Starting to calm down a bit, and slightly more rational thoughts are starting to poke through the haze…
First: John Kerry should remain the unquestioned leader of our party, a sort of President-in-waiting. Could there be a more perfect time than now for us to have a shadow President? While there are plenty of warts on our candidate, that would surely be true of any candidate we run. Unless (until?) a powerful, charismatic leader emerges to challenge Kerry’s dominance, all Hail Future-President Kerry.
Second: Ya know how Kerry’s been painted as an out-of-touch elitist East Coast lefty snob? Well, remember Bill Clinton? He was a low-class, trailer-trash amoral bastard hick who didn’t know how the real world worked. If you think about it, you can write the script for any Democratic nominee. (Try it with Edwards: an inexperienced, young, ambulance chaser, driven mad with ambition, with no foreign policy experience. Or how about Dean: an overly smart, hyper doctor from a patrician New York family who went to Vermont because he wanted to be governor, who lacks the temperament needed to be President.)
All of which is a wind-up to #3:Third: Whatever the short-comings of our candidates, we can still focus on re-formulating our message and our approach. I’d begin with the Oklahoma chapter of Christian Evangelicals for Kerry. There is no way we should cede the Bible Belt to the Republicans. People who think of themselves as Christians belong with us and our whole “help-your-neighbor” schtick, not with those on the “every-man-for-himself” right.
Which brings me round to #4:Fourth: We have fallen into the trap set for us by the Evil Ones: the Republicans absolutely require an “us vs. them” mentality, and we’ve taken the bait, hook, line, sinker, rod, the whole damn boat. All of the Red State/Blue State crap should be thought of as unpatriotic Republican dogma. What unites us is far stronger than what divides us. That’s a big part of what was so thrilling about Barak’s speech: he absolutely blew up the us/them dichotomy, and claimed for our side our traditional approach: we’ll win because the majority are with us, and we’ll focus on building that majority.
Let’s start with Alabama: if you’re poor, white, have a truck, and are pissed off at “special interest groups,” get on board out train, because we’re fighting for you. Some of this is cultural (no more condescending East Coast intelligentsia crap), but a lot of this is convincing folks that we’re on their side against their real enemies.
Round 5? OK, since you insist:
Fifth: Let’s quit playing with these guys on the so-called social issues. If they want to outlaw gay marriage, let’s let them. As much as it’s obvious gay hatred, we only make it successful if we acknowledge it. It’s rather like a petulant teenager saying that they’re going to out and do awful things – the whole entire point is to antagonize Mom and Dad. If Mom and Dad stay focused on what counts, the gambit quickly loses its appeal. So fine. Outlaw gay marriage (it’s not legal now any way.) Wanna outlaw abortion – knock yourselves out. With a significant moderate wing, the Republicans will defeat themselves on this junk.
Why yes, let’s even let them ban flag burning. I think the good people of the United States would somehow stumble through history even if burning the flag were illegal.
OK, Round 6, but then I gotta go.
Sixth (Can you tell I was a lawyer): We have got to lose the earnest, analytical, reasoned approach to talking with voters. When choosing the Big Leader, voters are conducting a job interview. We show up with the stronger resume and better skills, but we bore the crap out of the interviewer, while the other guy shows up with no skills and just out of rehab, but he’s totally more fun to hang out with, plus he seems like he’d to a kick-ass job. So we lose. Every freakin’ time. So l loosen up, have some fun that doesn’t involve clucking over how inept the Bushies are (or how medieval the Bible Belt is – it isn’t, you know – they have Wal-Marts there just like everywhere else). Look, I love Al Franken as much as the next snarky New York liberal, but I can see where he’s just pissing off a whole lotta folks. Glad to have him, but let’s get more folks who connect with the non-Harvard educated. (Hey I know: let’s give Jeff Foxworthy a whole lotta cash and see if we can get him on-board). Which leads me to
Big Finish:Right after Fundamentalists for Kerry, how about Country Musicians for Pay Equity? How great would it be to have all of country music’s biggest stars lined up with us pushing for a decent standard of living for their fans?
Folks, it’s all just a matter of imagination and packaging. When it comes to substance, we’ve got the goods. We just need to sell it in better.