Public Comment

Why the Democrats Always Lose

By Paul Glusman
Thursday September 18, 2008 - 09:37:00 AM

Democrats always bring a knife to a gun fight. They believe that “the issues” should predominate in their campaigns (even though they often cave on them—see offshore drilling). Republicans always set up the same ambush, every four years, and the Democrats walk into it, like Charlie Brown kicking Lucy’s football. 

Democrats could fight back—but it’s not in their nature. 

Remember the theme of the Republican convention, “Country First?” Well the Republicans nominated a vice president who literally sleeps with and cooperates with secessionism. 

A few months before Palin spoke to the Republican convention, she addressed another party’s convention: the separatist Alaska Independence Party which wants to take Alaska out of the United States. That party’s slogan isn’t “Country First” but “Alaska First—Alaska Always.” Palin’s husband Todd is a long-time member of that party. Joe Vogler, the founder of that secessionist party, said (before he died in a plastic explosives transaction gone bad—I’m sure there are lots of good civilian reasons for a separatist to be buying plastic explosives) “I’m an Alaskan, not an American. I’ve got no use for America or her damned institutions.” The Alaska Independence Party trumpets those words on its website, right above the introduction to the party. You can see that at 

The Democrats won’t attack this. 

David Axlerod, chief strategist for the Obama campaign, told Fox News that, “We are not running aginst Gov. Palin.” Gov. Palin is sure running hard against them. Recent opinion polls show McCain has taken the lead from Obama. 

Once more in a presidential race the Democratic candidate, Barack Obama, lands in a ditch by the side of the road, after an ambush, keeping company with Walter Mondale, Michael Dukakis, Al Gore, and John Kerry. (Yes, Clinton won, but in 1992 he received only 43 percent of the vote and prevailed only because Ross Perot took votes from President Bush.) Who could have seen that Republican ambush coming? It’s only been same one for more than a quarter century.  

Democrats have run focus groups and those focus groups have told them that Americans are tired of negative campaigning. Focus groups are very good at figuring out what you want to hear and parroting that back. But Americans vote for the party that aggressively attacks the other one, and that’s always the Republicans. Karl Rove and the late Lee Atwater have proven that, over and over again. The Democrats hire the most experienced campaign managers. They got that experience losing elections. 

Imagine, for a moment what the Republicans would do if Barack Obama had addressed an African-American—or even an Illinois—separatist party. Imagine further that Michelle Obama was a long-time member of such a party. Just a few months ago all we heard about was the Obamas’ over-the-top preacher, Michelle’s not being sufficiently proud of America, and Barack’s supposedly inexcusable failure to wear an American flag pin on his lapel. Yet Democrats won’t attack for far worse. 

One might ask, if the Democrats attack Palin’s connections to the Alaska Independence Party, won’t it be acting just like Rove and the Republicans? Well, yes, if you mean winning the presidency. No, if you mean not telling the truth. 

The facts: Todd Palin, Sarah’s husband, was a member of the Alaska Independence Party from 1995-2002. In 2002 Sarah Palin first ran for statewide office as a Republican. I may be cynical, but it is not beyond reason to assume that Todd left his secessionist party in order to help Sarah’s career. Todd Palin never has renounced his views that Alaska should be an independent country, free of the United States. 

But what about families being off limits? That didn’t faze those who have been attacking Michelle Obama steadily for months now. Sarah Palin has paraded Todd (the “First Dude”) in front of the crowds at the Republican Convention, and on the campaign trail. Todd is very involved Sarah’s Alaska administration. He is neck deep in the Troopergate investigation having been subpoenaed to testify on it. Todd was the person who pressured to have his sister-in-law’s ex-husband fired from the state troopers. Todd sat in on and participated in official meetings. Todd hired an investigator to sic on his ex-brother in law, according to the Sept. 6 Times of London. He can’t be a prop for his wife’s administration and campaign for her without being questioned about his Alaska separatist positions. 

Sarah Palin, although a Republican, addressed the Alaska Independence Party Convention in Fairbanks, through a video, in April, less than five months before she was nominated to become vice president of the United States. Palin told the secessionist AIP that she shared that party’s vision of upholding the constitution of Alaska. She wished the AIP a successful and inspiring convention. She told them to, “Keep up the good work.” Since creation of an independent nation of Alaska is the AIP’s work, her praise of their good work is self-explanatory. (See watch?v=ZwvPNXYrIyI.) 

What Sarah Palin did not say to the AIP is as informative as what she did say. Palin never mentioned the United States Constitution, only Alaska’s. Palin did not suggest that the AIP might want to include upholding the U.S. constitution in its program. Nor did she say that she has any area of disagreement with the AIP on its central aim, secessionism. 

The AIP spells out on its website ( that it seeks a vote on independence: “The call for this vote is in furtherance of the dream of the Alaskan Independence Party’s founding father, Joe Vogler, which was for Alaskans to achieve independence under a minimal government, fully responsive to the people, promoting a peaceful and lawful means of resolving differences.” Joe Vogler was the guy killed with plastic explosives who said he had no use for America or its institutions. 

So why don’t the Democrats attack this? Shouldn’t they demand that Sarah Palin and her husband, who campaigns for her, both renounce secessionism? Shouldn’t they demand that she live up to the pledge she gave when installed as governor to uphold and defend the Constitution of the United States? After all, the founder of the Republican party, Abraham Lincoln opposed secessionism and led a war to defeat it, while the founder of the AIP supported taking Alaska out of the United States. 

At least, questioning the Palins’ patriotism is reality-based, unlike the swift-boating of Kerry four years ago. 

Wouldn’t it be fun for the Democrats to turn the tables and call the Republicans unpatriotic? I can think of nothing more enjoyable than watching the Republicans cringe and be defensive and cry that it is so unfair. This will hit the Republican base hard, but more importantly will drive moderates away from the Republicans. And, it will stun the Republicans like they haven’t been stunned since Lyndon Johnson portrayed Barry Goldwater as likely to start World War III back in 1964. 

The Democrats won’t do it. They are doomed to repeat the same mistakes every election cycle. They are the kid in class with the “kick me” sign someone has taped to his backside. And they will lose a race they could have won once again. 

Paul Glusman is a Berkeley attorney.