Democrats Need 'Conviction Politics'
Editor’s Note: Karl Rove's resignation as George W. Bush's chief White House political adviser may mark a significant personnel change, but it almost surely doesn't mean a reversal of the Bush-Rove strategy for amassing presidential power and seeking continued Republican domination of the U.S. government.
In Election 2008, Republican campaign advisers -- almost all Bush-Rove proteges -- can be counted on to use the same cutthroat tactics as their mentors. In this guest essay, political analyst Brent Budowsky warns that the Democrats will need their own version of "conviction politics" if they hope to wrest away the White House:
The Bush-Rove vision is so daring it is breathtaking.
George Bush and Karl Rove seek one-party domination of American politics, with executive domination over the legislative and judicial branches of the American government.
They move to pack the Supreme Court with unitary power believers, bully the Congress into submissively accepting executive branch encroachments, destroy the system of checks and balances, and impose radical changes in the American government that are the antithesis of what the Founding Fathers intended.
They seek to change the very psychology of Americanism, pounding fear into the American people, courts, Congress and Democratic leaders since Sept. 11, 2001.
Posing the choice as submitting to Big Brother or being exterminated by mushroom clouds, they have pummeled the republic for six years with a non-stop, 24/7 propaganda campaign of fearmongering that is unprecedented in American history.
George Bush is a lame duck? With an iron will, Bush negated the 2006 election by pushing through an escalation of the Iraq war, expanded executive powers over Congress and new powers for foreign and domestic surveillance.
Congressional Republicans were reduced to sycophantic supporters while they groused in the cloakrooms that Bush could destroy their party. Prior to the Memorial Day recess, congressional Democrats offered unconditional surrender on the Iraq escalation, and just before the August recess they followed with unconditional surrender on eavesdropping.
Bush and Rove are conviction politicians with an iron will to turn their convictions into policy and power. They are fearless when pushing their program even in the face of the American Constitution, federal law and national elections.
By contrast, Democratic leaders surround themselves with cadres of consultants, pollsters and career operatives who are not conviction politicians, but are tactical maneuverers without any core of substance or steel.
The Democrats’ leading presidential campaign strategist [Bob Shrum] lost every presidential election from 1972 until 2004, and has advised a long list of major Democrats to send to troops to die in Iraq for reasons of political calculation.
If national Democrats disclosed the private advice of their consultants and operatives over the last five years, who would be more embarrassed — those who offered this advice or those who followed it?
Even today, it is the breed of Democrat who advised leaders to support the Iraq war in 2002 who advise them to support the escalation into 2008.
Democrats lost in 2000, 2002 and 2004. They finally won in 2006 and immediately began surrendering their authority, unable to resist one of the most unpopular presidents in history, with the predictable result that the Democratic Congress is one of the most unpopular in history.
Democrats need a Karl Rove, someone who can outline a grand vision and pursue it with the toughness, tenacity, courage, fearlessness and will to win that Rove possesses.
Democrats need what Americans want: a conviction politics that is principled, fearless and tenacious and projects confidence and strength to voters hungry for change.
The vision is clear: a realigning election in 2008 with a Democratic president and Democratic Congress to establish one of those great eras of American optimism and reform.
Democrats could run a national “Morning in America” television ad that attacks the Bush failures and abuses, the Republican obstructionism that blockades change; and offers an uplifting panorama of the America that will be, with change.
However: Leaders lead, and the battle must be waged on the floor of Congress with a courage and tenacity that is lacking today.
Democrats can defeat the politics of fear and inspire the nation to bravery, but only if they demonstrate bravery themselves and challenge Americans to be larger and more noble than the darker impulses of the Bush and Rove era.
A Democratic Rove would know that it is not enough to oppose the falsehoods; it is now imperative to trust the people with the truth. For Democrats: no more surrenders, no more fear, no more retreats, no more maneuvers.
Democrats represent a majority of the country, with a majority in the Congress. If they fight with the focus and determination of Bush and Rove, they will win a victory worthy of Kennedy and Roosevelt.
Budowsky was an aide to former Sen. Lloyd Bentsen and to Bill Alexander, then the chief deputy whip of the House. A contributing editor to Fighting Dems News Service, he can be read on The Hill Pundits Blog and reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. [This article first appeared in The Hill.]
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