The Corner

Re: The Speech

This was an excellent speech, well delivered. It will be effective. But what interests me most tonight is the Democrats. Since the presidential election, we’ve seen three strategies offered to fix the Democrats’ dilemma: pull back on social issues; turn hawkish and purge the doves; get people more excited about economic issues. Clearly the Democrats are pulling back on social issues (although the matter will inevitably come up during the judicial appointments battle). They remain divided on the war, but may now have been forced into relative silence on that issue by the Iraqi election. That leaves economics, and clearly this is where the Democrats will focus. The most striking part of the audience reaction tonight was the catcalls during the president’s discussion of social security. It’s been noted that liberal bloggers have been mostly silent on the Iraqi election. But what have they been talking about. As far as I can tell, the overwhelming topic on the lips of Democrats tonight is social security. You can staunch political wounds on social issues or defense by downplaying those subjects. (Or at least you can try.) But to win, you need a positive theme. The theme the Democrats have chosen is the idea of saving social security from the president’s plan. This is why the Democrats are so far united on that issue, and this is why they ostentatiously jeered the president on that point. Social security is the most important Democratic opportunity to hurt the president and make real political gains. Democratic obstructionism on social security could easily backfire. Yet they will likely stop at nothing to turn the American public against the president’s proposals. The pressure on Democrats not to break ranks on social security will be immense, because the party senses that its life is at stake in that battle. Yes, the president began his educational efforts on social security well tonight. And I think the public knows in its gut that there is a problem with the system. But the Democrats are going to make this a truly epic struggle.

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