The Democrats should be running on their accomplishments, not hiding from them

Rachel Maddow just did a great job of articulating what a lot of us have been saying for this last month, which is that Democrats should stop allowing their Republican rivals to define them as “big government” Socialists, and actively campaign on their successes in the areas of health care and financial stewardship. Here’s Maddow on the subject:

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And, here, for those of you who are unwilling to watch the video, is a clip from the transcript:

“According to the common beltway wisdom for this year’s elections, health reform is supposed to be an awful thing Democrats must run away from, an awful, terrible burden Democrats would saddle themselves with, an albatross that will sink them on Election Day… Run away fast… (But) whenever the President mentions health care on the stump, he does so to huge applause. Other Democrats like Russ Feingold have started running ads on health care reform and it polls really, really well. How is it the common wisdom Democrats have to run away from it? It’s the common wisdom because Republicans have tried to make it that – trying to keep as many Democrats silent about health care reform as possible.”

Maddow is absolutely right. Contrary to what folks like Glenn Beck tell us, health care reform is popular in America. In fact, according to the most recent polling data that I’ve seen, most Americans, when asked about individual provisions in the bill, like them. People like that they can no longer be denied insurance due to preexisting conditions, and keep their kids on their policies longer. And people like the fact that they can’t be kicked off their policies when they become ill. And, while we’re at it, TARP, which was first proposed by the Bush administration, by the way, worked, as did the bailout of the Big 3. Here, with more on that, is a clip from Politicus USA:

…(H)ow did the Republicans convince the Democrats not to run on all of their accomplishments? In fact, it is even worse than that, Republicans have managed to convince Democrats that their successes are actually failures. This might actually be big news if Republicans hadn’t been using this strategy for the last 30 years. In every contested election that the Democrats have lost since the Reagan era, you can trace their defeat back to the GOP’s success in framing Democratic accomplishments as failure.

The most notable recent examples of this strategy occurred in 2000 and 2004. In 2000, Karl Rove was able to convince Al Gore’s presidential campaign that despite a high approval rating, Bill Clinton was a liability. Gore bought into the Republican framing of Clinton as a liability, and ran away from both the Clinton/Gore record, and Bill Clinton himself. The result was that Gore became the first modern candidate and the first candidate since 1888, to win the popular vote, but not the presidency.

In 2004, John Kerry won the Democratic nomination and was all set to run a campaign based on his military experience, but a little bit of swiftboating later and Kerry was not only defending his military record, but opening running away from it by the end of the campaign. As in 2000, the result was the same. George W. Bush won another close election. Maddow is correct. Democrats have a strong record of accomplishments, and with the exception of Republicans, their achievements have grown in popularity over time. By not running on what they have accomplished, Democratic candidates all across the country are allowing elections to be contested devoid of issues. This is a landscape that heavily favors the ideology over issues GOP candidates…

If you have a moment today, consider picking up the phone and encouraging your local Democrats running for office to start mentioning health care reform on the campaign trail. True, some who hear them may see it as the overstepping of “big government,” but chances that it’ll resonate with more people than it turns off. And, if it were me, I’d rather go down swinging anyway. Making health care available to more American families was the right thing to do. And, for that matter, so is allowing the Bush tax breaks on the top 2% of Americans to expire. It’s time we stood up and said so.

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  1. Kevin Paulsen
    Posted October 5, 2010 at 10:29 pm | Permalink

    The Democrats in the House don’t have one ounce of ball between them.

  2. Josh
    Posted October 5, 2010 at 10:48 pm | Permalink

    great post! the people who agree with new policies are always the quietest.

  3. Dan
    Posted October 5, 2010 at 10:48 pm | Permalink

  4. Carcass Rock
    Posted October 5, 2010 at 11:50 pm | Permalink

    Or just the most likely to admit that they are losers.

  5. Posted October 6, 2010 at 12:02 am | Permalink

    DASCHLE: (re: public option) “I don’t think it was taken off the table completely. It was taken off the table as a result of the understanding that people had with the hospital association, with the insurance (AHIP), and others.”


  6. Knox
    Posted October 6, 2010 at 6:13 am | Permalink

    I hadn’t thought about it in these terms, but it is like Swiftboating. By getting people afraid of “big government” Socialism, the Republicans essentially made it impossible for the Dems to talk about their programs, even if they’ve been successful.

  7. Peter Larson
    Posted October 6, 2010 at 7:04 am | Permalink

    The Republicans win because destroying things is much easier for people to understand than building them.

  8. Posted October 6, 2010 at 9:05 am | Permalink

    I agree completely. Democrats should stop acting ashamed for the things they’ve done since taking control of Congress in 2006. Democrats should stand proudly and own ObamaCare, the mortgage meltdown, and the nationalization of the automobile industry, Wall Street mega banks, AIG, and the student loan marketplace.

    Please pass this message on to the Dingell, Peters, and Schauer campaigns….

  9. dragon
    Posted October 6, 2010 at 11:07 am | Permalink

    As reported by Stephen Rosenman at Seeking Alpha, bank of America’s second quarter report shows exactly how much money Americans will be saving through financial reform and credit card reform.

    Bank of America’s (BAC) conference call is a must read. Warning: it is not for the faint of heart. Its implications for banking, now that Congress has passed credit card and financial reform, are not pretty.

    1. The Card Act is expected to cost $1 billion after tax.

    2. Regulation E/Overdraft policy changes have already cost $1 billion after tax. The fourth quarter of 2010 will see a further reduction of $2 billion pre tax.

    3. The Dodd-Frank Bill impact at this point is uncertain because hundreds of rules need to be written still. It is expected to be very costly.

    4. The Durbin Amendment in the Financial Reform Bill is expected to decrease debit card revenue each year by as much as $1.8 to 2.3 billion starting in Q3 2011. BAC expects to take a $7 to $10 billion charge in goodwill in Q3 2010 due to the impairment of the debit card goodwill.

    5. Net interest margin is dropping. BAC’s dropped 16 bp to 2.77%. Per the call, the low interest environment is flattening the returns banks can get for their borrowed money. Loan demand is weak. As a result, net interest income was down over $800 million from Q1 2010.

    These 5 banking nightmares will likely visit other financial institutions. BAC is the first to quantify some of them. BAC reiterates throughout the call that it has no idea how to “mitigate” these. While the legislative action may be intended to help level the playing field for consumers and to prevent banking excesses, for now, it appears to be leveling the financial institutions.

  10. Edward
    Posted October 6, 2010 at 11:11 am | Permalink

    I’m not sure that I get your point, Mr. Dragon. Are you suggesting that the bailout and reform were wrongheaded given the burden placed on Bank of America?

  11. Oliva
    Posted October 6, 2010 at 9:02 pm | Permalink

    Yep, great post. There’s a related piece at NY Review of Books by Michael Tomasky (editor of Democracy: A Journal of Ideas and American editor-at-large for the [UK] Guardian):

    It’s sobering but valuable, a call to sense and action too, please, before it’s dangerously too late (endless investigations by a Republican House, e.g., so that divisions grow, nothing good happens, and any hopes for progressive change are doomed). Here’s a little sample:

    Lost for the most part in the debate over whether the wealthiest Americans can bear to go back to paying 39.6 percent rather than 35 percent on all income over $250,000 is the fact that from 1950 to 1963, back when we were building a vast middle class and a society in which Democratic themes like “community” weren’t considered toxic, the top marginal rate on very-high-income earners, a rate that majorities of both parties supported, was just over 90 percent. In reality, there were ways of avoiding that rate, and those days will probably never return. But as long as Democrats permit Republicans to appear to be defending (and defining) what it is to be American, matters like that 4.5 difference will be attacked as un-American class warfare, and the attacks will resonate even more loudly from the perches of House committee chairmanships. [My emphasis]

  12. Robert
    Posted October 7, 2010 at 6:42 am | Permalink

    Democrats are inherantly timid sheep for the most part.

    Bribery and intimidation is how interests get their way in this world. The Republicans take the bribes while the Democrats get intimidated. That’s the typical distribution.

  13. Lionel Richie, Jr.
    Posted October 7, 2010 at 9:06 am | Permalink

    Robert, don’t sell our Democratic brethren short. They take a whole bunch of the bribes, too.

  14. Oliva
    Posted October 14, 2010 at 9:09 pm | Permalink

    Really good piece in the Nation on “The Road Ahead for Progressives: Back to Basics” by Gara LaMarche and Deepak Bhargava, at,0.

  15. Gay OCD
    Posted October 16, 2010 at 12:40 am | Permalink

    Oliva, wouldn’t they be “Regressives” then?

  16. Oliva
    Posted October 16, 2010 at 9:56 am | Permalink

    Gay OCD, maybe “deep-rooted progressives”? (And I know, “They may say I’m a dreamer / but I’m not the only one”!)

  17. Edward
    Posted October 28, 2010 at 9:03 am | Permalink

    If you haven’t seen it yet, the Onion hit on this yesterday.

    “Democrats: ‘If We’re Gonna Lose, Let’s Go Down Running Away From Every Legislative Accomplishment We’ve Made'”,18333/

  18. Oliva
    Posted October 28, 2010 at 9:37 am | Permalink

    Nice to be reminded that Engler was down by double digits the weekend before the election when he beat Blanchard. Then again, there was less scrutiny paid to voting machines back then . . . so who knows what really happened.

  19. Robert
    Posted October 28, 2010 at 12:42 pm | Permalink

    Oliva, I was working for a congressional campaign committee back in 1990 when Blanchard lost to Engler, and as I remember it, the exit polls at noon showed us that we were on our way to losing that Governor’s race. Everybody from other Democratic campaigns which looked to be in good shape were asked to switch around and help with the Blanchard Get-Out-The-Vote effort for the remainder of the day. We closed the gap somewhat but it obviously wasn’t enough. As I remember it, too many Democrats were splitting their tickets to Blanchard’s demise.

    The voting machines and tabulation process back in 1990 was still pretty unsophisticated and would have taken a pretty massive effort to rig to any great degree. I don’t remember seeing anything which would have suggested that sort of thing was going on. It seems possible that the polls being done leading into the last weeks of the campaign may have been rigged in order to give us a false sense of security, keep us from reallocating resources to the Blanchard campaign, and catch us by surprise on election day. I can’t say I would have any real problem with that. It’s tampering with the actual voting process itself that I consider a very serious and treasonous act.

    I’m not trying to suggest in any certain terms that what you feared might have happened, didn’t. I am just relaying what I can remember of that time mostly just for the hell of it, and to say “hello” to you in my strange way.

  20. Oliva
    Posted October 28, 2010 at 8:21 pm | Permalink

    Well, Robert, in my strange way–I say hello back by saying that I am so sad that I can’t go to DC with you and all the MILLIONS (!) of others. I’m glad my niece is going and a bunch of NC friends. Am I am envious! I suppose it’s late to ask at this late date, but in case there’s a bus going or a car in need of supplies (snack wise, other things), then I’d love to pitch in. And please say HELLO to everybody there for me, please! (Hoping, that is, that you still get to go.)

    The Democratic Party Headquarters is at 124 W. Mich. Ave., for anyone who’ll be around this weekend and wants to GOTV or pick up yard signs, bring food, nurture hope . . .

  21. Scott
    Posted October 28, 2010 at 9:27 pm | Permalink

    Just because Dems were able to force legislation through on healthcare doesn’t make it a success. Just wait until it kicks it. “Be careful what you wish for” will never be truer.

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