Wednesday, March 23, 2005

I want to believe

I want to believe we live in a sane world where numbers like these indicate that Republicans will pay a huge political price for their involvement in the Shiavo case. But I've heard this tune before. I agree with Dave Johnson who scolds progressives for thinking that Republicans are stupid:

You mock the Republicans for blatantly acting politically, and ignore that they ARE ACTING POLITICALLY. In other words, they're acting in the way that will in the long term gain them more support for their candidates and issues.

You mock their politicians for flocking to this because of a Republican talking points memo telling them this will gain them a political advantage, yet you do not see that THIS WILL GAIN THEM POLITICAL ADVANTAGE.

You're nitpicking details and ignoring the larger narrative. They are "trying to save this poor woman." They are "defending this poor woman's family." Meanwhile, you are pointing out discrepancies in the finer details. "What about her husband?" you ask when they talk about her parents. "She can't feel pain," you say, when they accuse Democrats of starving her to death. How many people hear that they are trying to save this poor woman? Everyone. How many people, over time, will pay attention to the nitpicking details?

I want to believe that this will finally be the time when the Republicans over-reach. I want to believe that the American people will finally wake up. I want to believe that they will finally send these people packing. But history does not favor that belief. Again, Dave Johnson points out where progressives are failing:

Update Never mind polls showing the public thinks Congress shouldn't interfere, feels they would want to die in the same situation, etc. Those are narrow issue points. WE ALREADY KNOW that we win on issues. But they win on the larger strategic narratives. We know all these things and here we are doing it all over again.

We're arguing the details of their lies instead of reaching the broader, general public with a larger narrative that reinforces public acceptance of the benefits of underlying Progressive values.

Everyone knows that what the Republicans are doing is wrong. A whopping 82% disapprove of it. But unless Democrats can fit this story into a wider narrative that explains why it is wrong then the political benefit to Democrats will be short-lived (just as the political benefit of the backlash against the impeachment of Clinton didn't last very long).

Many people are wondering why the Democrats haven't been more vocal in their opposition to the Republican actions. But what would these people suggest the Democrats say? The Democrats don't have the narrative tools needed to make the counter-argument. Fortunately, Reid and Pelosi were smart enough to recognize this deficiency and they took the only option available: stay out of the fight. At least this way the Democrats could gain some short-term benefit from the backlash.

But backlash politics is not a formula for long-term success. America needs a party that can offer a compelling counter-narrative to the Rapture Wing of the Republican party. Until the Democrats can put forward that narrative, a narrative that will allow them to take a public stand against this outrage with a reasonable expectation of success, then the Republicans will continue to win the larger war.

I want to believe that such a narrative can be produced. Fortunately, that's one belief that can be justified.


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