Since the election last year, I resolved to avoid spewing armchair political strategy here. I don’t know what Democrats need to do to win, and telling them what to do isn’t my problem anyway. I do still like to read political analysis, though, and for any liberal, George Packer’s analysis of what Democrats need to do to win strikes me as a good prescription:
The Party will not return to power by waiting for indictments or by fine-tuning tired slogans. Nor will it be useful to copy the Republican right’s strategy of pandering to its constituency: the conservative base is larger than that of the liberals, as we learned in last year’s Presidential election. The old debate over moving to the extreme or to the center, which resurfaces after every defeat, presents a false choice and is itself a sign of a political vegetative state. The sure way for the Democrats to go on losing is to frame a message designed to win back married Catholic women while mobilizing twenty-something iPod users.
Instead of trying to cobble together a hypothetical majority with a hodgepodge of small-bore policy proposals, the Democrats need to nationalize the elections of 2006 the way the Republicans did in 1994. A Democratic manifesto that unites the Party’s own diverse factions would begin as a referendum on the ruling party: the White House and Congress have handed government over to corrupt interests, and, in so doing, the Republicans have betrayed basic American principles of honesty, competence, and fairness. There is no reason for Democrats to be on the defensive about moral values. On issue after issue, government by cronyism and corruption has sacrificed the interests of the middle class to those of the Administration’s wealthy friends. The deepening inequality in American life threatens families and democracy, and it is neither natural nor inevitable.
I get the feeling that these days only John Edwards is the only politician that really understands this, and he’s not running for anything right now.