Tuesday, February 14, 2006

No more A students, Part One

From Susie Madrak, I learned the disappointing news.

Paul Hackett's dropping out of the Ohio Senate race. At least, he won't be challenging Sherrod Brown for the Democratic nomination. In his statement announcing he's pulling out he sounds mad enough at the Democratic Party to run as an Independent.

Actually, in his statement he sounds a little bit like a kid taking his ball and going home. Party leaders have been urging him to drop out of the Senate race and try again for a seat in the House. But Hackett won't run for the House, he says. He's mad. According to him, party leaders have been calling his donors and asking them to stop giving. If they're going to treat him that way, Hackett feels, well, they can just find another patsy.

“For me, this is a second betrayal,” Mr. Hackett said. “First, my government misused and mismanaged the military in Iraq, and now my own party is afraid to support candidates like me.”

I understand how he'd feel betrayed. And I understand why a guy like Hackett might have a hard time understanding why the Democrats don't want him. But he seems to have forgotten that he was not the Party's first choice. Chuck Schumer came to him after Brown had turned him down. It's natural for anybody to change their minds about their second choice if it turns out they can have their first choice all of a sudden, and when the stakes are this high, feelings have to be hurt and egos bruised. Hackett is an attractive candidate, but the Ohio Senate seat isn't going to be an easy pick-up---especially now that the Ohio legislature has passed a law pretty much legalizing stealing elections for the Republicans---and Hackett has no guaranteed constituency to come out to vote for him in numbers big enough to counteract Republican thefts.

What's more, United States Senator is not an entry level position. It would have been a very rare thing indeed, to elect a Senator whose only political achievement to date was losing a Congressional election by fewer votes than a member of his party should have.

Yeah, it's cynical and pragmatic of Chuck Schumer to be thinking this way, but that's politics, and although he's hurt Hackett should be trying to take the long view. Ohio has two Republican Senators. Brown could lose. If Hackett won a seat in the House this time, he'd be in a better, stronger position to run the next time, whenever that next time comes, and whatever opportunity it presents---George Voinovich's seat in 2010, DeWine's in 2012...the governorship. A Democratic Governor of Ohio stands a better chance of being nominated for President than a Senator.

Keep your mouth shut, take one for the team, and wait your turn, that should have been the advice he gave himself. Instead he goes and equates what Schumer did to his ego to what Bush did to the country and Iraq.

Not tactful.

The Democratic faithful are infuriated every time Democratic politicians and the Party's supposed leaders and advisors criticize other Democrats for the entertainment of the Media and the amusement of the Republicans. Here's Hackett doing the same thing, except that he's doing it in forthright language full of real feeling.

Hackett is a fighter. That's great! He's also a loose cannon. Fans of his like me admire that about him. We like it that he'll walk away from his entourage to stand chin to chin with a loudmouth bully and back the bully down. We'd love to see him doing the same to Republicans and their toadies in the Media. Would we have wanted to see him beaten up by a deranged heckler or knifed to death for the pleasure of the cameras? There's a downside to his fighting spirit, especially if what he's fighting for is his vanity not his constituents or his ideals.

Loose cannons are fun, but you never know which way they're going to roll, and they have a bad habit of rolling over people on their own side. We'd like to see more independent, stand-up men and women in the Senate. But then there are already a couple of mavericks among the Demcratic Senators---Joe Lieberman, Joe Biden---and you can understand why Chuck Schumer and Harry Reid would rather not to have to worry about another one of those.

Still, I would have preferred having Hackett as the candidate to Brown.

Hackett has everything the Democrats need.

He speaks plainly. He's a born Media star.

He's demonstrated an ability to win votes in Red districts.

And he's a veteran of the war in Iraq.

Don't need to get into again just how badly Democrats keep coming across on television. Their inability to speak plainly is one of the reasons they fail to come across. They have a habit of talking policy instead of people. They fudge. They try too hard not to lie, which is only a virtue if you manage to tell the truth in the process not just avoid the lie. It's not that their answers are "nuanced." It's that they are as calculated as an answer to a test question---designed to show off their knowledge, flatter the teacher, and cover as many bases as possible, just in case.

It's not that they can't bring themselves to call a spade a spade. It's that because they know that there are all sorts of implements for digging and not all of them are spades or even shovels, they find it necessary to go through all the categories and sub-categories of holes that might be dug and what the proper entrenching tool is necessary for each kind of job.

As for winning votes in Red districts, that's always a dicey question. Lots of people think the only way for a Democrat to do that is to be as little like a Democrat as possible. Some of these people think, well, then fine, let's run as Republican Lites. And some of them think, The hell with that, let those Red districts and Red states go fry an egg.

Paul Hackett went out into his Red district as a fighting critic of George Bush and the War. He showed that it was possible to win votes there and other places like it by running as a Democrat.

I don't know Ohio politics at all, and I haven't followed Sherrod Brown's career, but on the face of things it looks to me that the strategy for Brown will be to win big in Cleveland and other Blue urban areas and hope that turnout's low in Cincinnatti and the farming towns.

Part of Hackett's appeal to Red voters is that he's a Marine and looks and acts the part. Being a vet won't protect him against Republican smears, but it helps. And Democratic candidates are going to need a lot of help that way this fall, because the Republicans are going to run on two ideas, ideas that are in a way connected: The Democrats are weak on National Security and they want to give away the country to the gays.

Democrats have to acknowledge the fact that the gender gap is their problem. There is a preception that the Democrats are the party of the girls. And part of that perception is their being seen as the party that wants to sit down and talk about "feelings" instead of standing up to fight back.

Another part of that is being the party seen as always caving in to its "special interests." That's really code for black people, but it's an adaptable code and also means women, gays, teachers, trial lawyers, and corrupt union bosses.

The perception that Democrats are weak on National Security blends with the perception that they are weak overall because they are a party of the weak and the dependent.

Of course this makes me want to holler, but hollering won't change it.

But running a guy like Hackett is a good start. Hackett just by being himself is a walking argument that real men are Democrats. Real men care about women's rights and Civil Rights, real men care about the rights of gay people, real men care about our children's schools, real men care about working people, real men care about all of them and all of that, because real men care about everybody's rights, everybody's safety and security, everybody's prosperity, and everybody's health and well-being.

I'm not saying that the Democrats should never run women or that they should run only clones of Paul Hackett. All I'm saying is that Paul Hackett is a gift.

Hackett's pissed off but I hope he gets over it quickly and makes a point of apologizing and working hard for Brown.

And I hope Chuck Schumer's out there trying to smooth his feathers.

Hackett may think he doesn't need the Party.

But the Party needs him.

If not this time out, next time.


At 11:01 AM, Blogger bad blue girl said...

Just me -- over here on a mission.

You are an international man of mystery and intrigue!

What kind of foreign office-type things go on over here? Spy stuff?

Oooops. Gotta go. I hear footsteps.

(Ignore the name -- it's a long story.)


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