Democrats Need to Lead


My party, the Democratic party, is making a mistake. Congressional elections are coming up in just under a year, the Republicans have lots of holes in their armor, but the Democrats arenít making the case for why they should become the majority party again.

There is a great lack of clarity of what alternative solutions they would offer. There is a lot of opposition but not much alternative.

Opposition to the war: Now that the war is a political liability I think even Bush and the Republicans would like to get out as soon as they gracefully can. Opposition to Supreme Court nominees: That battle was lost long ago when the presidency and the senate were lost. A lot of hay made out of the ethical problems of Republican leaders, which should be followed up but should not be the lead story of what Democrats are about.

What is the Democratic alternative plan for shoring up Social Security? For improving and paying for Medicaid and Medicare? For the budget deficit? For a coordinated, alternative approach to international relations? To dealing with terrorism? For dealing with global warming in a way that voters will approve? For dealing with the plusses and minuses of globalization? What are the key issues that need to be addressed that Republicans donít even bring up, like the increasing gap between the very rich and the rest?

For one perspective I talked with Tim Carpenter in Massachusetts, National Director of Progressive Democrats of America. Tim is a very fast talking, energetic guy who is passionate about his cause. He said various Democrats and groups do have good proposals for issues such as single-payer health care, more balanced tax policies, education reform, and international trade policies that are fairer to workers. But he agreed the Democrats have not gotten those messages clarified and communicated to average working people who will be the key swing voters.

It wouldnít take much coordination at the national level. Imagine if all the Democratic congressmen and senators got together and voted on their own bills as if they were in the majority. What solutions to problems would they pass? What issues would their bills address that arenít even being dealt with in the real congress? Do a good job of publicizing those and at least people would know what their option is.

Many of the congressmen may not agree with the vote of the majority of their party. But hey, thatís democracy. I donít think the middle of the road voters, who need to be won over, would hold flaws in the proposals against the Democrats, at least not as much as having no proposal. I donít think theyíd even care if they disagreed with some of the proposals. They would see that there is an alternative group with a different approach who are trying to solve problems. I think people want to vote for those who perform, who make a viable attempt at the imperfect job of governance.

A recent email newsletter from one of the Democratic sub-groups was crowing about Bushís approval ratings being down and urged members that it was time to ďstand up and fight.Ē The heck with that. That bundle of issues is a tar baby that keeps us focused on the past. Itís casting stones at those in power like weak outsiders. To become the majority party donít stand up and fight -- stand up and lead.