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I've been a bit cantankerous lately, as you can see by the title of my most recent Diary, Stupid Reasons To Oppose Iraq War.  After getting it out of my system a bit, I'm left with what I really want to advocate - a group effort to fashion our arguments in a way that not only reflects our moral convictions, but can attract people that are still undecided.

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.

I've already shown that in 2000, Bush actually beat Gore if you weight the popular vote by the electoral votes each state had, and proportionally award EVs by how much support they got in each state.  It's fair to say that this is a made-up system, but it is also a good representation of how the electoral college is supposed to work - in basic terms, Bush really did have slightly more electoral support than Gore did, judging by how the votes were recorded.

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.


  1. We haven't found Saddam!
  2. We haven't found Osama!
  3. Our soldiers are dying at so-many per day/week!
  4. 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?

Originally posted to tunesmith on Sat Jan 03, 2004 at 06:25 PM PST.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Re: 2004: Marketing Our Arguments (4.00)
    Rate this entry.

    (What's it take to get onto the front page, anyway?)

    Bush beat Gore in the EV-weighted popular vote. We need more support, not just a fairer election.

    by tunesmith on Sat Jan 03, 2004 at 06:26:52 PM PST

  •  Re: 2004: Marketing Our Arguments (none)
    Fiscal responsibility. Admittedly not the flashiest issue, but one we can easily frame and own. Democrats can balance the budget and stop increasing taxes on your kids and grandkids (not to mention your own property taxes, among other things), Republicans can't.
    •  Re: 2004: Marketing Our Arguments (none)
      Agreed.  I commented on this in an earlier thread yesterday(?). I was talking to a Republican colleague as to why he would probably vote for Bush.  He immediately said because of the economy; that is, he didn't trust the Dems to handle it.  I pointed out that it was Reagan who got the ball rolling with deficit spending, and Shrub who has rendered it an art.  He faltered, then said the Dems need to do a much better job of getting their fiscal story out because folks like him (educated, culturally sane) are ready to vote democratic if someone gives them a positive reason.
  •  Education (none)
    How about treating our teachers like human beings?  Paying them a decent salary, protecting them from frivolous lawsuits, giving them a little more academic freedom so that the religious right can't raise hell when a bio teacher teaches the truth...

    Something a little more politically savvy would be treating the TROOPS like human beings too: decent pay, benefits, NOT closing VAs...

    Conservatives are not necessarily stupid, but most stupid people are conservatives. -John Stuart Mill

    by Kaushansky on Sat Jan 03, 2004 at 06:41:26 PM PST

    •  Re: Education (none)
      Tie troop benefits to repealing the Bush tax "cuts" and you're insulated.

      Bush: "He'll raise your taxes"

      Me: "Why aren't you willing to support our troops?"

    •  Re: Education (4.00)
      Education is a good issue for Dems to take hold of.  It reaches fence-sitters on a couple of fronts:

      (1) the whole evil, punitive silliness of "No Child Left Behind" will start to hit the fan as more and more perfectly good schools get labeled as "failures" and serious sanctions start to kick in. Plenty of parent fence-sitters who get their info from Faux News will comfortably assert the cognitively dissonant belief "public schools are bad--b-a-a-a-ad," just not their local schools (with which they actually have some experience). When the local soccer mom and NASCAR dad hear about how their perfectly good local school has to hold back some federal $$ because the school is "failing," that's when the Dems should have a positive alternative to NCLB to offer. (Someday soon I'll write a diary about this one if anybody is interested.)

      (2) Higher education is the great hope for some fence-sitting families, but as state resources have dwindled thanks to the Bush tax cut, college looks hopelessly out of reach for many.

      Proposals for how to support public K-12 schools, and how to make college more attainable for folks, would be a great positive issue for the Dems IMO.  (And yes, I know about and generally like Dean's positions and proposals in these areas, tho they certainly don't belong to him alone as issues.)

      Of course, bear in mind that I'm an elementary school principal, so I might be a wee bit too close to the trees to see the forest on this one.... :)

      Thoughts?

      There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics. --Benjamin Disraeli, cited by Mark Twain

      by sheba on Sat Jan 03, 2004 at 06:59:07 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Re: Education (none)
        You're absolutely right on. I have a lot of relatives in Illinois and people's heads are spinning there, now that the state standards are being lowered so that hundreds of schools don't get labeled as failing. They, like the rest of us, want to know how lowering standards is going to help kids get smarter.

        Education's going to be a winner for us.

      •  Re: Education (none)
        I like this, although they could always pass a bill that they say would fix it.  I think it would also help if it were attached to what it is about Bush and his administration that actually thought it was a good act when they passed it.  That it was clearly absurd from the start - they can't be allowed to spin it as just something that "didn't take" or misbehaved in unexpected ways.

        We have to frame our arguments to build new support in 2004.

        by tunesmith on Sat Jan 03, 2004 at 07:07:28 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  Re: 2004: Marketing Our Arguments (none)
    I agree wholeheartedly with the thrust of your diary. General themes such as economic populism and universal healthcare should not be left behind. Hanging our hats on such things as the fact that bin Laden has not been captured is "putting our eggs all in one basket" and too risky. It is in essence "building a house of cards" that can easily be destroyed.
    •  Re: 2004: Marketing Our Arguments (none)
      The message needs to be framed in terms of how we want the country to look, what we want, not what we're against.  A society with both community and personal responsibility.  Firm public support for public schools and colleges, and the best teaching we can find.  Communities where people care enough to volunteer to improve things.  Fair markets and a fair tax system that fully funds the programs that Americans want. Curbs on the excesses and gross inequalities of capitalism while ensuring oppportunities for all. An environment we can be proud to leave for our children.  Safe and prosperous communities.  A foreign policy that works with other countries to ensure a safer world.

      I really liked Dean's speech on a new contract for American families, and think that is a good cornerstone for the campaign.  And don't overcomplicate things.

      Fear knocked on the door. Hope answered, and there was no one there. M.L. King, Jr.

      by Mimikatz on Sat Jan 03, 2004 at 07:44:11 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Re: 2004: Marketing Our Arguments (none)
    It's important to to think about one's convictions. A healthy democracy needs this.

    But we're not political commissars. The important thing is to reach people that are in general agreement with us and  mobilize. Mobilization can mean going to a meetup, giving money, working on turnout, but at the very least voting.

  •  Renewable Energy (none)
    Best way to approach this is to tie it to Middle East Crude.  By promoting profitable alternatives like hydrogen fuel cells for cars and fusion for power plants, we can totally break our dependence on Saudi crude.  When that happens, we won't need troops in the Middle East, and one of their main reasons for getting pissed off at us is gone.

    Conservatives are not necessarily stupid, but most stupid people are conservatives. -John Stuart Mill

    by Kaushansky on Sat Jan 03, 2004 at 07:24:09 PM PST

  •  Foreign Aid & Global AIDS Funding (none)
    Again, the perfect way to link these two little tidbits is to national security once more.  If developing nations can't get any funds, they'll collapse into poverty, harsh military rule, or both.  Both of these are wonderful breeding grounds for groups like al Qaeda.

    As for global AIDS funding, if we can't help out poor nations that can't afford generic AIDS drugs, they have to spend funds on overpriced pharmecutical drugs rather than on development and infrastructure.

    Conservatives are not necessarily stupid, but most stupid people are conservatives. -John Stuart Mill

    by Kaushansky on Sat Jan 03, 2004 at 07:27:51 PM PST

  •  Re: 2004: Marketing Our Arguments (none)
    A killer policy would be Tax Reform, making it simpler, easier and fairer. Get away from Tax Raises.

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