The K-Drum Challenge

Kevin Drum wants to know what liberals are whining about exactly:

So here's my question: when we blogosphere types complain about this weak-kneed attitude, are we complaining because (a) we think the centrists are wrong; they could keep their seats in marginal districts even if they toed the progressive line on national security issues. Or (b) because we don't care; they should do the right thing even if it means losing next November?

Here's the thing. I can't guarantee that standing up against a corrupt, unpopular, and incompetent president's right to grant retroactive legal protections to large corporations for their complicity in illegal spying won't lead anyone to electoral defeat. What I can say is that the evidence that it will lead to electoral defeat doesn't seem incredibly compelling. Democratic efforts to hug the GOP on security and fight elections on other issues didn't pay much in the way of dividends when they were tried. The desire to avoid fights on these issues seems to me to largely reflect a kind of laziness. If the people advising the party on how to win elections don't think it's possible to craft compelling speeches, sound bites, advertisements, etc. around liberal views on national security policy, then someone needs to fire all of those people and hire some new people who are willing to give it a shot.

Alternatively, if they want to endorse Bush-like policies -- labeling elements of the Iranian military a terrorist group, saying that we need to keep threatening to launch an unprovoked preventive war on Iran, saying that companies that participate in illegal surveillance should be retroactively immunized from legal responsibility for their lawbreaking, etc. -- they ought to at least find a way to appear that they believe these things. I'm not sure what the political upside is supposed to be to transparently caving. It prevents you from mounting an argument that might convince anyone you're right. It demoralizes the people who agree with you. And people who care passionately about taking the side of authoritarianism and militarism are still going to see the Republicans as the go-to party for that stuff.

Yesterday, Tyler Cowen revealed his Angry Ape Theory of American politics: "Under this theory foreign policy disasters, no matter who caused them, will help the Republican candidate. We will demand An Angrier Ape." That theory may or may not be correct, but the last thing you need is for Democratic political strategy to be framed by people who think it's correct. That just guarantees loss. You need to find people who think they can persuade the public that an Angry Ape isn't the way to go and let those people have a crack at it.