This is the question that begs asking, because unless it's answered in the affirmative, the likeliehood is that any changes wrought in the mid-term elections will be extremely small. In politics, the advantage is to the incumbents -- just as the adage in boxing, that you need to knock out the champ to win the title, you need to affirmatively sell yourself and your ideas in politics to knock out the incumbents -- the way the Republicans did it in 1994.
They never did anything (or, rather, did very little, and only in the Senate, which underscores the incumbent advantage of gerrymandered districts) after years of just being the criticizing minority party, and only took the majority by presenting a stark alternative with clear policy prescriptions.
Right now, I would say they're vulnerable -- mostly because they moved away from those very policies on which they had distinguished themselves and toward pork-barrell and "self preservation" over principle.
But back to the question: Do the Dems provide any alternative, or do they simply hope for self immolation by the party in power? From what I see so far, there won't be any big changes come November.
This Screedblog captures the problem nicely:
[i]The Democrats have many mantras and slogans: ?grim milestone,? ?hopeless quagmire,? ?culture of corruption,? and ?Karl Rove?s dingo ate my baby.? But for a while they?ve had one big overall slogan, dripping with gusto: ?Together, America Can Do Better.?
Not will, or should, or must, but Can. It?s like saying ?Together, Frenchmen can win a hot-dog speed eating contest.? Doesn?t mean it?s going to happen, or that you?d want to watch. But it?s typical of modern politics ? something vague and patriotic, but not so patriotic it would unnerve a Dixie Chick. Together, America Should Be Greater! Together, America Might Go Further! Together, Democrats Can Win Elections! Providing the Republicans stay home.
This fine slogan was recently retired when the Dems needed something new to accompany their new vision for western civilization. The winner was another phrase focus-tested into a thin smear of rhetorical mush: ?A New Direction for America.? Disaffected Republicans were heartened ? you mean less spending, quicker confirmation of conservative judges, permanent tax cuts and increased military outlays? Well, no. Nancy Pelosi announced that should the Democrats retake the House, item #1 will be Bold and Sweeping: they will ?give America a raise by increasing the minimum wage."
Apparently she believes that America makes the minimum wage. The population consists of industrial workers who get a dime each day for the number of fingers they haven?t lost to the machinery, a few million skinny Bob Cratchits shivering in underheated counting houses, and six plutocrats whose tight control over Consolidated Spats, Amalgamated Whalebone and other nefarious trusts keeps everyone poor and shoeless.
The minimum wage was indeed a New Direction ? last century, anyway. Compared to the unofficial GOP slogan ? ?Fight and win the War on Terror by blowing up more bad guys real good? ? it?s like running against FDR in ?42 with a pledge to reduce postal rates.
The Dem?s manifesto goes on. My, it does go on.
?Lower gas prices and Achieve Energy Independence.? By cutting the gas tax? More nukes? ANWAR? Faster, pussycat! Drill! Drill! Right? Alas: they will ?crack down on price gouging,? presumably by hiring 100,000 people to roam the land looking at gas station signs and comparing notes. They will use Federal funds to ?develop American alternatives.? Because there?s a magic fuel just waiting to be invented, if only we spend enough money. Forget hydrogen cells; we?re going to spend $230 billion on hydrogen stem cells. Everyone will be driving a Ford Embryo by 2016.
?Cut College Costs.? Why? Because it?s the job of the Federal Government to regulate the cost of a four-year degree in English Lit, with a minor in Textile History.
?Ensure Dignified Retirement.? Again, sounds great. Mandatory fedoras for men; a 50 percent reduction in Viagra commercials. But no: the Democrats wish to ?prevent the privatization of Social Security,? because you cannot be trusted with your own money. It?s an interesting definition of dignity: waiting by the mailbox for your government check.
?Require Fiscal Responsibility: Restore the budget discipline of the 1990s that helped eliminate deficits and spur record economic growth.? Translation: taxes. Well, we?ve had thirty-three unbroken months of job gains. Tax revenues are up almost 13% over 2005, reflecting both the rosy-pink business climates and gains in personal income. As for the fat cats: taxpayers making more than 200K used to pay only 40.5% of total income taxes ? the parasites! ? and now they pay 46.6 percent. When you let them make more money, they pay more taxes. Or you could take a ?new direction? - kill the goose, pull out the golden egg, and send it on a 40-city tour so everyone could see it and take pictures.
Anything on the war? No. the Dems slam Bush for not adjusting Pell Grants for inflation, but the manifesto says nothing about Terror, the War On. We?re supposed to intuit that they?d redeploy to Camp Murtha, from which we can strike Iraq with only a fortnight?s delay. Let no one mistake their position: they have risen to the challenge of these perilous times, and come out against excess CEO compensation. No doubt this means they?ll be hard on Iran.
Those mullahs are pulling down millions. [/i]