What is the matter with Democrats? Are we just too polite? Democrats seem to have an issue with passivity, and it was on full display in the recent Democratic debate. Not that it wasn’t substantive and informative—it certainly was—but it was yet another example of how Republicans are kicking the Democrats’ ass on political messaging.
Notice the stark contrast in the tone of the two parties’ debates: The Republican free-for-all is a nonstop barrage of Democrat- and Hillary-bashing; yet the Democratic debaters only rarely threw a light jab at Republicans.
What a golden opportunity lost! This is two hours of free Democratic advertising, in front of millions of people. What better chance to start attacking the soft underbelly of conservatism and set the themes of the general election? Of course the primary purpose of the debates is to separate Democratic candidates from one another. But a secondary—and critically important—purpose has to be establishing the Democratic brand, and that also means going negative on Republicanism.
Democrats can’t forget who the real opponents are. And these debates are perfect opportunities to soften up the target with a coordinated bombing campaign. Yet we heard … almost nothing. Why this reluctance of Democrats to attack?
The Second Unbreakable Rule of Democratic Campaigning is “Don’t just run against Republicans, run against conservatism.” Democrats have to undermine the very foundation of Republican philosophy. They must begin to paint conservatives as pessimistic, stingy, mean-spirited dinosaurs whose narrow thinking and fear of new ideas make them unworthy of leading a great nation. You have the stage; now is the time!
How easy would it have been for all the candidates to take a few shots at conservatism in their answers to issues questions? They can do it nicely, if they like, but they need to start reminding the public about the Republicans’ government shutdown, the Bush administration’s disastrous foreign policy, the party’s fawning deference to the rich and slavish devotion to the NRA, the Citizens United decision, the Republicans’ deficit-exploding tax-cut proposals, their vicious votes to cut food stamps and take away people’s health care with nothing to replace it, the empty résumés and sheer lunacy of the Republican Party’s two leading candidates.
Such inviting targets! Such delicious fruit, ripe for the picking! Why aren’t Democrats taking advantage? One of the rare times we heard it in the Democratic debate was from Martin O’Malley, when he pointed out that net immigration from Mexico is zero, and said, “You’ll never hear this from that immigrant-bashing carnival barker Donald Trump.”
Excellent. More please.