A tale of two party leaders

A TALE OF TWO PARTY LEADERS…. Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine, the new chairman of the Democratic National Committee, answered questions from Americans on a new YouTube video released yesterday. Kaine fielded a question from a life-long Republican who voted a straight Democratic ticket in 2008, and who wants to know if the party will continue to make him feel welcome. Kaine responded:

“I’ve been a Democrat my whole life … but this is a time in our nation where the challenges are huge and not all of the monopoly on wisdom is with any one group or any one party. So, we were able to be successful in November, both in Virginia and nationally, by attracting independents and moderate Republicans, and I think we need to try to do that as we move forward.

“I think both the president-elect and me believe that we should stand strong and be firm as Democrats, but we should articulate basic values of solving problems and unifying people in a way that will be attractive to those [non-Democrats] who came with us in 2008. We want to keep them on board.”

Now, contrast that with the perspective of a leading candidate to be the next chairman of the Republican National Committee.

Katon Dawson, the chairman of the South Carolina Republican Party, promised in a new a YouTube message to be Obama’s “worst nightmare” and said it would be the party’s mission for the next four years to “expose” the Democrats for what they “want to do to this country.”

“I can assure you that Barack Obama, Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid will understand that Katon Dawson will become their worst nightmare,” he says in the video. “We will expose them at every turn for what they are doing to the American public.”

Dawson defended his tough talk as the duty of a party leader.

I’m not necessarily saying that either statement is wrong, misguided, or beyond the pale, but the differences are striking. Kaine’s comments reflect outreach and tolerance for competing perspectives. Kaine wants a bigger party, but he also wants to focus on governing and solutions. Above all, he wants to encourage non-Democrats to stick around.

Dawson, meanwhile, wants to fight. He wants to work hard to be a “nightmare” for his opponents. Democrats haven’t started governing yet, but he’s already outraged by what the majority party is “doing to the American public.”

Kaine has the advantage of helping lead the winning team. It’s easy to be gracious when you’ve already achieved your goals. But putting that context aside, watching these two competing clips, on the same afternoon, on the same topic, makes clear how both parties have very different ideas about partisan warfare.

The DNC’s vision is shaped by Obama; the RNC’s vision has been shaped by Gingrich circa 1994.