- PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH and his Republican allies, following a course of avid partisanship and truth-be-damned rhetoric, have changed the rules of American politics. Would-be Democratic presidential candidates in 2004 therefore face a dilemma. They can play by the new rules and increase their chance of winning, but at the risk of weakening the country. Or they can opt for responsible, moderate proposals that would strengthen American society-and almost certainly consign themselves to immediate electoral defeat.
... and then goes on to argue the case for defeat. It's good for the soul, it seems:
- Even if Democrats could become more aggressive and commit themselves to the no-holds-barred rules favored by their opponents, should they? My answer is no. There is more at stake in the election of 2004 than who wins. The slash-and-burn approach to both domestic and international politics taken by the Republicans has been very effective, but only in the short-term. Eventually, the United States will pay in lost international prestige for its unprovoked war in Iraq; indeed, it may have done so already. And at some point in the future, Americans will pay in high interest rates and economic stagnation the costs of the tax cuts passed now. Were they to follow Bush and his allies' strategy of dividing the country, lying about their objectives, and treating loyal opponents as enemies, Democrats would add to the poison that is damaging the trust that makes democratic politics possible.
You've got to wonder why Wolfe thinks it's somehow a contradiction in terms to go into bare-knuckle fights in favor of responsible policies; FDR certainly had no trouble doing that. And let's not forget that even Gore, who has been legitimately criticized for a lackluster campaign, unambiguously won the popular vote. But given Wolfe's questionable notion that certain defeat (his words) would follow from acting responsibly, there's a bigger question:
Isn't there already another party for people who care less about what their votes do for the country than for what they show about the ineffable purity of their souls?
Update: Chris Bertram links to the same piece. He seems not to have noted that Wolfe is urging the Dems toward policies which will, he expects, "certainly consign them to ... defeat".