This is what 2004 is all about. The primary season is almost over, and we have to devote our attention to attracting those who either haven't been paying attention, or who actually are somewhat ambivalent about Bush over the past few years.
It's fair to say Gore would have won had he had more Nader supporters, but this skips the fact that it would require a re-education and re-commitment by these supporters to actually form a coalition.
It's also fair to say that Bush won because of his fraud advantage, especially in Florida with its disenfranchised ex-cons and non-cons. The GOP probably has a consistent 1% fraud advantage. However, there isn't much reason to believe that their fraud advantage will be any less in time for 2004, with all the electronic voting machines.
All of this comes together to show that our goal cannot be to merely duplicate 2000's support. Even though the vote was close, we need to approach 2004 like we lost, convincingly; we need to build new support.
And this is why we need to focus on framing our arguments convincingly. I think we need to launch a new effort to frame our arguments in a way that aligns with our 2004 interests. To me, this suggests the following:
- Avoid negative arguments that would work against us if the argument ceases to apply
- Focus on arguments that would apply to those on the fence. Common sense as opposed to red meat.
I have long been opposed to the following style of arguments as ways to build support for defeating Bush.
- We haven't found Saddam!
- We haven't found Osama!
- Our soldiers are dying at so-many per day/week!
- We're losing jobs at such-and-such a rate!
They feel good to say - they express frustration and rage, which is very definitely a good thing. They are good at solidifying and reinforcing current anti-Bush support. However, if our interests are to build new support, they work against us.
Because what happens when we find Osama, and when our soldiers stop dying, and when our jobs start getting better? We would of course still be in favor of defeating Bush. But those on the fence that might have been attracted by those arguments now have nothing left to hold on to.
If our goals are to build support, we need to avoid arguments that are centered on predicting these sorts of negative results. I'd go further and argue that these arguments are bad for the soul, anyway; how many of us have felt distinctly uncomfortable when we've heard positive economic news, or when Saddam was captured? Sure, we know that our discomfort was more because we were concerned about how the GOP would crow about it, and not because we actually wanted Saddam to be free or the economy to tank. But I think the discomfort is also because we were feeling that we were in the position that the good news actually worked against us, and it felt bad.
The other thing we have to do is work out ways to frame controversial and wedge issues to de-emphasize salaciousness and emphasize common sense. My best example so far is the gay marriage thing. It's not "do you support legalizing gay marriage?" It's "If two gays try to get married, should that make them criminals?" It's not about every gay/bi/tranny being a beautiful person that should be celebrated by everyone, it's about the government trying to get into our bedroom and control how we live our lives. It's not about protecting the morality of our children, it's about the government minding their own damn business.
So I hope this comes across as a call to action. In order to make effective arguments to defeat Bush, we first have to know ourselves and attach our arguments to our belief that America can and should be better than this. And we have to show this connection every time in order to reach The Great Ambivalence of the U.S. middle 20%.
What I'd really like to see is a collaborative guide for each of the main arguments and issues that are likely to come up in 2004, and a way to edit/improve them as a community. Kind of like a candidate's position paper, but owned and editable by the community themselves. We have several insightful and productive discussions here at dailykos, but eventually all threads go off the front page. I would love for us to have a companion site of living documents that are comments help generate.
What are your concerns about our arguments against Bush and how they may or may not convince a swing voter?