The Corner

Free Advice

Joe Klein has written a cover story for Time on “How to Build a Better Democrat,” i.e., one who can win the next presidential election. (Time did something similar for the Republicans in 1996. Right?) One test I always apply to such articles is whether the author’s political advice lines up too neatly with his policy views. I try to avoid this myself. I’m perfectly willing to concede that President Bush had to back away from his party’s opposition to Department of Education to win in 2000, for example, even though I would love to see the department disappear. Klein seems to be arguing that the Democrats will succeed if they just adopt his views, which seems awfully convenient.

Klein’s specific advice isn’t all that compelling. Democrats are supposed to embrace “nuclear fusion, wind power, digital interstate highways (a computer chip in your car locks you in at 70 m.p.h. a safe distance from the cars in front of and behind you). Whatever. The key is to have at least one issue on which the candidate is free to dream, think big, tap the national spirit of adventure in a way that doesn’t involve Abrams tanks. My guess is that enthusiasm is contagious.” I’m guessing that it isn’t. I mean, really: wind power?

Klein also comes out for candidates’ standing up to the pollsters and consultants. Just once, I’d like to read an article where a journalist longs for a candidate who does nothing but slavishly follow the focus groups, if only for the sake of variety.

Ramesh Ponnuru is a senior editor for National Review, a columnist for Bloomberg Opinion, a visiting fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, and a senior fellow at the National Review Institute.


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