Friday, December 12, 2003
Stern Words
...from Bob Herbert:
The Dems may indeed sink like the Titanic next year. But I don't think Dr. Dean is the problem — at least, not yet. The problem is the party itself. God and the Republicans have blessed the Democrats with the high ground on one important issue after another, from the war in Iraq to national economic policy to health care to education to the environment.

But like the Union general George McClellan, the Democrats have been too timid to take full advantage. It's a party for the faint of heart. The Republicans are hijacking elections and redistricting the country and looting the Treasury and ignoring the Constitution and embittering our allies, while the Democrats are — let's see, fumbling their way through an incoherent primary season and freaking out over Al Gore's endorsement of Howard Dean.
It's all stuff everyone thinks about the Democrats, but the George McClellan analogy is especially apt. At one point, McClellan got so close to Richmond, VA, his army could hear the city's church bells ringing. ("Young Napolean" got within five miles of the Confederate capital in the Seven Days' Battle of early 1862. Circle gets the square!)

I think some of these problems are going to dissipate by the general campaign. For all the bloodied noses, bruised eyes, and talks of non-transferability (first Dean, now Sharpton), the Party will still walk away from the primary with a galvanizing battle cry: Anyone but Bush. The primary campaigns are clearly cornering third base, so an escalation in the rhetoric is to be expected. Still, the Democrats can do without posing for picture-perfect ads for Karl Rove—e.g., 16 arms of the nations' most high-profile Democrats pressed firmly to sides when the question is posed, "Could Dean beat Bush?" (Thanks for that one, Mr. Kopple.) In that situation—you know, on stage, on television, and applying for the same job and what-not—I don't blame them. But after the primaries, that answer—about whomever—should be Of course. And if the Democratic Party has any sense left by that point it will prove it by throwing all sorts of high-profile, highly quotable solidarity bashes. (Mr. McAuliffe—don't mess that up.)

If I sound a little lock-step, well, I think that's one area in which the Democrats could use to learn from the Republican Party. I think that one of the wealths of the Dems is in its diversity of opinions, and I wouldn't trade that for a party of yes-men. The GOP was broad once upon a time, comprised of foreign-policy realists and fiscal hawks and what-have-you, but that range of elements has mostly melded into right and Christian right. We don't want that—but, like conservatives have done well in past elections, liberals must be able to mobilize when it's game time.

Ubiquitous 'get the message out' post for the month.