Jonah Goldberg

I know what you're thinking, because I'm thinking it, too: This is the perfect guy to advise the Democrats in the post-Clinton era!

Lakoff's argument for the Democrats came largely from his book "Don't Think of an Elephant: Know Your Values and Frame the Debate." Framing is PhD-speak for "make bad things sound good." Never mind that this "idea" has been around since the first caveman-politician who ran for Head Guy With Sharp Rock.

Lakoff's tough-love diagnosis for the Democrats: You've been right about everything for 40 years! The only problem was that those mean Republicans kept twisting your words around with clever, poll-tested phrases.

Lakoff told Democrats to take those freeze-dried ideas they've had stored up in the DNC fallout shelter since the 1960s and put 'em in shiny new packaging. Don't call them "trial lawyers," talk about "public protection attorneys." Instead of the downbeat, eat-your-spinach phrase "environmental protection," Democrats should say something spicier like "poison-free communities." Yeah, that's the ticket.

The Dems ate it up, bought the book by the ton, and paid Lakoff to work his magic. Dean called him "one of the most influential political thinkers of the progressive movement."

Clearly, he and Lakoff holed up somewhere and worked tirelessly into the night, clipboards in hand, to come up with precisely the right words to describe Democrats. Now Dean's taking it on the road, revving up Democratic audiences by explaining his Lakoff-influenced plan for taking back America.

"No longer will the Democratic Party allow itself to be defined by the Republican Party," Dean thundered recently at a Nevada confab.

So, after years of denouncing the GOP for unfairly labeling Democrats as effete, coastal liberals out of touch with heartland America, what label does Dean think best describes the Democrats? What cuts to their core? One word: Merlot.

He described the contest as "Merlot Democrats" vs. "Reliable Republicans." Ah, yes, that's a term that will rally the lunch-bucket crowd. That'll put steel in Dean's prediction that the "The South will rise again, and when it does, it will have a 'D' after its name!"

Now, in fairness, "Merlot Democrats" is an analytical label, not a rallying cry. But for those of us who believe in labels, it's a telling one, demonstrating that Democrats remain right where they've been stuck for decades.

And that's why the GOP has cause to cheer. It may have it's problems, but they are the problems of success. The Democrats' problems are the problems of failure. Of course, Dean might call them the "challenges of conviction" or some such - but that's old wine in a new bottle.

Jonah Goldberg

Jonah Goldberg is editor-at-large of National Review Online,and the author of the book The Tyranny of Clichés. You can reach him via Twitter @JonahNRO.
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