Don't botch it, DNC

July 22, 2008|By Hal Piper

I hope the Democratic National Committee doesn't blow the election for Sen. Barack Obama.

On paper, this seems to be a can't-lose year for the Democrats. If peace and prosperity are election winners, what are war and economic anxiety? Party registration trends favor the Democrats, too. And in Mr. Obama, they have a candidate whose person, biography and rhetoric all point to the possibility of breaking away from the poisonous partisanship of recent decades.

Unfortunately, Mr. Obama is backed by a committee that seems to be stuck in the old "wedge issue" politics that elected Republicans in seven of the last 10 presidential contests.

I received recently a "campaign survey" over the signature of Howard Dean, chairman of the DNC, purporting to seek my guidance as the party formulates its strategy for the fall election. It is, of course, a funding appeal, but its distortions and leading questions are also designed to inflame my contempt for those Republican rascals. One question asks:

"Do you believe that John McCain's pledge to keep troops in Iraq for another 100 years will be a liability in the General Election?"

Senator McCain made no such "pledge," as anyone can see on the YouTube clip. Democrats who insist on twisting his words had better shut up about Rush Limbaugh or Fox News quoting Democrats out of context.

What is missing from the survey is any effort to sound out my opinion on any of the "issues" that are supposed to be our central voting concern.

One question asks me to rank 14 issues in order of importance - education, immigration, Iraq, energy policy, etc. - but no alternatives are posed. I could rank "energy policy" highly, for example, because I advocate drilling in Alaska or because I want subsidies for solar panels. I could favor unlimited immigration or sealed borders, an immediate pullout from Iraq or humanitarian nation-building. The party won't learn much about voters from this survey.

But that is not the survey's purpose.

"How likely do you think it is," one question goes, "that John McCain and his Republican allies will launch a 'Swift Boat' style campaign against our presidential nominee?" And, further on, "How concerned are you that Republican voter suppression schemes will disenfranchise Democrats and impact the outcome of the presidential race?"

Why, those despicable Republicans. Thank you for reminding me why I am a Democrat.

Another reminder is making the rounds as an e-mail attachment, a leaden satire titled "I'm Voting Republican." Cheery-faced actors costumed as average Americans recite the reasons:

"I don't think I deserve health care."

"If people want clean water, let them buy it in a bottle."

"I don't want a cure for AIDS or breast cancer."

"We need more minorities in prison."

"Sometimes the Constitution is one big inconvenience."

And so on. It must have been great fun making the clip, which is smartly produced and available on YouTube.

It's also pretty easy. Here, for any Republican cabal that cares to take it up, is a start on a lampoon titled "I'm Voting Democratic":

"I want America to be weak. People love underdogs, and I want America to be lovable."

"I like paying taxes, but what I really like is when people richer than I am have to pay taxes."

"What's the big deal about gas prices? Everybody should just ride their bike to campus like I do."

Hilarious - if you buy the premise that your political opponents are ninnies or moral bankrupts. Many Democrats apparently do accept this premise. "Stupid" is the most common description of Republicans that I hear in political discussion with my Democratic friends and relations, usually pronounced "STU-pid!"

After losing several close elections, you would think that Democrats would be trying to win over voters, not ridiculing or calumniating them. What's the point of even having democracy if the electorate can't be trusted to use it properly? Let's do away with elections and institute "guided democracy" under philosopher-kings. Democrats, of course.

The last question on the Democratic survey invited me to "offer one piece of advice to the Democratic presidential nominee." Here goes:

"Divorce yourself immediately from tendentious, 'old politics' approaches like this survey. The whole rationale for Mr. Obama's candidacy is that American voters are mature enough to vote as Americans, not partisans. Alas, the DNC is undercutting its candidate's message. I hope the DNC will not blow the election."

Hal Piper is a former op-ed page editor of The Sun. His e-mail is

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