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Monday, August 23, 2010

Proposition, Opposition

by digby

Michael Tomasky says there are two reasons the Republicans are probably going to clean the Democrats' clocks in a couple of months. The first is the obvious: 9.5% unemployment, 2.5 points higher than when the president took office in the midst of an economic meltdown. There's no doubt that this is the primary source of voter anger. And why wouldn't it be?

But there's another reason, which Tomasky very deftly lays out:

The second reason is that the Democrats are terrible at countering Republican spin. On virtually every major issue, to put matters in debating society language, the Republican point of view is the proposition, the Democratic one the opposition. This may sound odd, given that the Republicans are the ones who are in opposition. But they almost always set the terms of debate in Washington. And so, Republicans began saying shortly after Obama took office that the midterm elections would be a referendum on Obama's overreach. The Democrats countered with not much of anything.

Now, after a year-plus of that and just nine weeks away from the voting, the terms of debate are set. The Democrats are just now trotting out arguments. They're tying the Republicans to George W Bush, who is still unpopular. This may work, but they should have been doing this from the beginning, as the GOP did to Carter in the early Reagan days, and as the Tories recently did with that arresting web ad about Labour's Legacy.

But the bottom line is this: the Democrats are afraid of the Republicans. They – all of them, from Obama on down – are afraid of Rush Limbaugh and Michele Bachmann and you name it. You hear Democratic operatives talk strategy, and there's always a "logical" reason why this or that aggressive attack might not work. But it's nothing to do with logic. They're just afraid. Bachmann, the Minnesota congresswoman who wants the government out of everything, is a good case in point. It's been revealed that her family farm has received $250,000 in federal subsidies. If she were a Democrat, the Republicans would make sure the entire country knew it.

But the Democrats won't do things like that. If they had for the past 20 months, Americans would be talking about a president who, all things considered, is doing his best against quasi-insane and hypocritical opposition. But they're telling each other a different story. And the Democrats will go on not learning the lesson of the price of their fear.

Hey, we've unearthed dozens of examples of GOP perfidy and hypocrisy that the Democrats, in the main, just aren't interested in pursuing. They get hooked on some lame strategist's focus group pablum and don't deviate from the path. As Tomasky says, they always find some logical reason not to aggressively confront Republicans and I'm afraid his reasoning is the only one that makes sense.

Not that we didn't know this. However, people can testify that I would protest using that kind of language. I cringed at the constant "spine transplant" stuff because it sounded like Frank Luntz boilerplate. But there's no point in trying to paper this over anymore. They just don't have the stomach for a fight. In that one respect anyway, the Republicans are right.