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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Changing the Subject on Security

Thanks to the American Prospect’s apparent new policy of hiding content to sell actual magazines, I’ve been waiting, and waiting, and waiting to write about a fascinating new Matt Yglesias article on Democrats and national security. I read a bootleg copy, but didn’t want to discuss it until I could steer eager readers to a link.But fortunately, in a Tapped post today, Matt did a nice summary of his basic hypothesis:

On forward-looking issues there are, to be sure, disagreements among Democrats. But in my experience those disagreements don’t split the party into two camps, don’t map onto a hawk-dove divide, and don’t have a great deal to do with the Iraq War. The bigger divide is just between people of various persuasions who are determined to continue focusing on national security and find a way to make the Democrats competitive on the issue versus those who’d prefer to put their heads in the sand and hope for a revival of ’90s-style “it’s the economy, stupid” politics.

In the full article, Matt goes on to suggest that this politics of evasion on national security is partly attributable to the constituency-group mindset of so many Democrats. If there ain’t a Big Democratic Group that cares about a subject, why should the rest of us care, right?I’ll do a fuller treatment of Matt’s article when the fine folks at the Prospect put it online, but it does remind me of a satori moment I experienced back in the 90s when the constituency-group focus of my party became clear to me. Shortly after Roy Romer became general chairman of the DNC, a colleague ran into my office with a big fat book, crying “Look, Romer’s already making a difference over there; this is an actual issues book for Democratic candidates!” Together, we excitedly looked at the table of contents, only to find that the “issues” were all organized by constituency group (“Public Employees Issues,” “Asian-Pacific Islanders Issues,” etc., etc.). Made us want to howl at the moon.

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