The Stone City

Words Made to Last

Monday, October 10, 2005

Getting to No

Tom Maguire takes a moment off from his Herculean struggle with the Plame/Wilson/Fitzgerald/Libby/Rove/Cooper/Miller saga, which has long since blown past my own meager attention span to ask briefly about Miers:
How will righties react if Hillary attempts to appoint, over my placard-bearing dead body, her personal attorney?
How do we get from here to "No"? I'm already refusing to contribute to Bush 2008...
How, indeed? The principled right can raise worries, but that's a long way from getting substantive changes.

On a slightly different note, Kevin Drum rounds up fiscally liberal policies and wonders why, since they are so obviously right, they have not swept the Democrats into power:

... the fact remains that the things on both Avedon's list and my [anonymous] friend's are exactly the kinds of issues that Democrats routinely campaign on. And they lose.

Why? If all these policies are really that popular, it's hard to believe they could make exactly zero (or negative!) progress over the past 25 years. And it's not that no one has tried. Clinton made only minimal progress on this stuff. Al Gore ran on a populist platform in 2000 and lost. (I know, I know....) John Edwards ran on a similar message in 2004, and he didn't even win the nomination.

So this all leads back to the place it always leads back to: Democrats just don't know how to talk about these things. We frame them badly. In 25 years, not one single Democrat has figured out how to effectively sell these policies to the American public.

And I'm not sure which scares me more: the possibility that this is right or the possibility that it's wrong.

Sometimes you just don't hold enough cards to win. You can't get to no. You can delude yourself about the popularity of your ideas and wonder how you lost; you can regret the bedfellows you had to choose to get where you are; but you can't always make your position the popular one.

This is why the emphasis on character in elections is a good, not a bad, thing. Like it or not, we are electing statesmen [in the positive, not the normative sense] who will apply their own judgement, not functionaries for ideological platforms. "Character" is a shorthand for "Does this person want the same things I want? And will he go as far as I would -- but not farther -- to get them?"

Consider Mr. Drum's demented insistence on state-funded childcare as a sine qua non of liberal progress -- despite its great expense, its naked hostility to the surviving fragments of the traditional family, and the fact that its fate, when applied to the poor, is clearly prefigured in the public school system. Apparently the hardest thing, for those who care about their ideas enough to become deeply involved in selling them, is to give some up for the advancement of others. It's like selling some of your retarded children to pay tuition for the most promising.

The right has made this trade in 2000, and been forced (by foreign policy issues and by the low quality of the opposition) to make it again in 2004. We do miss those kids, though.