Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

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Dionne on Rove and the electoral landscape

E.J. Dionne. Jr. notes that survival is the only item left on the Bush Administration’s agenda this year. In passing, he notes that there used to be big ideas on the agenda:

What’s intriguing about the shift in the direction of Rove’s energies is that it marks a turn from the high politics of a partisan realignment driven by ideas and policies to the more mundane politics of eking out votes, seat by seat and state by state. Most of Rove’s grander dreams have died as the president’s poll numbers have come crashing down.

He concedes, in other words, that proposals like social security reform and the "ownership society" were serious and hence serious threats to Democratic political interests. What did the Democrats have to offer in response? Anything equally substantive and serious?

Dionne concludes:

Rove’s new electoral focus is an urgent administration priority. And given the unfavorable political terrain for the president, Rove’s recipe this year, as in 2004, is likely to include a heavy dollop of attacks on the Democrats. Hold on for the new Swift Boaters, coming soon to your swing state. It’s not the politics dreams are made of, but it often works.

It seems to me that high-minded debates on policy haven’t been part of the Democratic playbook this year or in the recent past. But of course, Dionne only calls our attention to what might happen when Republicans can be blamed.

Discussions - 7 Comments

Earth to Knippy "the hun" knippenberg: bush now down to 33%(and that ain’t no outlier!).Must be the evil MSM up to its old tricks! Time to get back to full cheerleading mode("Fight back!). Whatever happened to Intelligent Design?

Fortunately for the GOP, Karl Rove is good at the nuts’n’bolts of getting out the vote, and winning elections. Unfortunately, W has placed too much faith in Rove’s ideas about "stealing" the Democrats’ constituencies.
Let’s take a look at Rove’s grand strategy. Issues like making the 2003 tax cuts permanent, confirming more appelate court judges, and cutting spending; things which the rank-and-file would fight for, aren’t important to Rove. Instead, Rove’s "bright ideas" were to 1) kowtow to the teachers’ unions and the likes of Teddy Kennedy,which was supposed to make the GOP the party of "education". 2)start the Medicare prescription drug boondoggle, which was supposed to make the AARP join the republican party, 3)nominate Harriet Meiers to the Supreme Court, and 4)push amnesty for illegal aliens, which would make all Hispanics swing to the GOP.
The results? Well, the education establishment still excoriates Bush for not spending enough on education, the AARP and the democrats are still decrying the lack of a socialized health care system (while the prescription drug benefit is helping the government run a deficit), the bizarre nomination of Miss Meiers to the court blew up in Bush’s face as conservatives rebelled, and the immigration debacle has alienated the base to the point of disgust.
Thankfully, Rove has been demoted before he can implement more of his "vision"

Maybe they should just take the Republican Congress leadership away from the Porkbarrel feeding trough. That would be enough to please me.

The high-minded debates in question have sometimes generated serious ideas. That much Dionne says. But who says they have always been good ideas?

The problem with Democrats is that we have allowed ourselves to stress overly narrow policy proposals, perhaps having lost the taste for principled discussion, and we have too frequently allowed Republicans to caricature liberalism. (That there are voices on the "left" that sometimes fit the caricatures is of course true enough.)

EJ’s article is actually pretty good as a piece of campaigning. It will be interesting to see what the newly liberated Rove can come up with.

"...Rove’s recipe this year, as in 2004, is likely to include a heavy dollop of attacks on the Democrats. Hold on for the new Swift Boaters,..."

First of all, Rove and Bush had nothing to do with the Swift Boat Vets, whose leader, John O’Neill, was a Democrat. The Swift Boat Vets started up in response to John Kerry using their picture in support of his own campaign, without permission and without their support. The Swift Boat Vets weren’t part of some strategic campaign, they were not opposed to Democrats, they specifically opposed John Kerry and sought to bring up the truth about Kerry. Now, if you consider the truth about John Kerry to be an attack ... That says more about Kerry than it does about the Swift Boat Vets.

Of course the truth is something to not be bothered with when cheap rhetoric gets more headlines.

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