Thursday, June 22, 2006

The Democrats "New Direction for America"...

Noonan archivePeggy Noonan... Ronald Reagan's Navy secretary runs for Senate as a standard-issue Democrat:
One can argue about why the Democratic Party no longer seems to have a reason for being. I believe the reason is this: They have achieved what they set out to achieve in 1932, when the modern Democratic Party began.

They got what they asked for, achieved what they fought for. They got a big government that offers a wide array of benefits and assistance; they got a powerful federal establishment that collects and dispenses treasure, that assumes societal guidance. They got Social Security and Medicare. They got civil rights (much murky history there, the Southern Democratic lions of the U.S. Senate having retarded the modern civil rights movement from 1940 through 1964; still, by the late '60s Democrats came to seem to own the issue, and that hasn't changed). They got what they stood for. They went on, in the 1970s and '80s, to stand for things about which Americans showed they had doubts and ambivalence: abortion, the modernist social agenda. By the time the Democrats ran out that string, they got tagged for the cost of their dreams. Big government is expensive, and the American people didn't enjoy being forced to pay, through high taxes, for the pleasure of being pushed around.

Also the Democrats, since 1968, hate war. But that's not really a philosophy. No one likes war, or no one who's normal. The real difference is between those who think war is bad and must never be fought and those who think it's bad but sometimes must be fought. The vast majority of voters are in the latter camp.

A second reason the Democratic Party has trouble knowing what it stands for, and thus articulating its purpose, is that it is so spooked by polls, focus groups and past defeats that it's afraid to take any vivid and differentiating stands, and seeks refuge in the muck of small issues. But small issues are small. And in this case don't even offer a philosophical pattern. "We stand for lower college loan costs and better prescription drug benefits." That's something you'd die on the battlefield for, isn't it?
Read the whole article... here.


Peggy Noonan also thinks the Dems are way off base:
... They don't only think they're more sophisticated than their base, more informed and aware of the complexities. I believe they think their base is mad.

You can see their problem in their inability to get a slogan. Which, believe me, is how they think of it: a slogan. "Together for a Better Future." "A Future With Better Togetherness." Today for a better tomorrow, tomorrow for a better today.

A party has a hard time saying what it stands for only when it doesn't know what it stands for. It has trouble getting a compelling slogan only when it has no idea what compels its base. Or when it fears what compels it.

I got a sense of the distance between Democratic leaders and the base a few years ago when I met up with a Democrat who was weighing a run for the party's 2004 nomination. He hadn't announced but was starting to test the waters, campaigning out of state.

I mentioned to him that the press gives a great deal of attention to the problems of Republican leaders and their putative supporters on the ground in America, but I was interested in the particular problems a D.C. Democrat has with his party's base.

His eyebrows went up in the way people's eyebrows go up when they're interested in what they're about to say. He said--I write from memory; it was not an interview but a conversation--that he was getting an education in that area. He said when he spoke before local Democratic groups they were wildly against the war in Iraq and sometimes booed him when he spoke of it. It left him startled. He had supported the president for serious reasons: He thought Saddam a bad actor who likely had weapons of mass destruction. He wanted to talk about it, but they didn't want to hear him. They were immovable.

But there was something else. He didn't say it, but something in his manner suggested he thought they were . . . just a little crazy.

I thought of him the other day when I saw Howard Dean say something intemperate on TV. I actually can't remember what it was, one intemperate Dean statement blending into another as they do. I was standing near a small screen with recent acquaintances, all of them relatively nonpolitical, and as I watched Mr. Dean speak I blurted, "Why does he say things like that?" A middle-aged woman--intelligent, professional--answered, "Because he thinks they're stupid."

He thinks who's stupid? I asked. The press? "His party," she said. We both laughed because it sounded true.

But today I'm thinking that's not quite it. Howard Dean is actually the most in touch with his base of all D.C. Democrats because he speaks to them the secret language of Madman Boogabooga. Republicans are racist/ignorant/evil. This is actually not ineffective. It's a language that quells the base and would scare the center if they followed it more closely, but they can't because it's not heavily reported because "Dean Says Something Crazy" is no longer news.
The rest... here. Well done.


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