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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

One Past, Two Futures

In a recent post, I defended the proposition that Democrats should spend a great deal of time on this year’s campaign trail drawing attention to the past failures, present zaniness, and future emptiness of Republican policies. While voters say they don’t like what they perceive to be “negative campaigning,” comparative campaigning is always in order.
Now Ron Brownstein reports that Democrats from the White House on down have every intention of making Republicans an issue in this campaign. Here’s what David Axelrod has to say:

“It’s almost impossible to win a referendum on yourself,” Axelrod insisted. “And the Republicans would like this to be a referendum. It’s not going to be a referendum.”

Naturally, Republicans disagree:

Responding to Axelrod’s arguments, Republican pollster Glen Bolger said he was dubious that Democrats will succeed in shifting the focus toward the GOP. “It’s pretty unlikely,” said Bolger, a partner in Public Opinion Strategies, which polls widely for GOP candidates. “Basically, that is something that the party that is under the gun always says, and it is never the case. [In a midterm election] it is about who is in control and how people feel about how things are going in the country

Now obviously the “out” party in hard times wants every election to be a referendum, and the “in” party wants it to be about the “two futures” the two parties stand for. And when the hard times actually developed under the “out” party’s management, the past is an issue as well.
But Bolger’s idea that his own party’s character, record and agenda don’t matter is a sheer unsupported assertion.
Sometimes people, and particularly Republicans, making the “referendum” argument cite 1980, and Ronald Reagan’s famous formulation during the one presidential debate, that voters should ask themselves if “you are better off than you were four years ago,” as though it represented a magical incantation or reflected an iron law of politics. Nicely framed as it was, Reagan’s “referendum” plea would not have mattered at all if it hadn’t coincided with a political moment when swing voters had concluded he was a credible president with a potentially successful agenda. Until the very end, the 1980 race was actually very close, despite all of Jimmy Carter’s political troubles, which make Barack Obama’s look like child’s play. Moreover, Carter didn’t have an immediate, failed, unpopular Republican administration in the national rear-view mirror to point towards; Nixon had been out of office for six years.
Voters don’t “always” react in a particular way to hard times, and elections aren’t “always” referenda on the party in power at that particular moment: For a hundred years after the Civil War, many millions of Americans still voted for the party that was “right” about that conflict. There’s no reason on earth that Democrats can’t share some responsibility for the current economic situation–not to mention two wars–with the GOP, and insist on asking where each party would lead the country if victorious.

3 comments on “One Past, Two Futures

  1. Tater Salad on

    Pretty good summary of what is known – how much more is hidden ?
    The amount of federal taxes that Secretary of the Treasury Timothy Geithner (D) failed to pay during his employment at the International Monetary Fund despite receiving extra compensation and explanatory brochures that described his
    tax liabilities. True: http://www.cleveland.com/nation/index.ssf/2009/01/timothy_geithner_obamas_nomine.html
    The amount of money that the head of the powerful tax-writing committee, Rep. Charlie Rangel (D-NY), was forced to report on his taxes after the discovery that he had not reported income from a Dominican Republic rental property. His excuses for the failure started with blaming his wife, then his accountant and finally the fact that he didn’t speak Spanish. True http://www.nypost.com/seven/09102008/news/regionalnews/rangels_spanish_excuse_128444.htm
    The INCREASE in the amount of petty cash each of our Congressional representatives voted to give themselves in January 2009 during the height of an economic meltdown. That’s a $40 + million INCREASE! http://gatewaypundit.blogspot.com/2009/01/its-recession-congress-gives-lawmakers.html See video here from Fox
    $1 33 ,900:
    The amount Fannie Mae “invested” in Chris Dodd (D-CT), head of the powerful Senate Banking Committee, presumably to repel oversight of the GSE prior to its meltdown. Said meltdown helped touch off the current economic crisis. In only a few years time, Fannie also “invested” over $105,000 in then-Senator Barack Obama. True: http://www.opensecrets.org/news/2008/07/top-senate-recipients-of-fanni.html
    The amount of back taxes and interest that Cabinet nominee Tom Daschle (D) was forced to cough up after the vetting process revealed significant, unexplained tax liabilities. True: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB123335984751235247.html?mod=googlenews_wsj Wall Street Journal
    The approximate amount of income and deductions that Tom Daschle (D) was forced to report on his amended 2005 and 2007 tax returns after being caught cheating on his taxes. This includes $255,256 for the use of a car service, $83, 33 3 in unreported income, and $14,963 in charitable contributions. True: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB123335984751235247.html?mod=googlenews_wsj Wall Street Journal
    The amount of “sweetheart” mortgages Senate Banking Chairman Chris Dodd (D-CT) received from Countrywide Financial, the details for which he has refused to release details despite months of promises to do so. Countrywide was once the nation’s largest mortgage lender and linked to Government-Sponsored Entities like Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Their meltdown precipitated the current financial crisis. Just days ago in Pennsylvania , Countrywide was forced to pay $150,000,000 in mortgage assistance following “a state investigation that concluded that Countrywide relaxed its underwriting standards to sell risky loans to consumers who did not understand them and could not afford them.” True: http://rightvoices.com/2008/08/21/more-sweetheart-loan-details-on-senator-chris-dodd-d-ct-chairman-of-the-senate-committee-on-banking-housing-and-urban-affairs/
    The estimated amount of donations by Denise Rich, wife of fugitive Marc Rich, to Democrat interests and the William J. Clinton Foundation in an apparent quid pro quo deal that resulted in a pardon for Mr. Rich. The pardon was reviewed and blessed by Obama Attorney General and then Deputy AG Eric Holder, despite numerous requests by government officials to turn it down. True: http://articles.latimes.com/2008/nov/20/nation/na-holder20
    The amount of TARP money provided to community bank One United despite the fact that it did not qualify for funds, and was “under attack from its regulators for allegations of poor lending practices and executive-pay abuses.” It turns out that Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA), a key contributor to the Fannie Mae meltdown, just happens to be married to one of the bank’s former directors. True: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB123258284337504295.html Wall Street Journal
    The upper range of net worth Rep. Allan Mollohan (D-WV) accumulated in four years time according to The Washington Post through earmarks of “tens of millions of dollars to groups associated with his own business partners.” True: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/05/14/AR2006051401032.html Washington Post
    ($2 billion) the approximate amount of money that House Appropriations Chairman David Obey (D-WI) is earmarking related to his son’s lobbying efforts. The son, Craig Obey, is “a top lobbyist for the nonprofit group” that would receive a roughly $2 billion component of the “Stimulus” package. True: http://www.newwest.net/topic/article/a_plan_for_stimulus_money_national_parks/C530/L37/
    and this as a list of these related stories: http://search.yahoo.com/404handler?src=news&++++fr%3D404_news%26ref%3Dhttp://directorblue.blogspot.com/2009/01/obama-democrats-by-numbers.html&url=http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20090129/ap_on_go_co/stimulus_national_parks_2
    ($3.7 billion) not to be outdone, this is the estimated value of various defense contracts awarded to a company controlled by the husband of Rep. Diane Feinstein (D-CA). Despite an obvious conflict-of-interest as “a member of the Military Construction Appropriations subcommittee, Sen. Feinstein voted for appropriations worth billions to her husband’s firms.” True: http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/chronicle/archive/2003/04/22/MN310531.DTL
    ($4.19 billion) the amount of money in the so-called “Stimulus” package devoted to fraudulent voter registration ACORN group under the auspices of “Community Stabilization Activities”. ACORN is currently the subject of a RICO suit in Ohio . True: http://www.ocregister.com/articles/stimulus-economy-percent-2295331-bill-pelosi
    $1,646,000,000,000 ($1.646 trillion):
    The approximate amount of annual United States exports endangered by the “Stimulus” package, which provides a “Buy American” stricture. According to international trade experts, a “US-EU trade war looms” which could result in a worldwide economic depression reminiscent of that touched off by the protectionist Smoot-Hawley Act. True: http://www.asiaing.com/2008-national-export-strategy-the-new-global-main-street.html and http://www.powerlineblog.com/archives/2009/01/022685.php Background: Smmot-Hawley Act: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Smoot-Hawley_Tariff_Act
    It’s becoming a culture of corruption and stupidity. In addition, these folks appear to be above the law. All of the aforementioned are still in office, living like the royalty they think they are. Remember folks: This all happened in just the FIRST QUARTER!

  2. George Ortega on

    With 10 percent unemployment (17 percent U6), and many, many people having lost their homes and money as a result of the 2008 global recession, you can bet your remaining dollars that Democrats’ strongly and persistently blaming Republicans for the mess we’re in will be a winning strategy in 2010 and beyond.
    Does anyone really believe that those who lost so much, and the vast majority of Americans, are ignorant of the fact that Republican policies caused those losses, or that those job, house and money losers and their sympathetic fellow Americans are still not seething as await the time, this November, when they can exact their cathartic revenge?


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