Friday, March 17, 2006

Censure: We've already won the debate.

The hot topic of the past little while has been Feingold's Censure movement. There's a good diary here about the frameshop of the Censure debate--and that's important and good knowledge. Politically, I think it's pretty much agreed among the Kos community that we should get behind the idea and support it as much as we can. But lost in the debate and activism about getting the Censure idea supported, however, has been one fundamental basic fact:

We've already won the debate on it.

As I've explained before, I work in marketing and advertising. The key point of advertising is making sure that name of your product or service stays in the front of the public mind--and it doesn't really even matter whether you describe the quality of the service or product you're selling.

If you don't believe me, why don't you go to your TV right now and count the number of ads you see that give absolutely no description of the product whatsoever. Ads for soft drinks are a perfect example of this. What's being sold isn't so much a product--they rarely actually talk about the taste of Coke, Pepsi or Mountain Dew. What's being sold is an image. And even if you think an ad is completely over the top or outrageous, ask yourself how many times you've asked someone, "did you see the ad for X? Isn't it (insert appropriate adjective here)?" Marketing departments know that even bad advertising can be effective, as long as it keeps the product in the forefront.

The same holds true for the Censure resolution--and it just goes to show that Democrats should have gone on the offensive years ago rather than being afraid. The truth is that the more proactive and daring a measure, the more press coverage it'll get, and the more time the other party will mandatorily have to spend on defense.

That's exactly what's happening with the brave idea of introducing a censure resolution. The fact is that now, the center of debate or discussion is no longer focusing on whether Democrats are traitors. We are no longer being forced to defend our patriotism. Now, the question is far different--the question is, "should we censure the President for his crimes or should we not?" The mere fact that this is the center of debate--and that our craven media is willing to host this debate because of Bush's low poll numbers--is already a victory for our side.

But the totality of this victory goes well beyond the fact that we're talking about. The Republicans have dedicated themselves so totally to offense that--to use a sports analogy in honor of March Madnees--they've forgotten that you can't run a fast break when you don't have the ball! Let's take what Frist had to say about Feingold's motion:

FRIST: George, what was interesting in listening to my good friend-Russ, is that he mentioned protecting the American people only one time, and although you went to politics a little bit later, I think it's a crazy political move and I think it in part is a political move because here we are, the Republican Party, the leadership in the Congress, supporting the President of the US as Commander in Chief, who is out there fighting al Qaeda and the Taliban and Osama bin Laden and the people who have sworn, have sworn to destroy Western civilization and all the families listening to us. And they're out now attacking, at least today, through this proposed censure vote, out attacking our Commander in Chief. Doesn’t make sense."

(Hat tip to Crooks and Liars for the transcript)

Frist, in his response to Feingold, has shown just how thoroughly we have won the debate about censure. Frist doesn't come out and say that the Bush doesn't deserve to be censured. He doesn't come out and say that Bush's surveillance programs are entirely legal, and that therefore there should be no debate on censure. Frist's position is essentially this:

We don't censure a wartime president for illegal activity.


The Republicans will continue to resort to this attack--the attack they've used so often to squelch debate--because it's the only line they know. The reason it's the only line they know is because all they know is offense. When you're on offense--on top of the game, with high approval ratings--it's a very effective tactic to completely sidestep the debate on the merits of various actions and ideas because if you're on top and able to impose your will, no debate is good debate.

But if your approval ratings are down and your agenda is pretty much shot for the time being, the same strategy doesn't work so well. There's a huge difference between

"criticizing the President during wartime abets our enemies."

"censuring the President for his illegal activity abets our enemies."

There's a HUGE difference there. The first idea plays right into their hands--but the second idea plays right into ours. And praise be to Feingold, it's working.

What do the rest of the Democrats need to learn from this?

To keep on swinging and not be afraid--because that's the only way to prove that we're an alternative.

[Cross-posted on Daily Kos]

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