Wednesday, April 13, 2011

David Wilhelm: A call for aggressive Democrats

DAVID WILHELM IS a veteran political strategist who has seen some candidates come and stay, and other candidates come and go. That's the normal lot of the pros who manage campaigns without any guarantees of how they might turn out. In Wilhelm's case, the Ohio University alum has an impressive resume, having managed presidential campaigns for Bill Clinton as well as former Chicago Mayor Richard Daley. His labors have turned up in other campaigns as well.

Now based in Columbus as a partner in Woodland Venture Management (which he founded), Wilhelm is sharing his political insights in a series of lectures to students at the Bliss Institute of Applied Politics at the University of Akron. He also turned up at the lectern this week for a modest Bliss luncheon group to talk about essential differences in campaigns that have given the Republicans the edge in controlling the narrative.

We all can remember how Al Gore was victimized in 2000 by ridicule that he claimed to be the absolute founder of the Internet. The Republicans of Karl Rove drilled him with a specious charge to discredit whatever else one might have throught about Gore's credibility. (Gore still won the popular vote by more than a half-million ballots - but that's another story. )

In 2004, Wilhelm reminded us, John Kerry was framed with a charge that he was lying about his service in Viet Nam.

"It was switftboatswiftboatswiftboat," Wilhelm declared, " to the point where "Swiftboat
became a verb."

In both campaigns, the Republicans brutal talent of cornering opponents with baseless issues was obvious. As Wilhelm noted, "Republicans know how to play offense."

Even in Ohio, Ted Strickland failed to be aggressive enough against John Kasich, who built his campaign on a promise to restore the economy. While voters fell for the trap, they had earlier voted for a $700 million Third Frontier extension for technololgy programs in the state on Strickland's watch. Go figure.

No wonder that Wilhelm prefers to keep the the rhetoric on the Democrats' side. Many voters don't pay enough attention to protect them from their own contradictory ideas when they enter the booth.

There also has been much said about President Obama's willingness to turn the other cheek aginst his rivals, a frustrating point for supporters that Wilhelm believes will change as the president's campaign takes off. "Obama is extremely smart, and he's cool..,The candidadte of change will find a voice." But he cautioned Democrats from putting too much faith into believing that the Republicans will "screw up" - even if the current field is overrun by comedians (my word, not his).

"I think they will find someone who is more moderate than the ones who are campaigning today," he said.

But I would merely ask in this day of Tea Party Hegemony: From where? Think birther. .
Think abortion. Think socialist. Is there still time for them to give up their nasty habits?


Anonymous said...

Dems need to outright frame the Repubs as fascists. The GOP frames the Dems as Socialists frees the Dems to call the GOP fascists. Dems need to get in on the marketing of their and their opposition's politics. If not, the Tea Party will continue to dominate the framing debate.

PaulRyanFan84 said...

I am sorry but this might be the most inane thing I have ever read on the Internet. The idea that Democrats are these shrinking violets too scared to get down and dirty is so ridiculous. If you want to see aggression and personal attacks by Democrats, just turn on MSNBC. Did David Wilhelm not see the way Sarah Palin and her family were treated during the 2008 election?

I think Wilhelm deserves a GALL award for such a ridiculous premise.

JLM said...

I'd say Sarah Palin and her family were treated quite fairly during the election considering she was absolutely and utterly unqualified for the office she was seeking. She wasn't qualified to be governor of Alaska. That's why she quit, to pursue the position she is qualified for....

...airhead celebrity.

Mencken said...

Palin can pitch but she can't catch. The self-proclaimed Mama Grizzly sure dishes it out, but if any of it comes back her way she clutches her cubs and hides behind them until trouble passes.

That fault could be overlooked, but intellectually, she makes Dan Quayle look like Aristotle. You do know that, even if you won't admit it here.

Egregious, why do you waste your breath defending the candidate who literally handed the last presidential election to the Democrats? Why do you defend the self-proclaimed tough as nails hockey mom who quit her governorship half way through her term when things got just a little tough ?

Really, all differences aside, you may be the most remarkably self-unaware commenter ever. I know you think you're the defender of the faith, but the truth is, some of us think you're an Andy Kaufman type comedian just trying out new material on us.