One of the most simultaneously comforting and frustrating notions held by us liberals is that if those salt-of-the-earth, heartland Middle America voters really knew what Democrats and Republicans stood for, or if they really knew what our Republican politicians and their supporters were getting up to, the GOP would end up like a right-wing version of the Green Party. And while I think this is true, I don't think it goes far enough. American voters also need to understand the game that the Republicans and their corporate media are running on them: Campaigns that rely on smears, fears, homophobia and xenophobia; news and opinion that consistently advance Republican narratives.
Right now, Bush and the Republican party are wallowing in approval ratings in the 20s and 30s, based entirely on their actions and inactions, such as Iraq, Katrina, Plame, and all manner of illegal spying. But come election time, they will attempt to sweep it all away with "Ohmigod! Gays/immigrants/terrorists/abortions/activist judges/liberals are coming to take your bibles away!" And Democrats will dutifully engage them on that ground, and attempt to explain how they really are tough on terror Christians, and really not such a big threat to the American way of life after all, and oh-by-the-way, the war in Iraq was rather ill-considered, was it not?
This was pretty much the Democratic gameplan in 2004 (well, except for the part about Iraq being a bad idea), and it didn't work. All the burgeoning dissastisfaction with Iraq was trumped by the ridiculous fear that Democrats would let terrorists and gay marriage destroy America unless they were stopped, and by bogus accusations that Kerry's military honors were phony. I see no reason not to expect the same scenario to play out in November and 2008, although the dissatisfaction will be harder to overcome this time around. The Democrats will make gains, but not nearly as much as they should.
What I want to see the Democrats do this time is refuse to play the Republicans' game, but call them on it instead. Rather than simply saying, "We do too hate terrorists and gay people just as much as the Republicans! More, even!", call the Republicans on what they're doing. Say, "The Republicans have failed and dishonored this country in every way imaginable, and all they can do is campaign on hate and fear. Do they think you're that easy to distract? Is this all they think you care about?" Americans love to congratulate themselves on their bullshit-detecting abilities, and therefore hate being played. Unfortunately, they hate admitting that they've been played even more, which is why so many still cling to the idea that the Republicans actually want what's best for America, and why the Democrats have to make it very explicit and impossible to dismiss or ignore.
Ultimately, what I want to see is the Republicans' distraction-and-boogeyman strategy blow up in their faces. I believe that the day that Americans see it for the sham that it is and reject it, is the day that we finally start to get our country back.