Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Response to Having Nothing to Say

(See: Just Above Sunset: Having Nothing to Say)

Maybe the real problem isn’t so much “having something to say” as it is just deciding to say what you think.

Maybe the real problem is Democrats always foolishly thinking they have to come up with a way to appeal to conservative Republican voters, rather then focussing on appealing to their own voters.

Back in 1984, in noodling on how to beat George W Bush — a Republican incumbent president who, there was reason to believe, dodged the draft so he wouldn’t have to fight in a war he said he believed in — the Democrats chose to run against him John Kerry, a guy who did not believe in the Vietnam war, but went to fight it anyway! Democrats were calculating that, by putting forth a candidate who knew his way around a real battlefield, rather than some guy who knew what strings to pull to keep from fighting his nation’s battles, they could appeal to the Republican much-vaunted sense of honor and principle.

They miscalculated.

In truth, while Republican voters give out the impression that they care about all that honor and principle stuff, what really mattered to them is that they liked the kind of guy Bush was, a conservative Republican, and didn’t like the kind of guy Kerry was, a liberal Democrat. (And to top it off, Kerry spoke French, for Chrissakes! Why would we want a president who speaks any foreign language, much less French!)

In fact, you can forget about all the phony charges in the commercials we saw on TV during the Georgia 6th race — the anti-Ossoff ones insisted he lied about his experience and was being mostly funded by San Francisco liberals; the anti-Handel ads accused her of using our tax money to buy herself a fancy car, and tried to spend $15-thousand on office chairs, or something — the truth is, she won the race because she reminded everyone that her opponent is a liberal Democrat, and he said absolutely nothing about her political leanings at all.

She was at least honest enough to argue for the one reason to vote against him, which was this: He’s a liberal Democrat, running in a district of conservative Republicans.

For his part, he had nothing to counter with, giving his supporters nothing to get excited about, such as running an ad in which he could say, “Of course I’m a liberal Democrat, and proud of it! After all, let’s face it, Washington is a mess, a mess created by conservative Republicans! At this moment, a small group of Republicans is hiding somewhere in the Capitol building, scheming to find a way to take Obamacare away from millions of Americans who need it! Yes, Obamacare has problems, but Republicans are in charge in Washington! And instead of trying to fix an otherwise extremely successful and popular program, they’re sneaking around, trying to destroy it!”

Instead, Ossoff argued that both parties in Washington are guilty of wasteful spending, and that what this district really needs is more tech businesses.

First of all, for all I know, Ossoff was being perfectly honest throughout his campaign — maybe he really is a genuine middle-of-the-roader who is more concerned that we all get along than he is in not letting the Republicans take away healthcare from millions of Americans.

But if so, then the only reason he did as well as he did yesterday was support from voters who, while not at all excited about Ossoff as a candidate, still voted for him simply because he’s a Democrat.

What he did not benefit from, I would guess, is those in the district who not only wanted a Democrat, but a Democrat who showed real enthusiasm for all those things Democrats believe in, including not only healthcare reform but also global warming, a government-funded infrastructure program that puts money in the pockets of workers instead of billionaire investors, sensible gun control to reduce the thousands of tragic deaths each year, and a theory of a healthy and fair economy that doesn’t rely on cutting taxes for people who are already hoarding more money than they should, instead of investing it in the economy.

But assuming, just for argument sake, that Jon Ossoff actually believed in the things Democrats are supposed to believe in, but decided instead to posture as a non-partisan, hoping to draw votes from both parties, then was this a wise strategy? Since we can only live in one universe at a time, it's hard to test the theory that maybe honesty would have been a better policy.

In other words, could he have won if he had run as a liberal Democrat? And no, I’m not necessarily talking about running as a Bernie Sanders independent, I’m talking about as a plain vanilla liberal Democrat. But we’ll never know until some Democrat has the courage to try it.

Unfortunately, a willingness to go out on limbs is not a trait that we Democrats are famous for — which may be as good an explanation as any for why some reckless dimwit is living in the White House today.

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