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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Bowers: Hostage-Taking Doesn’t Work

This item by Ed Kilgore was first published on January 7, 2009.
At OpenLeft today, Chris Bowers notes that the efforts of Sens. Joe Lieberman and Ben Nelson to hold health reform legislation hostage to their own personal demands have significantly damaged their home-state approval ratings. To put it simply, both supporters and opponents of health reform didn’t like it, and both men have painted big bulls-eyes on their backs when they are up for re-election in 2012.
But Chris goes on to say there’s a lesson in this development for those progressives who favored more aggressive efforts to hold the same legislation hostage:

I think this is a lesson for public option advocates, and our high-profile hostage-taking strategy called The Progressive Block. It seems clear to me now that a strategy like that only works if you build up public support for it (which we most definitely did not do among the Democratic primary electorate), or if the fight is far more low-profile (such as IMF funding in the Afghanistan supplemental). High-profile hostage taking just doesn’t work from the left (or, as polling shows, from the right or the center, either) Voters of all sorts, including those on the left, just don’t like it, and they will punish you given the opportunity. It is indeed small comfort that the mendacious hostage-takers who stopped us are now wildly unpopular both at home and around the country, but it is also a warning that we would have been in the same position if we had become the hostage takers ourselves.

That’s a very interesting, and typically honest, admission from Chris Bowers.

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