Advice, Ad Nauseam, For Democrats

ADVICE, AD NAUSEAM, FOR DEMOCRATS….The Washington Post published six item today — count ’em, six — with analysis and recommendations for what ails the Democratic Party. The series, combined, is nearly 6,000 words of competing, at frequently contradictory, advice.

The DLC’s Al From and Bruce Reed want the party to re-embrace Clintonism; David Sirota says the party needs to “move to the center,” but makes a compelling case that the middle isn’t what the conventional wisdom says it is; Peter Beinart outlines his pitch about how the party should approach foreign policy and interest in key international institutions; and one item collects sound-bite sized advice from 15 well-regarded Democratic thinkers. Taken together, the pieces are, well, a bit much.

I was particularly struck by Michael Grunwald’s analysis, which suggested that the party’s current position isn’t all that bad, and that most of the advice it gets is rather self-serving.

The problem with Democrats is that they’re too liberal. Or not liberal enough. They talk too much (or not enough) about abortion or torture or gun control. They’re too condescending, too cosmopolitan, too secular, too wonkish, too weak. They’ve been captured by their interest groups, their contributors, their pollsters, their consultants. They’re on the wrong side of a demographic revolution. Joe Sixpack doesn’t want to have a beer with them. They should think strategically instead of tactically, or they should forget about strategy and speak from the heart. They aren’t catering to values voters, heartland voters, exurban voters. They aren’t motivating their base. They don’t have a unified national message, or they’re too worried about a unified national message. They need to do more than criticize Bush, or stop rolling over for Bush. They’re too disconnected to understand what voters want to hear, or too cowardly to say things voters don’t want to hear. They should imitate the Republican intellectual infrastructure that produces the conservative movement’s big ideas, or imitate the Republican anti-intellectual attitude that doesn’t worry about big ideas. Or they should stop imitating Republicans.

It can seem confusing, all this contradictory advice. But most of it reveals more about the biases of the advice-givers than it reveals about the party’s prospects of regaining power.

I have a tradition going at my site called the “Sunday Discussion Group” where I throw out a topic and open the floor. Here’s one for Washington Monthly readers: what do you think about all this advice? Are Dems in a better position than the conventional wisdom suggests, or is the party poised to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory? If the Washington Post asked you to contribute some suggestions to today’s series, what might you recommend?