to tell you how to run your life and tax you and take away your guns.

      I also disagree with your charaterizations of the debates.  Except for the second one -- the only one for which Gore won the media battle following in real time -- he was pretty aggressive, and on point.  "The difference" and "I'll fight for you" (unlike Bush, the easy going libertarian) were his two major themes because he knew that's what he had to get through in order to win.  "No difference" plays to Bush, which is why Nader adopted it as his catchphrase (I can't prove this of course, but it's what I believe) to hurt the Democrats.  It's absolutely not true that in debates one and three, Bush and Gore "agreed on everything".  I don't see how you could think that from reading the transcripts.  It certainly wasn't the reaction of the media who pasted Gore for being too argumentative and critical of Bush.  Almost every post-election analysis cites that Gore lost by running too far left, too "populist".  I don't agree with this at all but it's something you ought to consider since it's the far more mainstream opinion.

      One more thing: Greens really seem to think that they're the swing vote, that they control the discourse because they can make or break the Democrats (I'm not saying you believe this).  In fact, I'm all for a working Green Party because I don't think what the left wants is a viable strategy and there is a hell of a lot of room between the Republicans and the Wellstone-left that the Democrats need to fill.  But the result of the last election was a fluke: it's true that at least 3x as many people sympathized with Nader as voted for him, but the fact is he had the lowest vote total of any signficant third-party candidate in modern history.  Stassen got 4% in 1984; Perot got 8% in 1996; Anderson got 7% in 1980.  And that was before Nader's reputation took the beating it's taken recently.

      I'm just not convinced that the Greens really understand the distribution of American political opinions.  There are a lot of Democratic and other strategists who disagree with your assessments.  Lefties and socialists ought to have a party that represents them, sure.  But I don't believe that caving in to the left's wishes -- at least not immediately in one big jump left -- is a good strategy for the Democrats.  I'm much happier with what Kerry is doing.

      And when we meet again, I will fall to my knees, and rise to your needs -- Gary Daly (China Crisis)

      by tlaura on Fri Jun 25, 2004 at 08:29:06 PM PDT

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