Wednesday, February 16, 2005


In an attempt to bring our blog out of what we've begun affectionately calling "The Stone Age," I set aside some time, got a subscription to Atlantic Monthly, and started writing. (Sleep? who needs sleep?)

While individual events are more immediate, the overall tactics of politics is always interesting. Immediately after November 2nd, political commentators began examining and questioning the democratic strategy, all the way down to the foundation of its positions. The Atlantic Monthly recently published an interview with Chuck Todd, author of Clintonism, R.I.P, examining the strategies used so effectively by Clinton - mainly his avoidal of hard stances to appeal to both sides.

"This approach allowed Clinton to dissociate himself (and, by extension, his party) from many of the unpopular liberal policies of the past, steering a course between traditional liberal and conservative positions with bold and often controversial plans for highly charged issues such as race, welfare reform, and free trade, and in the process managing to neutralize many of the old criticisms."

Sound familiar? If it worked so well for Clinton, why didn't it work for Kerry? Part of the blame can be placed on Kerry, that he didn't have Slick Willy's charisma and political talent. On the other hand, blame can also be placed on Karl Rove, the new White House Deputy Chief of Staff. Rumored to keep Machiavelli's Prince (interpreted by most to be a handbook for autocrats) on his bedside table, Rove is an expert at manipulating situations.

"Rove likes to go after his opponents' strengths and turn them into weaknesses. A classic case is the way he twisted Kerry's war record around into a weakness. With his own candidate, he took weaknesses and turned them into strengths. Maybe Bush isn't the most eloquent speaker, and he's not thought of as the smartest guy. But Rove turned that around into the message that at least you know where he stands."
The Atlantic Monthly's Al From published a counterpoint, saying that Clintonism was "the party's most successful formula in presidential elections in six decades." As loathe as I am to say it, I don't think Clintonism can work again. I would love to believe that the Democratic party just needs to find a charismatic candidate and run a middle-of-the-road platform. Unfortunately, I think the political world has shifted, that Rove has 'tainted' the waters. Americans have shown that they no longer vote on the basis of their own personal interest, no longer hold their politicians accountable, and no longer value global friendships. The Democratic party can't count on logical positions to get votes, they need to play the new game, with the new rules.

"They need a big overarching message like, 'The Democratic Party believes that government should work,' or 'believes in individual rights,' or 'in privacy...'"

If most of America wants strong convictions and broad themes, there's no reason the democratic party can't tap into that. While I'd love to see the themes be intellectualism and accountability, I figure that individual rights and economic responsibility would appeal to more of America.


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