Wednesday, February 01, 2006

It All Comes Down to Looking Strong

I'll respond to both Mr. Polkuote and Mr. Fellow on what makes a palatable democrat. First off, I'd say Republicans are popular for the same reason I was enamored with Russ Feingold for a little while (until I read a TNR piece highlighting his extreme dovishness) -- they unflinchingly stand behind what they say. Bush's values are not mainstream American values, but people respect and trust him because he picks a position and defends it past the point of slight unpopularity. Democrats look like they (and in many cases, a large percentage of which fall into the DLC camp, do) poll-test everything, looking for the perfect position to appeal to every possible subgroup of voters, regardless of what past public statements and voting records say.

That was true of both Kerry and Dean in the last election cycle. Kerry was all about moving to the middle and denying his more liberal past. Dean was adored as a bleeding-heart liberal, an image that he owned but one that belied his history as a very moderate, Clinton-esque governor.

The reason I was all about Feingold for a while was because he's certainly liberal, but he's not ashamed to own his liberal voting record. If the war weren't going to be the main issue for the foreseeable future, I think the public would respect that and think long and hard about him. As I've said many times in the past, being liberal is not a bad thing. It's been bad because Democrats have been liberal but afraid to admit it over the last 30 years.

Of course there is also some limit to how muscularly extreme you can be while still being electable. Feingold is within the realm of acceptability to the public (his two reelections in one of the closest 2004 swing states shows that). Bush really is not all that extreme, and he has repeatedly tacked to the center when his approval ratings have sagged (see: last night's speech). No matter how much the Republicans stand behind their values, our next president will not be from the Sam Brownback wing of the Republican Party.


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