"Our Karl Rove is the blog you should be glad that Democratic strategists don't seem to listen to"
-- what they're saying on Republican blogs

Friday, September 30, 2005

Democrats: Delay the DeLay Tactics


I've already heard and read about the carefully-crafted catch phase "Culture of Corruption." It's lovely, but there are three problems with it:

1. It's too early to throw down the gauntlet.

There's a lot of nasty stuff circling the Republican party right now, between Abramoff, DeLay, Frist, and even Rove himself. It's really tempting to start characterizing the entire party as corrupt. But please hold back. Hold back until the Spring of 2006. And slowly turn up the volume through the summer, and then lead to a crescendo in the fall, just in time for the elections.

2. It's too broad of a charge. It opens you up for attack as typical Washington Partisans.

For every DeLay, there is a McCain. Don't fall into the trap of overplaying your rhetoric (again). Tweak the "Culture of Corruption" tag-line to "Ring of Corruption." Sure, it doesn't have the alliteration that you might fancy, but a "ring" is much more defined and, frankly, harsher than the broad term "culture."

3. Do not get politically involved in the details of these investigations.

At this point in time, the bulk of these "corruptions" you're talking about are still in the allegations phase. And, unless you forgot your American Values, you'll clearly recall the idea of "innocent until proven guilty." If even one of these cases ends up clean, it effortlessly removes all the teeth from your "Culture of Corruption" attack.

Some hints on how to communicate effectively on this matter, without getting yourselves burned:

"Republicans like DeLay, Frist, Rove, and others are going to do what they're going to do with their time. Let their actions speak for themselves. Democrats, on the other hand, not being under various investigations of wrong-doing, are going to use the extra time we have to solving this country's real problems: the deficit, rebuilding our Gulf Coast, and finding a solution to the Iraq problem."

"It does look as though there is a ring of corruption within the Republican party right now, but the good news is that Democrats are free from these legal distractions, allowing us to work full-time to represent the American people."

"These various alleged scandals in the Republican majority, unfortunately, just add to the crisis of confidence the American people have with their government. America does better when American citizens trust their government. With Republicans having majorities throughout government, I think it's clear that we need to establish some balance between the parties if we're going to make America strong again."

"Corruption scandals, indictments, and malfeasance like this are the inevitable result of an imbalance of political power. The American people need to vote in 2006 to re-establish a healthy balance of power to ensure that Washington has checks and balances."

Think about it: There is no way Democrats can win the White House and Congress in 2006, so use this opportunity to appear to be the noble party, and develop the message of "balance of powers" for 2006. Tie these corruption allegations to an unhealthy imbalance, and encourage Americans to vote for balance in Washington to avoid even more scandals.

Start now. Get comfortable with the message. Tune the message in targeted markets, and then unleash the ready-for-prime-time message in full force in Spring 2006.


Anonymous said...


The Democrats in Washington seem determined to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. Presenting an image of shameless opportunists with the same old partisan politics-as-usual is not the way to make average Americans perceive you as providing a real alternative.

Anonymous said...

An interesting exchange on Hardball on the evening of Sept 30, proving out the concerns conveyed in this very post:

If this is not a culture of potential corruption, given the dry bones that Newt Gingrich tried to argue 11 years ago against Democrats, now the shoe is on the other foot. And when—as Bush nominates somebody, he‘s 20 points less respected and less favorable than Bill Clinton and Ronald Reagan, at the same time.

MATTHEWS: Can you name a conviction, Mark?

GREEN: Hold on—hold on.

MATTHEWS: Can you name a conviction?

GREEN: One second. What I said was six people—three have been indicted. By the way, Chris, if you and I have been indicted, it doesn‘t mean we‘re guilty. But I wouldn‘t trade places with them.

MATTHEWS: No, no, no—I just want to know, when you‘re calling an administration “has a culture of corruption” I think you need one case of proven guilt, don‘t you? At least one case of proven guilt.


A. F. Litt said...

This post, I fear, will prove to be the blueprint of how the Democrats screw this one up. It is painful to watch how they consistently take a good message and then mangle it until the message itself becomes a Republican talking point (Example: The infamous "waffle" - Kerry's voting against Iraq funding because it was not "paid for" being turned against him- the public was not yet ready for that stand and the message itself was not clearly defined).

Sometimes, it is like giving the keys to a hot rod to a drunk 15-year old and wondering what went wrong.

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Anonymous said...

You are correct in your assessment of the use of "culture" in this context. However, lest the American people forget, those indicted are not just the rank and file. These are the Leaders of their respective institutions and with the hardball methods these leaders utilize to keep members in line, their philosophy has no alternative except to "trickle down".

"Rubberstampism" truly defines this congress.