In their one guaranteed opportunity a year to promote their message, unfettered by media filters and free from the constraints of having to answer specific questions posed by a journalist and restrict responses to clever soundbites, the Dems did little more than reassert their intention to be Republican-lite, sending charisma-void Tim Kaine out to reaffirm that everything the President says is just great and all, but there’s a better way. No matter how much we bemoan the very real ways in which the deck is stacked against the Dems, like an actively pro-GOP media, no one else but the Dems themselves are responsible for making the choice to use the SOTU rebuttal as a platform to distance themselves from genuine liberal tenets.
Even Jonathan Singer at MyDD, who felt Kaine’s rebuttal was “more than acceptable,” notes:
As good as the speech was, however, Kaine left out two of the most important for the Democrats this year: Jack Abramoff…And they will. It’s illogical to witness the selection of Tim Kaine, a war hawk and anti-gay Dem, and listen to his speech, then come to any other conclusion except that the Dems are actively pursuing a Republican-lite strategy. Not good enough.
By failing to cite the Bush administration’s ties to Jack Abramoff, the Democrats missed a real opportunity to remind Americans just what Republican governance stands for -- cronyism and corruption. While the exclusion of Abramoff from Kaine's speech does not overshadow the positives of the address, it certainly exemplifies the misguided reluctance of Democratic consultants to take on the Republicans with everything we've got and is somewhat of a disturbing omen for what is to come should these consultants continue their domination of Democratic politics this year.
Not good enough because it’s politically foolish. Trying to win on the decidedly slim differential that your party will do the same, but better, is a dreadful idea from the get-go, but if you’re going with it, you’ve got to have some oomph factor to shine up that turd. Last night, Mr. Shakes said: "After watching those two speeches, if I were just some average person, who didn't listen to the news or read or pay attention, I'd vote Republican, too." Bush was a better speaker (wholly shocking, I know), and the Dems offered insufficient pointed criticism of the administration and proffered no appealing alternative ideas of their own. And Mr. Shakes’ assessment was confirmed by the first caller into C-SPAN, who said the biggest difference he sees between the Dems and the GOP is that "at least the Republicans do something." He even compared Bush's speech to Tim Kaine's and noted that Kaine "just stood there." It is a difficult task; a quiet speech directly to a camera versus a room full of people delivering thunderous applause is a big difference—which makes a little dynamism more important, not less. If you haven’t got the spit-and-polish ready to go to make a semantic distinction seem important, you’ve failed before you’ve begun.
And not good enough because it leaves a large segment of the American populace without representation. A mere few years ago, I was hardly considered a radical lefty. I’m a social liberal and an economic conservative (though, admittedly, my hardline on balanced budgets has a liberal bent; less on pork and weapons development to fully fund necessary social and intelligence programs). My most “radical” position was support of gay marriage, which never seemed all that radical to me, even when over half of voters didn’t support, at minimum, civil unions. Now they do, making my “radical” position that much less radical—but nearly the entire Democratic Party is to the right of me on most issues, even though my positions haven’t changed. That’s a pretty significant shift in a couple of years. And I know I’m not alone. Digby noted recently:
I believe that there is finally a recognition that the Party has hit the wall. We have moved as far to the right as we can go and we have been as accomodating as we can be without thoroughly compromising our fundamental principles. Most of us [in the grassroots and blogosphere] are not "far left" if that means extreme policy positions. Indeed, many of us would have been seen as middle of the road not all that long ago. We are partisans and that's a different thing all together. The leadership is recognising this.I would like to agree, and I certainly hope Digby is right, but trotting out Tim Kaine to deliver the “us too, but better” message doesn’t reassure me. All I heard was, “No liberals here.”