Monday, October 25, 2010

Principles the Democrats Should Learn From the Tea Partiers

The stridency of the Tea Partiers should remind Democrats of a crucial fact: America is a nation founded on principles, Constitutional and other principles. The perception that these principles have been violated drives the anger and energy of the Tea Partiers and others similarly disillusioned. People tend to get fired up when they believe matters of principle are at stake, and that's what you see today.

It may well be that big corporate money is being quietly funneled by cynical Republican operatives into key political races. But that money works only if voters can be motivated or swayed by it. The populist outrage over perceived transgression of foundational political principles provides the fuel that conservative corporate funding can inflame.

The lesson for Democrats scrambling in this last week of campaigning is that they cannot just talk about accomplishments--economic stimulus, financial regulatory reform and, yes, health insurance reform--or (accurately) point out that they inherited a grossly mismanaged economy and a horribly misconceived foreign policy from George W. Bush, the worst President since the 19th Century. They can't just make promises; voters no longer have faith in politicians' promises. The Democrats have to talk about how they stand for principles and how they have and will vindicate principles. They need to remind voters that they are the party that promotes opportunity for all, that supports education through action and not just talk, that advances fairness and tolerance, and that protects liberty (after all, it was during the G.W. Bush administration that federal law enforcement and intelligence agencies were discovered to have engaged in questionable electronic snooping on the American public). Many voters in this election will make their decisions based their principles. The Democrats haven't been part of that dialogue, and they will lose many currently undecided votes if they don't talk about principles and take principled stands.

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