Favorite

Gone sailing 

When the consultant Dick Morris was famously advising President Bill Clinton in the run-up to the 1996 election, he coined the term “triangulation” to describe his moderate political strategy.

It was based on a simple sailing analogy, acknowledging that you can’t rely on the wind to take you on the shortest path to your destination. Instead, a good sailor has to be able to tack — adjusting the sails to move back and forth across a straight route.

In the case of Clinton, that meant trying to chart a course down the political center by gently tacking across it. He would announce a slightly left-of-center policy one day followed by a slightly right-of-center policy the next.

That was a smart way to navigate during the mid-1990s, when the political winds were relatively calm. Clinton cruised to a comfortable victory on the equivalent of a perfect day for sailing.

Things are a bit different today. The waters are choppier and there are storm clouds brewing on the horizon. A good sailor would try to anticipate the winds and waves and get out in front of the swell.

An experienced or naturally gifted sailor can sometimes feel the change coming, but when in doubt he or she can always read the barometer.

As for the current conditions, the pressure first started to change gradually during President George W. Bush’s aggressive drive to reform Social Security. Recognized by everyone as a blatant attempt to dismantle a successful and critical underpinning of our modern social contract, Bush’s plan went nowhere.

Then Hurricane Katrina struck, simultaneously revealing both the insensitivity and ineptitude of Bush’s approach to governing. At the same time, the corruption of the Republican congressional power structure floated to the surface in the form of scandals involving House Majority Leader Tom DeLay and lobbyist Jack Abramoff.

Most recently, the manipulation of pre-war intelligence and the related indictment of I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby for lying about his role in leaking the identity of a C.I.A. agent demonstrated the moral bankruptcy of the Bush administration.

When such an awesome collection of forces combines to create a major storm, a sailor must be bold and decisively run full-sail ahead of it. Sit passively and you’ll get blown away and washed out. Tacking is not an option.

So far it is not clear that Democrats understand how to sail in today’s challenging environment. They swept the two most important races of this month’s elections in a clear sign of the storm that is approaching. But some are still recommending a cautious course.

A fast sprint ahead doesn’t have to be radical. Republicans would have you believe that a progressive agenda is extreme when in fact it is moderate and sensible. The policies pushed forward by the Republicans — from creating enormous budget deficits to eviscerating college aid programs to refusing to ban torture — are truly dangerous and radical.

To get ahead of the storm, Democrats first must gauge the winds that are already blowing. That means presenting a strategy for resolving the conflict in Iraq and bringing our troops home; offering a deficit reduction plan and casting it in terms of reducing our economic dependence on foreign nations; and advocating for a national energy initiative that diversifies fuel sources and reverses environmental degradation.

Then they should anticipate the winds that are sure to come. For instance, the new Medicaid drug benefit just went into effect and unfortunately it is certain to wreak havoc on the lives of those who depend on the program for their prescription medications. Knowing that, Democrats should now begin to campaign for a better alternative.

In these ways the Democrats can raise their sail high, but they need to remain steady and consistent as they steer ahead of the storm, because the lack of a confident and competent navigator has raised doubts among the crew and passengers.

It is more risky to sit still than to plow forward, because the storm is coming, and it will either push the Democratic ship along or capsize it. Nature abhors a vacuum and no political party lasts forever. If the Democrats don’t recognize their opportunity and address the crucial issues of the day, the American people may very well find another vessel that will.

Favorite

From the ArkTimes store

Comments

Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

More by Max Brantley

More by Warwick Sabin

  • Helena's disappearing buildings

    Preservationists hope to slow demolitions.
    • Mar 22, 2007
  • Trailers headed to Dumas

    Gov. Mike Beebe issued the following statement earlier today: Although this decision by FEMA to deny emergency funds to Desha County defies common sense, Arkansas will take care of its own people.
    • Mar 9, 2007
  • Youth Ranch robbed, vandalized

    According to a press release we just received: The Donald W. Reynolds Campus of the Arkansas Sheriff’s Youth Ranches (The Ranch) located near Fort Smith was vandalized overnight Thursday.  Items stolen during the break-in included all of the children’s saddles, food, tools and supplies from The Ranch’s carpentry shop and all equipment from its auto shop.  An investigation is underway with the Crawford County Sheriff’s Office.
    • Mar 9, 2007
  • More »

Most Shared

Latest in Warwick Sabin

  • Trickle-up theory

    Through thick and thin, there has always been one group of dedicated Americans whose support for President George W. Bush has been unwavering: The wealthy.
    • Mar 8, 2007
  • Time to go

    Tough questions face us in Iraq and it's time to confront them directly.
    • Mar 1, 2007
  • Plugged in

    One reason why the South remained solidly Democratic during the mid-20th century was the enduring gratitude to President Franklin D. Roosevelt, who brought electricity to the poor, rural parts of the region. According to one historical account, “Althou
    • Feb 22, 2007
  • More »

Event Calendar

« »

October

S M T W T F S
1 2 3 4 5 6 7
8 9 10 11 12 13 14
15 16 17 18 19 20 21
22 23 24 25 26 27 28
29 30 31  

Most Viewed

  • Cotton to CIA?

    Political junkies without a real election to overanalyze fill the void with "what if?" scenarios. With the State Fair underway, consider this column a helping of cotton candy for such readers.
  • The casting couch

    Long ago and far away, I had an academic superior who enjoyed sexually humiliating younger men. There was unwanted touching — always in social situations — but mainly it was about making suggestive remarks, hinting that being a "hunk" was how I'd got hired.
  • Caution: government at work

    I have several government targets this week.

Most Recent Comments

  • Re: The casting couch

    • sigh............ I would argue that the idea of 'freedom from fear' is part of the…

    • on October 19, 2017
  • Re: Caution: government at work

    • As to the AR Chamber of Commerce-DO NOT FORGET it supports passage of SJR8, which…

    • on October 19, 2017
  • Re: The casting couch

    • Freedom from fear is a human right.

    • on October 19, 2017
 

© 2017 Arkansas Times | 201 East Markham, Suite 200, Little Rock, AR 72201
Powered by Foundation