I don't ever listen to talk radio, but I sometimes hear about it second hand.
The other day, while enjoying a beer on the Memorial Union Terrace, a friend ruined my evening when he reported to me that right-winger Vicki McKenna was agreeing with one of my posts last week. I'm not sure which one it was, but I did spend a good deal of pixels knocking around my own people on the left, so I can imagine why McKenna might have liked it.
When Vicki McKenna starts agreeing with me it's time for me to stop, take a deep breath and reevaluate my entire life. I should probably just lay off the politics for awhile and write about more interesting things like sheepshead and splitting firewood -- topics you can look forward to reading about this week!
But before I take a brief and well-earned hiatus from politics, let me try to correct the record. My analysis of why the Democrats took such a drubbing in the recall elections elicited some spirited responses from folks who, unlike Vicki McKenna, did not agree with me so much. In fact, they did not agree with me a lot.
The most thoughtful of those came from my daily editor, Kristian Knutsen. Kristian is the guy at Isthmus who reviews my copy before posting. He does a little light cleaning of my work, sometimes adjusts my headline, finds interesting links and an eye-catching graphic, but rarely does he comment on the substance of my writing.
The other day he did, accusing me, among other things, of practicing a false equivalency when it comes to which party deserves the blame for the current political dysfunction. Kristian claims, correctly, that the Republicans are the ones who have taken a hard, uncompromising line on virtually everything and it's Obama's outstretched hand that they've slapped back on numerous occasions.
Now, I believe if I were to go back and read all my posts on this subject, Kristian would be technically wrong about what I wrote. I don't think I've literally ever said that the Dems are as bad as the GOP on practicing the art of compromise. But I don't know for sure, because going back and reading all my posts is what I will be sentenced to do for eternity (probably while flying on United Airlines) should I go to blogger hell.
But it doesn't much matter. Whether or not I've actually practiced false equivalency, I've implied it, and I didn't mean to.
My point isn't that Democrats and Republicans have been equally culpable in the inflexibility and nasty tenor of the current debate. Republicans deserve much more of the blame.
My point is that the vast majority of the public just doesn't care who's to blame. They just want it to stop. My point is that my party could benefit from a new politics of calm reason and pared down rhetoric. I'm not talking about retreat on the issues; in fact, just the opposite.
Take the economy for example. Republicans have a clear, concise, strong (and I would say wrong) message on that topic: less regulation and lower taxes will make things better.
The Democratic message is something like: we agree that less regulation and lower taxes are good, but we think that some regulation is also good and that some taxes, especially on the rich, should be higher. Yikes. If that's our elevator message, we better hope we get to talk to people in very, very tall buildings.
Ironically, I think we have a better shot at gaining back swing voters if we just level with them, if we tell them what we really think, without sounding like we're doing contortions to try to fit our square policy ideas into the round hole of their ideology.
I think one of the reasons Republicans win is because they sound like they really believe what they're saying, and voters will give pols credit for sincerity even if they might not agree with their policies.
Pandering gets us nowhere. Muddled pandering gets us nowhere faster.
And tomorrow, let's talk about firewood.