I expect I’ll be doing posts with this title for some time to come; we’ll see how large the Roman numeral gets.
Hillary Clinton chimed in the other day on a “which way” issue; not right vs. left, but high vs. low. She now suggests it’s time to modify her (and Michele Obama’s) injunction, “They go low, we go high.” The Republicans have shown again and again that they repay civility with hardball from the gutter. So, the Democrats have to start hitting them back hard: Mr. Nice Guy hasn’t worked, and the party of Trump has become a genuine threat to American democracy.
Clinton’s speech was vilified in the predictable quarters but it even got some criticism from the editorial page of the NY Times. The Times’s editorialist acknowledged that Clinton maybe has something there, but she’s probably the last person to deliver the message, given the frothing fury she arouses on the right. Some of the letter writers to today’s Times also criticized Clinton on the grounds that her call to arms would not only ignite the Republican base but also alienate moderate voters who could swing to either party.
A warning that Democrats must take care not to alienate swing voters also came from two political scientists, Klar and Krupnikov. In a Times op ed, K&K explain that a great many independent voters are repelled by aggressively partisan appeals. This poses a dilemma for Democrats, since you need to attract independents to win elections, but aggressive partisanship is the way to fire up your base and get them out to vote. An optimal balance needs to be found, which isn’t easy.
I don’t think these either/or questions have to be that problematically binary. You don’t have to go low to go hard. The unvarnished truth about the Party of Trump is pretty ugly; no nastiness, no exaggeration, no stretching the truth is needed. A simple, honest description will be hard-hitting without being “low.” So for example, Republicans, starting with their POTUS, lie a lot—necessarily–because so many of their policies, if properly understood, would be firmly rejected by voters. It’s uncivil to call somebody a liar, but if the shoe fits….
And you can be partisan and sort of pan-partisan at the same time. Democrats have to make the case that today’s GOP has gone off the historic rails of American party politics. It’s not Dwight Eisenhower’s or even Ronald Reagan’s party any more—it’s a radical right wing deviation from traditional conservatism. We want and need a responsible conservative party in this country. We don’t have one. The way to get one is to turn today’s Republicans away from their deviant path by punishing them with defeat. I think that even “anti-partisan” independents can understand and appreciate this kind of partisan argument. I think it has to be at the core of the Democrats’ case from now to 2020 and probably beyond.