DEMS IN DISARRAY….FILM AT 11!….Everybody seems to be complaining about today’s Washington Post story suggesting that Democrats are in some disarray over how to fight this year’s election. Here’s an account of a meeting in January at which Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid spoke:
Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack, noting that the two leaders had talked about a variety of themes and ideas, asked for help. Could they reduce the message to just two or three core ideas that governors could echo in the states?
According to multiple accounts from those in the room, Reid said they had narrowed the list to six and proceeded to talk about them. Pelosi then offered her six ? not all the same as Reid’s. Oregon Gov. Ted Kulongoski said later: “One of the other governors said ‘What do you think?’ and I said ‘You know what I think? I don’t think we have a message.’ “
I don’t quite get this. The issue for Dems isn’t to have one message, or even two or three. It’s to have something simple and compelling to tell voters. Newt Gingrich’s Contract With America had ten points, after all, and it was famously successful anyway bacause all those points were short, easily understood, and compelling.
Now, God knows we don’t need a repeat of Pelosi’s 60-point (!) platform from 2004, but neither do we have to restrict ourselves to two or three. Half a dozen is fine. So is ten. It gives candidates in various parts of the country different things to focus on depending on what matters to their constituents.
So the real question is: how good were Reid and Pelosi’s ideas? Unfortunately, the Post article doesn’t give any clue about what they were. And in any case, later in the article the Post notes the real elephant in the room:
Perhaps the Democrats’ greatest dilemma is how to respond to the Iraq war….Congressional Democrats have been split over the war since 2002, when many voted to authorize military action. The ground shifted last November when Rep. John P. Murtha (Pa.), a leading Democratic voice on military matters, called for U.S. troops to be withdrawn as soon as possible. Two weeks later, Pelosi endorsed his stance.
Although Pelosi said she was not speaking for her caucus, some colleagues complained that she was handing Republicans a gift by enabling them to tag Democrats as soft on terrorism and forcing Democratic candidates to explain whether they agreed with their House leader.
Unfortunately, I’m not sure what can be done about this. The disagreement is real, and there’s no way to force it to go away. Still, it would be nice to get some level of agreement on a broader national security platform anyway. That’s been our biggest Achilles’ heel for the past couple of election cycles.