E. J. Dionne today, in Kerried Away,
That raises the larger question. The Republicans and their allies spent millions taking Kerry apart. They would have done the same to John Edwards, Wesley Clark or Dean. Would those three have handled the attacks better? Who knows? Would they have looked a lot worse for the wear? You bet.
[…] Were John Kerry to quit politics and spend the rest of his life windsurfing off Nantucket, Democrats would still have to figure out how to deal with national security, social issues and economic stress. That’s hard work. Making fun of Kerry is easy, fashionable and, ultimately, useless.
Same for criticizing Dean.
Where do we go from here? Over the last few years I have written about the Republican Party’s “infrastructure.” This is the network of organizations that comes up with The Party’s ideas, develops and spreads the message, recruits and trains the troops and candidates, and everything else needed to make The Party dominant in American politics. The actual Republican Party organization itself is a small part of – and not in control of – this operation.
So now people are “getting it” and starting to talk about developing “Progressive Infrastructure.” At the recent Take Back America conference lots of people were talking about this, but it seemed to me that the focus was largely on development of political infrastructure – the tactical field operations for getting out the vote. This is, of course, necessary. But that effort is one of trying to get to the polls a larger and larger share of a shrinking base.
I think another part of the Republican machine needs to be understood and countered. This is the “idea development” part of the infrastructure. I’m talking about longer-term intellectual policy and strategy development. These are the ideological advocacy organizations that persuade people to become conservatives. IN ADDITION to a comprehensive tactical infrastructure we need to build several think tanks focused entirely on articulating the Progressive vision, and on explaining to Americans why Progressive values and ideas are better for them than conservative values and ideas. Over time this will result in more Progressive voters, and greater support for Progressive programs and candidates. I haven’t heard this talked about much, and I’m not sure that enough people really understand that the success of the Republican machine comes out of these organizations, not the other way around.
David Sirota recently wrote,
The right understands that creating and fostering a conservative conviction/ideology naturally leads to political support for the Republican Party – and that political support is far stronger and more fervent than a blind ideologically-deprived loyalty to a partisan label. That investment in “conviction infrastructure” (aka. ideological/issue organizations) as opposed to investment exclusively in a partisan infrastructure (aka. the RNC, the Young Republicans, etc.) is one of the reasons why Republican politicians always seem to know where they stand – even on bills/issues they don’t know much about. It is because they have an ideology (however disgusting) that reflexively guides them. It’s unfortunately also why Democrats – who have too often invested in partisan and not conviction infrastructure – regularly fracture off into disunity.
It costs money. It should be an underlying Progressive value to take care of each other — to donate at least $100 per year to Progressive organizations — this is in addition to donations to candidates.