Monday, January 25, 2010


In response to David Plouffe's op-ed in yesterday's Washington Post, Ezra Klein wrote, in reference to health care reform:

You'll notice that Plouffe doesn't spend a lot of time hedging that "this bill is not perfect, but it's better than nothing," or "this bill isn't Democrats' first choice, but it's still worth passing." Instead, he says it's a good plan that's been spun as a bad plan, and lists a lot of what it'll do to help families immediately. Democrats could take a lesson from that approach.

Steve Benen concurs:

This isn't exactly a new observation, and Dems have burdened by this bad habit for a long time. They somehow manage to win a policy fight; Republicans trash the policy; and Dems get defensive and act sheepishly about their success.

In the face of Republican hysterics, Dems, more often than not, seem a little
embarrassed by their victories.

That's true -- and what it calls to mind, for me, is the discussion of Barack Obama's blackness that took place during the last presidential campaign. It wasn't clear that the country would vote to elect an African-American president ... but it was believed that Obama had a chance because he was someone whites would regard as a "nonthreatening" black person. (It's a problem other groups have had in gaining access to power -- women walking a tightrope to avoiding seeming too "masculine" and too "feminine," or, in an earlier era, Jews feeling they needed to avoid seeming "pushy.")

Well, now it seems that the group identity Obama struggles the most to reassure voters about is not his race, but his party affiliation.

And most other prominent Democrats do the same.

What they seem to be saying is: We're Democrats, but we're not scary Democrats. We won't do all those scary, hippieish, radical, business-bashing, America-hating things you think we all do, the things that show up in your nightmares about Democrats, the things that make you afraid to move into a Democratic neighborhood. When we assert ourselves, we apologize for it, because we know that makes you think we're like those Democrats -- aggressive and dangerous. We don't want you to think that. In fact, we'd rather just never be assertive at all, so we'll never frighten you and you'll never hate and fear us.

That's the mindset -- Democrats think of themselves as a minority group of sorts that's barely tolerated, and tolerated only as lomg as they "behave."

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