E.J. Dionne, Jr. thinks that Democrats should offer voters something other than "focus-group-driven sloganeering and mush." He points to the current issue of the Washington Monthly, which includes this article by editor Paul Glastris.
Heres Glastris analysis of why several of President Bushs ownership and empowerment initiatives havent be popular:
Americans love the idea of choice—in the abstract. But when faced with the actual choices conservatives present, they arent buying. The reason is that conservatives have constructed choices that fail to take human nature into account. People like to have choices but feel quickly overwhelmed when they lack the information or expertise to decide confidently, and they turn downright negative when the choices themselves seem to put what they already have at risk. Conservatives were bound to make these mistakes because their very aim has been to transfer more risks from government to individuals so that governments size and expenditures can be cut. Thats not a bargain most Americans will accept. They like choice just fine, but they wont trade security to get it.
Theres much of interest in the article, focusing on our allegedly natural responses to complexity and risk, responses that seem more prevalent in older Americans than in their younger counterparts. Glastris big idea is using government to structure the choices we would like to have--"libertarian paternalism" he calls it, following Cass Sunstein, among others.
If the Democrats are going to revive their political fortunes in the long term, it will because they pay attention to ideas like this. It would require that they beat back or "re-educate" certain of their constituencies, which may or may not happen. But Republicans would do well to pay attention, since they cant simply expect or hope that Democrats will remain politically self-destructive indefinitely.