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THE 9-POINT PLAN FOR A DEM MAJORITY
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The LiberalOasis 9-Point Plan of Action
The following, originally posted on Nov. 7 2002, is a bold yet pragmatic road map for re-energizing the Democratic Party and returning to majority status in 2004.
1. The Dems need to get into “Government-In-Exile” mode
That means to the largest extent possible, no compromises. It’s a GOP show, and they should blow it on their own.
And if Zell Miller and his kin don’t like it, then let ‘em go to the Dark Side. You’re either with the Democrats, or you’re with the Republicans.
At the same time, becoming the Party of Incessant Criticism is not an option.
We need to churn out detailed proposals as if we were in power.
We need to lay the groundwork for ‘04 and provide an enticing vision what life would be like in an alternate Dem universe.
2. The Dems need coordinated leadership at the top
Easier said than done, but anything will be better than the current set-up.
A House leader more concerned with his presidential campaign. A Senate leader who epitomizes milquetoast. A DNC chair, foisted upon the party by the retired President, with the charm of a used car salesman.
Everyone’s got to go.
Dick Gephardt is gone and it's unimaginable that Terry McAuliffe would be allowed to stay.
The only reason to put up with McAuliffe's Global Crossing baggage and general smarminess was the perception of ruthless effectiveness, now long gone.
Should Tom Daschle be blamed for anything? It doesn’t matter.
He’s pretty good at keeping the caucus together, but he’s not an energetic face of the party, nor is he an ideas man. That's what's needed now.
So who should lead?
The base is still upset that many leading Dems, particularly those that secretly harbored reservations, sided with Bush on Iraq.
It appears to have hurt fundraising as well as turnout.
On that alone, Nancy Pelosi is preferable over Martin Frost for House leader.
Additionally, Pelosi showed her insider skills by corralling more than half of the House Dems to vote against war.
LiberalOasis won’t get too involved dissecting Senate options, since it’s unclear if the knives are even out for Daschle.
Real standout choices don’t exist. But Chris Dodd (CT) and Bob Graham (FL) deserve strong consideration.
If seniority and experience could be set aside, and if he could be convinced to shelve the presidential pipe dream, John Edwards (NC) could be a real engaging choice.
3. Don’t wait for Bush. Claim issues now.
Dems can’t set the agenda.
But they can aggressively claim ownership of key issues, instead of simply reacting to Bush -- via complaining or copycatting.>
Bush Inc. and his corporate lobbyist cronies have already telegraphed the coming agenda. We can use that to our advantage.
Hence, the importance of point #2. A coordinated House-Senate leadership team is necessary to pull this off.
Without it, you’ll end up with individual politicians holding their own news conferences, jockeying selfishly for position -- and no strong party message.
Below are some of the main issues on which Dems must be aggressive.
4. Key Issue: Tax Simplification
The Dems need to get out in front of this issue immediately.
Both the Wall Street Journal and Washington Post yesterday indicated that the Bushies have a bold tax simplification scheme on the burner.
As soon as possible (read: days), Dems should unveil their own progressive tax simplification plan before Bush can get his out of the box.
The GOP version is sure to be another giveaway to the rich that will starve our government’s coffers and suffocate investment to combat social ills.
Getting a superior version out first may induce the media to delve into the details of Bush’s plan right away, since there will be something to compare it to.
Otherwise, there will likely be a flurry of fluff stories hailing Bush as a tax savior.
Any Dem response after that will either seem nitpicky, or suffer from Me-Too Syndrome.
Fortunately, Dems have their own plan on the shelf. Ted Kennedy and Gephardt proposed similar plans a few years ago.
If you are in a position to get the party to do something about this, here is your mission:
Dust it off. Update it. Hold a news conference. Stop reading this. Do it now. NOW NOW NOW.
5: Key Issue: Economic Stimulus
The GOP will soon put forth a bunch of tax breaks for corporations and call it an economic stimulus plan.
Dems should waste no time and offer a combination of the old-school New Deal -- public works job creation -- with the New Democrat -- job training, education and child care to help welfare recipients transition to work.
The emphasis on job creation should have the added benefit of shoring up support with African-Americans and Latinos, who still suffer from higher unemployment than whites.
The party can complete the stimulus package with minimum wage hikes and better unemployment benefits, plus a beefed-up SEC for increased market confidence.
6. Key Issue: Fiscal Responsibility
The best thing Bill Clinton ever did was bestow the mantle of fiscal responsibility on the party. Dems shouldn’t throw it away.
Dems should go the extra mile and release a complete alternative budget, to show that they can invest in the nation and pay down the debt at the same time.
This would go in conjunction with the tax simplification plan, which should slightly cut taxes on the middle-class and below, while raising taxes on the wealthy to make sure all costs are covered.
This also should be discussed as part of economic stimulus, since a balanced budget will help keep interest rates low over the long-term, helping GDP growth, the stock market and home ownership.
7. Key Issue: Energy Plan
Drilling in the Alaskan Wildlife Refuge, which Bush Inc. is committed to, is a consistent political loser with the public. There’s a big opening here.
Dems should get behind a comprehensive energy strategy focused on higher mileage standards and alternative fuels.
This should not be a hard argument to make. People like spending less money on gas.
8: Key Issue: Supreme Court Judges
If Dubya tries to push his luck and offers up a hard-right Supreme Court nominee, Dems have an obligation to filibuster, but they should do even more.
Dems should publicly nominate a moderate judge, or release a list of moderate judges, in response.
(Though it may be difficult to find a judge willing to go along with the political maneuver.)
That would encourage the media to make direct comparisons, highlighting the extremist stances of the Bush nominee.
9: Key Issues: Social Security and Medicare
These two issues are the toughest ones.
For these, Dems should wait and let the GOP go first.
Let them take the hit for offering up plans that favor HMOs, insurance companies and Wall Street firms.
But after hitting them, Dems should follow with bold proposals too. The “blue ribbon panel” tack has gotten way tired.
Dems need to embrace reform that fits with the party’s basic ideals -- that the wealthy should pay more because they can afford to.
That means achieving long-term Social Security and Medicare solvency by cutting benefits for those that don’t need them.
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