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Saturday, April 29, 2006

Very Bad Idea for Democrats

Tim Roemer has a really bad idea for how Democrats should sell themselves to the public during mid-term elections: use the slogan "Had enough already? Vote Democrat!"

While this sentiment may be one worth expressing, I have a suspicion people often don't vote Democrat because they can't for the life of them figure out what the Democrats stand for.  Even though the Republicans have very low approval ratings, I think that when asked people can more easily identify what that party stands for.  I'd urge Democrats to find a non-whining, non-negative voice that might resonate with the voting public.

Posted by Ethan Leib on April 29, 2006 at 02:26 PM in Article Spotlight | Permalink


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» The 2006 midterms from Centerfield
I've been saying for quite a while now that I think that the midterms are probably going to cost the GOP the House of Representatives; that idea seemed unthinkable when I first mentioned it last fall, but it is rapidly... [Read More]

Tracked on May 2, 2006 1:29:31 PM


P.S. Bush and Nixon go head to head:


via washingtonmonthly.com

Posted by: Bart Motes | May 2, 2006 5:47:57 AM

Uncivilzed might actually do it for the Dems this time instead of their customary tongue tied, butter won't melt in my mouth approach. That old homeopathic dictum of fighting poison with poison might work. And if they can't come up with any ideas of their own, they will do well to just play back Stephen Colbert's summation from last Saturday's White House Correspondents' Dinner. That "truthiness" was not uncivilized of course - just true.

Posted by: Ruchira Paul | May 1, 2006 2:00:48 PM

Oh no, I'm quite civilized, thanks.

Posted by: Bart Motes | May 1, 2006 1:45:04 PM

Well, we shall see, won't we. I hadn't realized, of course, that you were part of aforementioned uncivilized dem base, so I doubt you'll be particularly happy as events unfold over the next couple of years.

Posted by: Simon | Apr 30, 2006 9:52:47 PM

Simon, I wonder why you'd think that civilized society would rebel if the Dems started impeachment proceedings. I guess 33% would be unhappy. Now, even though I have a SUPPORT THE TROOPS: IMPEACH BUSH bumper sticker, I don't think anyone really believes that impeachment is a good idea right out of the gate. I prefer 24 months of hearings. Of course, it should go without saying that any "decent" country would have impeached that lying cretin ages ago.

I don't see the White House getting any more judicial nominees either. Maybe nominating ones that meet the approval of the Gang of Fourteen, but that's it. The last 24 months of the Bush presidency will be pretty darned uneventful. That's my fearless prediction.

Speaking of judicial nominees, the split in the Democratic party that you predict will be nothing compared to the coming split for the Republicans over abortion. Ha! Great to talk about doing something when you don't have the power, eh? Big tent with those soccer moms and the Pentecostals, eh?

Posted by: Bart Motes | Apr 30, 2006 8:53:05 PM

Erie RR v. Tompkins, that is? Great case.

Posted by: Simon | Apr 30, 2006 7:04:03 PM

Simon and Bart:

Perhaps some clarification - it isn't that I don't want to defend libertarianism. It is that I don't want to defend it on demand. Many professors (and I'm not lumping Leib in this group), when they find out that I am a libertarian, will proceed to call on me to defend that viewpoint whenever it comes up in class.

I would just like to retain the option to not defend the viewpoint when I don't feel like defending it. Or, put another way, I don't want to be the token libertarian.

Now stop baiting me. I have just three days left to learn Erie...

Posted by: Bev | Apr 30, 2006 6:58:55 PM

I'm suggesting that if a viewpoint is brought up in class that you agree with, and if no one else is speaking up in defense of it, that's your cue.

Of course, making a decision to not "air and defend" your position does not mean that the position is not "fit" to be aired and defended; the position exists whether you air and defend it or not. However, whether it is taken seriously or not depends in large extent whether people are willing to "air and defend" it; if you aren't willing to "air and defend" libertarianism, why would you expect anyone else to? Worse yet, the situation you describe doesn't even require any particular effort to go out and proselytize; you don't have to find an audience, or break the ice: the elephant is right there in the room, you're right there with a captive audience. You couldn't ask for a more perfect opportunity to put forward your point of view with minimum effort. All you have to do is stand up and speak.

It's like my constant objection to anonymous blogs: if you don't take your ideas seriously enough to sign your own name to them, why on earth would you expect anyone else to take those ideas seriously?

Posted by: Simon | Apr 30, 2006 6:24:48 PM

While I think we agree as to the likely result for Congress after the midterms, I can't entirely agree with your conclusions as to the consequences of that new balance for the 110th Congress or the 2008 elections.

If you're right that the 110th Senate is closely divided, the practical result will be the empowerment of the moderate wing of the GOP (by which I mean, to varying degrees, McCain, Hagel, Snowe et al). Wouldn't you agree that the result of this will be the blunting of those aspects of the GOP's agenda which are less-well supported by the public? In other words, a more moderate Senate may well lead to the presenting of a more moderate public face for the GOP - one more likely to win votes in 2008 - than would be the case with a 60 vote majority?

Moreover, both the shock of losing the House and the demise of the GOP legislative agenda (such as one still exists at this point) to theensuing gridlock with that democratic-controlled House are likely to re-invigorate the GOP base for 2008, which will have knock-on effects for both the Presidential election and House races. In addition, a two year period in the minority would also shake up the GOP and may bring them back to the agenda they were elected to put in place when they take back control in '08 following the inevitable Democratic meltdown (see comments below).

Were all that not enough, it is very possible that the result of losing the House will concentrate the GOP on what it SHOULD be doing at the moment, which - by staggering coincidence - is also something it can achieve with control of only the Senate and the White House, viz., ensuring that all vacancies in the judiciary are filled with appropriate candidates. This is an unqualified good in itself, it does not fall afoul of the more moderate elements of the Senate, and from an electoral standpoint, also helps keep the base's mood up.

Lastly, I was rushing to get some comments in before going to bed last night, so I should perhaps explain my suggestion that winning the House in 2006 will be a white elephant for the Dems. The really interesting thing about the prospect of democrats recapturing the House is sudden increase in the chance of a fatal rupture between the incompatible visions of the base vs. the civilized parts of the party. Consider: what are the peculiar tools of the House? Appropriation and impeachment. The dem base favors a taxation policy which simply doesn't play in America any more; the party will be forced to appease the base and alienate voters for 2008, or else risk a damaging revolt (which is an interesting word to decribe the dem base). Worse yet is the impeachment power: suddenly armed with the impeachment power, the dems will no longer be able to straddle the gap between their base, which will desert them if they don't impeach Bush, and decent society, which will desert them if they do.

In short, I cannot imagine a better result for the GOP than narrowly losing the House this fall while retaining the Senate.

Posted by: Simon | Apr 30, 2006 6:17:53 PM

I provided the link for Ethan's satisfaction - he wants some meat on his message. The agenda is as vague as any other political manifesto. And, what do the Republicans have to say? "Let us destroy the country even more thoroughly through deception, acrimony, unnecessary wars and corruption?" Personally, I think the Democrats are likely to do quite well with the bland and laconic "Had enough already? Vote Democrat!"

I live in Tom DeLay's district. Some of my staunch Republican neighbors (We'd rather die than vote Democrat) have called me up and confessed that "they've had enough already!"

Posted by: Ruchira Paul | Apr 30, 2006 12:41:55 PM

Bev,you're changing your hypo. You implied that you were afraid to reveal your identity as a libertarian. That's certainly different (and more extreme) from shooting your hand up at every opportunity.

Posted by: Bart Motes | Apr 30, 2006 11:50:05 AM

Ruchira: I read the Ten Point Agenda you linked to and now I'm less sure than ever of what the Democrats stand for. It advocates a handful of specific policies, but most of it extremely vague.

Posted by: FXKLM | Apr 30, 2006 11:43:35 AM

Bart and Simon:

Are you suggesting that every time a Democratic viewpoint were to come up in class, all Democrats in the class should be required to shoot their hands up and speak in defense of their party? And if they don't, they should leave the party?

I sent Prof Leib an email, rather than explaining on the blog, because it seemed a more appropriate medium for the explanation. As I explained to Prof Leib in that email, I spent all of my undergrad career defending libertarian viewpoints in class. I made a decision when entering law school that I didn't want to do that anymore. Making a decision to not "air and defend" my position does not mean that the position is not "fit" to be aired and defended.

Libertarianism certainly can be overly simplistic sometimes. But at least it is offering a solution - I don't see much of that from the two major parties.

Posted by: Bev | Apr 30, 2006 10:07:45 AM

Simon, you may be right that a six seat pick up in the Senate is out of the Democrats' hands.


However, simply by making the Senate a 50/50 chamber again, Republican dominance will be over. There are easily another five Republican senators who will be nervy enough about their own election prospects in '08 and/or concerned about the Bush administration's incompetence (Hagel, Warner, others) to neuter the Republicans. And it doesn't get better for the Republicans in 2008. Retaining nominal control of the Senate will be a pyrrhic victory. Through corruption, mismanagement, and ideological craziness, the Republicans have managed in ten years to create a distrust for their governance that it took Democrats seventy years to achieve. And, Republicans have also been more efficient in creating a powerful grassroots movement to recreate the opposition party than Democrats were. Well done, Republicans.

On a separate note, I agree with you. If your ideas are not fit to be aired and defended, they are not fit to be held.

Lastly, libertarianism strikes me as a rather obvious truth married to a simplistic solution. Put another way, if socialism is a religious reaction to an age dominated by money, libertarianism is a religious reaction to an age dominated by large institutions.

Posted by: Bart Motes | Apr 30, 2006 2:18:49 AM

Did you think it would matter to me or the class that you are libertarian? And why didn't you speak up when I was specifically asked for libertarians to help us understand contracts?I've never understood the good of having political views that you don't believe in strongly enough to defend in public settings, personally.

Posted by: Simon | Apr 30, 2006 1:41:01 AM

I wouldn't go that far. We'll keep the Senate, and although I am one of the few Republicans that thinks this to be the case (I've been saying this since the fall, but I think it's literally me and, as of Friday, David Brooks saying so), while I think you'll win the House, it'll be a white elephant for the Dems.

Posted by: Simon | Apr 30, 2006 1:38:38 AM

On the topic, I recently came across this very funny comic...

it's worth a look and good for a bitter laugh.

Posted by: Paul Gowder | Apr 29, 2006 11:33:40 PM

I'll send you an email.

Posted by: Bev | Apr 29, 2006 9:53:44 PM


Did you think it would matter to me or the class that you are libertarian? And why didn't you speak up when I was specifically asked for libertarians to help us understand contracts?

Posted by: Ethan Leib | Apr 29, 2006 9:09:03 PM

Now that class is over, I can out myself: I'm a libertarian.

For many years, my party has used the following slogan: "Enough is Enough: Vote Libertarian." However, I am left wondering if this coincidence is a good sign for the Democrats...or a sign that they are getting desperate.

But that's neither here nor there... Perhaps one of the reasons that people can't figure out the Democrats is that the media (and the general public) has a hard time noticing anyone but the two major parties - so anyone who disagrees with the current administration gets dumped in the Democratic bin. Since so many people currently disagree with the administration (including people who might otherwise be categorized as conservative), this may lead to an appearance of dilution of message...

But if the media did manage to more sharply define the borders of Democrats, would this be helpful? Sure, the Republicans have some clear positions - and those positions have driven me away from that party. The Democrats just aren't as offensive to my sense of liberty. But that's just me.

Posted by: Bev | Apr 29, 2006 8:48:23 PM

"In 1932, Walter Lippmann famously remarked that Franklin Delano Roosevelt was a 'pleasant man who without any important qualifications for the office, would very much like to be President.'" http://www.nybooks.com/articles/article-preview?article_id=16957

Lippmann's assessment was wrong and so is yours. When the other party is imploding due to the consequences of disasterous and foolish policies, you represent yourself as bland, unassuming, and utterly inoffensive. The Democrats will win big this year, and a simple, easy to remember slogan like The Contract with America or Had Enough? is just the ticket.

Posted by: Bart Motes | Apr 29, 2006 8:08:12 PM

Howard Dean and the DNC have posted the following Ten Point Agenda on the Democratic web site. The elected Dems need to articulate them in public. But whatever their shortcomings, if the US voters once again follow the wisdom(?) of "Better strong and wrong than weak and right" as Bill Clinton warned in 2004, then they deserve what they will get.

Posted by: Ruchira Paul | Apr 29, 2006 3:56:50 PM

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