Sunday | January 19, 2003
Tucker Carlson Tries to Help
Like an addict who cannot quite go cold turkey (or a president who cannot stop placating a segregationist base), I step back in today with Kos’s permission to post up an essay by Tucker Carlson in today’s New York Times magazine “Memo to the Democrats: Quit Being Losers!” In it, Carlson makes points that many of you have made repeatedly going back to before the midterm debacle. Even though this comes from a guy from the other side who regularly gets the unblindfolded piñata treatment from Begala and Carville, the thrust of his argument I mostly agree with.
Some of Carlson’s points:
“In general, Democrats have spent relatively little time over the past two years telling voters why Bush's policies are bad for the country. They've attacked Bush the man quite a bit, but when was the last time you heard an elected Democrat explain precisely, with numbers, not slogans, how the Bush tax cuts have damaged the economy? Do you know anything about the Democratic economic stimulus plan? Is there one? And what exactly do the Democrats think about fighting terrorism and the coming war with Iraq? They need to figure it out quickly.”
“Democrats cringed when Bush used cowboy language to describe the fight against Al Qaeda. They'd be smart to come out with their own, bloodthirstier version: 'I won't rest until Osama bin Laden's head is resting -- on a stake.’ Try that as a slogan. Out-gunsling Bush. Kerry, my pick for the most promising of the Democratic candidates, has been moving in this direction. The fighting in Afghanistan was just cooling off when Kerry declared the operation in Tora Bora a disaster. Kerry turned out to be right, but what was interesting was his diagnosis: not enough force. The Pentagon, he said, should have used American soldiers, rather than local militia, to chase Al Qaeda into the mountains. The mission failed because the military was too timid, too afraid to risk American lives. When was the last time you heard a Democrat say that?”
“Democrats often complain that conservatives benefit from a privately financed parallel political establishment. They're right. And they should build their own.”
Of course Carlson’s prescription is entirely debatable, and one can question why a GOP pundit bemoans the lack of two effective political parties in the country. But it is entirely possible that Carlson and other GOP pundits are bored and troubled with covering one-party politics right now, ironic since he is part of the media machine that created it over the last decade:
“One-party government makes me nervous. It's too efficient. There isn't enough gridlock. Worst of all, the arguments tend to be boring. Like drunks and children, ineffectual political parties make for frustrating debate partners. Even if you're wrong, you still beat them. Every country deserves at least two functioning parties.”
As much as I agree with Carlson, the biggest weakness in his argument is the total lack of acknowledgement by him that the conservative media that signs his check makes getting an alternate message out damn near impossible. (When was the last time you heard about the alternate Democratic stimulus plan?)
But that is no excuse for not trying.