Wednesday :: May 4, 2005

Should The Democrats Offer Solutions, Or Is It Futile In Bush's Washington?

by Steve

The Washington Post’s Steven Pearlstein writes a thoughtful piece this morning on what he concludes are a set of missed opportunities by Democrats to seize the initiative and demonstrate to voters that they can lead again. Why does Pearlstein think that Democrats are missing these opportunities? Because as he sees it, they are failing to offer their own solutions on a range of issues from Social Security to energy, health care, fair taxation, to name a few.

I understand Pearlstein’s point; it is true that House and Senate Dems see no benefit to compromising on something as important as Social Security, when 1) Bush's plan results in greater benefit reductions than doing nothing (per the CBPP); and 2) the history of Tom DeLay and this White House over the last four years is that whatever the Dems offer will be taken and turned into a worse bill at the end without benefit of a conference committee, as E. J Dionne noted yesterday.

Is that bad for our democracy? Sure it is. Pearlstein’s approach of putting ideas on the table only works if the Democrats put those ideas on the table as core principles that must be in any final bill, (and if the Democrats don't blink,) and if the GOP didn't have the votes to do whatever it wanted under the false cover of bipartisanship anyway. But the bankruptcy and estate tax votes show that neither Reid nor Pelosi control their caucuses on these second-tier issues. So the only cohesion they can find is on the big issues like Social Security.

Also, Pearlstein’s approach could only work if Reid and Pelosi negotiated directly with the moderates in both houses on the framework of what would be in a final bill on these subjects, and were able to keep DeLay and the White House from strong-arming GOP moderates into caving under White House pressure at the end to abandon these deals.

How plausible is that scenario?

Steve :: 9:20 AM :: Comments (39) :: Digg It!