Fighting Demâ€™s to Hiding Demâ€™s and All Things in Between
By: Greg C. Reeson
The latest television campaign ad in the Virginia Senate race features two of the primary election approaches engineered by Democratic strategists for this Novemberâ€™s mid-term contest: attacking the Presidentâ€™s judgment and competence and appealing to the patriotism and dedication to service of current and former military members. These two campaign tactics, along with a third, newer strategy that just emerged in recent weeks, form the core of Howard Deanâ€™s plan for winning back the House and Senate after twelve years of Republican control.
The first part of the campaign strategy centers on attacking the Republican candidate, Senator George Allen, by framing him as â€œguilty through associationâ€ for his support of the President and his policies. The ad focuses on Allenâ€™s voting record and tells viewers that their Senator is in lock step with the current administration because he supports George Bush â€œâ€¦96% of the time.â€
Rather than advancing any particular issue stance or Democratic initiative, the strategy is designed to take advantage of low presidential approval ratings by casting anyone who agrees with the President as part of the problem with the direction the country is heading, and not as part of the solution. Any area in which the President is doing well, such as overall economic growth, is conveniently left out while attacks are launched on the war in Iraq, embryonic stem cell research, tax cuts for the â€œrich,â€ and health care.
The second part of the campaign strategy focuses on the Fighting Demâ€™s, a group of military veterans who, having served their country in uniform, now seek to serve her in the halls of Congress. The Virginia ad has as its final statement the phrase â€œJim Webb, decorated combat veteranâ€¦.â€ Across the country, Democratic candidates with military service in Vietnam, Afghanistan, and Iraq are pushing their veteranâ€™s status as part of a campaign pitch designed to convince voters that the Democratic Party is tough on terrorism and strong on national security, areas in which Democrats are traditionally thought of as weaker than their Republican counterparts. They have their own website and use their status as veterans to target a traditionally Republican demographic: the men and women of the armed forces.
Each of these individuals should be praised for their willingness to serve their country in uniform, some at home and some in harmâ€™s way, and we owe each of them our most sincere thanks and respect. But does being a veteran necessarily qualify someone as strong on national security or tough on terrorism? Just serving in the armed forces does not automatically provide credentials lacking in those who have not served in uniform.
The final approach began to take form during the last few weeks, and was suddenly adopted by Senator John Kerry of Massachusetts after he botched a joke, or insulted our troops, or was misinterpreted, orâ€¦. Okay, Iâ€™m not sure what he did. But whatever it was served as the catalyst for Senator Kerryâ€™s inclusion in the strategy I choose to call â€œThe Hiding Demâ€™s.â€
As Election Day began to draw near, prominent Democrats known for their extreme liberal positions suddenly disappeared from the national scene. Speaker of the House wannabe Nancy Pelosi, Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, and would be majority leader John Murtha are nowhere to be found.
Now, Senator Reid may be laying low so that he doesnâ€™t draw attention to his Nevada land deals or his use of campaign donations for Christmas bonuses to the staff at the Ritz-Carlton. But what about Pelosi and Murtha? No supporting appearances. No public rallies. No major television spots. No Sunday morning talk shows. Just gone. John Kerry, too, has quickly shuffled to the rear after his latest foot-in-the-mouth gaffe. Could it be that these Democratic â€œleadersâ€ are regarded by their party as too much of a liability this mid-term? Could it be that their support would alienate moderates and do more harm than good in the quest for control of the Congress?
For Democrats, this election season has focused on attacking the President and his policies, promoting a strong image on national security, and pushing the more moderate and appealing members of the party to the forefront. No real, detailed agenda has been advanced. No new policy initiatives have emerged. Just broad, sweeping ideas that appeal to the liberal base and incessant attacks on the President and his party.
The Democrats have based their entire strategy on the idea that the Bush administration and the Republican-led Congress have handled everything in an inept and irresponsible manner. Their talking points donâ€™t say how they, as a party, would have differed. We are just supposed to believe that they would have done better. Well, they may soon be given the opportunity to prove their claims.