Weiner’s rant and the Democratic base
Greg Sargent says the following about Weiner’s rant,
To be clear, I’m all for the kind of passion Weiner is showing here, but let’s direct it properly. Don’t get into a shouting match about procedure. As emotionally satisfying as it may be to watch, raging against the GOP opposition machine’s successful efforts to tie Dems in knots just makes Dems look whiny, weak and impotent.
And in a follow up, Sargent goes on to say,
All I’m saying is that raging against successful Republican efforts to block individual Dem initiatives isn’t enough. Raging about GOP obstructionism in general isn’t enough, either. The point is that Dems need to build an effective larger case that transcends individual issues and reckons more directly with the strategy underlying all the GOP obstructionism.
I think Greg is operating with too blunt a scalpel, here. I understand his point, but I think that ultimately he misses the point of Weiner’s rant, which, I’ll add, didn’t not strike me as even remotely, “weak”, “whiny”, or “impotent”.
By my lights, Harry Reid is engaged in exactly the kind of strategy that Greg is looking for. Calmly and carefully, Reid is bringing a variety of bills to the floor and either chalking up a Democratic win or building a substantial case for Republican obstructionism. It’s a subtle, long-play game and, as mentioned previously, I think Reid is rolling it out just about perfectly.
Some might offer that this reflects more on Senate Republicans than House Republicans, but I honestly don’t think that fine a distinction is going to matter a great deal to the average voter. The point here is to build a case about, as Greg notes, the underlying Republican strategy. What are the members responsible for in regards to their Party.
But, turning Greg’s argument on its head, that type of strategy isn’t enough. It is, as they say, necessary, but not sufficient. As Gallup has hastened to point out with each of their generic ballots that have shown Democrats in the lead, there remains a substantial enthusiasm gap between Republican and Democratic voters. In short, Democrats have a deflated base that needs to get riled up and find a reason to get out to those polls and vote.
Harry Reid’s cool and calm strategy isn’t going to work in this regard. And while fear of losing the House and the Senate might generate some momentum, voters need more positive reasons to be motivated at the polls and, perhaps more importantly, in campaign offices. This is where Weiner’s rant becomes useful.
Weiner picked an issue he feels strongly about and in which it is hard to find fault: providing medical care for those rescue workers affected by 9-11. It doesn’t get much more altruistic than that in America these days. And Weiner’s point is not so much to argue about procedure, which puts voters to sleep, but rather to reassert the case that Democrats are on the right side of history here. That Democrats are the good guys.
There has been so much conceding and strong rhetoric followed by tepid incrementalism that I think a lot of the Democratic base has started to question just to what extent they are the good guys. And progressives’ full court press, as much as I’ve participated in and agree with it, doesn’t help with that doubt.
What Weiner is as much as saying here is, “We’re the good guys! You’re the bad guys!” And that, frankly, is what rank and file Democrats need to hear leading up to the midterms.
Case in point: check out the reaction that the rant got from Balloon Juice commenters. I know that “respectable” Democrats don’t want to believe that their base contains a considerable number of people who are precisely like the BJ “hooligans”. But those respectable types would be, you know, wrong.