Amazing quote from a Jim VandeHei/John Harris article in The Politico:
For the past couple of decades, the most successful national Democrats have been practitioners of defensive politics. These candidates practiced the politics of reassurance- letting independent voters know that they were not as secular, not as dovish, not as socially liberal as the popular perception of national Democrats.
What an amazing summation of the D.C. conventional wisdom culture of caution that the Democratic Party has been practicing. This statement's fundamental assumption is wrong at its core, in many different ways. Here are a few:
-Campaigns are won by going on offense and making your opponent play on your turf. While Clinton, who VandeHei/Harris cite as the ultimate defensive Democrat, inoculated himself on some social issues in 1992, he won by aggressively, consistently and forcefully calling for change- and by keeping the debate focused on "the economy, stupid."
-You don't build long-term majorities or govern by playing defense: you have to actually deliver on issues and produce tangible things for voters.
-The campaigns that tended to win last year were the aggressive, populist outsider campaigns. Sherrod Brown, Jon Tester, and Jim Webb each upset their opponents by running those kinds of campaigns, while Harold Ford played defense and lost. In Pennsylvania, establishment defender Lois Murphy lost while aggressor Patrick Murphy won. In Kentucky, establishment defender Ken Lucas lost while populist aggressor John Yarmuth won.
-Defensive politics on the war and FISA put Democratic congressional approval ratings in the toilet. When they were passing a bill to take us out of Iraq, their ratings were 40 points higher.
I have no problems if candidates want to inoculate themselves by carefully framing controversial issues, but it is a loser mentality to play defensive politics. Democrats, stop listening to the VandeHeises and the Harrises of the world, and get rid of the culture of caution.