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David Plouffe's "Hear No Evil" Strategy

January 26, 2010

David Plouffe's Op Ed piece, "November doesn't need to be a nightmare for Democrats" (Washington Post, January 23), should give hope to every opposition candidate who's even considering running against a Democrat. In it, Plouffe convincingly demonstrates that his party isn't close to understanding what a majority of Americans really think about the current administration's policies and legislative initiatives. In fact, Plouffe unknowingly reveals that he doesn't even know who the Democrats' opposition is.

Plouffe rants on endlessly about "Republicans," as if the groundswell that catapulted Scott Brown into office had anything to do with the GOP. Of course, it didn't. Although he points out that Scott Brown didn't emphasize his political affiliation with the Republicans, Plouffe doesn't seem to understand that candidates in November won't need to do that either.

That's because Democrats are running against the American people, not against Republicans, and as Americans have demonstrated, they're perfectly capable of discerning which candidates are responding to their concerns, no matter what the party label might be. Only if they change their attitude toward those people - if they lose the haughty superiority that characterizes their political approach - will Democrats be able to get a grip on exactly why they lost Massachusetts so resoundingly.

Brown won by, among other things, emphasizing his position on national security. The "41st Senator" is in favor of using harsh interrogation techniques against captured terrorists and of not trying enemy combatants in American courts. It's one of the issues on which Brown's polling indicated that Democrats were weak with likely voters. And yet Plouffe cites his own polling data that says only two percent of Americans consider terrorism among the most important issues we have to deal with. Both Plouffe and Brown can't be right, and my sense is that Plouffe has misread public sentiment and is adding another canard to the Dems' wish list (as in "we sure as hell wish this was true; maybe if we keep repeating it, people will start to believe it").

But Plouffe's opponent-friendly agenda doesn't stop there. The first point he makes is that Democrats must "[p]ass a meaningful health insurance reform package without delay." Among the untruths he insists on perpetuating is that if a health care bill is passed, "dozens of protections and benefits [will] take effect this year." Actually, Mr. Plouffe, only some of the benefits of the bill would kick in right away: increased taxes on the middle and upper middle classes, reduced Medicare benefits, and allowing unions to avoid the so-called "Cadillac tax" on high-cost medical insurance plans. Most of us will have to wait three more years to find out if, for instance, we really can stick with our current insurance plans. For that matter, it will likely take that long for all the perks that were handed out behind closed doors in the wonderfully transparent process Democrats employed to craft the bill to be fully revealed.

Where economic policy is concerned, Plouffe continues to resist acknowledging that Democrats now "own" the economy, repeating the mantra that Republicans "made the mess," this despite the fact that the opposition has demonstrated, through Tea Party and Town Hall gatherings, that they're not buying it. Plouffe recommends that Democratic candidates point out the "teachers, police officers, and construction workers" who have benefited from stimulus spending. At the same time, he conveniently fails to mention that the jobs he's referring to are public sector jobs (the construction industry benefits he cites are the result of infrastructure work funded by the stimulus bill and so are effectively public sector jobs) and that unemployment in the private sector remains officially at ten percent, with real unemployment closer to 17 percent.

And while Plouffe pays lip service to giving tax cuts to small business owners, he fails to mention that the climate of economic uncertainty created by the Obama administration's fiscal policies, including its recent faux-populist attacks on banks, has caused most lending institutions to virtually withdraw capital for the creation of new businesses and to cut back on credit lines for the expansion of existing businesses.

Plouffe also insists that such things as "more incentives for green jobs" and Democrats' "addressing health care, energy and education reform" will somehow magically translate into job creation. Again, the Democrats' economic lacunae, not to say their willful ignorance about sound economic policy in general, are blinding them to realities that simply must be addressed if our economy, led as it must be by the private sector, is to make meaningful strides toward recovery.

Plouffe's article is a veritable blueprint for how not to run a successful campaign in the current political climate. The people have spoken, in Virginia, New Jersey, and Massachusetts. The Democratic Party is still covering up its ears.

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