I am a shameless inner-city elitist. So I laughed so hard when I read this line from The New Yorkerover
the weekend that I almost spilt my latte onto my Italian designer
distressed shirt: “The sure way for the Democrats to go on losing is to
frame a message designed to win back married Catholic women while
mobilising twenty-something iPod users.”

I don’t recommend the New Yorker as a policy manual – it seems a bit short on realpolitik – but it had a point. Have a look at a bit more of the article:

Instead of trying to cobble together a hypothetical
majority with a hodgepodge of small-bore policy proposals, the
Democrats need to nationalize the elections of 2006 the way the
Republicans did in 1994. A Democratic manifesto that unites the Party’s
own diverse factions would begin as a referendum on the ruling party:
the White House and Congress have handed government over to corrupt
interests, and, in so doing, the Republicans have betrayed basic
American principles of honesty, competence, and fairness. There is no
reason for Democrats to be on the defensive about moral values. On
issue after issue, government by cronyism and corruption has sacrificed
the interests of the middle class to those of the Administration’s
wealthy friends. The deepening inequality in American life threatens
families and democracy, and it is neither natural nor inevitable…

A new book, Off Center,
by Jacob Hacker and Paul Pierson, points out, Republicans never won the
war of ideas – Americans remain almost implacably centrist – but they
created a powerful political machine that is tactically shrewder and
far richer than that of the Democrats…

Above all, the Democratic
Party needs to overcome its own self-esteem problem. Its leaders have
to show imagination and take risks, to be confident and aggressive, to
proceed as if the current occupant of the White House no longer
mattered – as if the Democrats fully intended to win and govern. The
Democratic Party has to speak for the common good in a moral language;
and it has to believe what it says, so that when the opposition’s
attacks come, as they will, it can find the heart and the courage to
fight back.

OK, so there’s plenty of liberal hyperbole there with
little relevance to Australia. But that line about betraying basic
“principles of honesty, competence, and fairness” rings true of our
mob. Same with the argument about there being no reason for the
opposition “to be on the defensive about moral values.”

This
ain’t Not Happy John all over again. It’s about fundamentals. And
fundamental principals and values are always strong in politics.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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