Dana Milbank leads off his “Washington Sketch” piece on Michele Bachmann (WP, 7/14) with Bachmann’s answer to an interviewer’s question whether higher unemployment would increase her chances of winning the Presidency. She answered, “I hope so”. A gasp is in order here. Bachmann is saying, in effect, bring on misery for Americans if it leads to her victory.

There is an old saying “hypocrisy is the tribute vice pays to virtue”. It would have been easy for Bachmann to say hypocritically “of course we are all working to reduce unemployment and feel for the hardships of the unemployed.” But she didn’t. Would her honest answer have been that her job as President wouldn’t have anything to do with employment? Freed by the Republicans from taxes, unshackled business, not government, would be doing the hiring. She would have “starved the beast”, the government, fulfilling her mandate from heaven. Or Bachmann could have said that her job as President was to facilitate the expansion of religious authority, curbing secular government. Her job as President would be to restore morality in America; her top priority not unemployment but banning gay marriage.

The best bet on an honest answer is to take Bachmann’s “I hope so” at face value. Winning is the goal. Winning is the value. Her voters would understand that. Following the 2004 election I wrote an article for the University of Southern California’s Public Diplomacy Press Review in which I said that Bush’s winning issue was winning. “In polarized America, politics is war. You can’t win unless you put your “team” first… the belief they were the “strong” team held on to and expanded Republican voters, regardless of issues. If “strength” is the issue then campaign atmospherics become a key factor in election outcome. …Bush’s rallies seemed to be deliberately crafted to be the antithesis of deliberative democracy. Huge crowds of screened supporters were injected with endlessly repeated catch phrases –“flip flop, flip flop”—and hyped up to boo and hiss in knee jerk reaction to the enemy, Kerry. The spirit was pre game rally and harsh as a warm up to a Roman gladiatorial blood bath. Bush crowds saw their job as cheering on their team and their team’s job as crushing the opponent. The medium – a sports framework—was the message. By contrast, Kerry seemed almost reluctant to stop for applause in speeches and debates that were earnestly directed at making his case on the issues.”

Seven years later this party difference is why Mitch McConnell can say he won’t compromise in the deficit talks because Republican supporters don’t want it; his goal is defeating Obama.

What can Democrats do? It would certainly be honest for Democrats to say over and over that a Republican position, threat or action was a “weak” option for America and that it is the Democrats that put forward plans for a “strong” America. A good simple message.

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