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Risk and Reward

By Matthew Yglesias

"Risk and Reward"

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The Democrats’ strategy of trying to essentially hide behind the skirts of the handful of Republican torture opponents appears to be working, which I would have thought unlikely as of a couple of weeks ago. I do, however, wonder a bit about its wisdom. At the end of the day, the odds that Democratic candidates are going to pick up a lot of votes from strong torture advocates remains low, this gambit notwithstanding. Conversely, by relying on McCain et. al. to do the heavily lifting, Democrats are essentially denying themselves the possiblity of reaping whatever rewards may exist for standing up for basic decency and morality against Bush’s depredations.

What’s more, it seems to me that ducking national security fights involves some bad optics merely as such. A lot of doubts about Democrats and security issues have less to do with concrete policy than with essentially characterological concerns and if you worry that liberals are timid and easily frightened, well, then this is some fairly timid and frightened-looking behavior.

On the other other hand, however, I do continue to think that the tactical skills of the current Democratic legislative leaders have been largely underappreciated. As Amy Sullivan pointed out in the Spring, they’re actually pretty damn clever and effective considering the objective difficulty of operating as a minority party.

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