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Much Ado About Anything: Democrats’ Battle Strategy Foreshadows their Plight
by Charles Simpson
10 December 2003Donkey

It’s been decades since every single issue in a strategic memorandum has been taken off the table by a sitting President.


While Howard Dean corners the market for shrillness, Democrats are trying to toss rhetorical banana peels along Pennsylvania Avenue from the 1600 block to Capitol Hill.  The acrimony from the entire Democratic National Committee apparatus is compelling enough to believe that the United States truly has bought a first class ticket to hell with a stopover in Atlanta.  For Celinda Lake’s “Democrat Strategic Analysis” memorandum on the 2004 election cycle to be prescient, the burgeoning economic recovery must be “jobless,” the Prescription Drug benefit of Medicare must fail (too late), and Howard Dean has to be seen as a rational alternative by seniors and independents.  Democrats, meet your quagmire. 

Ms. Lake’s analysis offers extensive commentary on the growing schism between America’s political parties.  As the media has often conveyed, the polarization of America has produced a smaller pool of eligible independents and attenuated the center.  While she isn’t concerned with where these independents are defecting, she mischaracterizes the impetus of the polarization.  The Democratic Party’s polarization is reactionary in nature: a retort to President Bush’s policies.  President Clinton scored few policy victories but succeeded in annoying conservatives and thumbing his nose at Ken Starr.  Bush’s effectiveness at producing tangible results and fulfilling campaign promises is the catalyst of the austere liberal resentment.  Not only is his success breeding contempt, he’s marginalizing constituents who wouldn’t likely vote for him to begin with.  While this acidic hostility makes for good press, it is a sentiment provoked by stern leadership.

As if James Carville wrote the script, the Democrats are expecting the Bush economy to be the most salient issue in 2004.  Ms. Lake marvels that the war on terrorism is of little concern to voters when compared to the country’s financial strength.  Not only does she fail to recognize that terrorism is a less conspicuous issue because the President’s policies have been patently successful in keeping us safe, she attempts to splice foreign policy into two mutually exclusive distinctions in terrorism and international relations.  Current affairs make this practice a fatuous exercise in wishful thinking.  The majority of Americans understand that the President pursued every reasonable avenue of diplomacy in preparation for Iraq.  The same liberals who swear by the primacy of the United Nations contradict themselves by calling a coalition of thirty nations, “unilateral.”  Contrary to what Democrats would like to believe, the most compelling foreign affairs issue is terrorism and the President is conducting himself admirably.  Don’t expect the electorate to impute much more into foreign policy than the war on terror.

During September, 75% of the electorate viewed the economy as either poor (34%) or fair (42%) according to Ms. Lake’s assessment.  If this circumstance holds, she hopes to effectively mobilize the base and to grab the majority of independents.  In all fairness to Ms. Lake, she is not a seer.  Regardless, there exist two hiccups in this strategy.  As revealed earlier, the center is shrinking.  Compound that with the fact that the economy has experienced unbelievable growth last quarter.  Productivity, capital outlays, and equity markets are growing at an encouraging pace.  The dollar is falling on currency markets against the Euro due to miniscule interest rates, yet the inflation rate is still low.  As such, exports, jobs, and profits should rise aggressively well past the New Year.  At their own peril, “jobless recovery” will be the talking point for Democratic hopefuls despite extant circumstances.

It’s been decades since every single issue in a strategic memorandum has been taken off the table by a sitting President.  The economy is growing deliberately and the President is basking in fortified approval ratings for his management of foreign affairs.  For these trends to crumble, something horrible wouldn’t have to happen to the President; but to the American people.  A terrorist attack or unexpected economic strife would be detrimental in more than simply a political context.  As such, the only opportunity for the Democrats rests in the electorate’s acceptance of Howard Dean as a preferable alternative to the current administration.  Since President Bush has successfully managed a recession, catastrophic terrorist attack, and a bear market, Dean has a pretty tall order to fill.  His shrill comportment and the politics of bitter hatred will likely vitiate that possibility.  Not only does Dean’s bellicosity intimidate seniors, he makes independents look like the Vanderbilt College Republicans.  Democrat strategists should either return to a more rational drawing board or continue to wish the worst for the country.

Charles Simpson is an aspiring political pundit and holds a B.A. in Political Science from Emory University
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