Thursday, August 4, 2011

The Dem's Missed Talking Point?

Here's a thought: What if every time you had turned your television on in the last three or four weeks you saw a Democrat talking about the military? "We can't play games with military salaries. If this debt ceiling isn't raised the Treasury Department won't just stop sending out Social Security checks- they won't have the money needed for our men overseas! What are Republicans going to say to the Army wife when she can't afford rent or food for her children because they forced this country into default?"

This is the card Republicans played as the nation approached the deadline for a government shutdown. I remember seeing on Facebook pictures of toddlers in front of the American flag with a caption reading, "Explain to HER why her father's checks will be late." But why can it only be Republicans that invoke the military? President Obama is the commander in chief. He's proven himself. He's presided over the surge in Afghanistan, he got 'combat' troops out of Iraq, and he ordered a gusty strike that killed Osama bin Laden- despite that fact it violated Pakistan's sovereignty. That's the kind of thing a Republican lives for. You got to kill the most wanted man in the world AND you had to disobey international law in order to do what was right?? For George W. Bush, that would have meant an automatic second term.

It's true, the public was on Obama's side in this fight. However, there's a difference between agreeing with somebody and being passionate about an issue. Two years ago we were witnessing the summer of the town-hall meeting. Congressmen across the country faced question after question from angry people concerned "death panels" and the death of Medicare. This wasn't all an organic movement that political science explains might arise given X, Y, and Z conditions. It was an organized effort. These people were there repeating GOP talking points verbatim. Republicans made health care reform relevant to people. But in the past month nobody ever heard about the debt ceiling outside of its effects on bond ratings and institutional investors. You tell them Republicans are going to stop Social Security payment and they're concerned- then tell them they're also going to stop paychecks going out to our men and women in uniform and they're downright disgusted.

If this was the message Democrats gave, what could the response be? Republicans could say that it just wasn't true.  I guess that would work on a small scale, but not if it got enough exposure. They could have passed a bill through Congress saying Treasury would have to keep paying military personnel after August 2nd. "Oh, so now Republicans ADMIT the country is about to default. Well what about Social Security and Medicare benefits?" If they passed a bill protecting all three you could point to another popular program, or you could start talking about the 401k plans that would become worthless. Any outcome, I don't think you would have actually lost anything from talking about it.

Democrats should stop conceding ground to Republicans because of past defeats. I think it's as true when it comes to the military as it was when the President didn't mention the budget balanced amendment in his prime time speech. Between those two issues you've given both defense and fiscal responsibility to the other party. If you keep conceding ground you'll always wind up on the defensive- just where Obama doesn't want to be in 2012.

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