MAKE "R" STAND FOR "RIGHT OFF A CLIFF," NOT "REVERSE"
If Democrats still believed 24 hours ago that their strongest message for November is that a Republican victory will put America exactly where it was in the Bush years, the primary results from yesterday, particularly the wins by Carl Paladino and Christine O'Donnell, should disabuse them of this notion. I've said this before, but now it's painfully clear: you don't want to say (as President Obama put it) that "When you go backward, what do you do? You put it in 'R.'" The party of Paladino and O'Donnell wouldn't take us in Reverse. The party would take us Right off a cliff. That's what you want to say.
The message that we're going back to something that we lived through, and that, in ever-fuzzier retrospect, probably doesn't seem so bad to a lot of people, interferes with the message that these people are lunatics and radicals and loose cannons. The latter message has to be spread to every part of this country where there's a competitive race, even if the local opponent is a "reasonable" Republican. Giving any of these people a crack at governing has to be made to seem incredibly dangerous (because, well, it is).
It's good that base voters are snickering at Christine O'Donnell's sexual views and pronouncements -- that material needs to be spread far and wide. It's good that some in the base are gasping at Carl Paladino's racist and pornographic e-mail forwards and plans for reeducation prisons for welfare recipients. Spread all that to the base, too. Smirky laughter is welcome.
But at this point, I'd like to see some attempt to get through to the middle. I'm imagining the Democratic Party buying some prime time ad space for, say, a ten-minute video, possibly hosted by someone like Bill Clinton, in which the extremism of these and other candidates is presented in a tone of warning. The video could list and quote the number of GOP candidates who want to privatize, eviscerate, or eliminate Social Security and Medicare. Talk about Sharron Angle's suggestion that we should ban alcohol, or O'Donnell's notion that condoms shouldn't be used even to prevent the spread of HIV. Note the use of the N-word in one of Paladino's e-mail forwards.
Oh, and getting back to kitchen-table issues, maybe talk about this:
With the 2011 deficit projected to top $1.3 trillion, a spokesman for Rand Paul, the Tea Party-backed Senate candidate in Kentucky, told the Daily Beast's Benjamin Sarlin that Paul "will vote against and filibuster any unbalanced budget proposal in the Senate."
He might not be an outlier. "I personally think a balanced budget is imperative and I think there's tremendous support for a balanced budget," said Mark Meckler, a spokesman for the Tea Party Patriots, told Sarlin.
... Let's take this plan seriously. Most conservatives would begin by canceling the stimulus, which is still expected to spend about $100 billion in 2011. Conservatives might also call for freezing public salaries, canceling TARP, freezing discretionary spending at 2008 levels, and beginning to phase in Rep. Paul Ryan's plan to cut $1.3 trillion over the next decade. Let's say that saves another $100-$150 billion in 2011.
You're still more than $1 trillion away from a balanced budget. You could cancel Social Security for the year ($700 billion) and stop paying every soldier in Afghanistan and Iraq (another $170 billion in proposed spending), and you still wouldn't have a balanced budget....
Why not talk about that? Why not say that if we attempt the extreme shock treatment that some Republicans are proposing, it will inevitably mean drastic cuts in Social Security and Medicare? Why not take Paul Ryan's budget proposal as your text and talk about who gains (the rich get more tax cuts) and who loses (everyone else)?
I don't expect anything like this. I don't expect Democrats to have the savvy to tie it all together. But hope springs eternal.