Me too, Ira, me too

Ira Glass on the one book he’d wish someone else would write:

Could someone please write a book explaining why the Democratic Party and its allies are so much less effective at crafting a message and having a vision than their Republican counterparts? What a bunch of incompetents the Dems seem like. Most people don’t even understand the health care policy they passed, much less like it. Ditto the financial reform. Or the stimulus. Some of the basic tasks of politics — like choosing and crafting a message — they just seem uninterested in.

I remember reading in The Times that as soon as Obama won, the Republicans were scheming about how they’d turn it around for the next election, and came up with the plan that won them the House, and wondered, did the House Dems even hold a similar meeting? Kurt Eichenwald! Mark Bowden! John Heilemann and Mark Halperin! I’ll pre-order today.

One thought on “Me too, Ira, me too”

  1. There are elements of that story told elsewhere. Rick Perlstein’s planned trilogy of the New Right examines postwar conservatism through the lives of its three presidential standard-bearers. Before the Storm covers Goldwater, Nixonland Nixon, and he’s working on a third book centered on Reagan. He has a lot to say about how the Democratic Party’s narrative of muscular, humanitarian liberalism collapsed under the pressure of Vietnam and the Great Society.

    The Democratic Party can’t craft a message because it has been in the middle of an identity crisis since 1968. The liberal-labor establishment of the New Deal era came apart when confronted by the New Left.

    The confrontations at the ’68 convention in Chicago forced Democrats to restructure the way they ran primaries, ran candidates, branded themselves – in effect, forced them to write a new message.

    Carter’s victory can be chalked up very much to disgust over Watergate, with an actual ‘new Democratic message’ coming to prominence with Clinton; however, his intentional challenges to historical constituencies (nonwhite Americans, labor, supporters of welfare) while still needing their clout and their votes has contributed to an institutional confusion.

    That new identity is peeping forth in certain places – California, for example, reconciles the various interests and constituencies of the party (consider LA’s political players – black, Latino, Asian, LGBT, and labor interests all have seats at the table, though labor and Latino clout is understandably heavier.) But if we consider the Democratic “base” and stakeholders state-by-state, we find a broad tent of diverse interests. It’s harder to write good stories for such a big audience.

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