DNC Chairman Tim Kaine took to the National Press Club on Wednesday to gloat about the showing of Democrats in primary contests the night before. In the process he offered the usual platitudes: the party was rewarded for offering solutions to the economic malaise; enthusiasm is up as evidence of turnout in the Kentucky Democratic primary; Republicans find themselves in an ideological civil war, with Tea Party candidates knocking out establishment candidates, and so on.
The most interesting (least spun) tidbit of wisdom, however, came when Kaine was asked to address the common conservative complaint that the Obama administration represents socialism in disguise. Had the label hurt the party or the president, a questioner wanted to know.
"People love to throw label around and I think for most thinking Americans, throwing that label around actually doesn't hurt us," Kaine replied. "It suggests an extremism and an ideological rigidity that isn't where most Americans are. We are problem solvers."
"A party that just relies on throwing labels around and refusing to cooperate, they might get a headline but they won't get support of people," he added. "We are going to promote smart solutions to these problems and If the other guys want to rely on labels rather than roll up their sleeves and actually help us govern a nation at a time when governance is needed -- it is an abdication of responsibility but they are not going to help their case by doing that."
This seems to get at a rather telling definition of politics in the first term of the Obama administration. The president clearly campaigned on the notion of bringing civility and comity to the political process. He got neither. But for all the damage that this failure would seem to engender, in many respects it's helped Democrats as much as it's hurt them. For starters, the wild name-calling and rhetoric has compelled the party to stop legislating with bipartisanship as the goal. Politically, as Kaine suggests, it's had the effect of stripping an element of seriousness from the Tea Party veneer.