Outgoing Ohio governor Ted Strickland has some harsh words for Democrats, and they're pretty well-placed, too. In his words, Democrats suffer from "intellectual elitism". In an interview with the Huffington Post on Tuesday, Strickland warned Democrats that they're suffering from Polysyllabic Wonk Syndrome:
Democrats suffer from an "intellectual elitism" that prevents them from adopting the type of populist tone to relate to voters, he said. And while President Obama had made a series of monumental legislative advancements -- any one of which would have been "historic" in its own right -- he fails to recognize that he is being "slapped in the face" by his Republican critics.
"I think there is a hesitancy to talk using populist language," the Ohio Democrat said in a sit-down interview with The Huffington Post. "I think it has to do with a sort of intellectual elitism that considers that kind of talk is somehow lacking in sophistication. I'm not sure where it comes from. But I think it's there. There's an unwillingness to draw a line in the sand."
Nowhere is this more evident than this weeks' Great Tax Rate Debate. This is a no-brainer to almost everyone paying attention. It's really so much easier than Obama and some Democrats are making it seem. Here it is in simple terms: No billionaire tax breaks. They all expire this year. That's all. Simple, right?
Not so much. There is a fear on the part of some Democrats that a real compromise is in the works between the White House and Republicans that would extend the upper tier of tax cuts for a couple of years while making middle class tax cuts permanent while throwing a fresh round of stimulus spending into the mix. Part of the reason for their fear stems from the possibility that the GOP will successfully pin the blame for higher taxes on Democrats, along with the crummy economy. That messaging thing, again. The meme machine on the GOP side is louder and smarter than Democrats'.
Still, wouldn't the facts bear the truth out? Wouldn't it be fairly easy to simply say that the GOP held the middle class tax cuts hostage for the billionaires' cut? Not really, partly because a freshly-minted GOP House could come back in January and pass retroactive tax cuts, which would not only throw everyone's tax planning into chaos, it would also push this very same argument into 2011, with a Republican House and a more Republican Senate. It's entirely possible that enough BlueDogs could join with Republicans to send a package to Obama's desk that's worse than any compromise they could craft in this session.
I still think they won't get 60 votes for anything, and the whole package will expire on December 31st. What worries me is that instead of cranking up the victory message machine, we'll once again have a message hijack by the GOP about how our President and the Democrats let the middle class suck canal water tax-wise and tanked the economy further by not compromising when they had control of both houses of Congress. What worries me more is that those of us who actually get how this stuff works won't be able to get a message out that makes any sense because of Democrats' need to be wonky and noble about things.
Really, it's as simple as what Susie said in her earlier post. Just keep reminding everybody that the Republicans wanted to give $700 billion in tax cuts to billionaires while the unemployed middle class takes the hit for it. Keep reminding everyone that these irrational, greedy bastards in the Republican party serve two masters: greed and ambition.
But even more than that, why aren't Democrats hitting harder on the patriotic duty of every American to support their country by paying taxes? This is where they really lose me completely. I paid taxes every year that Bush was in office, grumbling all the way about how I resented financing wars and greed. If Democrats could quit apologizing for taxes and start a very simple campaign about the patriotic good that taxes do, they could shift attitudes enough to start calling the greedy bastards at the top unpatriotic freeloaders.
One way or the other, Strickland is right when he says this:
"I mean, I understand a reluctance to reach the conclusion that I think a reasonable person can reach: that [Senate Minority Leader Mitch] McConnell was speaking the truth when he said his goal was not to govern, not to develop public policy, but his goal is to defeat this president in 2012. And I think when the base understands that that's what's at stake, the base is going to be much more willing to engage and to join the fight. The base is going to be less willing to join the fight if they don't see the clear differences. The differences are there, for God's sake."
"People are willing to stand with you if they see you fighting for them."
Yes, the differences ARE there, but if we can't win this argument -- one we shouldn't even be having -- I hold very little hope that 2012 will be much different from 2010.
Meanwhile, Bushies do the happy dance over maneuvering the administration and Democrats into this position in the first place. I hope they sprain their butt muscles when they fall.