Tuesday, October 24, 2006

To Be Nice, or Not to Be Nice?

That is the question. Mark Thoma draws our attention to the very different answers that Paul Krugman and Robert Reich provide this week. From Krugman:
As long as polarization is integral to the G.O.P.’s strategy, Democrats can’t do much, if anything, to narrow the partisan divide. Even if they try to act in a bipartisan fashion, their opponents will find a way to divide the nation — which is what happened to the great surge of national unity after 9/11. One thing we might learn from investigations is the extent to which the Iraq war itself was motivated by the desire to have another wedge issue.

...The truth is that we won’t get a return to bipartisanship until or unless the G.O.P. decides that polarization doesn’t work as a political strategy.
And from Reich:
Anyone who say Dems can [both focus on exposing the malfeasance of the Bush Administration... and focus on how to turn the country around] is living on another planet. A fundamental strategic choice lies ahead: Either expose Bush or build the new agenda. Either will require a huge effort to marshal facts and focus public attention. Either will necessitate extensive public hearings and a concerted media strategy. Either will be competing with a cacophony of campaign personalities, more bad news from Iraq, and a likely slowing of the economy.

If both are tried simultaneously, the media will focus on the more sensational – which will be dirt on the Bushies. Kiss the new agenda goodbye.
Myself, I tend to think that there's virtually no chance of Democratic policy initiatives actually being made law while Bush is president. Therefore, the goal of the goal of the Democratic Congress must be to help build toward a stronger Democratic mandate in future years, when Democrats may actually be able to make policy.

So then it becomes a question of tactics. Which tactic will help elect more Democrats in the future: exposing the terrible side-effects of the viciously partisan GOP leadership of the past several years, or defining and promoting Democratic ideals, principles, and agendas? I'm not convinced that the two are mutually exclusive, in which case the answer is clear...

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