Sunday, July 25, 2004

Wedge issues

Rick Perlstein has an excellent article on today's LA Times (Leave It to Cleaver: Wedge politics have given the GOP an edge, so the Democrats may want to slice and dice for their own side) in which he first describes how Republicans exploit wedge issues and then urges Democrats to learn how to do the same.

Perlstein describes a typical Republican attack as follows.
"Political observers recently got to watch Republican wedge politics go down, in textbook fashion.

At a fundraiser in New York for Sen. John Kerry, Whoopi Goldberg said something naughty about President Bush. Ken Mehlman of the Bush campaign called the formerly obscure event a 'star-studded hate fest' and demanded the Kerry campaign release it on video — implying even naughtier tidbits to come. Fox News, then the rest of the media, granted Goldberg's attack legitimacy as an 'issue.' The mighty GOP ax had fallen again, predictably, right at the point where two key constituencies of the Democratic coalition are joined.

One segment of the party is both reliably rich and reliably liberal — 'Hollywood.' Another — they used to call them 'hard hats' — is culturally conservative but seeks a dependable protector of its economic interests."
This is an excellent column, and I recommend that you read it in full.

I would only add that the Democrats should also learn another Republican trick. Instead of responding defensively to a wedge issue attack, respond in kind. If a Republican insists that Kerry disassociate himself from Whoopi Goldberg's remarks, Kerry might respond as follows.
"Do you have a problem with Whoopi Goldberg expressing her opinion? Are you suggesting that Whoopi Godlberg be censored? Don't you believe in freedom of speech? How dare you suggest that I or anyone else should tell Whoopi Goldberg what to say. If you don't like what Whoopi Goldberg has to say, take it up with her. In the Democratic party, people are free to express themselves without having to clear everything they say with command central. That's the kind of America I believe in. What kind of American do you believe in?"