I like Tim Roemer, the former Congressman from Indiana who now is President of the Center for National Policy as well as his staff — but I have to give him some push back on his New York Times op-ed this morning.
Roemer is proposing that Dems stop getting lost in the quagmire of developing better policy proposals and trying to sell them to Americans and just make the next elections about how bad the Republicans are. He wants to take a page out of Karl Frost’s 1946 Republican strategy posing the question to Americans, “Had Enough? Vote Democratic.”
Sixty years later, Democrats would be smart to turn Karl Frost’s slogan on Karl Rove’s strategy.
“Had Enough? Vote Democratic!” is a slogan that spotlights the many mistakes in Iraq, the mismanagement of Hurricane Katrina and the mangling of fiscal responsibility with “bridges to nowhere.” Indeed, you can see and hear Democratic candidates rallying their voters at Jefferson-Jackson Day Dinners with a passionate and rhythmic chorus:
“The administration said Iraqis would greet us with roses as liberators, yet our soldiers are attacked with homemade bombs and rocket-propelled grenades. Had Enough? Vote Democratic.
“The administration said it was prepared for a hurricane in New Orleans, yet our government’s feeble response prompted Bangladesh to offer us $1 million in aid. Had Enough? Vote Democratic!
“The administration said it would bring competency to our federal budget, yet our nation faces catastrophic deficits. Had Enough? Vote Democratic!”
And if you want to fire up the base, you can string together references to Jack Abramoff, Abu Ghraib and the Dubai ports deal. “Had Enough?” works well on classic campaign materials like buttons and bumper stickers while its simplicity makes it a cinch to “go viral” on the Internet.
“Had enough?” will speak to both Democrats and disillusioned Republicans. Liberals can use “Had Enough?” to reach out to voters enraged over the incompetent management of Iraq. Moderates might use “Had Enough?” to persuade swing voters on fiscal issues. And the implicit rejection of neoconservative politics will appeal to all voters who seek to spurn tainted Republican candidates.
“Had Enough?” also pre-empts Democrats’ worst habits. Too often we’ve made campaigns complicated and policy-heavy. We love to unveil 40-page position papers and wonky diagrams. “Had Enough?” clears a broad path through such minutiae. “Public sentiment is everything,” Abraham Lincoln said 150 years ago. “With public sentiment, nothing can fail; without it nothing can succeed.”
Karl Frost’s simple words can serve as the cavalry charge to help win the coming electoral battles Ã¢â‚¬â€ something Democrats are in an incredibly strong position to do. But make no mistake: new ideas matter. Democrats will also need the artillery of a disciplined, focused set of core proposals to complement their criticism of Republican excesses.
As we head into the midterm elections, Democrats should finally understand, as Lincoln and Frost did before, that you must win the majority before you can make public policy.
There is some logic to what Roemer proposes. There’s a lot Americans are angry about.
But trying to sell the notion that no party can be as bad as what is in office now would assure that Dems stay a minority party.
What Roemer neglects is, that unlike 1946, there are more declared Independents than either Republicans or Democrats today — and more independent-leaning and independent-minded Republicans and Democrats than the American political scene has witnessed in a century.
These Independents can’t be wooed by celebrations of how bad the Bush administration has been. They want to see better ideas and proposals put on the table.
But what Roemer proposes doesn’t square for declared Democrats either.
Democrats have been avoiding some of the battles they need to have inside their party to help develop a more compelling set of proposals they can stand behind — but Dems are afraid of those debates in fear of fracturing a tired party. They have to work through some policy civil wars and then BE ABOUT SOMETHING.
Roemer wants to skip that process and be about nothing now, and something later — after winning a “How Bad The Other Guys Are” campaign.
“Had Enough?” is not enough, and the President of the Center for National Policy is well-positioned to help get some of those ideas we need on the table.
— Steve Clemons