Sunday, November 12, 2006

The On-Going Battle in American Politics

Since the creation of the United States, there has been an on-going debate in America over what is and is not the proper role of government. It started with the adoption of the United States Constitution and continues to this day. That debate is at the heart of the partisan divide between the two parties. If you ask Republicans and Democrats what role does government have in educating children, guaranteeing access to health care, protecting consumers from shoddy products and services, and helping Americans with retirement, you are likely to get different answers based on what each side sees as the proper role of government. Democrats can usually win this debate, if they engage in it and are not distracted by Republican attempts to confuse the electorate and distract it. Most Americans don't agree with the Republicans that the government has no or little role to play in areas such as education, health care, consumer protection, and retirement security. When Democrats primarily focus on these pocketbook issues, they win. When, however, they primarily focus on contentious social issues they usually lose.

Think about the just completed campaigns for governor and senator in Ohio. Both Strickland and Brown focused on pocketbook issues and both were very successful. Most Ohioans don't want their government to only be responsive to the rich and well-connected. Most Ohioans want their government to work for the middle class. If, however, we don't tell them that is what we want to do and if the other side is telling them that all we want to do is encourage abortions, allow gays to marry, take away guns, and protect terrorists, then we are going to lost elections. In politics you have to have a message and then you have to deliver that message. Too often the Democratic message is "we're not the other guys." That simply doesn't cut it. As Harry Truman once said, "If the choice is between a Republican and a Democrat who sounds like a Republican, the public will choose the real thing every time."

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