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8/04/2005

Pissing on the parade

I've been doing a lot of ragging on my left-of-center comrades lately, so I'll try to make this the last one for a while. But I'm wondering if the left blogosphere isn't getting a bit hyperbolic about Paul Hackett's "victory" in Ohio last night. Liberal bloggers (along with a few conservatives) are claiming that the fact that Hackett ran so close in a heavily Republican district portends major problems for the GOP in Ohio and nationwide:
"Well, Paul Hackett lost the battle ... But, boy, did he change the rules of the game ... If the GOP can't win by a romp in Ohio's Second District, they are in big trouble. And four points in this district is big trouble ... Great job by Paul Hackett...he has started the campaign for 2006 and has given us all great hope." (AMERICAblog)

"We didn't take the seat, but holy shit was this a win for the 50 state strategy, the netroots, and the future of the country--the grassroots of the Democratic Party. We have sent a powerful message for 2006 tonight, and over the past several weeks. Close the book on round one, an overwhelming victory of us." (Swing State Project)

"The decline and fall of the GOP has begun ... It's not often that you'll see Democrats celebrating an electoral defeat, but the champagne must be flowing at DNC headquarters tonight as the results in Ohio's 2nd US House District come in." (Knappster)

"This is the Beginning of the End of the Republican Stranglehold ... This is an inspiring moment. Hold on to it. Use it. We will break the Republican hegemony and get our country back." (The Broad View.)

"Do you hear the winds of change stirring in another red state? You should, thanks to grassroots Democrats around the country who stood up for Paul Hackett, a real Democrat who wasn't afraid to oppose the war - - or George W. Bush." (Janet's Blog)

"New Ohio Democratic superstar Paul Hackett went into the lion's den of pure Red Southern Ohio and scared the pants off of the GOP losing by less than 4 points in the face of a NRCC promise to "bury him." No spin - the GOP is on the run ... We have delivered a lesson - Fighting Dems will win the day. On to 2006, when we take back the Congress." (Daily Kos)

Well, call me pessimistic, but I'm highly skeptical that the Hackett race is the "beginning of the end" of GOP electoral hegemony. I have to wonder if the ebullient reaction to it isn't in large part due to the fact that it fits well into a theory that many liberals have bought hook, line, and sinker - that all we need to do is run candidates who have military credentials and who are thus immune from the "weak on national security" line of attack. Democracy Guy, in a post that contains much I don't agree with, nevertheless is correct on this point:
He's a soldier returned from Iraq, who now criticizes the war. If that strikes you as a caricature of the rationale that governed the entire 2004 presidential primary process for Democrats, you're right. We need to look tough, so let's run soldiers on the ballot.

And nothing gets the lefty blogosphere revved up like a soldier Democrat running on an anti-Iraq war platform. The blogosphere's hysteria over this race is downright embarrassing ... Hackett is a hero of the blogosphere because he's a soldier critical of the Iraq war. Period. It's the same reason that Wesley Clark keeps winning straw polls at DailyKos. That litmus test has become a prerequisite of the lefty blogosphere's interest in electing Democrats. It is a calculation bereft of meaning, reason, or rationality, and voters see right through it.
It's also worth noting that Hackett hardly ran as a "hard left" candidate, despite the usual GOP rhetoric to the contrary. He may have opposed the war initially, but he supports the continued occupation. And the intensity of his criticism of Bush was probably overstated by liberal bloggers, a point made by The Ethical Werewolf:
I disagree with the dKossish line that Hackett succeeded by uncompromisingly yelling the Democratic line everywhere ... Hackett did an impressive job of presenting himself as a hard-core liberal to the bloggers, but he did feature Bush fairly positively in one of his ads. Hackett's webpage only identifies him as a Democrat in third-party news stories.
All that said, it is impressive, to some extent, that Hackett, with an assist from the liberal blogs, was able to make the race so competitive. But I'm dismayed by the tendency of liberals to think that "getting tough" on military matters is the panacea to the Democrats' electoral woes. The Democrats don't need to run war veterans - note how well that turned out last year - and they don't need to be pushing for a bigger army.

The key to better electoral prospects for the Democratic Party is a commitment to economic populism; think Bernie Sanders, not Wesley Clark, and leave the war mongering to the Republicans.

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