Reports of their demise
Outside of blogdom, it looks like the Democrats have their shit together.
The prescription of Third Way — whose name derives from the idea that there should be an alternative to conservative and liberal orthodoxies — is by no means free of controversy. Some Democrats believe that Bush, who organized his administration and reelection by keeping his conservative base loyal and energized, showed that softening ideological edges or seeking common ground with opponents is not a winning strategy.
Among Third Way’s programs will be a “New South” project, aimed at crafting policies and political strategies for cultural and values issues that have played against Democrats in that region in recent decades. The project will be led by Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.), a vice chairman.
Third Way will also conduct a national security retreat and craft policy initiatives on health care, taxes, tort reform and Social Security reform — all identified by Bush as key items on his second-term agenda.
The group plans polling to help Democrats find more effective political language to advertise their policies, similar to the way Republicans embraced the phrase “death tax” to describe the estate tax.
“You can’t create policy around message,” said Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.), another co-chairman. “But there is something important about finding the right message when you create policy.”
I bolded the bit about language because it’s the one thing Democrats have not done right at all since around 2001 and the “patients’ bill of rights.” Language really matters. That’s why in his stump speeches, Bush’s position on taxes was “our tax system is a complicated mess and we will reform it.” Taxes are a mess! Reform is good! All simple stuff to disguise the lack of a popular program (Don’t tell me a 28% national sales tax would be popular. I’m from Delaware.)
The reason I thought Kerry would win the election was his last-minute surge among voters on the “fighting terrorism” question. I figured if Kerry pulled even on that issue, Bush had nothing. 2004 didn’t turn out that way, but if the Democrats put together smart rhetoric to match their policies on war and taxes and economic issues, they’re going to come roaring back.