Tuesday, November 09, 2004

Thinking ahead 

I'm still a little bitter at the way Massachusetts -- a fine state where I spend much time -- was presented during this election cycle. The Mass-bashers apparently no longer think of the state as the site of the Boston Tea Party, or where the most patriotic of Americans lived and fought for freedom. It's now just the place where people have the anal sex. How quickly they forget.

John Kerry's lack of response to the Mass-bashing is part of a larger problem the Dems seem to have: they can't shoot down distortions fast enough. They're always playing defense, and acting surprised when the GOP dictates the agenda. By being so slow off the blocks, Kerry allowed out-and-out lies to get through the news cycle and out the other side, where they become known as "facts." To wit:

GOP MESSAGE #1: Massachusetts is Taxachusetts

PROBLEM WITH THAT: Massachusetts usually ranks around 36th in the country in studies of total tax burden. Texas is usually around 40th. So how did we let "Taxachusetts" become such a hot phrase? Why not put that little fact in a speech and hammer it home, the day it's brought up? I mean, don't get me wrong, "Taxachusetts" would have been great stuff for the GOP, and fair game -- if there had been any truth to it whatsoever.

GOP MESSAGE #2: The people of Massachusetts have no family values

PROBLEM WITH THAT: The state has the lowest divorce rate in the nation. The five highest rates? Alabama, Arkansas, Idaho, Nevada, and Florida. Given that marriage is a typical leading indicator of family values, this should have been presented to strip much of the Mass-bashers' ammunition. But Kerry didn't want to touch the gay marriage issue, and he probably avoided anything that could draw him into it at all.

I'm not really sure what the answer is. Start calling lethal injections "TEXecutions"? Have our candidates call people "Red State right-wingers" and include Tom DeLay in every stump speech, as Bush did with Ted Kennedy? No, probably not.

The real answer, I think, is to do what James Carville is suggesting: have our campaigns be about something. He makes the point that Kerry's campaign needed a narrative -- and instead was just a bunch of positions that didn't seem to connect to a central theme.

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