2006 Dating Guide: Voters Wanna Go Slow

05/25/2011 11:50 am ET
  • Dan Carol Senior Advisor, The Beeck Center at Georgetown University

I have had a hard time lately articulating clearly why we DON'T want the Democrats to make a big hoo-hah this year with a Democratic Contract with America and some big marketing campaign designed to nationalize the House and Senate races by offering the "Democratic can-do alternative." It's hardly compelling to blabble that voters are tired of empty promises from all political parties -- even if it's true and strategically instructive to remember.

So I've been shopping a little marriage/dating analogy that seems to work better at making the point. Imagine if you will that voters are stuck in a really-really bad marriage right now, battered and bruised by the lies and broken promises of Republican policies like privatization, easy-to-win wars and compassionate conservatism that leaves them cold as ice. They want out of this marriage BAD but uh, it's actually their SECOND marriage. The thought of jumping back into a serious relationship, let alone a binding contract, with Democrats who they were already married to before is not exactly an exciting alternative that they will rush into.

So better that we have our candidates run on their own, dating with voters all over the country on casual coffees rather than a binding commitment developed by pollsters and Democrats in suits standing next to Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid and all. Candidates can simply work from a smart menu of policies and dating one-liners that they can be for on their own, without being so closely tied to the bad memories of voters' boring first marriage.

The dance goes like this. The Democratic candidate points to a smart project or initiative they actually feel passionate and good about on say preventative health care, or clean energy, or global engagement via girls education, or lower cost Internet service, or better government, and says "I'm for that".

Remarkably, many of these programs are widely available, and have been developed and deployed by Governors, Attorneys Generals and State Treasurers without the aid of polling.

The candidates' campaign staff then creates something quaintly called a "position paper" and encourages the press to ask his or her opponent if they are for that idea too -- or not. Message contrasts then emerge -- giving voters a clear choice on a few key issues salient to their district.

So that's the idea. And plans for such a menu are in the works.