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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Dems Should Address Internal Arguments, But Not to Distraction

I side more with Democrats who believe that now is probably not the best time to give full vent to our internecine ideological battles, since we are about to experience an unprecedented level of Republican attacks, fueled by record-level spending. One thing we all ought to agree on: this election is the best chance the Republicans have ever had to institute a reactionary takeover of the white house, both houses of congress and Supreme Court, and create a government more extreme than anything Reagan or Goldwater thought possible. The consequences would reverberate for decades.
A majority of the Supreme Court and House of Reps are already there. But think how much worse it could get if the Republicans win the political trifecta — veto-proof domination of the executive, legislative and judicial branches. It could happen — especially if we waste energy marinating too long in our internal divisions, while the GOP juggernaut, strengthened by successful voter suppression laws, builds traction.
I don’t mean to go all chicken little — Dems have an equally good chance of holding the presidency and perhaps one house of congress. Most of the polling data, historical experience and sober punditry points to a close election. Yet we should be clear that this election is about two profoundly different directions for America, one of which points to a far more repressive society. That shouldn’t happen because Democrats were distracted by internal ideological disputes.
That’s the perspective I bring to the ongoing debate between the Democratic centrists and progressive populist wings of the Democratic party. The centrists are energized by the recent Third Way study urging a more aspirational/less class-confrontational tone in Democratic messaging. The progressive populists believe, on the contrary, that a focus on fairness in economic policy in our messaging is the key to victory.
To get up to speed on the debate, read the Third Way report, “Opportunity Trumps Fairness with Swing Independents.” Ari Berman’s “Why Economic Populism Is a Winning Strategy for Obama” at The Nation and R.J. Eskow’s HuffPo post “How “Centrist” Democrats Are Helping Conservatives – and Failing America’s Moms” provide sharp critiques of the Third Way study.
Let’s give a fair and respectful hearing to both arguments. That dialogue can help hone messaging for both camps — to defeat Republicans.

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