What's All This Then?

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Friday, May 12, 2006

My apologies to Lewis Carroll.

Back in 1988, Michael Dukakis kicked off his campaign for the Presidency with his acceptance speech at the Democratic Convention, telling America that:
This election isn't about ideology. It's about competence.

It's not about overthrowing governments in Central America; it's about creating good jobs in middle America. That's what this election is all about.

It's not about insider trading on Wall Street; it's about creating opportunity on Main Street.

And it's not about meaningless labels. It's about American values. Old-fashioned values like accountability and responsibility and respect for the truth.
Sound familiar? Democrats calling Republicans incompetent ? Dukakis was talking about the Reagan administration and Republican Presidential candidate Bush senior. Now it’s G.W. Bush . And it’s the developing theme that we are hearing more and more from increasingly confident Democrats. Perhaps not as much from elected officials as from pundits on the left. To whom I say - watch out. Don’t lull voters and Democratic candidates into a false sense of security.

This mid term election is no slam dunk. I’ve heard one of those pundits say the other day that there are three political parties in Congress. Republicans, Democrats and Appropriators - with the latter having power over the other two. But I think it’s more like Republicans, Democrats and Incumbents.

We keep hearing these dismal poll numbers for the President - and not any better for Congress. And we keep hearing that Republicans are running scared and that Democrats can smell the meat a’cooking. No doubt a majority of likely voters are fed up. They want to see changes. They want us out of the mess in Iraq. They’re sick of waking up to the "scandal of the day." (That’s the scandal de jour for sophisticates.) And they know the way to do it is to turn the rascals out. To get some new blood in the halls of Congress. But how many of these disgruntled voters think of the problems in terms of "their" Congressman or "their" Senators? Will they come to the realization that the only way to change things in Washington is to change the balance of power - and that means defeating Republican Representatives and Senators - even our Republican Representative or Senators!!

No matter how bad the polls may look for Republicans, the last thing Democrats should do is believe that they represent victory for their party in November. The seats in Congress have to be turned over one at a time - and it’s not going to be easily done by crying "incompetence" while the other side cries "values" - even though they have demonstrated again and again that their "values" amount to voting the interests of their party over the interests of their country.

The Republicans aren’t going to concede power that easily. If the Democrats aren’t careful - if they wallow to much in their delight over the Bush poll numbers - they could be blindsided by a campaign that could make the Swift Boats strategy of the last election look like the march of the sleep deprived tortoises.

Perhaps today’s poll numbers about the NSA building a data base of millions of our phone records will deliver a dose of reality to those of us chomping at the bit for change. A majority of us are still willing to buy into the idea that surrendering parts of our freedom will help to protect us from further terrorist attacks. After all, they say - those that think this sort of thing is O.K. - we haven’t been attacked since 9/11 so the things the government is doing must be working. They don’t ask why we had years without terrorist attacks when there was NO secret monitoring of phone calls and Internet use and Lord knows what else USA Today or The New York Times may reveal tomorrow about other parts of our lives that are being watched night and day.

The November election will present Americans with as important a choice as we may have ever been asked to make. Those who want to persuade voters to make the right choice, need to use the message that the polls deliver to frame a campaign that will catch fire with those voters and to be prepared to counter whatever version of a "Swift Vote" attack that you may be sure Republican strategists are already working on.

Poll numbers might make some of us feel good - or bad, depending on our political beliefs - but they’re not going to elect anyone next November.