T Nation

Do Dems Have New Ideas?


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]



I want grid lock in DC because neither party is worth 3 dead flies.


Thank you. I want no new laws and no vacation days for anyone in Congress.


We are better off when they are on vacation.


Boston, have you been drinking the kool-aid again?


This is an interesting statement that deserves more consideration in light of the discourse of the past number of years. We hear frequently from the MSM that "nothing is getting done" because of "gridlock". Isn't this more or less how this system of government is supposed to work? We are usually far better off when the government isn't able to ramrod through legislation/regulation.


No - as an amateur student of politics, I'm interested in the question whether I agree with anything in the Democratic platform or not.

I really think the Republicans would have to perform hari kari for them to lose the House if the Democrats just stick to the same old same old.

The Republicans squandered opportunities over the decades the Democrats controlled Congress because they weren't an alternative -- they were just Democrat-lite. Only when they provided a comprehensive and new plan did they give anyone a reason to vote for them (even if they have gone about squandering things lately...).

That's why surveys of voter discontent don't do a good job of predicting winners - just because voters are unhappy with the current officeholders doesn't mean that they see the challengers as a viable alternative. The obvious conclusion, one would think, would be for the oppostion to attempt to step up with an alternative that hasn't already been rejected. Maybe even to avoid mealy-mouthed phraseology in favor of actually dealing with problems -- but that would be expecting far too much.


I believe the Democrats are planning starting a war for no good reason, bungling a natural disaster, spending the next three generations into the poorhouse, spying on everyone in sight, wiping their asses wth the Geneva Conventions, and smearing anyone who dares disagree with them.

Why are bad ideas better than no ideas?


Because change requires effort. Status quo does not.

This isn't a qualitative comparison of Republican vs. Democrat ideas -- it's a question of what Dems need to do if they actually want to take back control of the House. I think that because of incumbency advantages, a challenger needs to be viewed as a significant upgrade, not just a lesser evil that may only be lesser because they are currently out of power.


We should vote them all out. The Constitution states "WE, THE PEOPLE", not the companies, not the lobbyists,not the fund raisers, THE PEOPLE... Congress has forgotten whom they serve and should pay by having their asses voted out. Sure, the new guys would be bought off, but WE need to make a statement.

(step from soapbox)

From a conservative to the Democratic Party, here is what you need to do to take control of both Houses in the fall elections:

1) Stop pointing fingers. Everyone knows what's wrong, but you stop there. Please formulate some fixes for these problems that can be debated and resolved.

2) Tell us what you are going to do when you regain power, ala the Contract with America via the Republicans. Then, unless you want to lose power quickly, actually try to keep the contract.

3) Stop blaming everything on the "top 1% of the top 1%" which some/most of you are a part of. Nobody in America wants the rich taxed excessively because we all dream that some day we will be rich. Don't kill that dream.

The time is ripe for a change of power. The challenger has an easy task of showing the upgrade because the Republicans have done such a wonderful job of screwing things up.

As for the Republicans, I hope you lose. You had the power, you had the opportunity, you chose the low road and blew it.



See, you aren't doing so bad until you start spitting your invective at the end, which shows you to be suffering from a kool-aid overdose.

Anyway, the Republicans are doing a fine job of gerrymandering and so forth, raising a lot of money, and throwing bullshit issues up to mobilize their voters.

I think the Republicans feel they are in a vital fight for control of the nation and the direction of the country while Democrats, in many cases, feel they are representing their own beliefs and views.

Obviously, banding together as a group to kick the shit out of the Democrats works a lot better than having a bunch of different people with different views who aren't working together effectively to play the political game.

At the same time, they, the Democrats, had better have something to talk about. They should also drive a wedge between the Republicans and the vast fundamentalist nutjobs that they have sold old to... or at least pretend to pander to in exchange for votes.


You really think it is harder to switch from status quo when the examples of the things being done that Harris cites the general American public disagrees with? I would hardly call them status quo.

As far as new ideas, I don't think this is the issue the voting public really care about. Generally, people don't care if it's new if it doesn't work.

The dems will not change their agenda (the many they have that they can't seem to agree upon); they are what make their party what it is. If anything they should break off and form new parties and get this political party stated. That is the only new idea I am interested in seeing from them.


Yes, I do -- because of the inherent advantages of incumbency.

And I don't think that a bunch of parties would necessarily be an improvement -- nothing like unstable coaltions to make a mish-mash of things. Though I guess if gridlock was your goal that might improve things. Just think how easy it would be to gridlock the Senate with filibusters in chamber in which no party had more than 25 members...


It doesn't really matter if the left has new ideas, or not. They are incapable of communicating them to the public anyhow.

The DeanNC is a joke. The Dem leadership inside the beltway is inept at best.

Harry sums up the very reason that the left will still be on the outside looking in in January 2007: He can't name a single reason to vote FORthe left. He can only give reasons to vote AGAINST the right.

People want to vote for a candidate - not against.

Maybe the left should try and find Newt's 1994 strategy notes.


Wasn't Nacy Pelosi in the news recently saying something to the effect that the Democrats would announce their cohesive platform right after they won back a majority in the House in 2006?

For all the gripes about Republican leadership - and there are many - why don't we spend more time talking about how the Democratic leadership is so godawful? Pelosi and Harry Reid are some fairly dim bulbs to be the Congressional leaders of the party.

This is not just an excuse to bash the Dems - I think part of their problem is that they have no stars to 'lead the charge' out of minority status. Incumbents have huge natural advantages - who is the Dems' Newt Gingrich, the idea man and architect of the new movement of the party? One has not yet appeared.



The guy never stopped.


That is a good assessment but the GOP has done far worse than just "squandering things lately".

They pretty much have choked while wipping the asses with the 'Contract With America'.

The fact that Luntz wrote most if that document tells me that the GOP had no intention of sticking to the 'Contract'.

I am not thrilled about being right on this one.


I agree.

The left should skip over Newt's outline for how to ask your wife for a divorce while she is in the hospital recovering from cancer via a telephone call.


Like him or hate him - he orchestrated the Contract with America.

Make fun with all the snide personal comments you want.

IF the dems want back in - they have to do something similar to what he led in 1994. Hating Bush won't get them anywhere near the majority.


Oh no, vroom and marmadogg don't think I think for myself. Whatever shall I do?

You guys should try some rudimentary argumentation classes. It's a shame schools are such a failure that reasonably intelligent people such as yourselves find it difficult to piece together actual arguments.