Pollsters and pundits say that Democrats need to offer specifics in order to close the sale with voters next month and take control of at least one house of Congress. As I noted in the earlier post, Nancy Pelosi put forward a good “drain the swamp” message against the GOP yesterday, and an agenda of what she would ideally attempt to do as the new Speaker in her first 100 hours. Not days, hours.
Day One: Put new rules in place to "break the link between lobbyists and legislation."
Day Two: Enact all the recommendations made by the commission that investigated the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
Time remaining until 100 hours: Raise the minimum wage to $7.25 an hour, maybe in one step. Cut the interest rate on student loans in half. Allow the government to negotiate directly with the pharmaceutical companies for lower drug prices for Medicare patients. Broaden the types of stem cell research allowed with federal funds - "I hope with a veto-proof majority," she added in an Associated Press interview Thursday.
All the days after that: "Pay as you go," meaning no increasing the deficit, whether the issue is middle class tax relief, health care or some other priority.
To do that, she said, Bush-era tax cuts would have to be rolled back for those above "a certain level." She mentioned annual incomes of $250,000 or $300,000 a year and higher, and said tax rates for those individuals might revert to those of the Clinton era. Details will have to be worked out, she emphasized.
"We believe in the marketplace," Pelosi said of Democrats, then drew a contrast with Republicans. "They have only rewarded wealth, not work."
"We must share the benefits of our wealth" beyond the privileged few, she added.
A good, broad-based agenda that isn’t shy about the Bush tax cuts, fiscal discipline, and the 9/11 recommendations. Pelosi correctly notes that the Clinton-era tax rates for the wealthy should be reimposed and the Medicare Part D corporate welfare should be dealt with right away, all things that will never happen if the GOP retains power next year. And it is more likely that Pelosi will get her chance: according to the National Journal’s Hotline blog today, of the top 30 races to watch for turnover next month, 29 are currently held by the GOP.
If Pelosi rises to the top, all I ask is that she put together a good, telegenic team around her, and then delegate to them. In our Fox News-poisoned media culture, Pelosi cannot be the face of the party by herself on all issues. She can’t be the main Democratic opponent to the administration without her message being mangled by the right wing propaganda machine. Instead, once the Steny Hoyer/John Murtha battle for Number Two is settled, I would hope that Pelosi and the senior leadership figure out who will be the House Democrats’ chief advocate on each issue, and then allow that person to carry the arguments against the administration every day, every news cycle, for the next two years. A media war room needs to be set up so that House Democrats are getting their message and the counter-message to Tony Snow’s propaganda each and every day and within each news cycle. Pelosi cannot do that by herself, nor should she. There needs to be a Tier One message of positive change and optimism carried by Pelosi, and then a Tier Two message of pointed criticism of the GOP record and Democratic solutions carried by those designated by Pelosi on each issue. The White House needs to be put on the defensive and kept there for the next two years.