Monday, August 18, 2003

OK then. Where do we start getting our country back? How about right here:
A bruising confrontation with the right wing on behalf of our military personnel will lead seamlessly into what should be the overriding theme of the Democratic campaign in 2004: whose interests does the government exist to serve? The allegation that Republicans have harmed the troops for personal gain is a viable charge because it taps into the widespread perception that conservatives lack compassion. Once the public understands what the GOP has done to war veterans, that knowledge can be used as a credible link to more conventional issues that will expose to voters the true nature of Republican governance:

“Just as the Republicans have stabbed our heroes in the back in order to enrich themselves, they have done the same thing to our children on education…”

“Just as the Republicans have stabbed our heroes in the back in order to enrich themselves, they have done the same thing to the elderly on health care…”

“Just as the Republicans have stabbed our heroes in the back in order to enrich themselves, they have done the same thing to the middle class on taxes...”

Repetition is the key. Democrats must constantly reinforce the message that Republican politicians are helping themselves at the expense of everyone else. The theme must be ruthlessly pounded home: “If they are so immoral that they steal from our heroes, what makes you think they aren’t stealing from you? Here is the evidence that they are.”

We should take it all away from them. The patriotism issue. The morality issue. The fiscal responsibility issue. They never should have owned these issues, and now the average citizen can be shown which priority was really at the top of the Republican agenda in 2003: sending our kids off to die while picking their pockets.

The Democratic Party should be scouring the countryside for evidence of veterans who are suffering as a result of the vile actions of the GOP. It should be collecting factual and anecdotal ammunition to be used in emotionally powerful commercials that will enlighten voters to the nefarious behavior of the heartless bastards who have a hammerlock on the federal government. This tactic will horrify the wobblies in the Democratic Leadership Council, but the alternative is to spend four more years watching impotently as Republicans continue to abuse the people who risk their lives defending America.

There are endless opportunities for effective campaign commercials that will connect with swing voters on a gut level:

“Our Republican Senator voted for cuts in military medical benefits that will prevent this Purple Heart winner from seeing his doctor. Then – forty-eight hours later – the Senator gave himself a tax cut. This is his expensive new foreign watch. And this is the broken wheelchair of an American war hero. After losing his legs while defending this country, our hero has earned the right to be provided with basic medical care. Instead, the money has been allocated by the Senator to provide fancy jewelry to himself. Government is about putting America first; unfortunately, the Senator does not share the patriotic values that are so precious to the rest of us. On Election Day, side with the people who defend our nation. Side with America. Vote Democratic.”

When crafting strategy, an essential consideration is how the opponent will respond. Conservatives are phenomenally bad at playing defense, in part because they lack practice, and in part because paranoid people react very poorly to being criticized. Let the jingoists again haul out the “Anyone who disagrees with me is unpatriotic” canard. This issue is tailor-made to cram that cynical argument right back down their dishonest throats:

“Is it unpatriotic to support the troops? Or is it unpatriotic to stuff your wallets with the troops’ medical money?”

“Is it unpatriotic to want our soldiers to have access to good medical care? Or is it unpatriotic to steal from them so that you Republican politicians can reward yourselves?”

“Our brave young men and women have made great sacrifices for our beloved country – some have made the ultimate sacrifice. When the choice was either supporting the troops or cutting taxes for politicians, Democratic members of Congress were willing to sacrifice their tax cuts in favor of providing medical care to our soldiers. What sacrifices are you Republican office holders willing to make? Other than lining your own pockets, what sacrifices are you willing to make?”

George W. Bush and Tom DeLay have as much combat experience as Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen, yet they have been allowed to get away with posturing as though they were the Special Forces who captured Baghdad. By showing greater allegiance to their extremist ideology than to their country, the chicken hawks have brazenly betrayed the real military heroes of the United States while smearing anyone who objected. Their behavior is so deceitfully cruel and provocative that it transcends the typical amorality of politics. These swaggering bullies are just begging for a beating, and it is time to accommodate them.