Wherein I Hate On Democrats
Now, I think the fundamentals are still very positive for a Democratic victory in November, and probably a significant one. Just like how Barack Obama never really topped 45% in Pennsylvania in any poll, and that was where he ended up, John McCain has similarly not topped 45% in any poll, and that appears to be close to his ceiling.
However, Democrats have a lot of opportunities for self-inflicted wounds (outside of intra-party warfare that goes all the way to the convention), and in general they should stay away from those pitfalls. Let me enumerate:
• Apparently both Sen. Obama and Sen. Clinton are pushing a bogus piece of science that suggests that autism is related to vaccinations. That not only is wrong, it has the potential to create a serious public health problem. Vaccinations save lives. They need to stop this silliness and not use their podium and their power to spout bad science. It's disheartening to those who believe science will make a comeback with a new President.
• Al Gore needs to move beyond praising legislators just for paying lip service to the fight against global warming. That's something you could afford to do 2 or 3 years ago. The consensus is further along now, and so is the sense of urgency. John McCain's climate proposals are woefully insufficient, the product of bad "bipartisanship" which posits that the midpoint of any two perspectives must be the best policy, when actually it would be a handout to corporate polluters and a walk away from solving the problem. Gore needs to do more than just pat people on the head, but advocate strongly in the policy arena.
• While Charles Gibson asked a B.S. question about capital gains taxes that relied on an artifact to make its point (it's a long story, but basically people hold back selling stock when they find out there would be a cut in the tax rate on capital gains, leading to a SHORT-TERM increase in revenue that doesn't sustain over the life of the cut), both Democrats kind of agreed with him because they don't think Americans can handle the truth about taxes.
This gets to a generalized problem in Democratic tax talk, which is that they're very unwilling to talk about taxes in terms of value. There are lots of government services which are actually a good deal for middle income families and should be sold as something that Americans would be wise to invest in. But rather than making a positive case around awesome stuff we're going to get, Democrats talk about taxes in complete isolation from the things that taxes buy, and begin with the premise that they're so odious and painful that they should only be levied on folks too rich to notice.
That is the gospel's truth, and reframing the tax argument as the dues you pay for civil society is so urgently needed or else we'll always wind up back here.
• I'd have to see the numbers, but Paul Krugman is arguing that Obama's comment about bitter voters turning to social issues to base their choices when economic issues should drive things may be true (I think black voters may get included in Larry Bartels' sample and skew it). There's an affluent, aspirational, exurban community that is much more motivated by social issues because they have the luxury to do so. However, those are the voters feeling most squeezed by the housing crisis, so we can actually put this to the test in November.
• Democratic silence in the Congress over the bailout of large investment banks is quite disturbing. This is corporate welfare at its most brazen.
It is remarkable that only a right-winger like Will seems upset about the Fed giving taxpayers' money to the very richest people in the country with no strings attached. This makes the battles over programs like the State Children's Health Insurance Program look like silly charades. If the government can cough up uncounted billions for the country's richest people when they get themselves in trouble due to their own stupidity, with no questions asked, isn't absurd that we must have a huge fight over getting $7 billion a year to extend health insurance to kids?
• Finally, whoever said this is not paying enough attention:
There is much speculation that the Democrats will run Mr. Lieberman out of their caucus (he now sits with Democrats and votes with them on most issues not related to the war) if they widen their margin in the Senate after the November elections. But Harry Reid of Nevada, the Senate Democratic leader, has pledged that he would not disown Mr. Lieberman under those circumstances and said he considered him a good friend.
A member of the Senate Democratic leadership, who insisted on not being identified, said: “The bloggers want us to get rid of him. It ain’t happening.” He added: “We need every vote. He’s with us on everything but the war.”
That's not true, actually. He's been dead weight on the Government Affairs committee, and on an array of national security issues he votes with Republicans. And he's endorsed the opposing candidate for President, which is really the last straw and grounds for dismissal. It's disqualifying.
Democrats broadly need to get better on all of these things. It's still a long road.