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May 09, 2006

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NY Times smells a shift in the wind.

http://tinyurl.com/krhfb

They must be reading the blogs.

During the discussion on Scarborough last evening about Bush's poll numbers, Pat Buchanan said "an October surprise" might help Bush. I shiverered, thought "Iran," but interestingly no one asked what that October surprise might be. (Sorry if I should have Fitzed.)

Oops, FDL begins with "Fitz." I apologize.

we like FDL, no apology necessary.

Sally, I shiver whenever Buchanan opens his mouth.

And from the Note:


Per Bloomberg News' Heidi Przybyla, the fact that 57% of Americans believe sending troops to Iraq was a mistake compared to the 48% of those who disagreed with the Vietnam war in 1968 suggests much at stake. LINK


Wingnut John Podhoretz writes about the putative American voter cognative dissonance, but merely reveals his own.

Second, the president is losing support from conservatives and Republicans. There are all sorts of theories about why this is true, like how they don't like his spending plans and don't like his immigration policies. Fine, but he had the same immigration plan in 2004 and spent like a sailor in his first term and still had over 90 percent support during that election year.

So here's a theory: Republicans and conservatives have grown weary of defending Bush. They've been fighting and fighting and fighting for years, and they see no letup in the hostility toward him or in the energy and determination of his critics. Faced with that implacable opposition, they've grown not disaffected but disheartened.

They thought they were on a winning team. Now they're not so sure, and they're feeling let down, the way passionate sports fans do when their guys stumble and fall in the second half of the season. In this case, though, the economic data and other markers of progress suggest that the second half isn't actually going badly at all.

It's a strange moment. Either something new is happening in American politics that is going to rewrite existing rules, or the polls are measuring something that won't have much of a long-term impact.

We're not going to know the answer until the November elections.

None are so blind as those who refuse to see. And no, we don't have to wait until Novermber, just read today's post above, especially Prof. Franklin's piece. Bush will not see the other side of 40 again.

It's even more fun to look at disapproval ratings. Billmon has a post up this morning (called Nobody Fears You When You're Down and Out) in which he notes that Richard Nixon, right before he stepped on the helicopter to San Clemente, had a 66% disapproval rating. Bush right now is at 65%. And this is without any real Congressional investigations, no impeachment, no vice president resigning in disgrace, no top aides (and the Attorney General) being packed off to the federal pen. Yet.

It's even more fun to look at disapproval ratings. Billmon has a post up this morning (called Nobody Fears You When You're Down and Out) in which he notes that Richard Nixon, right before he stepped on the helicopter to San Clemente, had a 66% disapproval rating. Bush right now is at 65%. And this is without any real Congressional investigations, no impeachment, no vice president resigning in disgrace, no top aides (and the Attorney General) being packed off to the federal pen. Yet.

I hope the Dems will get the killer instinct and go for the jugular starting now, instead of waiting for the Repubs to self destruct in Nov.

I am sure Rove is setting the stage for many of his nefarious election activities from voter suppression to a repeat of the NH phone jamming; push polls, and October surprises.

But to be candid, I continue to be deeply frustrated by the DC Dems leadership in the House and Senate. They seem so afraid of their own shadows. Why can't they speak out like Dean always does on the TV shows?

Because Dean turns off 62% of those that hear him. I love the guy, and I understand his message, but you can't speak like that and win. Too partisan, just like Bush is now seen as too partisan.

You can speak like Paul Wellstone and win. You can speak like Obama and win. Or M. Warner. It's nuance, but it's important nuance.

Nietzsche once observed that when someone makes us change our opinion of him, we charge it heavily to his account. That is what happened to Nixon and what is happening to Bush, but for different reasons. Most people didn't really like Nixon, especially when he ran against JFK. Many respected him (in a way people don't respect politicians anymore) and of course he capitalized on (white) resentment against much of what happened in '64 to'68.

"Authenticity" as Bush has practiced it depends for its efficacy on people continuing to believe the con. Once they saw him for what he was (after Katrina) it was basically over for all but the Bushbots like Podhoretz. Everyone who hadn't sold their intellectual integrity could just admit their mistake and hope for something better. The Podhoretzes mistake is much larger and deeper, almost like what happened to the fellow travellers of the '30s after the show trials and the Hitler-Stalin non-aggression pact. Will it end up causing a reconversion back to the leftism of their parents? I'd bet not, but stranger things have happened.

DemFromCT, I'm going to disagree with you on that point.

The warmed over milk toast approach that the DLC led Dems in DC have tried for several election cycles have only resulted in losses. How many electoral losses should the party have before they try something different? With the exception of Bill Clinton himself (and he was a gifted politician), the Dems have lost every election in the last 15 years.

Nuance only works when you have an electorate with an attention span over a nanosecond and a media that is willing to explain the nuance. What is needed now IMO, is simple, straightforward, sharp contrasts. A black and white image. And the contrast that the Dems can draw is stark. That would provide the perfect backdrop for a change election vs more of the same. I also think voters are looking for character more than a specific policy. Kerry's inadequate response to the swiftboating made voters question his mental toughness to combat terrorists. None of his policy proposals could get through that mental fog.

So my question is should the Dems campaign with more of the same strategy and tactics of the past 15 years or use a different game plan than that?

ab initio

You're missing the point. The NY Times has a nice discussion about this, as have we, by Mimikatz and others earlier on TNH. But people who don't recognize Howard Dean's political limitations in additoon to his considerable strengths are not in a position to counsel how DC Dems should present themselves. I'm sorry if that sounds harsh, but it is, alas, true.

Dean appeals to partisans. But you need to consider how the Governor appears to everyone else.

DemFromCT, I get your point about Dean. It's not Dean I'd like to discuss. Are you an advocate of the centrist, don't offend, triangulate approach and strategy that the Dems leadership have emphazised for the past 15 years?

I can't remember where I read but there was an analysis of the Dems vs Repub conventions for the 2004 general election. The Dems took the approach of not even mentioning Bush and we had the famous Obama speech. The message minders made sure all the speeches were re-written with a positive slant. Net result, Kerry got a 4% bounce coming out of the convention. Then the Repubs had theirs which was an overtly partisan, purple ribbon, Dem bashing convention. We know the end result.

My question to you and others are what should the Dems campaign strategy for this years mid-terms be? More of the same that has been tried for the past 15 years or something different - less nuance and more stark contrast; less about being loved (aka nice) or about being respected for some courage of conviction.

DemFromCT, I get your point about Dean. It's not Dean I'd like to discuss. Are you an advocate of the centrist, don't offend, triangulate approach and strategy that the Dems leadership have emphazised for the past 15 years?

I can't remember where I read but there was an analysis of the Dems vs Repub conventions for the 2004 general election. The Dems took the approach of not even mentioning Bush and we had the famous Obama "we are all Americans" speech. The message minders made sure all the speeches were re-written with a positive slant. Net result, Kerry got a 4% bounce coming out of the convention. Then the Repubs had theirs which was an overtly partisan, purple ribbon, Dem bashing convention. We know the end result.

My question to you and others are what should the Dems campaign strategy for this years mid-terms be? More of the same that has been tried for the past 15 years or something different - less nuance and more stark contrast; less about being loved (aka nice) or about being respected for some courage of conviction.

ab initio, I vote for stark contrast; being respected for some courage of conviction. Don't nice guys and gals end up in last place?

"Are you an advocate of the centrist, don't offend, triangulate approach and strategy that the Dems leadership have emphazised for the past 15 years?"

No I'm not, but I'm not an advocate of in-your-face, either. There is this idea on the blogs that you're either in-your-face partisan, or taking a "centrist, don't offend, triangulate approach". That's a black-and-white analysis I reject.

Dick Durbin and Carl Levin are great examples of how to be strong without being combative, if you see them on TV. And the intial comment was how Dems present themselves (on TV), not whether they stand for anything (or not). So far, Hillary is an example of how not to do it IMHO (but I recognize her strengths that go with her weaknesses, too).

I referred to the Times and these TNH posts on common and uncommon ground because they cover the area I'm referring to.

I believe George W. Bush & party in 1999 came on as anything but nuanced. Sure, they didn't win without the help of Supreme Justices, but they continued to be pretty "stark" and seemed to win the approval of surprisingly many voters, not to mention the punditry and the press in general. I'd like to believe that the American public could appreciate nuance. Haven't seen much evidence. The Democratic portion of the populace, yes, I think they have some ability to understand and appreciate nuance.

And the U.S. has a large number of religious fundamentalists. I can certainly say that is a sector which doesn't have much truck for nuance.

The thing is, Bush himself does not come across as a harsh partisan. Even when he is at his nastiest towards the opposition, as with his critique of "irresponsible" war critics, he still uses nuanced language. Even when he blames the Dems for blocking legislation, he often doesn't identify them by name.

The point is, of course, he lets others do the dirty work.

So it is with Dean. Could a firebreathing partisan like Dean win a national election? Probably not. But that doesn't mean it's bad to have him out there as a spokesman for the party; he's hardly more partisan than Ken Mehlman, I trust everyone will agree.

The Democrats can bash Bush and the GOP all they like, as far as I'm concerned. They just need a candidate who has the ability to personally appear above it all. That's the formula that's worked in America for quite some time.

''And the U.S. has a large number of religious fundamentalists. I can certainly say that is a sector which doesn't have much truck for nuance."

Bush won two phenomenally close elections and couldn't win a third. After Clinton, stark and simplistic seemed acceptable. That was then, this is now.

It's just stupid to push in people's face that they erred, that they were wrong with their vote 2, 4 or 6 years ago. Satisying, maybe, but not smart politics. Better to lead them to the conclusion on their own, and offer a better alternative. Attack the other party's ideas, not the indie voters leaning towards the other party. (Base voters are fair game to thry and paint the other partry as extremists).

Note that Bush always was the above-the-fray nice guy, who let his surrogates do the dirty work. That's no accident. It's smart politics. Until Bush won in 2000, he was tightly controlled and always on message.

In any case, if you need the fundies to win, you've already lost. What you need to do is demoralize them and keep them home, not fire them up. Excite your base without firing up theirs. The party that does that best, wins.

I posted after Steve, but note the same concepts about Bush and surrogates.

People are mixing a lot of apples, oranges and bananas here.

What I and others have advocated is a positive, overarching vision or theme that is both distinct from the GOP and conveys something of the diffference between the parties and where the Dems would take the country. I said in my "common good" posts that the Dems used to and ought to stand for the common good and the underdogs. Common goals (like improvement on energy, global warming and fiscal soundness) against selfishness. And revamping health care. That is different from triangulation, which involves small differences and goals.

There is another contrast is in tone between Dean and some who have a similar message but don't come off as belligerent. There is a way to draw a contrast with Bush without alienating those who are open to the Dems but not very partisan and who Bush appealed to when he pretended to be a uniter not a divider. It is tricky to do, but not as much as when large numbers of people still liked Bush. I'm not for belligerent or demeaning, though I am for contrast and accountability.

We neet to keep remembering that in 2006 this is NOT A NATIONAL ELECTION, it is 435 district races in very different districts -- and what will work in one, might be a disaster in another. That's why we have to be careful about a national message, it needs to be sufficiently general that it does not disadvantage our condidates by putting them on the defensive about some specific that does not appeal in that district. It is tricky to balance these things out, but you really have to evaluate what is being done by knowing districts, and commenting on the competence of the candidate given those realities.

I actually think Dean is doing what he was hired to do -- rebuild state and local parties, and get them the assets they need to compete. We haven't heard all that much about it, but in fact very few people go all nuts over voter files and new computer assets and the people who know how to apply them to political campaigns -- it is all back room stufr. But it is one of the reasons we have been so week in the past couple of decades -- we were still running campaigns on models that no longer applied. Dean does extremely well when he comes into a community and meets with the activists, and mixes a little red meat with the assets and organization matters. He changed the ratio -- when the DNC sends in a speaker to a dinner/fund raiser, no longer does 90% of the money end up in the DNC -- At least half of it stays local, creating the base to support the new state offices and staff. There are lots of Washington based power brokers who do not like the new Finance system as it transfers power from DC to the State Parties. But in electing Dean to head the DNC that was the decision made. And one needs to comprehend that the new model being built is far more open to what the "netroots" folk offer as an asset than the old DC centralized system. It is being built now -- and we need to be sophisticated observers of what's happening.

And I'll make another point -- to win, in 2006, and then do even better in 2008, we have to move the independents in the center and perhaps center right into the Democratic Voter column. We need to consider what will move these folks who are now telling the pollsters that they dislike Bush, don't trust him, now think Iraq was a terrible mistake, and on and on. We just can't take back the House and Senate in 2006 without moving these voters -- so how do you do it, and make it likely they will find the experience of voting Democratic a pleasant experience, and they will really want to do it again in 2008.

One thing good this year is we have a many more really attractive candidates willing to make these races. And if we do well -- in 2008 it will be even better. Many fewer party hacks are running -- many more who have real accomplishments in other fields, and are just turning to politics. Getting and keeping those Independents in the middle is very much about quality candidates that people want to support.

Well said by Sara and Mimikatz. Dean's a better COO than spokesperson, and I appreciate the rebuilding of the state party apparatus, one of his great strengths.

Takes me back to an earlier era. "All politics is local". And "Don't get mad, get even."

I will debate with Sara a bit about the national character of the election (see CT, which is all national and might cost the Rs a few seats in Congress, as well as make a media star of Ned Lamont even if it's a losing cause).

Indeed, apples are mixed with grapes and bananas. How one appears is different than what one stands for, which is different than how one runs.

to win, in 2006, and then do even better in 2008, we have to move the independents in the center and perhaps center right into the Democratic Voter column. We need to consider what will move these folks who are now telling the pollsters that they dislike Bush, don't trust him, now think Iraq was a terrible mistake, and on and on. We just can't take back the House and Senate in 2006 without moving these voters -- so how do you do it, and make it likely they will find the experience of voting Democratic a pleasant experience, and they will really want to do it again in 2008.

That is exactly right.

I certainly did not mean to suggest that "you need the fundies to win." Shouldn't have mentioned them, I guess. The intended point was that there are a great many of them and those who appeal to them do it by drawing serious lines of supposed morality re sexual issues (that's what they think morality is about). But "those who appeal to them" are Republicans, not Democrats. Democrats are more nuanced. Bill Clinton could venture on to their turf by using (nuanced) formulae such as "safe, legal and rare" as to abortion, and "don't ask, don't tell" re homosexual issues in military, although I imagine fundies still voted Republican. I think Hillary Clinton may also have a way of speaking to the biblical conservatives. She herself is quite religious, although painted as a devil of some sort.

But Howard Dean has a better concept of morality as social justice, and he is articulate and persuasive in making the case. Funny thing about Howard Dean. People have hyperventilated about the things he says, which usually end up as the accepted reality. Case in point: When Saddam Hussein was captured, he stated "America is no safer because of his capture." Yikes! What a thing to say. The man must be crazy. Now everyone agrees America is no safer, maybe less safe. Who cares about Saddam. They're trapped in Iraq, and thinking about doing something else dramatic in Iran to change the topic. I see the point about Bush, prior 2000 appointment as prez, appearing to be the nice guy, but he has not appeared to this possibly "stupid" observer to be other than hard-driving to the mean, hard right ever since. This has become ever more obvious to ever more of the population. He won two "phenomenally close" elections and couldn't win a third. He doesn't have to. The damage he has done in eight years will be a legacy long to be endured.

Pilgrim and Sara are right that the Dems need to attract center and even center-right people who are disturbed about where the country is going but aren't cultural progressives. I don't mean hard-core religious right, but people (particularly parents) who are put off by all the sleaze and greed in our culture.

And, yes, Dean's big sin was to say out loud what everyone knows but is afraid to acknowledge, because they've bought in in just the way Trapper John described here.

I don't mean hard-core religious right, but people (particularly parents) who are put off by all the sleaze and greed in our culture.

Ah, but if you even mention Hillary's stance on violent video games, you get the netroots all atwitter! So what is to be done?

Attacking video games ONLY shows you are just pandering. It's an easy way for politicians of Hillary's generation to show how "concerned" they are.

If you are serious about fighting sleaze in the culture, you have to take on things like American Idol and Survivor and Cops and 24 and Girls Gone Wild. Not just whatever is the hotbutton issue with parents of teens this week (pop lyrics, video games, dancing). Not the unspecified "Hollywood" the right likes to rail against, but the actual corporations. Which is kinda hard when you're trying to suck up to Mucdoch and GE to get elected...

It seems to me that it's impossible to do anything whatsoever about these close-to-home, family-type issues that won't be regarded as pandering by the people who don't care about them.

NY Times/CBS poll says Bush at an alltime low (31%).

He drew poor marks on the specific issues that have been at the top of the national agenda in recent months — in particular, immigration and gas prices — underscoring the difficulty the administration faces in reversing its political fortunes...

Just 13 percent approved of Mr. Bush's handling of rising gas prices. Only one-quarter said they approved of his handling of immigration, as Congressional Republicans struggle to come up with a compromise to deal with the influx of illegal immigrants into the country.

But it's all about Iraq.

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