Saturday :: May 5, 2007

Get Back To The Agenda


by Steve

I realize that what I am about to put forward is unpopular. The singular focus by the Democrats and especially their leadership on stopping a war they politically cannot stop is hurting the party, and stalling their agenda. There, I said it, and you can now all disagree with me.

There were many reasons why the Democrats were returned to power last November by independent voters, chief among them a desire to change the direction of this country and get things done in Washington. At the outset, the Democratic Congress focused on the items in its agenda, all of which had significant support within the country. There was even great concern amongst the GOP that Democrats were successfully splitting the House Republican caucus on these early votes, pulling dozens of GOP members over to the Democrats' side on a variety of issues.

But since Bush announced the surge and was able to focus the debate on the funding question, Democrats have fallen into the trap of making the singular focus of this congress about stopping the war as soon as possible. This is welcome terrain for Bush and the GOP caucuses in each house because the messaging favors the GOP and because in reality there is no politically feasible way for the Democrats to stop this war before the next defense budget debate this fall. Seeing our Democratic leadership and our own presidential candidates one-upping each other on the war gives the public the impression that we are only an anti-war party, with nothing else to offer months after we convinced millions to return the party to power as an antidote to the GOP.

To many of you, the only issue that matters is stopping this war any way possible. I applaud your conviction and respectfully disagree. No one likes the stalled Democratic agenda and singular focus on war funding more than the GOP, as it makes Democrats look like they are against the troops and impotent at the same time. Yet the Democrats cannot stop this war now or anytime soon. Nor should they commit political hari-kari trying to. This is the GOP's war, and Democrats should not take ownership of it especially when they can't at this point force a change in war policy anyway.

Months ago, I argued that Democrats should focus on their agenda and oversight hearings, and set the stage for forcing a change in war policy with the 2008 defense budget battle. Such a battle would take place in a better environment than they find themselves in now, after months of oversight hearings, with vulnerable GOP incumbents distancing themselves from Bush after a failing surge. Ideally it would also come after a string of Democratic victories on their agenda, demonstrating that they can govern and deliver a change in direction.

I agree with Reid that in the interim the White House and GOP should be forced to justify short term spending measures and vote again and again in favor of the war. Let the moderates in each party like Bayh and Snowe quietly work on a bipartisan change in war policy over the coming months while the agenda marches forward and the war votes continue to hurt the GOP. Democrats need to return their focus to their agenda, the oversight hearings, and constantly remind voters that there aren't enough Democrats to stop the GOP's war, thereby making the differences between the parties all the more clear. Continually hang the war around their necks.

The only way this country can move forward after 2008 is if more Democrats are elected. Crashing the party into the rocks in 2007 with repeated attempts to stop a war that it can't stop does the party no good.

Steve :: 3:45 PM :: Comments (63) :: Digg It!