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What Do Dems Do Now?
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Salon has a "What Do We Do Now?" column up, with comments by a variety of people.

There's some denial and conspiracy theory stuff, but not much. In fact, there's a reasonably fair amount of introspection and constructive advice.

Arianna Huffington, who I really don't like, makes some good points. She points out that the Dems were especially unified and well-funded this year, and that voter turnout was extremely high, which should have led to a Democratic win. So what now?

Already there are those in the party convinced that, in the interest of expediency, Democrats need to put forth more "centrist" candidate -- i.e., Republican-lite candidates -- who can make inroads in the all-red middle of the country.

I'm sorry to pour salt on raw wounds, but isn't that what Tom Daschle did? He even ran ads showing himself hugging the president! But South Dakotans refused to embrace this lily-livered tactic. Because, ultimately, copycat candidates fail in the way "me-too" brands do.

Unless the Democratic Party wants to become a permanent minority party, there is no alternative but to return to the idealism, boldness and generosity of spirit that marked the presidencies of FDR and JFK and the short-lived presidential campaign of Bobby Kennedy.

This sounds right to me. I've commented here about the lack of boldness and idealism in the Democratic party. The invocation of Robert Kennedy is especially interesting.

I've remarked here before that I was disheartened to see Kerry essentially ignore his Senate record in favor of associating himself with Vietnam. The strategy, I think, was to show that Kerry was tough by painting him as a war hero. The problem is, Vietnam was a debacle, a painful chapter in our history that most people would rather not revisit incessantly. Associating yourself with a lost cause, even if you performed valiantly in it, is dangerous political imagery.

That's not to say Kerry should have ignored his Vietnam record altogether, but he shouldn't have made it a centerpiece of his campaign image.

So what would his image be then?

Well, I saw a two-hour special on C-SPAN a couple of weeks ago devoted entirely to Kerry's Senate record. It's true that he authored very little legislation over his 20 years in the Senate. But he was involved in a number of high-profile probes, including the Iran-Contra affair. He also fought organized crime in his home state as a prosecuter, and I think it would have been smarter to frame Kerry in the light of Robert Kennedy, a fierce, relentless crime fighter. It wouldn't have hurt to combine that with some of the idealism of JFK. Kerry talked about hope, but he was rarely inspiring, and mostly I think he played it safe.

And instead of casting himself in the light of a tough public advocate, or an iconoclastic idealist, he reached all the way back to Vietnam, and hung much of his public image on that era.

Bad idea. At least, I was depressed at how much air time Vietname got in this election. It ended up being a much more backward-looking campaign, especially from the Democratic side.

I think Huffington is right, and that if the Dems want to win more seats in Congress and aim for the Presidency in '08, they might actually be able to do it by looking forward, instead of looking back.

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