Byrd: Waiting for rhetorical slip-ups a bad strategy

BY MATTHEW BYRD | JULY 17, 2014 5:00 AM

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As the lazy days of summer drag on, it seems that the lackadaisical attitude that comes in with the warm weather has infected whoever is in charge of electing political candidates, both in the state of Iowa and across the nation.

A recent article in the Des Moines Register has highlighted how national Democratic strategists, despondent over the party’s hopes in a tough 2014 midterm election, have turned to scouring the collected media works of Republican candidates to look for gaffes revealing said candidates’ extremist political positions in hopes of discrediting the opposition and pushing weak Democrats into Congress and avoiding a Republican takeover of the Senate. Think Missouri Republican Todd Akin talking about “legitimate rape” in 2012 or Delaware Senate candidate Christine O’Donnell proudly declaring to the world, “I am not a witch,” in 2010. Worth noting is that Rep. Bruce Braley’s, D-Iowa, infamous “farmer from Iowa who never went to law school” comment seems to fall into the same category.

Democrats, fortunately or unfortunately, depending on your political persuasion, have come up mostly dry in this election cycle, except for one exception pointed out by the Register: GOP Senate candidate Joni Ernst. Specifically, Ernst’s opposition to Agenda 21, a nonbinding U.N. resolution that encourages nations to preserve open land for conservation efforts. Ernst opposes the idea on the grounds that “the implications we could have here is moving people off their agricultural land and consolidating them into city centers, and then telling them, ‘You don’t have property rights anymore.’ These are all things that the United Nations is behind, and it’s bad for the United States and bad for families here in the state of Iowa.”

Opposition to Agenda 21 has been associated with far-right, anti-government conspiracy types, the people who believe the United States is run by a cabal of Freemasons, U.N.-illuminati types who send out armies of black helicopters to control their subjects. It’s complete hogwash, and everyone knows it. But believing in an obscure, somewhat harmless piece of conspiratorial nonsense is not the same as getting basic facts about rape wrong while also promoting retrograde, unpopular abortion policies, as in the case of Akin, especially in the eyes of voters. Ernst and Braley are tied at 43 percent according to a Marist poll.

The real disconcerting thing to be found in the Register article, however, is not Ernst believing in a theory that’s not out of place on 9/11 truther sites, but rather that Democrats seem to be incredibly inept and disorganized when it comes to their midterm campaign.

Relying on your opponent to make mistakes in order to win is always a horrible idea, in both politics and any other competition in life. It’d be similar to a football team counting on an interception returned for a touchdown to win instead of focusing on building an offensive strategy. Sometimes you’ll get lucky with an interception or poorly timed remark. But most of the time you won’t; most of the time you’ll lose.

What’s even more baffling is that Democrats have a lot of ground to stand and fight on when it comes to the Republicans, a party that is increasingly becoming one of the most — in heavily publicized manners — extreme and conservative in the Western world. Democrats hold the more popular position on issues such as the minimum wage, gay marriage, taxation, and an array of other issues. It would behoove Democrats to actually stand for the issues they believe in and hope for the voters to be on their side rather than waiting for Ernst or any other Republican to become the next Akin. It would behoove all politicians to form solid, value-based stances on matters and stick to them, promoting themselves through what they stand for — not through the occasional rhetorical blunder from the competition.

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