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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Brain Food

This is another one of those occasional Sundays when it’s worth the effort to heft those fat newspapers through the front door and read them. At some point I’ll find time to check out some regional papers online, but there’s plenty of brain food in the Papers of Record, WaPo and The New York Times.
In the Post, The DLC’s Bruce Reed assesses where Democrats need to go in an Outlook column, and as usual, he says more in fewer words than about anybody in the business. His money quote about the basic lesson of the election for Democrats is typically concise: “We ran a good campaign against a bad president and still got beat.” Sad but true. Opposite Bruce’s article is one by National Review’s Kate O’Beirne, that argues rather unconvincingly that the GOP is not an ideological party, but a coalition party, in which “social liberals” like Ah-nold and Rudy have a real home. We’ll see about that in the immediate future.
Elsewhere in WaPo, there’s a front-page piece about Karl Rove that was painful to read. Written by the excellent Dan Balz and Mike Allen, it’s relatively free of puffery, but does let Rove and his friends express a DeLay-ish rejection of Democratic “demonization” of the Boy Genius, while not exactly providing a whole lot of evidence that Dems are wrong about his basic character. Sure, there’s some anecdotes about Rove’s “goofiness,” along with a photo of Rove dressing up like a hunter to mock Kerry’s goose-bagging incident in Ohio, but “goofiness” in the pursuit of the destruction of one’s political enemies is in my opinion no particular virtue. Caligula had his “goofy” and fun-loving moments as well.
Here’s the passage in the article that most disturbs me: “Those around him expect he will stay at Bush’s side for the foreseeable future. They note that his interest in policy is as deep as his interest in politics. ‘Karl sits at the intersection of politics and policy, and that’s where real power is exercised in a White House,’ said a Republican official who works closely with him.”
The one thing we know for sure about Rove is that he views policy as little more than a lever for producing political advantages. That he will remain “at the intersection of politics and policy” is a very bad if unsurprising sign about where the Bush administration is likely to go.
Over at The New York Times, Adam Nagourney provides a clear assessment of Democratic thinking about the election and its implications. The quotes from Democratic governors Janet Napolitano, Mark Warner and Jennifer Granholm are especially blunt and instructive.
In the top Times editorial, the Grey Lady usefully lays out an agenda for making voting procedures more uniform, in the accurate anticipation that interest in this subject tends to fade after each screwed-up election, until the next election, when it’s generally too late to do anything about it. The conservative warhorse Lyn Nofziger implicitly responds to O’Beirne’s WaPo piece by arguing that Bush will not be able to accomplish much of anything unless he suppresses the socially liberal and fiscally conservative views of his “coalition partners” of the GOP center, especially in Congress. And there’s lots of interesting micro-political analysis as well, especially the piece on Florida which shows that Bush won that key state by boosting both turnout and the GOP share of the vote in in exactly the places you’d expect it to happen: the panhandle and the I-4 corridor.
There’s a lot more in both papers, including Dana Milbank’s sober assessment of the chiliastic tendencies that have led Christian conservatives into such a passionate alliance with Bush, and buried in the Post book section, a review of the latest Tom Wolfe novel that shows you don’t have to be a Bible-thumper to be worried about the moral and cultural condition of American adoloscents.
All of us Donkeys are still partially in recovery, partially unwilling to think about what happened on November 2, and partially hostile to any intepretation of events that strays from the comforting line that the bad people beat the good people through evil and cynical tactics and strategy. It’s good that Dems aren’t melting down, freaking out, or going after each other with knives. But it is time to read and think.

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