The Musings of

Something full of magic, religion, bullsh*t.

Thursday, January 06, 2005

Barking dogs

Morton Blackwell, the campaign educator of the conservative movement, is famous in certain circles for his public policy homilies. My favorite goes as follows: "Keep your eye on the main goal and don't stop to kick every barking dog." This advice is vital to a well run political campaign, and, as Mr. Blackwell will tell you, "governing is campaigning by different means."

The general problem with "kicking every barking dog" in a campaign is that you waste time with minor issues and cloud your main message. The same thing happens in legislation, with the additional problem of appearing to be obstructionist. The GOP learned this lesson years ago when it went toe-to-toe with Clinton over government spending by refusing to pass Clinton's appropriations requests. The GOP had been challenging Clinton across the board, but when the government shut down resulted, the Republicans were the ones being blamed.

It appears that the Democrats are gearing up to learn this lesson. There is only so much political capital available to any party, and the Dems look prepared to go into deficit spending by fighting the following current and looming battles:

1) challenging the vote count in Ohio, while admitting that their efforts won't change anything;
2) challenging the appointment of Alberto Gonzales as Attorney General;
3) challenging Bush's attempt to "repair" Social Security; and
4) challenging anyone Bush may appoint to the Supreme Court (as well as certain nominees to the lesser courts).
Combine these with the Democrat's general obstruction of the War in Iraq, and there is a real threat that they are going to run out of political fuel pretty quickly. Sure, the GOP will be fighting these battles too, but they are the enviable position of being the proposing party. The Dems, on the other hand, face the real threat of appearing to be obstructionist because they are only reflexively opposing Bush's actions. Their tendency has been to make everything a "do or die" issue (Estrada filibuster, Donald Rumsfeld), and the recent elections show that the American people just aren't buying it. By "going nuclear" on so many issues they leave themselves open to the charge that they are crying wolf.

Far be it for me to give the Dems advice, but if it were me I'd start picking my fights. Protesting Florida's 2000 vote led to a bigger GOP win in 2004, so what do they expect to gain by challenging Ohio's conceded vote? Is it possible that kicking up a storm over Gonzales' appointment may actually be counterproductive?

Remember: There's always another dog.
Centinel 2:50 PM #


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