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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

The Parties and The Issues

Over at Ruy Teixeira’s Donkey Rising site, he’s posted a summary of the current standing of the two parties on major issues. It’s mostly good news–in some cases spectacular news–for us Donkeys, but with a few exceptions that deserve attention, especially in terms of our credibility in fighting terror and the clarity of our overall message.On this last point, Ruy concludes:

In short, voters are still much surer of what they don’t like (Republican policies and Bush’s job as president) than of what they might like (Democratic policies and leadership). It’s up to Democrats to clarify that situation, starting with, finally, convincing the American public they know what they stand for.

That’s true, but we all have to remember one very important thing about “message clarity”: the only thing worse than leaving voters unsure about “what you stand for” is to resolve their doubts by “standing” for positions and/or values they don’t like. I’m not saying Democrats are in imminent danger of doing that, but given the influence of Lackoffian “framing” in high party councils, it’s worth reminding ourselves that “clarity” is not in itself a definitive answer to lingering public doubts about our party. Like everyone reading this blog, I have my own ideas about “what we believe in” and “what we stand for,” and we should not be shy about debating differences and then uniting behind the best and most accurate reflections of our values. That’s why we have intra-party discussions, and ultimately, why we have party primaries. You could make a good case that the current GOP meltdown is partly the result of an “our team” mentality that until recently has thwarted any real intra-party Republican debate, or any honest Republican discussion with the rest of the country. I’m perfectly happy to sacrifice a few points in polls on “message clarity” in order to keep my party from following this authoritarian pattern.

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