Monday, May 12, 2003

Theories about how the Democrats can beat Bush seem to be everywhere today. Free Pie (bloggered links, of course) points to a piece by Ted Rall that argues for more mean. "Go after Bush's ultimate Achilles' heel: run countless loops of the inarticulate Resident's clashes with the English language. "Too dumb to talk," a sinister voiceover reads. "Too stupid to trust." Use time-proven Republican methods, like name-calling: Extremist. Out of touch. Tax and spender. Hates workers. Racist. Homophobe. Corrupt CEO coddler. Idiot. Drunk. Cut to the post-pretzel-incident photo: "America needs a sober president." Forget ideas--voters respond to the personal stuff." he says.

I have in this very spot called for backbone in a candidate, and I totally share the view that Democrats must set their own agenda. I even agree that Bush must be confronted on his hypocracy and military record. But just plain mean doesn't wash. It is attractive to the folks who are already firmly ensconsed in the Bush camp -- those pseudo-tough guys who go for the "kill 'em before they can hurt us" rhetoric that justified our recent invasion halfway around the world. I suspect it is also attractive to the GOP women who find the Prez in his flight suit virile and sexy. (I wonder if I will ever stop cringing about that one.)

But those folks aren't in the malleable group. They love Their President Who Can Do No Wrong. Trying to compete for their base is both pointless and distasteful.

On the other hand Digby after forcing me to relive the sexiness that is our President one more time returns to Rick Santorum's remarks and offers some profound insight on the connectedness between the varieties of hatred being proferred by Mr. Rove's strategy. He fleshes out the notion that Rove is trying to appeal to the racist base as well as the desirable soccer moms, "two constituencies with completely opposing values, but it exposes Rove’s dilemma. Certainly, the anti-gay agenda is popular with the Christian right (many of whom are also neo-confederates.) But, he knows he cannot win without also placating all of his bigoted base and appealing to a fair number of suburban swing women."

Digby also argues, rightly so, that Rove knows perfectly well that the strategy is incoherent and implies that the focus on fear and "Bush's codpiece" (cringe) and I would add all of the bluster that is supposed to pass for strength is designed to divert attention from the more evil underpinnings of the win-at-all-cost strategy. "Democrats must hammer that wedge by associating the heinous racism of the neo-confederates with hatred of gays and lesbians -- something that shouldn’t be too hard, because it is absolutely true."

This entire discussion not only has the ring of truth but is consistent with our values and can be carried forward by a strong candidate. By strong I don't mean popular. I mean a candidate with a spine, with courage.

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