The SanityPrompt

This blog represents some small and occasional efforts to add a note of sanity to discussions of politics and policy. This blog best viewed with Internet Explorer @ 1024x768

Sunday, November 14, 2004

Schweitzer for President!

If only all our candidates could talk like this. Sigh.

"I've got to get my cattle off the high ground and get them castrated before the winter," said Mr. Schweitzer, a whirl of energy in a pair of blue jeans.

The New York Times has an interesting article on how Democrats might regain the initiative, pointing to Montana's new governor, Brian Schweitzer. Their suggestion is that someone of his ilk, close to the land will win over the red state voters Dems have lost in recent years. I have no doubt that Governor - elect Schweitzer is a genuine person and his language is certainly colorful. I would love a candidate who is comfortable with castration. Just think of the campaign possibilities!

But I think that the focus on personality and the values message takes Democrats away from where they are weakest and need to do some work -- issues and policy. All this talk about Obama, Clinton, Salazar, Schweitzer is just a distraction from the real business of clarifying what the Democratic Party stands for. The Democracy Corps numbers show this. The Party needs to make a persuasive case for election and right now it just isn't at most levels. The few exceptions -- Colorado and Montana -- feature colorful earthy candidates but they also feature Parties with simple messages. As the E.D. of the Montana state party says in the article, "we ran on things like the fact that we lead the nation in percentage of households where people have to work two jobs, and we're at the bottom for average wages." Sure they neutralized issues like guns and gays but it's pretty insulting to working class people to suggest that all they really want is a cowboy and they don't care about who will make their lives better and protect them. Many in the media like to pretend these things are separable, but as political scientist Samuel Popkin shows in his work, people use personality to support or confirm the things being said by the candidate. But you have to have something to say. Tom Daschle is hardly an effete East Coast liberal. His personality is just fine for South Dakota. The frustration people feel with the Democratic Party goes much deeper than values and personality. And Daschle now knows this first hand. You can read the NYTimes article here: Montana Democrats Reflect on Success