This is another post that probably isn't really news, but which distills bits and pieces of thoughts I've had and expressed elsewhere.
We are all well aware that the Republicans are frighteningly, appallingly, shamelessly good at framing, and Frankly, there's not a whole lot Democrats can do to diminish their talent for it. However, that doesn't mean they should leave them with a clear field to trot out whatever deceitful spin they like. Democrats need to get a lot better at their own framing, and they need to get a lot better at countering the Republicans' framing.
What bugs me the most is the Democratic/liberal stereotype that the Republicans have successfully installed in the public psyche. Not only is it inaccurate, but it is in fact a more accurate description of the Republicans themselves. What I would love to see is Democrats begin describing Republican politicians and their masters as morally relativist, soft-on-terror, America-hating elitists who think they know what's best for everyone else.
I'd like to go through that point-by-point to clarify it a bit further:
Morally relativist: While I grant that Democrats have had their share of scandals, they have nothing that compares to the sheer quantity of scandals and dodginess on display in the Republican party. Just off the top of my head, we've got Coingate, Plamegate, DeLay's myriad ethics violations (and a bunch of others who have had shady dealings with Abramoff), a gay prostitute gaining privileged access to the White House and its press corps despite no legitimate journalistic credentials, more sexually creepy behavior than you can shake a stick at, and, oh yeah, lying us into a neverending, immoral war in which torture and murder are a-okay.
Soft-on-terror: Bush and the Republican Congress have been dragging their feet on securing Russian nukes, port and nuclear plant security, playing regional pork politics with local-level homeland security funding, and putting corporate interests ahead of chemical plant security.
President Bush also demonstrated a lack of commitment and a short attention span when he had an opportunity to beef up security and anti-terror activities prior to 9/11, and in his efforts to capture or kill Osama bin Laden in the aftermath. And as a special bonus, the invasion and botched occupation of Iraq is not only a magnificent terrorist recruiting tool, but an ineffectual or puppet "democratic" government there would almost certainly undermine the credibility of democracy in the Middle East as a whole.
America-hating: Republicans have shown themselves to be implacable enemies of the Constitution, especially the checks and balances between the branches; due process; free, open, and fair elections; and the First Amendment's protection of free speech (i.e., dissent, unfavorable media coverage) and prohibitions against mixing religion and government. Their rabid anti-environmentalism also makes them enemies of America's very physical being - they would be perfectly happy to see the purple mountains' majesty turned into strip-mines.
Elitists: The Republicans are the party of the rich, the aristocratic, and the corporate, and their policies (corporate welfare, including bankruptcy and tort reform, tax cuts grossly weighted towards capital and upper income brackets) are dedicated to making the rich even richer, at the poor's expense. Yes, there are wealthy and intellectual Democrats, but enriching their peers is generally not one of their policy goals. Sadly, there are exceptions (I'm looking at you, Joe Biden), but they are not exactly held up as exemplars of the Democratic ideal.
Think they know what's best for everyone else: This is the one that has always blown my mind the most, and I've never been entirely sure what it referred to. Yes, there is some degree of political correctness, and it can be aggravating at times, but the Democratic legislative priorities have always been focused on providing aid and opportunity. The Republicans are the party of limiting choices because they know best, making only token, trojan-horse efforts to improve education, while fighting to defend anti-sodomy laws, outlaw abortion and stem-cell research, censor anything remotely racy in TV or movies, and generally impose hard-right, allegedly Christian moral values on the entire nation.
Howard Dean took some steps towards addressing some of this in his comments about Republicans being a white Christian party and not working an honest day in their lives (elitism), which predictably resulted in howls of outrage from Republicans and even some of the tamer Democrats. Here's hoping he keeps the pressure on and refuses to bow to intimidation - with the caveat that he does need to do a better job of clarifying when he is talking about the Republican leadership, including government officials and influential non-governmental individuals like Dobson and Norquist.
Tune in next week for: "The Republican leadership cannot be reasoned with; they are sexist, intolerant religious fanatics who hate America for its freedoms, and will not rest until it is destroyed."