washington, dc

The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

For the Tomorrow File

In eight days, John Kerry may have to replace his campaign strategy with a strategy for governing a deeply divided country. That will mean “lifting his game” to embrace a presidential message that can appeal to millions of people who didn’t vote for him.
I hope he’s keeping a “tomorrow file” of outside-the-box ideas for expanding his appeal. If so, he should definitely download Andrei Cherny’s New Republic article about a progressive, Democratic approach to the “ownership society” theme that George W. Bush has used as his signature message on domestic policy.
Cherny knows whereof he speaks. He was a speechwriter for Al Gore in 2000, and watched Bush effectively use the choice-and-competition mantra to help brand himself as a “different kind of Republican,” and to blast Gore as a big government liberal. He was also Kerry’s chief speechwriter for the pre-nomination phase of his candidacy, and has watched Bush renew the same mantra to support the same negative attack on the Democratic candidate. (Between campaigns, BTW, Cherny edited the DLC’s Blueprint magazine, and wrote a book about how Democrats needed to adjust to information-age politics and society).
In his TNR piece, Cherny lays out a compelling case that the “ownership society” ought to be progressive Democratic turf, and that Bush’s ability, however superficially and insincerely, to appropriate it is a function of Democratic negligence (born, I might add, of an obsession with seniors that ignores the long-term challenge of engaging younger voters who have trouble identifying with a party that simply defends a social insurance system created in the 1930s and 1960s).
You ought to read Cherny’s piece, and so should John Kerry, if and when he has the time to turn to bigger thoughts than winning Ohio and Florida.

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