Mark of distinction.

Notes from the political sidelines.
Oct. 13 2006 1:02 PM

Mark of Distinction

What the Democratic field can learn from Mark Warner.

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Third, don't forget to think and believe at the same time. Blair reminds us that the true measure of political courage is not what a party can promise, but what it can deliver:

"The true believer believes in social justice, in solidarity, in help for those not able to help themselves. … But they also know that these values, gentle and compassionate as they are, have to be applied in a harsh, uncompromising world and what makes the difference is not belief alone, but the raw courage to make it happen."

Finally, and perhaps most important, relish the hard choices that come with responsibility, not run from them. Under Bush, Republicans have become far too comfortable in ignoring the country's problems, and Democrats sometimes too comfortable in opposition. As Blair says,

"The danger for us today is not reversion to the politics of the 1980s. It is retreat to the sidelines. To the comfort zone. It is unconsciously to lose the psychology of a governing Party. As I said in 1994, courage is our friend. Caution, our enemy. A governing Party has confidence, self-belief. It sees the tough decision and thinks it should be taking it. Reaches for responsibility first. Serves by leading."

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As new threats to our national and economic security emerged over the past six years, we could have used a governing Party here in America. Will we reach for responsibility in 2008? It depends on whether the next president gets the memo. ... 2:49 P.M. (link)

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Tuesday, Sept. 26, 2006

Fail-Safe:As Jacob Weisberg explained last week, a growing chorus of conservative pundits has decided Republicans would be better off losing the midterm elections. This widespread conservative death wish casts new light on the Bush record. All these years, we've assumed Bush was running the country into the ground as a matter of principle. But perhaps his administration's penchant for failure is just another way of pandering to the defeatist conservative base.

Conservatives say they want to lose, but can they pull it off? Republicans may have the desire, but can they overcome Democratic strategists' experience and expertise?

To be sure, Republicans have worked hard to lay the groundwork for a big defeat. But national elections are rarely lost solely on the merits. A losing campaign needs a losing game plan.

In that regard, Republicans already seem to have stolen a page from the 2000 to 2004 Democratic playbook. In today's world, it's too risky to rely on a single bad strategy to lose an election. Campaign strategists need a fail-safe backup plan in case something goes wrong and the original losing strategy has to be abandoned.

Republicans know how to devise a losing strategy. Just ask Donald Rumsfeld. But when it comes to elections, they've had trouble switching losing horses in midstream. Sure, the Republican political strategy over the past six years has been deeply flawed—writing off the independent vote, making a mess of America's economic and national security. But instead of panicking down the stretch and improvising a whole new failed strategy, Republicans stubbornly ride it out. Even a bad campaign strategy can look good when everyone sticks to it.

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