We all know how bad a year 2010 should be for Dems in Congress. There seems to be a lot of hand wringing about whether or not we're sufficiently panicked about the situation. But that's a pretty stupid way to look at the situation. Freaking out would undoubtedly make things even worse. The real question is, given a toxic environment, what do the Dems actually do?
Here's one man's suggestion: go partisan. Hard. I recognize that this crosses the wires of every synapse in the hunker & survive brains of Dem congressmen and their high paid consultants. Oh my, oh my, off-year election!, distance yourself from your president and party and just hope the voters don't know!!!! How can I say this in a cliche? Recipe for disaster. Bringing a knife to a gunfight. Burning a winning lottery ticket. Pissing in your own kitchen. I think you get it. They want us to run scared. If we do, we'll forget to play our best card: they're Republicans!
OK, so here's my logic. We all know why Obama's numbers are low right now, and it's not because he's too rational (thanks, Maureen Dowd), or he's "snakebit" (Peggy Noonan), or too partisan & liberal (Broder!), or he hasn't been to the Gulf enough (David Vitter), or not focused enough on jobs (Charlie Cook). That's all just beltway B.S.--the media "frame" to personalize a much more prosaic story. Which is: the economy still sucks. That's it. And guess what, voters are more likely to blame the GOP than the Dems, and less likely to trust the congressional GOP than even Pelosi and company. Many Dems get this, which is why we've started to hear them argue that this race is a choice between parties, not a referendum on Obama. (So says Obama himself.) OK, so let's double down on that. I want to see every Dem commercial this year throwing the word "Republican" around like the Tea Party uses the word "Communist." It's a "brand"--use it like one. The beauty is that this isn't a new narrative. The public already knows it, and likes it. They just need to hear it. Over and over and over.
Have some fun with it too. I want to see reels and reels of footage of the tea parties with their Hitler-Obama signs. I want to see cartoons with Sharon Angle in a tinfoil hat, John Boehner handing out checks from Wall Street on the House floor, and Rand Paul on his knees sucking on BP's pipe. The script writes itself: these mofos are craaaaazzzzyy!!!! Also, can we talk about Bush & Cheney a bit more? Please? I know the media won't like it (that was soooo 2009!). Screw them. Those grovelling wanks can respect us when we win. I'd also like a bit more aggression with respect to GOP candidates: put them on the spot over stimulus, health care, and financial reform repeal. Ask them if they want to investigate Obama's citizenship. Ask if they want to impeach him. Ask them if they think Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh are ever wrong. Or, better, accuse them of slavish devotion to radio crackpots and force them to deny it. With specifics. That always goes well with Rush & Glenn too--I'm sure they'll forgive those who betray them. Then put it all in your commercials with some scary voice overs. You know, like the Republicans would if they were running your campaigns for you. Make them say crazy ass shit. Believe me, they will do it. They can't help themselves. It absolutely pains them to act like they have normal beliefs. Every time I see Rand Paul on TV I feel like Tom Cruise strategizing in A Few Good Men about getting Jack Nicholson to confess on the stand that he ordered the code red: he wants to say it! Just ask him. Is that clear? Chrystal.
Let me add that I think this advice will be especially important in the south and midwest. One thing the GOPers around here do not lack is confidence. Another is hubris. Use this. The candidates around here are the ones most likely to overplay their crazy hands. I can't tell you how sick I am of all the political ads around here. Every damned one of them sounds like it was written by Jefferson Davis or George Wallace. Obama!, and socialists!, and immigrants!, oh my! Usually, what this would mean is that Dems act like giant wussies: "I like Tea Parties too! I'll stand up to Obama too!" Well, there's no vote there, it's already taken.
Here's what I want to see in my Dem candidates for Congress and governor say: "Hi, I'm Joe Dem. Are you tired of all these Republican politicians running ads blaming your problems on Muslims, or immigrants, or President Obama? Are you tired of all those extremists who take their orders from Glenn Beck and the Tea Partiers? I don't know what's worse: that they think we're all a bunch of racist hicks or that they think we're idiots. We all know who's to blame for this mess. It's George Bush and the Republicans. They crashed the economy, they ran up the debt, and they sold our government to Wall Street and the corporate lobbyists. And then they apologized to BP and the bankers. They want you to blame some poor immigrant. They want to end the stimulus, so that we have to fire teachers and police officers, good jobs right here in Tennessee. But you know better. This November, send them a message. Vote Democrat."
I can imagine a dozen variations on that ad. With all the hate that gets spewed around here, I think a straightforward call for human decency and common sense would come like a bolt from the blue. And since we're already in the hole, what have we got to lose?
Update: a few hours after I posted, Krugman had a good column thinking on very similar lines. He spends a bit too much time with 20/20 hindsight. In retrospect, a bigger stim would have been the key play IF it could have passed in Congress, which is debatable. But what does that mean for NOW? Fatalism? I'd say no. Voters are going to be pissed, but Indies are clueless about ideology and famously confused about whom to blame. Meanwhile, a "go partisan" strategy would help fire up the Dem base to approach GOP intensity. So you've got two real pluses there, even if continued economic stagnation will make the objective one of minimizing losses rather than picking up seats.