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12/30/2005

No more 'Fighting Dems'

The majority of liberal Democrats are, quite simply, hideous at political strategy. This would be bad enough, if they realized it, but they don't; they think they are masters at it, and they end up doing things that are too clever by half.

Witness the fascination, especially among bloggers, with Democratic candidates who have military experience. Why anyone would think that being a veteran is an advantage for a Democrat, after the the flame-out of Wesley Clark and the swift-boating of John Kerry, is beyond me. But the delusion that Democrats can neutralize the GOP's advantage on 'national security' by running candidates who have worn a uniform persists.

Clark wins one straw poll after another at Daily Kos, and left-of-center bloggers are practically lining up to fellate Paul Hackett. Why? For one reason, and one reason only: they've served in the military. Military service, it is thought, is the key to electability, despite all evidence to the contrary.

Liberals really need to be shaken out of this delusion. Mike the Mad Biologist excerpts a nice essay by a Daily Kos diarist who explains why the 'Fighting Dems' strategy is so faulty:
When Bill Clinton defeated veterans George H.W. Bush then Bob Dole, the era of required military service to serve the people was declared dead. Why is the Democratic Party trying to revive a dead era?... what's the actual message? Is there any other kind of Democrat but a fighting one? Apparently not according to the "Fightin' Dems" brand. Forget education, jobs, privacy, community responsibility--our values and what we stand for; all we want now is 'boots on the ground' experience to combat Bush's war. The tactic looks cynical and reactionary--Why? Because it is. If many of us in the Democratic Party are turned off, what do you think swing voters (not to mention republicans) will think?

...If all we needed to take America back was an "officer and a gentleman" to sweep everyone from hippies to hawks off their feet, John Kerry would be President right now. And if the republicans didn't have a plan to undo every 'hero' someone places on a pedestal, John McCain wouldn't be a punchline.

...Does anyone really think this tactic scares republicans? One little bit? This distraction from the issues is permission to swift boat the entire party with broad brush strokes. I'm doing it right now. Look how easy we've made it. You can't swift boat someone until some moron places them on a pedestal...

..."Fightin' Dems" not only accepts the republican framing of the war as the most vital issue of our day, it endorses it. In Washington the war in Iraq may be the most important issue to "get Bush" but how does that translate to a family in NC, or AZ, or PA that can't buy food, afford healthcare or find a job? Triangulate. How do "Fightin' Dems" fighting Bush (or his war) help the average swing voter's bottom line? Politics 101: It's still the economy, Stupid.

...

Let me tell you what swing voters actually see in this giddy "Fightin' Dems" hysteria. 'Cause it aint pretty. Order takers, not following orders. Subordinates turning on their Commander in Chief. Whiners. Every "Fightin' Dem" is an insubordinate flip-flopper. See how easy that was? Did you really not see this coming? Learn from our mistakes. Stop repeating them.
Another reason to doubt the efficacy of this strategy is that it invites making 'national security' and foreign policy the focus of the campaign, which we all know is the road to victory for the GOP, not Democrats.

Fellow progressives, I implore you: stop with the half-baked realpolitik, and start just doing the right thing, because, frankly, you suck at realpolitik, and your attempts to out-Rove Rove just end up backfiring. The American people want someone who will stand up for their interests. Do that, and you've got it made. That's all the strategy you need.

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