(Matt Rourke / Associated…)
Elections are all about arithmetic, while politics is about people and power. Democratic National Committee Chairman Tim Kaine on Wednesday tried to use the latter to make the case for winning the former.
To be sure, get-out-the-vote drives, campaign money for ads, charismatic candidates and fervent volunteers are the needed notes that blend into any successful election. But it is the concert that most voters want to hear, and speaking at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, Kaine, joined by a feisty and pugnacious Gov. Ed Rendell, sounded the themes that will mark the next eight weeks of campaigning across the country.
Republicans say the Democratic arguments are just election propaganda and polls show the GOP making inroads strong enough to threaten Democratic control of Congress. In his speech, Kaine sought to galvanize his party's base while laying out a rationale for keeping power. Here are those talking points that Democrats, to one degree or another, will use in most races.
1. It ain't our fault because Bush and the GOP left us a mess.
Democrats, led by President Obama, have been pushing this argument for months. "No president has inherited a tougher set of circumstances than Barack Obama," Rendell said on Wednesday.
Kaine was more specific. "The economic crisis that nearly brought our country to its knees was the end result of a decade of failed Republican policies. President Bush and Republicans squandered a budget surplus, ushered in record deficits, invited economic trouble by relaxing regulations on Wall Street and passed tax cuts for millionaires and billionaires while the rest of America struggled not to lose their grip on the American Dream."
2. Republicans are the uber-partisan party of hated big interests while Democrats fight for the middle class.
To be sure, all political parties represent some interests. The Founding Fathers established a political system so that faction would oppose faction and that the clash would lead to government action. The key is which interest is served and whether there can be compromise.
"Instead of working with Democrats to help to rebuild our economy and the middle class, Republicans have opposed every effort to undo the economic damage that their polices created," Kaine argued. "Republicans are more interested in positioning themselves for the next election than they are the American people for the next generation."
Kaine outlined Obama's policies, including health insurance and Wall Street reforms, as examples of how the GOP blocked needed change. Republicans counter they are fighting policies they don't like.
3. Republicans are more than obstinate, they are a dangerous collection of conservative outliers beyond the current political pale and want to reverse generations of advances.
Rendell was blunt, calling many GOP candidates "wackos" and "Froot Loops" for backing conservative "tea party" policies. Kaine was more diplomatic, but only linguistically.
"The Republican Party doesn't just want to go back to the exact same agenda they pursued during the Bush years. They don't just want to repeal the legislation President Obama and Democrats have enacted. They don't just want to take away the changes you worked so hard to bring about," Kaine said. "They want to take away the changes that your parents and grandparents and generations of Americans worked so hard to enact."
Kaine then named some of what polls show are the more successful conservative GOP candidates and their positions, including Nevada's Sharron Angle, who has said the United States should leave the United Nations; Colorado Republican Senate candidate Ken Buck and Alaska's Joe Miller, who have questioned Social Security and. of course, Kentucky's Rand Paul, who has questioned civil rights legislation as an unneeded example of big government. Especially galling are the growing attacks on the 14th Amendment, Kaine said.
4.Is there an affirmative argument for Democrats?
Rendell argued that Democrats should stress their successes and. unlike many, used the s-word: stimulus. Democrats should be trumpeting their efforts to help jump-start the economy, a position the GOP is fond of attacking as a failure of policy and of economics.
"Up to 3.3 million people employed in June owed their jobs to the Recovery Act. And an economy that was shrinking in 2008 is growing again," Kaine noted. "They are rebuilding the roads, rails and runways that will help American businesses grow and add jobs. They're building the solar panels, wind turbines, electric car batteries, and other critical 21st century goods here in the United States instead of overseas in China and India. They're back at work making American cars -- including the cars of tomorrow -- vehicles with better gas mileage and reduced emissions."