Joan Vennochi of the Boston Globe has some great advice for the Democrats:
IT IS TIME for Democrats to stop moaning about John Roberts and John Bolton and start doing something productive — such as figuring out how to win elections.
Even though Democrats continue to resist the outcome, George W. Bush won the 2004 presidential contest. His reelection triggered a time-honored cliche: To the victor, go the spoils. Bush selected a Supreme Court nominee and an ambassador to the United Nations who reflect his philosophy. Any Democratic president would do the same.
The Senate has the responsibility to press Roberts on his views and philosophy. But it should come as no shock that Bush would select a conservative thinker as his nominee. So far, activists’ effort to paint Roberts as an extremist looks silly. Here is a candidate whose first written response to questions from lawmakers states that judges should possess “modesty and humility.” Roberts understands how to market himself to the masses in a way the abortion rights lobby never learned.
This week, Bush bypassed the Senate and installed Bolton as emissary to the UN. In doing so, the president broke no law; he merely used a procedure that allows him to fill vacant positions when the Senate is in recess. If Bolton is as unsuited for the position as opponents insist, that will become clear soon enough. Ultimately, any failure on Bolton’s part will help Democrats in what should be the party’s main goal: winning back the voters who now view them as the powerless party of the petulant.
Of course, some of us have been saying this for some time. But beyond counseling Democrats to be less hysterical about the natural consequences of their election losses, Joan also provides some suggestions that Democrats would be wise to consider (emphasis mine):
Democrats should spend more time in places like Ohio, and it should be quality time. They should be listening, for once, to what voters are thinking, not telling voters what is wrong about their thinking and their past choice on election day.
Democrats should also do with stem cell research what Republicans did with gay marriage: present the issue for a vote on every possible state ballot. Republican Bill Frist, the Senate majority leader from Tennessee, just demonstrated the power of the issue. Frist’s surprise endorsement of a bill that would approve federal funds for new lines of stem cells enraged the right. But Frist knows the political center supports it, and the political center is where a presidential contender wants to be. In stem cell research, Democrats, for once, have an issue that fires up their base and cuts to the center, across diverse demographic groups.
I’m not sure the stem cell research issue is going to yield quite the dividend that Joan thinks it will, as I don’t see Bush ultimately going head-to-head with Frist on the issue. Still, it wouldn’t hurt to give it a try, and if Democrats can turn down the hate-mongering and turn up the optimism and the subtle, nuanced insinuations, it might just work (if Bush hasn’t pulled that rug out from under them by then).
It would be in the best interests of this country to have a truly viable two-party system. Thus it would be in the best interests of this country to have a healthy, competitive, optimistic Democratic Party that can offer reasonable and attractive alternatives to the GOP agenda.
[Cross-posted at Between Worlds]