Unless Beltway Democrats Get Their Act Together, You'll See Calls For A New Party On The Center-Left
There are many days when it is easy to piece together a short summary of everything that is not going well in the country and the world, and you'll notice that most of these problems have Bush’s fingerprints on them. As a result, it amazes me why I don’t hear Democratic politicians all speaking out of the same playbook hammering the failures of the Bush Administration. In fact, I’ve heard little at all from Democratic leaders during the congressional summer recess, and yet this would have been the ideal time to “set the negatives” on the Bush Administration by framing the landscape favorable to Democratic interests before everyone returns to the Beltway. You can blame Reid's mini-stroke for this if you want, but he has lieutenants. And you can blame the right wing media blackout on Nancy Pelosi if you want, but there are hundreds of Democratic senators and representatives back home now and I don't get a sense that a coordinated and relentless message is being put out there in the local media. As I said yesterday, Democrats need to hammer Bush on Iraq and Social Security and get the jump on him by framing those issues now while he is in Crawford not on vacation, and instead I have heard nothing.
Is it really so hard to develop a set of talking points that progressive and DLC-member Senators and representatives can agree on, and then have all Democrats while home this month hammer these points over and over again? I have heard much about how Pelosi and Reid do a better job of working with various groups and strategic thinking than their woeful predecessors, yet during the entire time this month while Bush has been the piñata-in-waiting, I’ve seen no coordinated effort amongst the House and Senate Democrats to field a common message that the members and senators can take back to their districts and states and hammer the entire month, nor have I seen any conference calls with bloggers to disseminate such a message.
Why is it so hard for Democrats to hammer the point home that due to the lack of a broad-based energy policy from an administration of oil men that have been in power now over four years, and a lack of real accomplishment on increasing fuel efficiency during this time, Americans are guaranteed to be battered by higher prices for gas, heating oil, and natural gas for years while our vulnerability to economic terrorism increases? Likewise, have you heard anything of consequence from Democrats on health care or the environment?
As I said yesterday, anything the Democrats can say now about Social Security can go a long way to undercut the GOP’s efforts to ram through privatization in the middle of the night a couple of months from now. While they are at it, a few words about the fiscal train wreck caused by runaway spending in Iraq, and tax cuts that haven’t produced jobs would also go a long way towards undercutting what the GOP will try and hit Joe Sixpack with after the recess, when it is already being reported that the GOP incumbents are reaching for issues to deflect attention from gas prices and Iraq. According to the Wall Street Journal, you will hear a lot from the GOP in the coming weeks about even more tax cuts and a good deal of “let’s blame the immigrants for all our problems.” Democrats can be ready for this by pointing out that it was the GOP tax cuts and the runaway spending that got us in the fiscal mess we are in now, and corporations and the wealthy don’t need any more handouts from the federal government. As for immigration, Democrats should remind voters that the GOP is always ready to blame someone else for the problems they themselves have created.
And to “work the refs” a little, why can’t Democrats throw in some media-bashing and give their constituents an alternate message to the phony claim of a liberal media, by pointing out that in fact our current media is a wholly-owned subsidiary of the GOP? There are plenty of examples to pull from, and new ones emerge every day. And while they are at it, they can also point out the anti-consumer alliance between the GOP leadership and former GOP senators and representatives now on K Street, which results in corporate lobbyists being the engine for the Bush Administration’s policies that place private gain ahead of public interest.
The overall point here is that there is no “setting the negatives” going on during the recess like there should be. We had this exact problem back in 2002 when the hapless Gephardt and Daschle sat on their hands and didn’t frame the issues to our advantage, only to see Bush roll out his new product of the Iraq war in September. I am troubled to see a lack of a message and framing coming from Pelosi and Reid three years later, even a basic list of issues and talking points that a wide cross section of the party can agree to. Perhaps it is time for Howard Dean to step in and get something akin to the Grover Norquist weekly meetings started where the major players hash out the common themes and core issues that will comprise the party’s message to the faithful and the media for that week.
Regardless of who convenes it, meetings like these are necessary to rescue the party from another season of drift and missed opportunities to set the negatives and get a jump on the Bush Administration. If we go into another fall season where the GOP gets to come out of the blocks first and catches the Beltway Democrats off guard once again, it will be all the reinforcement I need to start arguing like others for the creation of a new movement supported by the Netroots, either inside the party, or even a third party on our side of the aisle, the Liberal Party, that will do the work that the Beltway Democrats fail to do.