ADVICE, GOOD AND...

ADVICE, GOOD AND BAD. The latest National Review cover story by Kate O'Beirne and Rich Lowry offers a blueprint for Republicans to save their congressional majorities. Much of their advice, I think, is actually (unfortunately) pretty sound, including their forthright endorsement of the renewed GOP efforts to make a lot of noise about security issues and the Iraq War in spite of the war's unpopularity. The authors say that the "the most important point to make" regarding the war is that "the cost of failure is dear" and that a pullout would create more problems than it would solve, and indeed, I think it's clear that George W. Bush and the GOP retain the ability to capitalize politically on the abject failure of their own war initiative, with the quagmire they've created serving the function of a gun pointed at the heads of American voters. ("Of course the war's a disaster -- vote for us if you don't want it to blow up in your face.") The piece gets less and less persuasive as it degenerates into yet more maniacal conservative earmark-obsession and predictable calls for Congress to finally get serious about slashing spending, but certainly at least some of O'Beirne and Lowry's analysis is quite sensible.

The bigger problem with all such late-in-the-game macro-strategy prescriptions -- for both parties -- remains the fact that November's outcomes are to an uncomfortable degree outside of any political strategists' control, dependent on structural and demographic factors that legislative gimmicks and campaign tactics can't do much to change significantly. I'd say the most significant and, for the Democrats, highly troubling recent indicator of how things might shake out in November has been the surprisingly low turnout seen in the primary and special elections in California and Virginia. I'm far from certain about what even explains those low turnout figures, let alone what steps might be taken to seriously reverse the dynamic.

--Sam Rosenfeld

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