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

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

How to Speak Democratese: Pt I

Democrats appear to have a great deal of difficulty connecting with the public. Republicans spend a great deal of time and money conducting focus groups and market testing phrases to find the best way to connect with voters. Now I haven't done any of that, but it does seem that Democrats could use some instruction on how to connect better with voters. If you don't believe that, just look at the latest national poll which asks people which party they trust to handle a major national issue. So let's review what Democrats should and should not say.

What not to say

The Bush Social Security plan is a gamble: Harry Reid used this line. It’s cute since he is from Nevada but it’s wrong. A gamble implies that there is some probability of winning, of success. But the Bush plan isn’t a plan to fix the long term funding imbalances in Social Security. It is a plan to convert what has been the most successful government program into a private program run through Wall Street that will remove the most vital safety net that exists for our seniors. White House memos have and more frank commentators on the Right have made this plain. They see this as an opportunity to dismantle what they see as the central pillar of the ‘welfare state.’ They have always opposed Social Security on principle. They just haven’t had the courage to state their principles out loud. The Bush plan won’t solve the problem will increase the deficit, and will destroy Social Security and it’s protections.

We need an exit strategy in Iraq: No we don’t. We need a strategy for success. We need to win. Whatever you think about the rightness of our being there, Colin Powell’s aphorism still stands. You break it you own it. There is little doubt that the Bushies inflated the case for war by being nebulous about the connection between Saddam and 9/11, by appearing overly certain about the presence of weapons of mass destruction and by inflating the imminence of the threat. There is no doubt that they have seriously undermined our international standing and influence. They have diverted precious defense resources and attention away from more serious potential flash-points such as Iran and North Korea. And they have initiated a war whose destructiveness and impact on civilians and American soldiers has been profound and of dubious moral legitimacy. But we are there and we cannot cut and run, we cannot allow the appearance that the insurgents have driven us from Iraq. The most significant foreign policy failings of the government in the last 25 years have been our retreat from Lebanon after the Beirut bombings and the withdrawal from Somalia after the Mogadishu incident. If you commit forces to an area you commit yourself to the likelihood of losing lives and you don’t do it unless you intend to take those costs and win. We have been far too easy about committing forces in the past and this has created the impression which Bin Laden and Zarqawi love to proclaim, that Americans will flee at the first sign of blood. An exit strategy implies a retreat. What we need is a plan to successfully conclude our intervention in Iraq.

George Bush is stupid: OK people, one more time. George Bush is not stupid. He is inarticulate. He is crass. He is ambitious to the point that he will compromise any personal integrity whatsoever. He is lazy (see next coming post). But he is not stupid. You don’t win two races for Governor in Texas and two races for President by being stupid. You don’t go to Harvard Business School (even if Daddy got you in) if you are stupid. Stop ‘misunder-estimating’ him. Democrats made the same mistake with Reagan. Want to know why he was called the Teflon president? Because no one believed ideas came from him. He was the source of backbone, simplicity and decisiveness. The same goes for George Bush. Calling him stupid gives him cover. It excuses his failures. It allows him to make others the fall guy. It allows him to pretend he is a simple man which is perceived as virtuous.

Tomorrow I will post some suggestion about what Democrats should say.