Friday, December 05, 2003

Politics of Hate Won't Beat Bush

Susan Estrich points out the obvious - or rather, what ought to be obvious to anyone whose ability to reason hasn't been adversely affected by partisan rage.

The way to defeat Bush is not to advertise how much you hate him. Hard-core ideologues who hate Bush are not going to decide this election. They'll vote for the Democrat, as they do every four years, but there aren't enough of them to elect a Democrat. You need swing voters to do that. Hatred may motivate the left to contribute money, but it is hardly an effective talking point for public consumption if you want to win elections.

Ari Emanuel, a talent agent who represents Larry David and whose brother served in the Clinton White House and now in Congress, knew just how bad the Drudge story was for Democrats. "People are assembling over a political issue -- the 2004 election," he told the press in response to the ruckus about hating Bush. "The invite didn't say 'Hate Bush,' and I don't think (the Drudge story) was productive."

Productive? I bet it produced a lot of money for George Bush. And worse, it helps produce votes for him.

The people whose votes Democrats will need to defeat George Bush don't hate him. On a personal level, they like him. They need to be convinced not to vote for him, for reasons that have to do with the war, or special interests or the economy. "Hate Bush" headlines do just the opposite.

The sad thing about all this is that it would actually be a bad thing for my side if the Democrats were actually to take this criticism on board; from a strictly partisan standpoint, I ought to be glad that they've gone in for the "Bush=Hitler" nonsense, as it virtually guarantees continued Republican control of all levers of power. The thing is, though, that there is more to politics than partisan advantage, at least as I see it. A coherent and credible opposition isn't merely a nuisance but a desirable thing, whether or not one endorses the platform it seeks to advance. To the extent that robust opposition keeps one's side from sliding into complacency and corruption, it is an extremely desirable thing, and there is nothing quite so corrosive of political accountability as the lop-sided dominance of government by a single party - as Britain's Labour Party, with its' virtually unassailable majority, is busy demonstrating.