William Saletan on how the Dems can get their shit together
How to start winning the red states.
By William Saletan
Posted Wednesday, Nov. 3, 2004, at 1:15 PM PT
One silver lining in last night's debacle is that for another 24 hours or so, you might be open to rethinking what your party stands for. So, while I have your attention, here's an idea.
Go back to being the party of responsibility.
I'm not talking about scolding people. I'm talking about rewarding them. Be the party that rewards ordinary people who do what they're supposed to do—and protects them from those who don't.
If you think this kind of moral talk is anathema, you're the sort of person Karl Rove wants to be running the Democratic Party. Get out, or get a new attitude. Nearly 60 million people came out to vote for George W. Bush yesterday because they think that he represents their values and that you don't. Prove them wrong and you'll be the majority party again.
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Democrats in the Roosevelt-Truman years didn't have this problem. They called tyrants by their name, and they didn't sound like they were faking it. A party that believes in right and wrong at home must be assertive about right and wrong abroad. You need a serious antiterrorist agenda. Otherwise, when you object to a war like Iraq, you sound like the peace party.
I'm not asking you to act like you care about this stuff. I'm asking you to care about it for real, and not just at election time. When a Republican president runs a TV ad accusing you of failing to protect us from wolves, you should be able to point out that he's the one who emptied our shotgun into a fox, leaving us helpless against the wolves. And you should sound credible saying it.
Once you eliminate the sincerity gap between you and the Republicans on national security, you can exploit the reverse sincerity gap between you and them on responsibility. Think about the values of our armed forces: shared risk, shared sacrifice, and reciprocal duty between officers and soldiers, regardless of race or class. Those are your values.
When leaders betray troops through bad planning and false pretenses for war, that should be your issue. When Republicans cut taxes for the rich while the nation is at war and the Treasury is empty, that should be your issue. When soldiers from poor families die while corporations skim from the war budget, that should be your issue. I've heard John Kerry talk about each of these issues separately, but each time, he sounded opportunistic. To be powerful, they must flow from a common message. That message is responsibility.