Democratic Candidates Will Win Only By Being Democratic Candidates:
So, in an interview with Rolling Stone (motto: "Last print magazine standing - for now"), President Barack Obama said to disenchanted Democratic voters who apparently are unenthusiastic about the upcoming midterm elections, "We have to get folks off the sidelines. People need to shake off this lethargy, people need to buck up. Bringing about change is hard — that's what I said during the campaign. It has been hard, and we've got some lumps to show for it. But if people now want to take their ball and go home, that tells me folks weren't serious in the first place." (This was said just after President Wiretap and State Secrets said, without a hint of irony, "If we want the kind of country that respects civil rights and civil liberties, we'd better fight in this election.")
Earlier in the interview, referring to health care reform and financial regulation reform and student loan reform, among other things, Obama said, "I keep in my pocket a checklist of the promises I made during the campaign, and here I am, halfway through my first term, and we've probably accomplished 70 percent of the things that we said we were going to do — and by the way, I've got two years left to finish the rest of the list, at minimum. So I think that it is very important for Democrats to take pride in what we've accomplished." The problem, of course, is that Democrats aren't. The problem is that Obama isn't running this year. The problem, as Joan Walsh points out in Salon, isn't that liberals are planning to not vote.
Right now the Democrats' closing argument in the election is "You think we suck? Those other fuckers suck way more than we do." That doesn't exactly inspire the on-the-fence voter to jump to the blue side. It's like when you're breaking up with a total douchebag loser you've dated for a couple of years and he says, "You think you can do better than me? You just wait and see." Man, now that's some compelling shit: you can stay with the loser or see what's after the loser.
That's essentially what Joe Biden said in New Hampshire on Monday, that Democrats need to "remind our base constituency to stop whining and get out there and look at the alternatives." There's a "no-shit" component to that advice (which Obama also gave): every election is about looking at the alternatives. But, you know, you make a better case during that break-up when you say, "I may not make a lot of money, but, damn, you know you love our fucking. And I make you laugh." In other words, Democrats need to embrace who they are. It's the same goddamn argument we on the left make every goddamn election.
For example, look at freshman Democratic Congressman Tom Perriello of Virginia. Less than a month ago, he was getting his ass kicked by Republican Robert Hurt, 61-35% in one poll. Now, the race is tightening for lots of reasons, even though this was supposed to be a slamdunk, an easy takeaway by the GOP against a Southern Democrat who voted for health care reform and cap and trade. He voted against the stimulus because it didn't go far enough.
Now, you'd expect Perriello to be hominah-hominah-ing his beliefs, like Joe Manchin in West Virginia. Instead, one of Perriello's strategies is to say, plainly and clearly, "Yep, those were the votes. And here's what they did for you." On his website, he's touting the Patients' Bill of Rights that began to go into effect last week. He's highlighting the green jobs he's helped get funds to create. And he's probably gonna be endorsed by the NRA (yeah, we can't have it all). Sure, his district contains Charlottesville, a college town, but it's also got a good chunk of backwoods dentistry-free Virginia, too, and it went for McCain in 2008. He should be toast. But he's not. Shit, last Friday, at a campaign appearance, he said flat-out that he wants to end the Bush tax cuts on the wealthy. And he's been kicking Hurt's ass over Hurt's refusal to debate.
How about that? An incumbent Democrat who isn't denying he's a Democrat who supports Democratic causes just made up a supposedly insurmountable gap in the polls in a generally red district. Oh, wait...is that too whiny?