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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Mid-Term Challenge: Getting Focused on the Big Question

Josh Marshall adds to the buzz about the “embarrassingly lame” Democratic slogans “A New Direction for America” and “Together, America Can Do Better.” Says Marshall in today’s TPM post:

…Newt Gingrich was so on the mark, ironically, when he suggested the Democrats’ slogan should be “Had Enough?” (As a way of understanding Gingrich’s particular genius, consider that “Had Enough?” and “A New Direction for America” are actually two ways of saying the exact same thing — with the first forceful and infectious and the second limp and denatured.) Everything else the election is allegedly about is chatter. The details are so many fine points about making the sale, framing the question. And, yes, those are important. But that is the question. And nothing the geniuses on either side do will change that from being the question.

All polls point to “yes” being the answer to the question. But Marshall makes another point worth noting:

Political insiders consistently overstate the importance of slogans and programs. Political tides aren’t unleashed or weathered because of message discipline or thematic fine-tuning. They come about because of failures or victories abroad, big motions in the economy, or judgments coalescing in the public mind in ways that are as inscrutable in their origins as they can be transparent in their effects.

The thing to do with a weak theme, Marshall argues quite convincingly, is to ignore it and focus on what’s important:

So, yes, the new theme is dopey and flaccid. But the only thing worse than that would be getting too upset about it. On the Democratic side, the punch of this election is going to come from individual candidates willing to be fiercely candid with voters and fight Republicans tooth and nail.
Let’s be honest. What is this election about?
It’s not about the Democrats. 2008 may be about the Democrats. Maybe 2010. Not 2006. 2006 is about George W. Bush and the Republican party. And, specifically, how many people are fed up with what’s happened over the last six years and want to make a change? The constitution gives the people only one way to do that in 2006 — put a hard brake on the president’s power by turning one or both houses of Congress over to the opposition party.

Marshall is right that it’s time for Dems to get past the hand-wringing about message and anxiety about image. We just don’t have the time left for more navel-gazing. With less than five months to go, it’s time to get voters focused on answering the big question, “Had enough?” — and mobilizing a record mid-term turnout to answer “Hell, Yes!”.