Election Cycle 2006

February 25, 2007

Clip: Stuck in the Mud

From Frank Luntz, Republican pollster extraordinaire, no less ...

Re: Stuck in the Mud - washingtonpost.com:

It is unfortunate that the Republican Party is currently dominated by hyperpartisan, gut-punching professional politicians and expert technicians whom I wouldn't want to face at the dark end of the electoral alley. They specialize in the flawless execution of “wedge” politics. That may have worked well in past elections, but no longer. The latest gimmick is “branding” -- a Madison Avenue technique -- to reverse the Republican slide. But political parties are not brands, slogans are not a replacement for ideas and you don't sell leaders the way you sell widgets.
My polls show that Democrats now hold a perceived advantage with voters not just on reducing deficits and balancing the budget but on an issue long seen as a GOP strength: ending wasteful spending. That alone should jar Republicans into taking a fresh approach.
As a pollster, I rarely hear voters call for smaller government. They tell me that they want more efficient and more effective government. (Note to Republicans: There is no starker symbol of Washington's inefficiency and ineffectiveness than the federal government's inability to control our borders and prevent illegal immigration.)

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December 13, 2006

Frank Luntz's take on the meaning of the 2006 election defeat for Republicans

Frank Luntz's take on the meaning of the 2006 election defeat for Republicans.

PDF: http://www.usnews.com/usnews/politics/washingtonwhispers/061212/postelection.pdf

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The Blog | George Lakoff: Building on the Progressive Victory | The Huffington Post

Re: The Blog | George Lakoff: Building on the Progressive Victory | The Huffington Post:

Take the 100-hour agenda. It breaks into two parts, for the two aspects of progressive values, empathy and responsibility. The minimum wage, college loan interest, prescription drug prices, and stem cell research are all empathy issues: they are about caring about working people, young people, old people, and those with debilitating diseases. Lobbying reform, pay-as-you-go budgeting, and enacting the 9-11 Commission recommendations are all responsibility issues. What the progressives, blue dogs, and centrists can agree on are all instances of progressive values.
Democratic winners didn't shrink from pointing to those traumas, nor did they soft-pedal their progressive views. They created a narrative of good guys who care and bad guys who don't; good guys who use government to get things done for people and bad guys who are out to destroy government and don't get things done.

In the process they have started a new progressive populism. Not a mere economic populism, but a thoroughgoing progressive populism. It was not just about economic issues. It was also about renewable energy and global warming, about honest government, about a government to count on in case of disaster, about not getting people killed in Iraq day after day, about keeping good jobs here and creating more of them, and about the importance of science in fighting disease. In short, it was about government that cares about its citizens and acts responsibly toward them and toward others in the world. And as with a real populism, there was a handy oppressor -- radical conservatives in Washington who were lying to the citizenry; taking bribes; outsourcing jobs; getting our troops killed; letting a beloved city die; and all the while getting rich on no-bid contracts. If that isn't rot at the top, I don't know what is.

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December 04, 2006

Re: What happened to the immigration wedge? - The Democratic Strategist

Re: What happened to the immigration wedge? - The Democratic Strategist

[On immigration, Democrats] called for toughness on the border, fairness to taxpayers, and practicality in terms of dealing with the existing problem and restoring the rule of law. They excoriated President Bush for failing to enforce existing laws. And they defined the path to citizenship, not as the compassionate solution for illegal immigrants, but as the best solution for taxpayers.

It worked. Because Democrats supported immigration reform, their margin among Hispanics jumped from eleven to thirty-nine points. In part because they messaged reform to appeal to taxpayers, their deficit among whites dwindled from fifteen to four points. In nearly all races where immigration became a major issue, Democrats thumped Republicans. In Arizona, ground-zero in the immigration debate, two house seats flipped from R to D. Some of the most virulent foes of immigration reform were sent packing. And Democrats who began the year on the defensive cruised to victory.

Now what? We have already heard from some Democrats a reluctance to take up the issue at all. They see it as overly controversial, and they don't want to tempt fate with another foray into this issue. But they don't have a choice. We have an immigration crisis in this country and if nothing is done Democrats will be blamed.

At Third Way, we are confident that Democrats can pass immigration reform without alienating non-Hispanic voters. If Democrats cling to the substance in the Senate-passed McCain-Kennedy bill and stick to the message of tough, fair to taxpayers, and practical, they will not only repel the immigration wedge -- they will receive credit for solving one of America's most vexing problems.

De-Alignment - Democratic Strategist

Re: De-Alignment - Democratic Strategist:

The election was de-aligning rather than realigning. Millions of moderates and independents divorced the Republican Party, dashing Karl Rove's grandiose plan to be the Mark Hanna of the 21st century. But these newly liberated voters have hardly plighted their troth to Democrats, whose standing with the public remains mediocre.

The Democratic Party has been given a rare opportunity to reintroduce itself to the electorate. But the party is on probation. Whether it can move from probation to approbation depends on how it conducts itself over the next two years. The American people will be watching very carefully to see whether Democrats have learned from past mistakes and are ready once again to form a governing majority.
In this context, Democratic aspirants and those working to develop policy for the party should redouble their efforts to create a broad governing agenda for the nation. Barring unexpected developments, 2008 is likely to be a “security election.” Three linked issues will be central.

National Security. Building on recent gains, Democrats must convince the people that our leader can be effective as commander in chief and steward of American foreign policy.
Economic Security. Middle class Americans are anxious about the security of their wages, health insurance, and retirement as well as college affordability. Rather than tinkering around the edges, Democrats should advocate a new social contract to replace the eroding bargain left over from the post-war era.
Energy Security. Coupled with rising concerns about global warming, the gas price spike and instability through the world's oil producing regions have convinced the American people that the time is ripe for a major push toward energy security. Democrats should respond with bold plans that challenge the public as well as energy producers.

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November 30, 2006

More on ideological shift in mid-terms

In a previous post, I excerpted some comments on how the Republican Party in the mid-terms ceded the center, with moderate Republicans losing out, causing a net movement to right, leaving them as an ever more extreme party.

This interesting post, has a graphic that shows the current 109th Congress, with a conservative index plotted for Democrats (blue) and for Republicans (red), then with a dotted line showing the conservative index rating for the displaced Republicans.  (Since the new congresspeople haven't voted yet, they can't be plotted yet.):


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November 29, 2006

TomPaine.com - The Incredible Shrinking GOP

Re: TomPaine.com - The Incredible Shrinking GOP:

The election shrank the Republican Party, both geographically and ideologically. Their identity will continue to be defined by their most socially conservative, Southern members, who will oppose popular initiatives like increasing the minimum wage and fight unending battles on hot-button social issues in which they inevitably alienate large swaths of voters who call themselves “moderate” but think like progressives.

... Democrats now control not only the left, but the center as well. Yet they are being scolded with the same tired clichés they’ve heard before, that they need to move to the right in order to maintain a majority. They need to ignore the pleas from the David Broders and Joe Kleins of the world and keep in mind that in the recent election, voters repudiated conservatism itself. Even before the election, some conservatives were complaining that the Bush administration wasn’t really conservative at all. Yet with the exception of reducing the size of government, conservatives can’t claim that they didn’t get what they were after over the past six years. Republicans cut taxes, boosted defense and advanced conservative beliefs on social issues—and when they promised more of the same, voters said, no thanks.

....It is the Terri Schiavo Republicans that voters in the interior West, the Southwest—and indeed, everywhere but the Deep South—are turning away from. Their kind of politics hurts the GOP among nearly every voting bloc that will be key to success in upcoming elections. If the Democrats can succeed in furthering the GOP’s ideological and geographic isolation, they can send them into a vicious spiral of defeat, where they have to keep feeding their socially conservative, Southern base in order to avoid total annihilation, but their efforts to do so end up harming them in every other region of the country. That’s what it will take to make this victory last past the next election.

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November 19, 2006

Talking with Democracy for NYC

Re: Talking with Democracy for NYC:

The question now is: What comes next? Democrats will need to be bolder, less risk-averse, and speak to people in ways that are relevant to their lives.

(Some of that may mean redefining centrism so that it is not the centrism of Beltway pollsters and pundits. Americans, after all, talk about wanting to be governed from the center – but it's a different center –  one that deals with issues that are at the center of their lives. One that seeks a politics that speaks to and includes affordable childcare and health care, quality public education, retirement security, a living wage, environmental protection, clean elections and a principled – not a messianic – foreign policy.)

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Summary of Findings: Public Cheers Democratic Victory

Re: Summary of Findings: Public Cheers Democratic Victory:

By 51%-29%, more Americans want Democratic leaders ­ rather than President Bush ­ to take the lead in solving the nation's problems. Twelve years ago, the public was divided over whether GOP congressional leaders (43%), or President Clinton (39%), should take the lead in addressing national problems.
Bush's job rating stands at just 24% among political independents, who proved crucial to the Democrats' victory on Nov. 7. By 57%-39%, independent voters cast ballots for Democratic candidates, according to national exit polls.
The broad opposition to President Bush among independents is reflected in their strong preference that Democratic leaders, rather than the president, take the lead in solving the nation's problems.  By more that two-to-one (53%-25%), independents believe that Democratic leaders should take the lead on issues.

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November 15, 2006

Re: Email from Montana

[Email response to Email from Montana, 11/15/2006]

Andrew -

I find the right’s own puzzlement about the current state of the right to not be so puzzling.  It seems to me the fundamental tenets of conservatism create the very contradictions that are its own undoing.  Recalling Russell Kirk, as summarized by the Heritage Foundation:

Kirk described six basic “canons” or principles of conservatism:

• A divine intent, as well as personal conscience, rules society;
• Traditional life is filled with variety and mystery while most radical systems are characterized by a narrowing uniformity;
• Civilized society requires orders and classes;
• Property and freedom are inseparably connected;
• Man must control his will and his appetite, knowing that he is governed more by emotion than by reason; and
• Society must alter slowly.

Promotion of divine intent (#1) and a hierarchical ordering of society (#3) leads by definition to authoritarianism (as those with leadership power will be likely to perceive themselves as closer to that intent and will be telling others what to do and think) which runs in counterposition to conscience (#1) and emotion (#5) and which is exacerbated by materialism(#4 -- especially in today’s free-market fundamentalist view of that canon).  An unrealistic utopian ideal of how society should evolve -- that man will control his appetites (#4) and society will evolve slowly (#6) -- which like any such utopian ideal, is as bound to fail as Karl Marx’s utopian claim to know how society should evolve.

Many of these may fine as personal creeds, but have limited applicability to government and governing.

Conservatism’s guiding principles were laid down in an intellectual pursuit of a justifying structure, but were formulated to work from the perspective of an oppressed outsider critiquing the rest the world.  It was not set up as governing mechanism.  By reinforcing the group’s identity and supporting the hierarchical structure (“carrying the water” as Rush Limbaugh put it recently), it builds an effective insurgency but it doesn’t have the means for handling power responsibly because those forces for accumulating power tend to be much stronger and have momentum than the countervailing powers (that is, assuming that most people in power will be able to “control his will and his appetite”).  In fact, just the opposite -- it creates an authoritarian structure of perceived superiority which when it has power will naturally continue to accumulate them as fast as possible.

You can see the ignorance of this in Roy Blunt's speech at the Heritage Foundation last week, in which he unabashedly promoted the idea of going back to conservatism's roots and why they got elected in 1994, without recognizing that the very ethical and other sins he identified in today’s Republican party were sown as soon as they took power in 1994: seizing the reins of power to implement the “K Street Project”, a desire to use the power they now had to implement what they “knew” was right and to exclude the minority (actually just barely a minority) of Democrats, representing almost 50% of the country, from any meaningful participation in our democracy.

Finally, this sense of superiority and insider-outsider mentality that only conservatives know what’s right and are oppressed, does not lead to a culture of reflection but does lead to a culture of exclusion and bigotry.

So, the roots of movement conservatism contain the seeds of its own destructive failings because the consequences of following those principles do not fulfill their intentions.

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