Sen. Tom Coburn, MD (R-OK)
I'm going to role-play a little here. Say I'm a political consultant who likes to win. You ask me what it would take to win a couple more Red states for the Democrats in the '06 Congressional and Senatorial races. Here's what I say:
First, form a Christian values 527. Then find a white male Southern minister to serve as a spokesman. Now, run an ad like this throughout the Red states during the campaign:
AD: "FOR GOD'S SAKE"
"Hello, I'm Reverend ____ ____". As he speaks we see a black screen, with pictures of Republican politicians fading in and out as they are mentioned.
REVEREND: Republicans. They claim to represent our moral values. Then why did they elect a U.S. Senator who, by his own admission, killed unborn children - and then lied about it so that he could get paid for it out of your tax dollars? You can't represent life when you've delivered death. And why did the Republicans elect a Speaker of the House who cheated on his wife - while she lay in a hospital bed with cancer? Why did they elect a Governor in California who molested unwilling women, and now supports dissecting fetuses for stem cell research? Are these really people you want upholding your moral values?
Abortionists. Cheats. Adulterers... Republicans. For God's sake, don't vote for them.
It's a page from the Karl Rove playbook: Attack them where they're strong, not where they're weak. Pretty soon false equivalence will work for you, not against you. "Yeah," evangelical voters will say, "I guess neither party's really very Christian." GOP voter turnout drops, and then a few close elections in the Red states (e.g. KY, OK, South Dakota this year) swing back our way.
Now this ad might never even get aired, given the attitudes of media owners, but the free publicity it would receive (as with the Swift Boat ads) will guarantee that it gets shown over and over on the news. Democratic candidates can express their outrage over it, calling the ad "vile" and "indecent" while reaping its benefits.
So when I'm done, you tell me you don't want to run that kind of dirty campaign. I say "Hey, do you wanna win or don't you?" Brutal? Yes. Effective? Probably.
This is the "bootleg version" of Democrats for Christ, but there's a radio-friendly one, too. In that version, the Reverend talks about the ethics and teachings of Jesus and how they're routinely violated by Republicans and conservatives. We would all more be comfortable with this approach, and some might even consider it high-minded. But I'm the consultant, right? And I say the nice version just isn't going to be all that effective. You want to fight, you gotta get dirty.
So consider this a thought experiment for Democrats. Visualize the bootleg ad and ask yourself: How badly (in both senses of the word) do you want to win? Because they want to win really, really badly.
I'm struggling with this one, because I don't want us to become like them. I don't want them to keep winning ugly, either. And ugly seems to win every time. So help me out. Should we get in the trenches or not? And if we don't, how do we stop losing the Red states?