Some thoughts from a moderate Republican

Advice to Democrats from a friend across the aisle.

A reader who is a moderate Republican and whose political savvy I respect, writes:

Kerry lost for many reasons, but here are the two at the top of my list:

1) Democrats are cowards. “Moral issues” is just crazy-ass right-wing Republican talk for bigotry. Democrats need to call them on it and capture the moral high ground again. Preventing women from exercising control over their bodies and gay couples from enjoying the same basic rights as everyone else is not moral, it’s wrong. Hideously wrong. Rosa Parks-level wrong. And helping poor kids get an education and basic medical care is not “big government.” It’s the right thing to do, especially when you live in the world’s richest country.

2) Democratic strategists have only one game plan: run left and lose. Need proof? Five words: Mondale, Dukakis, Gore, and Kerry. The great exception, of course, was Bill Clinton. Hmmm. The Southern democrat who balanced the budget, reformed welfare, and passed NAFTA won two elections — impeachment, special prosecutors, thongs, and all. But in a fit of liberal amnesia, democratic gurus in 2004 brought us back to the tried and true loser strategies of elections past.

In particular, the howling Howard Dean forced Kerry to vote against the $87 billion bill for Iraq. This was not a good idea for most candidates, but it was pure disaster for Kerry, because it reinforced the two most damaging Rovian stereotypes: Kerry as flip-flopper and defense wimp. The key to winning elections is not losing them — and that means playing against the most unappealing perceptions generated by the opposition. Dukakis’s answer to the rape question in 1988 wasn’t a bad answer, but it was a scream-out-loud bad answer FOR HIM, because it played right into the image Republicans had been peddling of Dukakis as an unfeeling technocrat. Kerry’s primary battle against Dean made him tack left and waffle on precisely the worst possible issue: war. He could never shake it off, no matter how many times he talked about his Vietnam medals.

The Democratic party reminds me of the Michigan football team every time it gets to the Rose Bowl. Year after year, decade after decade, the strategy remains steadfast: run the ball, run the ball, run the ball….and lose.

Today, I got an email from a Democratic friend that ended with the call to work even harder for a Hillary/Obama 2008 ticket. Huh? People, did you see the red all over the election map? To win, Democrats need to get a spine, get some discipline, and get a strategy. More of the same will only result in more of the same.

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact: Markarkleiman-at-gmail.com

2 thoughts on “Some thoughts from a moderate Republican”

  1. Pretty much…

    Kerry lost for many reasons, but here are the two at the top of my list: 1) Democrats are cowards. "Moral issues" is just crazy-ass right-wing Republican talk for bigotry. Democrats need to call them on it and capture

Comments are closed.