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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Common Perspectives

I won’t do a full post on the Monday session of the DLC’s National Conversation in Columbus until the transcripts and video of the major speeches are up on our web page, so I can link to them and you can figure out if I’m spinning or truth-telling. But I will offer a few quick observations. And you can check out some of the media reports on the event here.I guess the most notable common threads at the event were: (a) a very sharp and often angry critique of the Bush administration and the GOP; (b) a sense of agreement that security, opportunity, values and reform are the four big issues where Democrats ought to focus their work and their message; and (c) a concern that Democrats must soon begin to offer positive alternatives to the Republicans so that their pain will produce our gains (which isn’t much happening yet, according to most polls). Evan Bayh, generally considered a national security hawk, offered a truly acidic critique of the administration’s handling of the war on terror, concluding: “That’s not strength, that’s incompetence.”Tom Vilsack systematically decimated the GOP’s fidelity to values, especially that of community. Hillary Clinton squarely accused Republicans of trying to return the country to the policies and political practices of the 19th century. And Mark Warner scorned the Bushies for choosing to intervene in the medical decisions of the Schiavo family while choosing to do nothing about the 45 million Americans without health insurance. But the same speakers consistently warned that Democrats can’t simply offer negative critiques or counter-polarize, even if that makes unity a bit easier. Bayh described the need for positive alternatives as a party responsibility to the country. Vilsack suggested it’s the only way to truly contrast Democratic with Republican values. And Clinton argued that we need to remind voters Democrats did govern the country in a vastly better manner in the 1990s, and can do it again. I can tell you authoritatively that the DLC did not script these speeches at all. Their consistency on both the positive and negative aspects of the Democratic message are mainly attributable to objective reality, and the common conclusions that smart and principled pols tend to reach from their different perspectives. It’s a very good signpost for our political future.

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