The Stone City

Words Made to Last

Thursday, February 10, 2005

The Advice Device

From Google:
Results 1 - 10 of about 598 for "advice to democrats". (0.38 seconds)
Results 1 - 10 of about 1,430 for "advice to the democrats". (0.33 seconds)

Let us immediately be clear on one thing: the authors of this advice are not disinterested supporters of the American Democratic Party. Often they are supporters of an agenda within that party -- unsurprisingly, the advice of centrists is "be more centrist" and the advice of the activist faithful is "be less centrist". They are attempting to maximize their influence by using the power vacuum created by their party's recent defeat, which is perfectly normal; they have simply chosen a disingenuous rhetorical device as their vehicle.

Still more common, and still less useful, are the pieces of "advice" which come from the party's opponents. These generally do not have even the excuse of an ulterior motive: they are pure onanism. As a mechanism for gloating, they served well in the immediate aftermath of the November election. Now that time has passed; the device has become stale, and its false veneer of outreach is even thinner.

Who can such a piece ever persuade? If the aim is to weaken the radical left while engaging the honest majority of Democrats, the effect of the advice device is precisely the opposite. Smugness is not an invitation to discussion.

Far better to state forthrightly: I believe that a substantial segment of your party is in the hands of cynics, extremists, and defeatists, and I would like to discuss the future of our country with you, and without them.