Daiblog A Fair and Balanced daily discussion of Democratic politics, ideas, strategy, and news
Friday, May 23, 2003
Ozzy on Message Discipline
This country has a history of unlikely sages, so perhaps it's no surprise that Ozzy Osborne has made one of the more revealing observations about the President in the current issue of Rolling Stone. When asked about meeting Bush, Ozzy replied (in part): "You know when you meet a person, you either get a good vibe, a not-so-good vibe, a bad vibe or a terrible, goddamn awful vibe? He's got no vibe." Which, in fact, is an incredibly astute observation about Bush--in a lot of ways, he is all message, and no substance. Or, to put it differently, he's all politics and no policy. And perhaps there is even a way (looking through the Ozzy-lens) for the Democrats to use that message discipline against him; it may be good politics, but the country needs a leader, not a message. And that's a message that people understand.
posted by Amanda
The latest WSJ-NBC poll provides some evidence that opposing President Bush's judicial nominees may impose a political cost on Senate Democrats, as it likely did in the 2002 Senate elections. By a margin of 46-42, a slight plurality of the public believes that "The current judicial nomination review process is not working well, because opponents in the Senate hold up too many nominees." The results are very close -- and may be within the margin of error -- but I still believe they are significant. Given that this issue is so "inside-the-Beltway," I am surprised both that the percentage claiming they are unsure was only 12 percent, and that half of those expressing an opinion think the system is "not working well."
The survey consisted of 1,000 interviews of adults (not only registered voters), and has a margin of error of +/- 3.1 percent. The full question was as follows:
As you may know, people become federal judges by being nominated by the president and then being approved by a majority of the Senate. Now let me read you two views about this process, and please tell me which one you agree with more:
Statement A: The current judicial nomination review process is working well, because most nominees are approved.
Statement B: The current judicial nomination review process is not working well, because opponents in the Senate hold up too many nominees.
The results were as follows:
Statement A/process works ....................... 42
Statement B/rules not working well .......... 46
Not sure......................................................... 12
This question is interesting in its own right, but I also think it shows how a poorly worded poll question can skew results. Here, the respondants were given two choices: Everything's fine, or everything isn't fine and it is the Senate's fault. It is not surprsing that the results show that more people blame the Senate than one otherwise might expect. When given a binary choice between a generic "The government works fine" and "The government is broken," there is a longstanding and persistent tendency by the public to feel that the government is broken. Here, the respondants were given only one target to blame, and they did so.
I don't think this question shows that the public blames the Senate or the Democrats for the judicial nomination mess. I just don't think the answers to this question are an accurate reflection of public opinion. One would need to add a Statement C to the question: "The current judicial nomination review process is not working well, because the President is nominating persons who will not make good judges." Or something like that. An even more fair question would also have a Statement D as an option: " The current judicial nomination review process is not working well, and both the Senate and the President are to blame." Or something like that.
With those options added, the poll question would better reflect public opinion. And the Democrats would know if they had something else to worry about.
Have been out of the Daiblog loop for a while--just checking back in.
I totally agree with Adam's critique of Daily Kos's statements. I have a slightly different take on the connection between the mishandling of Iraq and the economy / domestic fiscal policy. To me the problem with the Iraq policy is spending too little, not too much (I'll confess I was one of those Democrats who followed Ken Pollack and the Council on Foreign Relations and Tom Friedman into believing that the end of containment and the beginnings of Gulf democracy could be a great thing). If they were going to fight the war, they had to invest in the rebuilding. But because Bush is physically incapable of spending on anything that doesn't either a) show himself in a striking profile before national monuments like Mt. Rushmore or b) deliver a 10 kiloton yield, he won't.
At home, it seems to me the problem is not what we spent on Iraq, but what we haven't spent and can't pay for here. I'm still struggling with how to avoid the old "tax and spend" label. The first step, as Adam says, is definitely to distinguish and target different subsections of the electorate.
Having said that, and this may be a stupid question, but what is the strategy for the Democratic party to recover Green voters? Is this irrelevant because these voters will be more serious about the presidential election post 9/11 and because Nader won't run again (will he)? Are these voters to be taken for granted and if not, can they be drawn toward the center rather than leaning the Dems to the left? Does anyone who voted for Nader really still believe there's no difference between Bush and Gore, half a trillion dollars in tax cuts later?
Another question. How has the fundraising landscape changed for the Dems, considering a few changes since Gore-Lieberman ran: 1) new campaign finance laws, 2) Clinton's charisma less available for fundraising in a high profile manner, 3) young, liberal techno-entrepeneurs have no money to give. New problems? New solutions?
posted by Austin
While Democrats may want to divert attention to the economy, Bush/Rove won't allow it. And given the president's bully pulpit, he'll be able to reshape the agenda in ways the Democrats simply cannot match.
As such, it is clear that Democrats need to find ways to effectively counter any advantages Bush enjoys on national security issues. "Me-tooism", a la Lieberman, won't work. If people are happy with the president's war handling, they will have little impetus to change gears and elect a Democrat. Rather, the Democrats need to chip away at Bush's armor.
[Is Kos one of the handful of people that is reading Daiblog? Not bloody likely. Anyway]
Here are two rhetorical weapons Democrats can wield:
1) Bush allowed Al Qaeda to regroup
2) Our cities crumble as we spend billions in Iraq
Dems need to hammer this point. Why are your schools closing? Because Bush sent your money to Iraq. Why have your library hours been cut? Because Bush sent your money to Iraq. Why are government services up and down the board being cut or eliminated? Because Bush sent your money to Iraq.
Bush's war against Iraq has repercussions. You are less secure from terrorist attack, while your community doesn't have the money to offer basic services.
Give it a bit more polish, and this message will help take the shine off Bush's "victory".
Not that Kos cares much what I think, but I disagree with his second point. "Our cities crumble as we spend billions in Iraq" strikes me as classic old school Democratic negativism. Democracts should not be on the stump talking about our crumbling cities. This is so for a few reasons. First, I would ask Kos to which segment of the electorate is the message directed? Democratic partisans or swing voters or both? I think this question is crucial, and it is one which is often forgotten. A campaign message isn't just what you want to say. It is directed at a particular group of voters. For example, in 1992, Clinton's message of "It's time for a change" and "It's the economy, stupid" was aimed at the 20-25% of the electorate which, according to polls, did not identify themselves as Democrats but wanted the government to do more to boost the economy and help them get jobs.
"Our cities crumble as we spend billions in Iraq" seems to me to be aimed at Democratic partisans. Most of these people opposed the war in the first place, and will likely be receptive to any message which hints at re-fighting that fight, as this message does.
I don't think this message is going to move swing voters or non-party voters. The image of cities crumbling is rank negativism. It is hopelessness. It is despair. Further, while a persuasive connection between the economy and Iraq would be nice, Kos' doesn't persuade me. And I'm a partisan. Oregon's schools aren't closing because Bush is sending money to Iraq. They're closing because he has run the economy into the ground.
I think Kos' first point is a good one, but his second point should be re-cast in a positive way that makes a better connection between the domestic economy and Iraq.
posted by Adam
It looks like the DNC is trying to impose some order on the Democratic primary. Good. It remains to be seen whether McAuliffe will have any success. The primary doesn't have to be a love-in, but there are ways that the candidates can all pull in the same direction on certain issues. It may be as simple as getting all of the candidates to use the same language when referring to President Bush. Find some good catch-phrase and put the word out. If each candidate uses a phrase like "Bush has mortgaged our future" or "Bush's foreign policy is all hat and no cattle," the message should be more potent.