In my recent comments and diaries, I have tried to advocate for wisdom over passion: progressives need to stop being distracted by the rigors of a hotly contested and vigorous nominating process and keep their eyes on the prize. The passion of Obama partisans and Clinton partisans (I was an Edwards partisan, btw) is praiseworthy and necessary, BUT ...
We simply must keep our eyes on election day in November. And I don't mean reading tea leaves to try to discern who is more likely to beat whichever GOP bastard (increasingly likely to be McCain). I mean focusing on the issues that will win for us on the real super Tuesday. So I'd like to bring two pieces to the attention of Kossacks today, one from the NY Times and one from the Washington Post.
First, Bob Herbert's column in today's Times warns us against complacency. Here are some key paragraphs:
There is a surge of excitement running through Democratic voters and public officials in this election cycle that has seldom been seen in recent decades.
This is the stuff of which overconfidence is made.
Anyone who thinks the Democrats are a lock to win in November has somehow forgotten about Karl Rove, the right-wing radio network, the hanging chads of 2000, the Swift boat debacle, the intimidation of black voters in Florida, the long lines of Democratic voters standing forlornly in the rain in Ohio, and on and on.
Those who may think that a woman named Clinton or a black man named Obama will have an easy time winning the White House this year should switch to something less disorienting than whatever it is they’re smoking.
Hold that thought and switch to Jonathan Weisman's analysis of the relationship between the state of the economy and the outcomes of the election with the headline "Decline in U.S. Jobs Could Prove Costly to GOP Nominee." Here are some key paragraphs:
For Republicans already facing an economic headwind, the jobs numbers could prove punishing. Traditionally, the party holding the White House is blamed for bad economic times -- and credited for booms -- and economists said yesterday that this year should be no different, even if GOP candidates continue to distance themselves from President Bush.
Ray C. Fair, an economist at Yale University ... has modeled the economy's impact on elections for decades. Because of slow economic growth, Fair had already predicted that the Republican nominee -- weighed down by voter demands for change after eight years of GOP control -- could hope for only 48 percent of the vote. If growth turns even barely negative, the share drops to 46 percent, he said.
"There's no case in history in which we've had a bad recession and the incumbent party has won," he said. "Never."
These two snippets from the today's pundit output would seem to be in tension with each other. Weisman seems to be saying Dems can't lose if the economy sours and the economy is already showing major signs of sourness. Herbert is pointing out that nothing in politics is inevitable and it won't be over until the fat lady sings. And maybe not even then.
Here's the lesson I take from putting these two bits of analysis together. We (in the progressive wing of the democratic party) need to be post-partisan ourselves, to stop all this "I won't vote for X or Y" stuff and look down the road. We have the issues on our side. We're going to have Rovian garbage -- aggravated by the historic nature of our candidate, whether we nominate a woman or a black man -- in our faces. We need to make issues count for us, bigtime.
As Gail Collins, in her "Voter's Guide" in today's NYTimes, writes:
I’m a Democrat hoping to vote solely on the basis of the issues. What should I be pondering?
Unless you have very, very strong feelings about the details of mandatory coverage in a national health care plan, there is less than a millimeter of serious policy disagreement between them.
What if I want to pick the one with the best chance of winning?
Experts in voter behavior could not figure out what little New Hampshire was going to do five minutes before the primary. What makes you think you can predict how people in Ohio and Florida are going to feel in November? This is the line of thinking that led us directly to John Kerry.
So how do I decide who to vote for?
There’s no intellectual answer. Stop torturing yourself and feel free to go with your gut.
To which I say "amen." But once you're done voting your gut, use your head. In fact, use your head now. We can win big if we all focus on the economy, tax policy, health care policy, and yes, the war. McCain ought to be easy to beat if we stay focused, starting now, on those issues. As we move forward, we will need to overcome either racism or misogyny -- that's what Herbert meant when he wrote "Those who may think that a woman named Clinton or a black man named Obama will have an easy time winning the White House this year should switch to something less disorienting than whatever it is they’re smoking."
We cannot afford to become complacent. And we cannot afford to help our adversaries by writing stuff, yes even in the blogosphere, that they can throw back at us next fall.
Write FOR your candidate of choice. Tease out those millimeters of policy differences. By all means, vote when it's your turn. Just don't foul your own nest. We all have to live in it.