Is there or isn't there?

An interesting debate today between Garance Franke Ruta, Kevin Drum, and Ezra Klein about whether the "there's no damn crisis" approach to the debate, as advocated by Matt Yglesias, Josh Marshall and others, is just asking for it. Whether Republicans will be able to twist that position, which, on the merits, is right on, into an example of Democrats not 'getting' it and being hopelessly behind the times.

There are a lot of liberals who are upset that Democrats ever waffled on the 'crisis' issue, and see this as a sort of original sin of the privatization debate. A primordial concession to fake out GOP economics that has henceforth given them free reign to control the debate with whatever fantasy they currently favor.

While i more than agree with the truth of the no crisis position, it does smack a bit of other battles Democrats have lost while defending their princples to the death. Yet most of the other options, as Josh Marshall has eloquently pointed out, involve playing the same old tired game of losing baseball with a Republican majority. It gets Democrats absolutely nothing, and, in this case, destroys a one of Democrats' seminal achievements.

The key, it seems, is the ability to keep a couple of targeted messages in the air at the same time. With the fake GOP policy wonks, you push the 'no crisis' line like there's no tomorrow, refusing to cede any of the various diversionary 'policy' debates they are already cooking up. To the public, you tone down the no-crisis attitude and focus on, like Garance suggests, a vision of the private account system riddled with many of the same broad, blunt, negatives that Clinton health care had.

The Republicans do this to us all the time. Democrats in Washington think they are engaged in the debate, debunking tons of absurd arguments while all the while, the Republicans have been really focusing on a public opinion battle that has nothing to do with winning those details.


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