Getting To Victory In 2006
David Broder told us over the weekend that the independent vote will be key to whether or not the Democrats retake one or both houses of Congress this fall. While it is a given that the GOP will attempt to rally its base to turn out with stunts like the flag burning amendment, selective immigrant bashing, making gays the bogeymen once again, and saving Paris Hilton from taxation, Democrats hope that anti-Bush anger and the “culture of corruption” angle will be enough of a national rallying cry to get their voters to the polls.
It won’t. Part of the reason why the GOP wins elections and the Democrats have their hopes dashed stems from the party’s failure to communicate effectively, its failure to target and get their voters to the polls, and its failure to counter the GOP’s disinformation and preemptive smear campaigns with effective and early messaging of its own. At this point, I have seen nothing from Rahm Emanuel or Chuck Schumer that indicates any of this will be fixed by Election Day, thereby relegating the Democrats to another night of disappointment in November if we simply count on our base to come out in greater numbers than a supposedly demoralized GOP base. The Republicans always seem to get their sheep to the polls to vote against their self-interest. What the Democrats need to do is use the anti-Bush anger of their base and marry it with an overall national message of eliminating the rubber-stamp Congress to get independents to come along with us this fall.
And contrary to the “afraid-of-their-own-shadows” aversion of the Beltway Democrats to enunciate a set of national issues and values that distinguish Democrats from the GOP, we can offer areas where both Democrats and independents can agree on the benefits of a Democratic congress in 2007.
Iraq: Democrats can push the administration to bring home the Guard and reserves to improve domestic security; immediately reject any suggestion by Bush of permanent bases and maintaining 50,000 troops in the country for a decade; accede to the Iraqis’ calls for transition to their own security forces while pushing for Murtha’s redeployment proposal; immediately set up a regional security conference, including Iran, to tighten Iraq’s borders; and to bring the world community aboard to help in Iraq’s economic development.
Gas Prices and Energy Independence: While there is nothing that a Democratic congress can do immediately to overcome Bush’s failed energy and security policies that have led to high gas prices and continued vulnerability to Persian Gulf oil, Democrats can call for an immediate commitment to the New Apollo Initiative, for a fraction of what we are spending in Iraq. This and other broad-based approaches towards energy independence and diversification has huge economic benefits to the country in new industries and jobs, major environmental benefits in reducing greenhouse gasses and cleaner air, and will reduce our consumption of fossil fuels from unstable parts of the world. And yes, this will mean reconsidering objections to nuclear power, coal, and offshore exploration, and talking with Hugo Chavez about long-term energy deals like the one he has already cut with the Chinese.
Health Insurance: Instead of piecemeal tax giveaways to the rich and GOP inaction on extending coverage to the uninsured, Democrats can fix the “donut hole”; eliminate the Part D corporate welfare for HMOs and drug companies; and implement a universal coverage initiative that uses the one health care system that can efficiently extend coverage without a new bureaucracy: Medicare.
Social Security: Keep your hands off, Mr. Bush.
Tax Reform and Fairness: Democrats can call for the end of a tax system that favors the wealthy at the expense of everyone else. The tax system should be made simpler, fairer for the middle class and small businesses, and complex shelters, subsidies, and welfare for the rich and large corporations should be ended so that everyone pays their fair share. In short, the tax system should favor Main Street over Wall Street.
Congress: Democrats need to call for a Congress that performs its oversight role of the Executive Branch to ensure that common values of individual liberties, privacy, and checks and balances are maintained and not sacrificed to please a power-consuming White House intent on scaring the public into giving up its constitutional rights. And to ensure that Congress is returned to the people and away from the clutches of K Street and Corporate America, Democrats should call for a clean Congress through the voluntary public financing of congressional campaigns.
Afghanistan: Democrats can push for the redeployment of thousands of Special Forces back into Afghanistan to finish the job that Bush botched the first time.
Africa: Some of the redeployed forces, including Special Forces, will have to be reassigned into Africa to isolate Al Qaeda in Somalia, keep them from spreading their poison into neighboring countries, and to root them out of that country to address Bush’s failure to push a coordinated security and economic development approach in Africa.
All of these initiatives can be communicated to the base as well as independent voters in the context of being consistent with shared and community values, so that the Democrats can point out that it is the GOP and far right agenda that is inconsistent with the values this country has stood for.