Monday, February 02, 2004
Within my lifetime, Republicanism has generally proffered a negative domestic message: that the government is not "us" and that less of it is better because it is in our way, takes what is rightfully ours, etc. (Reagan, W) Democrats have surmounted this stigma, however, when they have sold the inspiring qualities of social investment and social equity that good policy can yield. (Clinton, Kennedy).
In that light, Democrats might consider worrying less about finding a candidate with a heroic military record than about finding a candidate able to communicate well with constituents, especially around invoking a positive vision for social development and a robust sense of fairness.
Republicans were aided politically by 9/11, because they controlled the executive, but I would imagine that some of this will be mitigated by the struggles in Iraq and Afghanistan, the persistance of terror threats, bin Laden at large, and the fact of a diminished American standing in the world (all the worse squandered after 9/11's goodwill-fest). A savvy Democrat could point to all of those and respectfully wonder if we can afford any more of this kind of "success". It's not who could have protected the country that is the fundamental issue (yet-to-be-released 9/11 report notwithstanding, an open society cannot evade these risks); it's what has been done in the interim.
Any election for Democrats will come down to convincing people that we really deserve better from (an ostensibly democratic) government by, for, and of the people. Implicit is the case that we have been hoodwinked into thinking that this was as good as we could hope it to be, that it has therefore become as bad as we allowed (at least, on the view of the Paul Krugman's of the world to which, truthfully, I'm not immune). The question is who delivers that message best and motivates people to tune in and maybe turn out.
A hint: it's not Kerry, Clark, Lieberman, or Dean. Reserving the right to retract, of course, I think it's Edwards.....