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The Wedgie Strategy

Howard Fineman outlines the Democats new "wedge strategy:"

If you are a political junkie, you’ll remember Wedge Strategy 1.0.  Invented by the Republicans in the 80s, the idea was to create division within the then-majority Democratic Party at the grassroots by highlighting “wedge issues” such as affirmative action, abortion, gay rights, free trade and immigration. The aim was to create friction between, say, black Democrats and white unionists over affirmative action. Party-building is about papering over conflicting views; the Republicans’ goal in those years was to expose them.

It was an outside, grassroots game.

The Democrats’ New Wedge Strategy is an inside one, aimed at Bush-led Republican Washington, where team loyalty is supposed to be the number one virtue, and where the president has ruled with an iron hand. The Democrats want to unhinge that discipline by exposing — or creating — friction between: Bush and Cheney, Bush and his political advisor, Karl Rove; the White House and the Republican-run Congress; and between competing Republican leadership tongs on Capitol Hill.

None of these figures or factions is popular in the country right now, and the Dems’ rather simple idea is to force them to defend each other in broad daylight.

The obvious difference is that Republicans actually discussed issues, Democrats are simply slamming the members of the administration daily but have yet to offer any alternative vision to the public.

Furthermore, while Fineman is right that Republicans have had a good deal of success using values issues over the last twenty years to exploit fissures within the Democratic party, he completely misses the fact that the engine that drove the Republican take over of Congress, 1994's Contract With America, had very little to do with values issues. It was a document firmly grounded in conservative principles of limited, effecitve government that offered a concise, specific set of reforms: budget reform, welfare reform, tax reform, tort reform, and reforming the "business as usual" rules in Congress.

Continuing to bash the Bush administration may keep the GOP down, but it won't lift the Democrats up.  Without presenting a detailed plan or statement of principles to take advantage of the public's extreme dissatisfaction with Congress and the general direction of the country, Democrats risk watching their new strategy turn from being a "wedge" into a "wedgie" - in other words, it could backfire into a most uncomfortable missed political opportunity.