Monday, November 15, 2004


A New Beginning

A lot has happened over the last eleven days while I was on vacation. George W. Bush has claimed a mandate and political capital, Dick Cheney has entered and been released from the hospital, Yassar Arafat has died, Chief Justice Rehnquist has been revealed to have cancer, Fallujah has been invaded, and Powell and Ashcroft have resigned. Any one of these items would be worthy of its own post, but things are different these days. Now that the Republicans control the House, Senate, and White House; the Democrats have to focus on minimizing the damage they can do. I beleve that there are several ways that this can be done. Step number one is they have to control the language of politics.

These days it seems as though the Republicans have control of the political vocabulary. In this past election we heard about compassion, values, reform, resolve, and strength. They also spoke of waffles, liberals, flip-flops, and weakness. Each of these words was intended to create an image in the minds of voters. Democrats didn't have this. Oh, we had slogans. We had "Help Is On the Way." But it didn't conjure up the strength of a word like resolute. We had "Wrong War, Wrong Place, Wrong Time." But it didn't equate with the vileness of a word like liberal. No, we couldn't compete on the language level.

So how do we do this? How do we get control of the language?

For starters we have to start talking about ourselves. We spent the entire election cycle talking about what the Republicans were doing wrong. While it's important to draw the distinction between yourself and your opponent, we made them the focus of the election and they were all too happy to go along with it. We need to focus on what we as a party have done and would like to do. Make the opposition focus on our agenda, not the other way around.

Next, we have to be willing to attack when necessary. We have always tried to be the party that takes the high road, but it is becoming increasingly clear that the high road is a dead end. The American public is slowly but surely becoming "American Idolized." We aren't really as interested in seeing good performers as we are watching Simon and the others ridicule the bad ones. Americans like it when someone gets ridiculed because it makes them feel better about themselves. The Republicans won't hesitate to stoop to this level and as it stands now, we are going to have to fight them on their turf. So the language has to get tougher and the ridicule must get sharper.

And finally I think we need to control the labels. How did they get to be compassionate, while we're bleeding hearts? We need to dispell this notion of "compassionate" conservatism. When you look up compassion in the dictionary, it is defined as follows:

Now that's not the conservative party I know. In fact, that definition has more in common with the Democrats than the Republicans. So we need something to counter with. Anybody have any ideas for a new label for our party? The alliteration of compassionate and conservative makes it catchy, so we may want to start there. Something like Decisive Democrats. Hopefully someone can come up with something better.

Tomorrow we'll discuss wedge issues and how to use them to our advantage. (If we play our cards right, the conservatives may be giving us an opening.)

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