The Democratic strategy
Thu July 29, 2010 5:49 pm

Marc Ambinder, politics editor and blogger for The Atlantic, writes that the Democratic message for the fall elections is shaping up to be, “We may be incompetent but they’re crazy.”

Good party messages are organic, and they are not announced. Fortunately for Democrats, theirs just sort of came along, thanks to the Tea Party movement, which has invited into politics hecklers and cranks and fairly fringe candidates who are currently hurting the Republican Party in several key states. Oh, but the Tea Party is an organic movement of conservative men and women who will feel insulted if the Democrats cast them as crazy and lumps them together with Republicans, right? Nah. These people are perpetually offended by the Democratic Party.

The Democratic strategy in a nutshell is small enough to fit in one but has the protein of a good, tasty nut. The Republicans want to be mayors of crazy-town. They’ve embraced a fringe and proto-racist isolationist and ignorant conservative populism that has no solutions for fixing anything and the collective intelligence of a wine flask. This IS offensive and over the top, and the more Democrats repeat it, and the more dumb things some Republican candidates do, the more generally conservative voters who might be thinking of sending a message to Democrats by voting for a Republican will be reminded that the replacement party is even more loony than the party that can’t tie its shoes. This is a strategy of delegitimization, not affirmation. It is how you reduce independent turnout. It’s how you fundraise for your own party.

* * * *

Can this strategy work for Bill White? The Republican party here is unrecognizable compared to when Bush was governor. I’m not sure that even Rick Perry can control it. It has moved far to the right, and it is obsessed with hatred for Obama and the federal government. That would be dangerous territory in normal states like, say, Ohio, but independents here are pretty reliable Republican voters. The one thing White has going for him is his mild personality and wonkish appearance. His low-key manner may turn out to be effective on television as a contrast to what is going on in the Republican party. This is a strange year, and the Democrats have a chance to nationalize the election along the lines of crazy/sane. I’m not saying that this is going to be a good year for the Democrats. I do think that they have a shot at holding on to both houses of Congress, narrowly. California is not the best measure of political normalcy, but it looks as if Boxer is establishing a decent lead against Fiorina, and Jerry Brown is leading Meg Whitman, albeit narrowly, for governor. My sense is that this is a very unstable electoral climate; it can turn and bite. It ought to be a Republican year, and there is no doubt that the GOP will make substantial gains. But this is looking less and less like 1994. The Republicans knew what they were doing then. Now they are riding the whirlwind.

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