Monday, August 28, 2006

If the Democrats Win a House....

Bush has created such a mess in Washington—with the help of twelve years of right wing Republicans like Newt Gingrich, Tom DeLay and "I can diagnose by video" Bill Frist—that it's going to take years, possible a decade or more just to clean up the damage that has been done. If the Democrats win a house, it's vital to the health of our nation that they think longterm. Eventually, the Republicans will have to wake up from their dysfunctional ideology and rebuild their party with a new attitude towards pragmatism and accountability (both have been absent far too long) but for now this country needs at least one party that can still function. Actually, there are many fine Democrats in both the House and Senate and eventually, if Americans can give them some help, they'll be able to start turning things around. For now, if Joe Lieberman is any indication of the problem, it's going to take some serious leadership to turn around a small percentage of Democrats who have drifted almost as far right as the famous arch-conservative, Barry Goldwater, who history now places to the left of most Republicans.

But if Democrats win a House this year, I believe there's a good chance they can get their act together. Stirling Newberry of TPM Cafe has some thoughts on what Democrats should do; here's an excerpt of his opening:
Chris Bowers at mydd asks - what should the Democrats do if they win one or both houses of Congress? What is the agenda? Or what should the Democratic Party pursue?

The totally out party has an easy job – oppose. Propose cutting taxes and raising spending at every turn, and oppose the big initiatives of the other side. Someday these initiatives will fall apart and people will hand power to the outs.

The dangerous moment is being slightly out of power – having one chamber of Congress for example, or even both with an executive who is head strong enough to push back. It is at this moment that the not quite outs can be in the position of taking the blame for when things go wrong, without really much of an ability to either prevent things from going wrong, or to make things go right....

And here's the part where Newberry gets to what the Democrats need to do:
So what should the Democratic House do?

The first step is one word: hearings.

The Democrats should act like outsiders who just came into town. The mantra is "The American people sent us here to get to the bottom of this mess, and we intend to." Talk as if things are a complete disaster, that money is missing, the budget is broken, the war in Iraq is a quagmire and that the economy is listing along. Since these things are all true, it won't be hard. Go after every screw up, every foul up, every f*ck up. Hound every political appointee, every Brownie, and then turn the corner on Rumsfeld by say April. The key story to tell is "While the cat was away, the mice played." And wear the constant expression of parents who come back home early to find a keg party going on.

The style is responsible and active. The story is that there is a huge mess in Washington that will take huge amounts of time and effort to sort out. The first key weapon is hearings, the second key weapon is

Press Conferences.

The best way to beat the Republicans is to play against this mismatch. Bush gives few Press Conferences. He is bad at them. The more the discomboobulated Boosh is on the screen, the better it gets. Reid gives good press conference, and Pelosi could if given room to maneuver and a clearer script. Each press conference should be in four parts.

The Pledge – take some ordinary thing that people expect government to do.

The Turn – show how the most recent Congressional investigation has shown extraordinary waste, fraud and mismanagement by the Republican executive, aided and abetted by the old Republican House.

The Prestige – Explain how what is really needed is an overhaul, but the Democratic congress is going to put in a temporary measure to get us by, warning that all it will do is slow the bleeding.

The Hook – Announce the next target of Congressional oversight and investigation.

I agree with most of this. I would particularly focus on where all the money went in Iraq and after Hurricane Katrina? And where did all the money go for Homeland Security? The one important thing I would add in addition to the hearings is that there's a clear need to find out where things really are and Democrats should be loudly voicing that need. In other words, what is the real state of the nation? I don't mean so much what has happened over the last five years; I mean, what is the state of our military, Iraq, Afghanistan, our economy, our energy future, our environment and so on? Where are the jobs going, why are wages stagnant, why isn't there an energy policy, why is there so much corruption, why has our State Department become so ineffective, is the CIA really inept or has it been politicized, what has happened to America's position in the world, why has the Vice President's office become so large and powerful, etc., etc.?

There has been so much bamboozlement and spin, it's important to find out where we are. And it's important for Congress to have the tools once again to find out what's going on. One of the overlooked incompetent acts of Republicans has simply been to cut back on what Congress is able to find out in terms of how well our government is functioning and whether people are doing the jobs they're supposed to be doing.

Like I said, all of is going to take time. The modern right wing conservative movement has roots that go back more than a quarter century; whatever passed for Republican conservatism fifteen years ago is long gone. What Republicans have been offering us these days is a complete failure. It is a conservative radicalism we can no longer afford.


Anonymous S.W. Anderson said...

Many good thoughts and ideas there.

I will add my strong desire for Democrats to put Bush, Cheney and the gang in a box. Just hobble them. Don't worry about being called obstructionists; revel in it.

Remind the public at every turn of the truth about what Bush/Cheney/neocon/congressional GOP leadership has meant: to the extent they've had ideas they've had bad ideas; and virtually everything they've done has turned out badly for the great majority of Americans. Then, there's the climate they've created that has spawned abuse of power and outright corruption.

I've never advocated such a thing before and under normal circumstances never would. But our circumstances are way off normal and have been for years.

Yes, it's dangerous to be on a great ship that's temporarily dead in the water. But at least if the ship is at rest the jerk at the helm is hard put to ram it into anything.

There will be plenty of opportunity to put things right once the current scourge is finally out of power.

1:44 PM  
Anonymous Craig said...

S.W., great comment. Every time Bush calls Democrats obstructionists, all they have to do is point out his sheer incompetence and say, "it's not obstructionism, it's a return to accountability, it's a return to sanity."

4:58 PM  

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