The Washington Post describes how the Democrats are digging harder than ever to find dirt on Republican opponents. This is a clear sign not only that the Democrats face some political difficulties but that they are badly out-matched by the right wing noise machine in the spin war. It is sad that the party which far more often than not has been right on the issues feels compelled to rely on finding dirt.
The problem with relying on uncovering dirt is that, even if it helps against particular candidates, it does little to build long term support for the party. The Republicans are far smarter, even if dishonest, in basing their attacks on distorting overall Democratic viewpoints and policies. This hooks their ditto head supporters for years.
The Republicans do have some advantages over the Democrats in the spin war. They dominate far more of the mass media, as they adroitly play the refs with their bogus claims of “liberal bias.” They have a far smaller tent, making it easier to define and defend a narrow set of views. They have a following which is not particularly concerned over whether their claims are reality-based as long as they support their biases. They are also far better at spin than the Democrats.
If the Democrats were willing to actually promote their views and demonstrate the differences with Republicans they would have a far better chance of developing a permanent base of support. They have been successful in building support among the educated which, along with their support among the young, will pay off long term. Short term they need to do a far better job of connecting the dots.
Democrats need to campaign against the flat-earth and anti-science views which dominate the GOP. The fact that the Republicans are full of candidates who believe in creationism, deny climate change, and oppose stem cell research is far more damaging than scandals involving a handful of individual candidates. If you go purely by the polls it might be argued that supporting evolution is not a winning issue in this country. I do believe that if one party had been defending science and reason during all these years the conservatives were screaming about birth certificates and imaginary conspiracies these poll results would be a little different.
Democrats need to point out far more clearly that the Republicans were virtually absent from the major political debate of the recent past. Relying on false claims that health care reform represented a “government take over of health care” while uniformly voting to allow the insurance industry to continue their abuses is a clear sign that the Republicans are not fit to govern.
Democrats need to do a better job of defending their record on the economy and presenting a coherent philosophy. They need to make it clear they support a market-based economy while showing the need and justification for government action at times. They have generally acted in a pragmatic fashion but, failing to explain their beliefs, they have opened themselves to being falsely defined by the right as supporting “tax and spend” government policy, and even socialism.
A primary difference between the left and the right is support for individual liberty, but the Democrats need to be more consistent. Emphasizing support for individual liberty would be a far better way to frame some of the issues which have harmed Democrats in the culture wars. Some of those who oppose abortion rights and gay marriage might eventually be able to understand support for a woman’s right to control her own body and for any individuals to decide for themselves who they want to marry. A more consistent emphasis on individual liberty would also give the Obama administration a stronger basis for more rapidly reversing the abuses of the Bush administration, with less fear that this would be distorted to mean weakness on national security.