What are Democrats thinking?

After my post of last Friday, it seemed only fair to give Democrats an equally hard time about their political strategy. And I’m not the only one: Slate’s Jacob Weisberg is also disappointed in Democrats’ – and particularly President Obama’s – refusal to take a stand on several of the key issues I critiqued Republicans for: gay rights, immigration, and the “Ground Zero Mosque” – to continue using an inaccurate term.

Leaving aside what one considers the “right” position to take on any of these issues, I still don’t understand the strategic decision that either party is making. While I critique Republicans’ strategy because I think they will end up being seen as the party of intolerance, the Democrats run the risk of being seen as the party of…nothing.

Although common wisdom suggests that the parties should move towards the center to capture the undecided middle, I doubt this old adage in this case. Democrats’ move to the center may be appealing to people who haven’t made up their mind, but on issues of values – as so many of these issues are – the center is smaller and undecideds less likely. If Democrats want to really capitalize on being on the “right” side of the demographic trends, being the party that “isn’t as bad” on these issues hardly seems the way to go. To capture public imagination and loyalty requires a clear line in the sand and a clear difference between the parties.

The same is true of economic issues as well. I’ve watched with surprise as Democrats have attempted to change core Democratic values and worldviews, becoming the party of not only financial austerity but also willing to consider extending the Bush tax cuts for all. Leaving aside the inherent conflict in these two positions, I can see the strategic decision to embrace lowering national debt, but the latter position seems short-sighted. The Democrats have been almost uniformly against upper-class tax cuts of any kind for a while and to shift position leaves them open to charges of inconsistency (and we all know that “flip-flopping” on any issue is inconceivable, even if new information arises) and leaves voters confused about what the parties stand for.

And I’m left with the same conclusion – who’s running the parties? And, strange as I find it to say, the Democratic refusal to take a stand on many of these issues almost makes me wonder that in an age of polarization, will we again end up with Tweedle-Dee and Tweedle-Dum?

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