During the several Democratic fundraisers and functions I’ve attended in California this season, there has been (as I’ve described in this blog) a decidedly anyone-but-Bush vibe. That makes some sense, but the tone of the anti-Bush rhetoric has gradually become unhelpful. One has to remember that the undecideds and the only almost true believers should be the target of all of the Dem’s messaging. And that holds for semi-private events to. Anything you say can and will be used against the Party.
On more than one occasion, I have actually heard party hosts compare today’s Patriot Act America to Germany in the early 30s. Not only is this blatantly and offensively childish. It’s also a great way to turn off undecideds and others on the fence. Hysteria is the enemy.
During his speech at the convention, Bill Clinton (who is no fan of the man who succeeded him), made a point of explaining: “George Bush isn’t a bad person, he’s a nice person. He loves his country. But he’s wrong.”
In this single quote, we can see the Clinton strategy for the Party unfurled. The idea is to be less extreme and more centrist (and to shrink Bush with a gentle head-patting); not only in terms of policy but in terms of tone. I have mixed feelings when it comes to the former. I’m fully on board when it comes to the latter.
Regardless of the claims of Ralph Nader, there are plenty of significant policy and issues-oriented reasons to differentiate the candidates and these should be the focus of Party activists. It may be fun to paint Bush as evil or stupid or the worst person in America. But it doesn’t help.
Those wishing to lure undecideds and even to rally the base have no shortage of issues: The way the Iraq occupation has been managed, the stem cell debate, the infusion of religion into policy (or is it the other way around), our relationship with the international community, the two-steps back policies in the Middle East, Rummy’s handling of Abu Ghraib, tax cuts for the wealthy, Bush’s initial antipathy to the 9/11 commission and many other fact finding efforts, the verbal bluster when diplomacy is required, the education policy, the attacks on freedom of speech, the use of patriotism as wedge issue, the fact that Jessica Simpson thinks he’s doing a good job.
There are plenty of real issues from which to choose. Therefore it makes even less sense to resort to the personal attacks (or the hogwash like the Holocaust reference above) that will draw in no one. Take Clinton’s lead on this one and just refer to Bush as someone who is wrong on the policies but who is probably a pretty nice guy.
It may help to remember where nice guys finish.
(Reminder: I’m coming at you from the hills of Tuscany. Posting will be sporadic this week. Ciao.)