Lately, it has been even more obvious that even in the minority, without power to bring legislation to the floor, the Democrats are still loosing the PR war. Not a sunday talk show goes by without a question to a panel Democrat about their lack of a plan for Social Security, and that question rarely gets answered properly. "What does it matter if we have a plan, we don't have the power to bring it to the floor anyway." Most Talking Heads bring up the point that the Democratic party is one starved of ideas. Touting Republican ideas such as bankruptcy reform and class action reform, as well as energy, tort, and education reform. All backed by plans (except Social Security). Granted, these Republican ideas and the plans that accomany them are in complete contradiction to what Democrats hold as their ideals for these issues. Republicans have no problem however, blatently lying about the reforms they bring about. Right there on the Senate floor, the master liar, Orin Hatch, will tell America that allowing millionaires to dissolve their debts is best for America, even though the law he pushed was putting roadblocks in the way of middle class Americans (who suffer more from such debts) from doing the same. Consider a millionaire goes bankrupt, they get the Donald Trump treatment, whereas a middle class American goes bankrupt, you get a homeless guy who becomes an even greater burden on society.
In either case the Bankruptcy bill is one that pontificates the problems with the Democratic party. First, it is obvious that by voting for a Republican law, you are instantly making that law a bipartisan effort
. Bipartisan effort, a term that in the mainstream of thought shuts down any debate on any legislation. While at the same time instantly terming the debater as obstructionist, or anti-american or crazy left-wing commy bastard worthy of swinging from gallows.
So, the first thing the Democrats should do is shape up the party members to vote like Republicans do, right along party lines, up or down. We can still afford to have people like Benator and Joementum voting along with their Republican friends, but the rest of the Dems should vote along with party lines. Anything more than a 5% defection rate amongst members should be deemed unacceptable. Look at what Chris Bowers
found, most of the senate votes along with the
Republican Wing of the Democratic Party
DLC (even though Chris posits the DLC is voting along with Democrats). Either way THIS IS UNACCEPTABLE. Democrats have a full 20-25% deffection rate amongst party members. You bet your rosey red state ass that ain't the case on the other side of the aisle.
Enforcing discipline gets harder to do unless people in leadership roles vote along the party ideology. Yes ideology, while Bill O'Reilly has made ideaology into a 4 letter word, in tough times such as these, maintaining true to ideology is paramount. It is all you have, what is a party without a platform? And what is a Democratic party without a populist platform? These questions seem to escape Democrats and the people they put in front of television cameras.
On to ideas. Once they get their idealogy figured out, the Democrats should come up with ideas (MIT readers know I offer these from time to time
). The excuse of being in a minority and thus not having floor priveleges can only take you so far, even though the Democrats haven't even used that excuse yet. Especially when the right wing attack machine is constantly blaring that Democrats are a party devoid of ideas.
This just isn't true. We have lots of ideas, lots of new ideas. I think biodiesel is a great idea that Democrats can use as a central point to their own energy policy. Along with that an alternative fuel development project should be pushed as John Kerry suggested during the campagn. These are ideas that are multi functional, along with addressing the energy problem they deal with economic development (agricultural, and technological), they also address environmental issues. Democrats are loaded with ideas on education and health care. They are full of civil rights ideas. However, they are not publicizing these ideas, and therein lies their second error.
Finally, use the press. Every Democrat that goes onto any television show needs to tout some idea, some legislation he/she is trying to put forth. Nothing sickens me more than when Sean Hannity tests his listeners by asking them what Joe or Jane Democrat has done during their tenure. Democrats should be spewing legislation ideas as if they needed to justify their exhistence to keep their jobs (isn't that their job anyway?). Then they need to always couple the phrase, "I would love to bring this to the floor but Bill Frist (or Tom Delay) and the Republicans in power won't let me."
If nothing else this is a strategy that will keep the right wing at bay, or at least force them back to their focus groups to rethink their media strategy. However, talk is cheap and in a political climate such as the one we are in today, words without the actions supporting them are counter productive. "I voted for that bill before I voted against it" and a nickle gets you on the T in Boston.
Simple strategies that Republicans are using daily, sticking together, showing conviction and downplaying the other side's lack of legislative ideas. These are seemingly basic strategies of politics. So why does it look like Democrats missed elementary politics school?
Conviction is lacking, and what is perhaps more damaging is the lack of discipline in their votes and during media appearances. He who shapes and guides the debate wins it. Democrats should be aware that Republican operatives will be analyzing voting records come 2006 and 2008. The party of the people would wise to follow the recomendations laid out here, unless of course they like their current power status.