For Democrats, Is It 1994 or 2004?

Seems all you keep hearing about these days, mainly from Republicans, is how things are shaping up just like they did in 1994, when the Democrats lost both the House and Senate. But, the more I think about it, the year that comes to mind most is not 1994, but 2004. If you remember, the war in Iraq was starting to go bad, the economy, while not nearly as bad as this one, wasn’t exactly booming, and Bush’s popularity, along with quite a few Republican Congressmen and Senators, was taking a hit. It’s sometimes difficult to remember but John Kerry held a slim lead over President Bush entering into the stretch drive. That was when Bush and the Republicans employed a time-honored tradition in politics: when in doubt, demonize the other guy. The swiftboat ads started popping up all over the place, Kerry was slow to respond, and a slim lead vanished like the proverbial Titanic.

Now, to be sure, things aren’t quite the same as they were six years ago. The economy is in much worse shape, voters are frustrated, and the opposition has been aided and abetted by its own 24/7 cable “news” channel and much of the A.M. dial. And yet, even with all that is against them, the answer for Democrats lies not in a distant election, as their opponents would have them believe, but in a much more recent one.

It is too late to make the case for incumbents. Virtually every poll indicates a deep mistrust and, in some cases, anger, toward the powers that be, whether they be Democrat or (as Mike Castle learned the hard way) Republican. The trouble for Democrats is that there are more of them than there are Republicans. So with little time to rewrite a positive narrative, there is only one thing left that can keep the ship from sinking. Democrats are going to have to take a page out of the Republican playbook and go swift boating this fall.

It isn’t going to be pretty, and I confess I am somewhat skeptical, not only of the outcome, but of the moral implications of employing such tactics, but Democrats have run out of options. Republicans have rewritten a narrative that, no matter how farcical it might be, has struck a chord with the American people. For the Democrats to stand there and continue to deny each and every one of the bogus charges that have been thrown at them is political suicide. The time for writing their own narrative is over. You don’t get to play the last five minutes of a football game down by three touchdowns and hope to win by sticking to your original game plan. If you haven’t figured out by now that you’re getting your brains kicked in then you deserve to lose the game any way.

President Obama tried yet again in a CNBC town hall meeting to make his case that each and every one of his initiatives and policies have mitigated the effects of the recession; with respect to healthcare, will reduce costs to the average citizen; and over time, by eliminating the Bush tax cuts, will reduce the deficit. It is too little, too late. The time for doing that was last year when it could’ve made a difference.

It matters not that virtually every leading economist has concluded that the stimulus saved millions of jobs that the private sector was ill prepared to accommodate; or that the healthcare law will provide affordable healthcare for millions who otherwise would be denied access and, at the same time, eliminate pre-existing clauses that insurance companies use to deny patients' otherwise expensive treatments; or that Cap and Trade will eventually put the U.S. on the road towards being a greener, less oil-dependent nation, or that restoring the tax rate to where it was during the Clinton years will actually reduce the deficit without adversely affecting the economy. None of that matters now. The damage has been done. Ostensibly what Obama and the Democrats did was allow a cancer to metastasize within the body politic. It has now become inoperable.

There is only one treatment left for them to try. When you can’t use a scalpel, try radiation. The nuclear option, while detestable, is the only one left on the table that has a shot at saving the patient from certain death, and if Democrats can get over their hyper-sensitivity to gutter politics – something their opponents never seem all that concerned about – they just might pull this one out.

Think about it. If this were any other year – if we weren’t in the midst of the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression – would the likes of a Sharon Angle, Marco Rubio or Christine O’Donnell even be in a position to contend for, much less win, a seat in Congress? You needn’t reply; we all know the answer. Grassroots politics and Astroturf rallies notwithstanding, the simple truth is that it took the seed of discontent to fertilize this crop, and now it stands just shy of six weeks from delivering a harvest that will reek untold carnage upon the heartland. Only a policy of slash and burn can prevent the inevitable.

Drastic times call for drastic measures. It worked for Bush in ’04 and, yes, it can work for Obama and the Democrats in 2010. And it’ll be a lot easier this time around. Back in ’04, the GOP had to come up with fraudulent claims to stain Kerry’s reputation. All the Democrats need do is keep the video tape rolling on these clowns. Their own words will do for Obama what all the teleprompters and feel-good rallies haven’t been able to do for him. And that, hopefully, will be to show the country just how completely out of step these candidates are with the majority of Americans. Just think of it, a swiftboat campaign that doesn’t have to lie, or even distort the truth a little.

Time is running out; it’s now or never. It’s time for Democrats to try something bold and unique. The fall needn’t be the disaster it is shaping up to be, if they have the courage to do what is necessary. I’ll even provide the first campaign slogan:

“You think you’re pissed now…?!”


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