Posted by Ilan Goldenberg
I’m starting to think that the only way to counter Republican fear mongering is with more fear mongering.
Republicans don’t hold the same advantage they used to on national security. It used to be that Republicans were seen as tough and pragmatic on national security and Democrats were seen as weak. Today, because of Iraq, the public has mixed feelings about both parties. They have lost a lot of faith in Republicans and view them as too willing to use military force. However, they still don’t fully trust Democrats, who are still seen as weak.
As a result, today Democrats have an opportunity to seize the national security mantle back from Republicans and potentially own the issue for the next generation. Question is how do they do that?
There are two parts. First, Democrats have to show that they have a genuine alternative and are capable of managing the nation’s security. However, this won’t happen until they have some real proof points. All the chest thumping and tough talk in the world is meaningless without a Democratic President who is successful on this issue. (Nothing against Bill Clinton, but foreign policy just wasn’t a priority for the American public during that 1990s). So, while implementing a sound foreign policy and convincing the public that Democrats can protect them is crucially important, it simply is not going to happen between now and November of 2008. It is a long term project that can only be proven through deeds not words.
However, what Democrats can begin doing is solidly reinforcing the frame that Republicans are too militant, dangerous and quite frankly a bit nuts. That’s because the incredible incompetence and militancy of the Bush Administration has made this story very believable for the public. Because of this vulnerability, all the fear mongering on Iran and Islamofascism can be turned against the Republicans. Democratic fear mongering needs to focus on how scary it would be to have another Republican President and how much that could endanger all of us (Especially if the nominee is Giuliani). Republicans spent years cultivating the frame that Democrats are weak and it was just as important to their dominance of the issue as their own ability to seem competent and tough. Something like the classic ad below might work pretty well in the ’08 cycle.