‘These People Could be in Charge’

‘THESE PEOPLE COULD BE IN CHARGE’…. We’ve seen Democrats experiment with a variety of campaign themes in recent months. “Party of No” was a longtime favorite, but became less effective when the GOP seemed to like it. “Bush Republicans” and “BP Republicans” have been used, but didn’t stick.

With about nine weeks to go before the midterm elections, the DNC is today rolling out what’s likely to be its final message. To summarize, the pitch effectively tells the public: Republicans aren’t just wrong, this year, they’re kind of crazy.

Democrats unveiled this video, titled “These People Could be in Charge,” this morning, shining a light on a variety of high-profile GOP candidates. All of those featured appear to be, to varying degrees, stark raving mad.

The point isn’t subtle — voters are supposed to start connecting “Republican” and “crazy.” This is a party that doesn’t just want to turn back the clock to the Bush/Cheney era; this is a party that wants to scrap New Deal-era pillars of American society, repeal constitutional amendments, eliminate cabinet agencies, purge the GOP of moderates, etc.

That this effort is being launched the day before right-wing, anti-government zealots gather at the Lincoln Memorial is not, I suspect, a coincidence.

What’s more, the larger significance is very likely intended to push back against the very nature of the cycle. For months, the Republican plan has been to make the elections a referendum — if you don’t like the status quo, vote for the GOP. The Democrats’ task has been to present the midterms as a choice — you can choose to move forward with Dems, or you can go backwards with a radicalized Republican Party.

It’s a direct response to the best scenario Democrats could have hoped for. The GOP brand is still deeply unpopular, but presented with a key opportunity for massive gains, the party has nominated some real nutjobs. Voters who may have been inclined to vote Republican this year may think twice when they consider the weirdo whose name is on the ballot.

At least in theory, that is. We may be looking at a dynamic in which there’s just nothing more Dems can do. With a struggling economy and a listless base, GOP lunatics may be poised to win in November no matter how compelling the Democratic message is.

But on the whole, I consider this the Dems’ strongest pitch. If the American mainstream is already inclined to be suspicious of the Republican pitch, it’s wise to reinforce those doubts by demonstrating just how ridiculously right-wing the GOP has become.

As E.J. Dionne Jr. noted yesterday, “Democrats … have every interest in turning the election into a philosophical contest, arguing that even unhappy voters cannot trust their fate to a party in the grips of a right-wing revolt.”