Here’s the core thing for you to think about: The Republican challenge is to get back on offense as the reform party. The Democrats’ challenge is to do one of two things. What they are going to try to do, what they should do, is say nothing except “Had enough?” If they try to wear a mask and pretend to be moderates, Republicans will cheerfully take the mask off.Certainly, today’s GOP couldn’t defend itself as in any way moderate, either; both parties now reflect more of their activist extremes than they have in the last generation, as compromise has been downplayed in favor of conflict.
However, what’s more important here is that Gingrich’s suggestion to Democrats that they adopt a straightforward, powerful catchphrase which simultaneously reminds voters (1) that they don’t like the direction in which the country is headed under George W. Bush and the Republican-dominated Congress, and (2) they have a chance in November to change the government’s course, resonates with many of Gingrich’s former adversaries. Writing in today’s New York Times, Tim Roemer, a former Democratic congressman from Indiana and now president of the Center for National Policy, recalls an even earlier formulation of the “had enough” campaign appeal:
In 1946, Karl Frost, an advertising executive, suggested a simple slogan to the Massachusetts Republican Committee: “Had Enough? Vote Republican!” Frost recognized that these simple words could unite his national party and blame its opponents, who controlled Congress, for causing or failing to solve the many problems facing the country, including meat shortages, economic difficulties and labor unrest. The strategy worked: in 1946, both houses of Congress flipped.Whether its inspiration comes from Gingrich or Frost, the slogan “Had Enough? Vote Democratic!” might well be a winner. Certainly, Americans have grown weary of promises (on Iraq, on Social Security, on prescription drugs, on deficit reduction, on the capture of Osama bin Laden) that continue to go unfulfilled. Certainly, they’ve been appalled by multitudinous Bush White House scandals, the administration’s lackadaisicalness in responding to Hurricane Katrina (and rebuilding New Orleans in the storm’s aftermath), its dubious Dubai ports deal, the prez’s warrantless domestic surveillance program, the Abu Ghraib torture scandal, and now talk that the bellicose Busheviks want to start a nuclear war with Iran. Democratic candidates, stumping in small towns or large, could rattle off each of these Republican failures--and more--and after every two or three, bellow: “Had Enough? Vote Democratic!”
Sixty years later, Democrats would be smart to turn Karl Frost’s slogan on Karl Rove’s strategy.
“Had Enough? Vote Democratic!” is a slogan that spotlights the many mistakes in Iraq, the mismanagement of Hurricane Katrina and the mangling of fiscal responsibility with “bridges to nowhere.”
Roemer adds that “‘Had Enough?’ also pre-empts Democrats’ worst habits. Too often we’ve made campaigns complicated and policy-heavy. We love to unveil 40-page position papers and wonky diagrams. ‘Had Enough?’ clears a broad path through such minutiae.” He cautions, though, that Dems can’t be too confident of victory, with more than six months still to go before voters start marking their ballots. Yes, the party appears well positioned to capture at least some Republican seats in Congress (and perhaps enough to regain control of one or both chambers). Yes, the GOP may no longer be able to rely on its usual hot-button social issues to divide and conquer, and it may suffer further in the polls as a result of increasing gas prices, the indictment of Bush cohort Karl Rove, more downturns in the progress of the Iraq conflict, and even a Republican prostitution scandal connected to Washington, D.C.’s notorious Watergate Hotel. But Democrats will have to do much more to win in November than merely not be Republicans. They “will also need the artillery of a disciplined, focused set of core proposals to complement their criticism of Republican excesses,” Roemer writes. Those proposals (which need not be contained in some latter-day Contract with America) will surely include broadening access to health care, reducing the nation’s overwhelming debts and its unsustainable dependence on oil, and a method for progressively withdrawing U.S. troops from Bush’s Iraq debacle and restoring America’s credibility abroad. Democrats will need to make a clear case that “We’re the party of change,” as Representative Rahm Emanuel (D-Illinois), head of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, phrased it for Rolling Stone a few months back. “We’re the party of a new direction--a break from rampant cronyism and the status quo.”
In other words, “Had Enough? Vote Democratic!”
THE BILL FINALLY COMES DUE: “For five years, President Bush has defied political history. ...,” writes Steven Thomma of Knight Ridder Newspapers. “Now, six months before Election Day, history appears to be catching up to the president and his party. Republicans could lose seats in the House and the Senate for the first time in the Bush era--as has happened to every president in his sixth year in office since the Civil War, with the sole exception of Bill Clinton in 1998. Republicans could lose control of the House and possibly the Senate. If Democrats capture either chamber, Bush will lose any chance to set the nation’s agenda or to block investigations that could harass him through his last two years in office. Republicans also appear in danger of losing some of the nation’s most prominent governorships, including in such megastates as California, Florida and New York.” Read on.
READ MORE: “Republicans Own It,” by Joseph Hughes (Hughes for America); “A Short and Simple Democratic Agenda,” by Georgia10 (Daily Kos); “Party in Search of a Notion,” by Michael Tomasky (The American Prospect); “Democrats Try to Use Katrina as G.O.P. Used 9/11,” by Adam Nagourney (The New York Times); “Happy Days Are Here Again: Secret GOP Rebuilding Plan,” by Morbo (The Carpetbagger Report).