06/13/2007 10:15 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

D.C. Conventional Wisdom: Caution Equals Brilliance

Arianna's brilliant post on Democratic Dinosaurs reminds me that conventional wisdom, labels that don't mean anything real, and dumb stereotypes frequently combine into a sort of toxic stew that keep people from understanding what is really going on. I thought I would be so kind as to sort all this out for y'all:

-- The first thing to note is that in the D.C. CW world, for Democrats, being cautious always equals being smart. Thus, as Arianna noted, could one of the fountains of D.C. CW say, "The Democratic House and Senate leaders wisely played things safe by allowing a bill to pass that Bush could sign... why take a chance alienating swing voters when the party already made its point by sending the president a deadline bill he vetoed?" Classic D.C. CW phrases: "played things safe"; "why take a chance". Those phrases are the official motto of D.C. CW Democrats.

-- The second thing to note is the confusion over what the "center" is, and how to win "moderate" voters over to the side of Democrats. I put quotation marks around the words center and moderate because of what those words are to D.C. insiders who have no relationship to how real swing voters make their decisions about who to vote for. D.C. CW people think that when you are friendly with big corporate interests on the special deals they want, or that if you give in when Bush has a tantrum about having his way, or that if you back off on those unpleasant little issues like gay rights and reproductive rights or the Confederate flag fights down South, that is appealing to swing voters. That is juts plain wrong. Most independents and swing voters actually agree with progressive Democrats on populist economic issues and the war in Iraq, and even on some of the social issues. Those swing voters tend to be nervous about Democrats in terms of some things, but the above list isn't it. What they are most nervous about is that Democrats will wimp out when the time comes to really fight for their interests, that they will back down when things are really on the line and the tough decisions have to be made.

Republicans have been hurt badly by their culture of corruption, but Democrats have been hurt just as badly by their culture of caution. It's time to change things.

Mike Lux is the president of American Family Voices, an issue advocacy group sometimes described as the "free safety" of the progressive movement, and consults for progressive organizations and donors through his consulting firm, Progressive Strategies, L.L.C.