I've posted a longish treatment of the question Uncle Kevin raised in comments over at The Liberal Avenger. I'll reproduce it here for those who aren't interested in the LA comment thread.
A lot of fine, competent, together folks seem to get involved with the Democratic party. That’s a good thing. Democrats really know how to do things right; you get the sense that the party as a whole has, for example, really good penmanship, and always checks Mapquest to find the dopest route.
Unfortunately such a meritocracy tends to weed out folks who have a strong grasp of “big-picture” type thinking. Such right-brain dominant people (describing myself here) tend to be sloppy, lazy, and generally hard to work with. This is not so much of a liability in the Republican party, which is why they tend to have a political machine that runs like a BMW racecar and a policy apparatus that’s more of an enormous Rube Goldberg contraption administered by the Keystone Kops.
For this reason, on slow news days I often find myself offering the Dems advice on high-level strategy. Never have these guys been in such great need of such a talking-to as they are right now, as the Republicans sputter and flail their way into a key congressional election cycle.
We begin and end with the question of the Republican corruption scandals in the House. There is a ton of handwringing on centrist Democratic blogs right now (see TPMCafe for a representative sample) on exactly how to leverage GOP corruption on the micro scale, whether we need one cup of finger-pointing and three tablespoons of reform (a corruption-scandal tart crust, if you will) or if getting involved in a debate over reform measures is going to allow the Republicans to deflect attention from the reality that this scandal is really about a bunch of dirty, dishonest Republicans breaking the rules. And blah, blah, blah.
What all this fails to grasp is the fact that the no matter what tactics the Democrats use, if the 2006 elections center around the issue of corruption, the GOP is in desperate trouble. The only real danger to the Dems is that they get themselves so tangled up in tactical contortions that they forget to keep pounding, pounding, pounding the corruption issue right up to November.
Listen. Here’s as crude a strategy as you can get. I came up with it in five seconds. I’m offering it to the Democratic party for free to use in the Eric Cantor race. Let’s say the race has boiled down to Eric Cantor, the incumbent, vs. The Ape Man. My political people have informed me that the time has come to go negative. We run The Ad.
Ape Man’s 1st Ad: Eric Cantor was elected to look out for Virginia’s 7th district. Instead, he’s been looking out for himself, making his living by associating with Jack Abramoff, a convicted felon who has admitted to bribing members of congress. How many bribes did Eric Cantor take? He won’t say. Tell Eric Cantor to level with Virginia’s voters and tell us how many bribes he took from convicted felon Jack Abramoff.
Eric Cantor’s Ad: The Ape Man is a pinko hippie Marxist with no background in government.
Ape Man’s 2nd Ad: Eric Cantor still won’t say how many bribes he took from convicted felon Jack Abramoff. He’s also good friends with Tom Delay, who is so crooked he had to buy a threaded hat. How many bribes did Eric Cantor take? Virginia’s voters may never know.
Rinse. Repeat. You could use this in half the elections in the House. It doesn’t even matter if the guy never met Jack Abramoff. If you can make the incumbent spend a dime defending himself against allegations that he took bribes from a felon, I would say you’re at a strategic advantage.
Centrist Democrats are always fretting about the best way to get the public to prefer Dems to Republicans generally. Well, in this election, that battle is already won. All that’s left is driving home, on an individual candidate level, that these guys are crooks and need to be voted out.