Double-Edged Ideas Posted by: Jon Henke
on Thursday, February 03, 2005
A few days back, Dale wrote on the Democratic Parties apparent "prevent defense" strategy, which--while very effective when you've got the lead--isn't so effective when you're down by 2 branches of government...
You can't build a successful party by simply opposing what the other party does. You have to be for something. You have to provide attractive alternatives.
Ezra Klein responded by noting that the Democrats do have ideas, and noting "the 10 Leadership Bills that they unveiled last week". The Democrats, Ezra points out, do have an agenda...they're just unable to move it forward, because Republicans "won't put legislation up for vote unless a majority of Republicans support it".
And from a procedural point of view, I think Ezra makes a good point.
But, the problem is deeper than that. The Democrats "lack of ideas" is not simply a lack of any ideas. After all, everybody--from the Communist Party to the Libertarian Party to Lyndon LaRouche--has ideas. Not necessarily good ideas, but they have ideas.
No, it's not a shortage of "ideas". It is a lack of ideas that capture the imagination; a lack of ideas that motivate; a lack of--in electoral terms--good ideas.
The Republican Contract with America--and the strategy surrounding it--is a prime example of effective opposition party strategy. The Democrats, however, seem to have only gotten half of it...
...Republican dominance, for its part, is directly traceable to the determined bomb-throwing and demagoguery of that consummate oppositionist, Newt Gingrich.
The Democrats have certainly found their bomb-throwing, demagoguing, oppositionist voice. However, they haven't produced the other side of that puzzle - that is, produce an agenda that actually captures the public imagination....and the public trust.
So, sure...you've got ideas. But while you're designing yet another website to detail those ideas, you might ask yourself why, for quite a few elections in a row now, the public has been so uniformly unimpressed with them?
The (very general) answer, I think, lies in the fact that the Republicans have grasped both sides of the coin.
Republicans have come to grips with the reality that the electorate likes Leviathan. They really do. They like subsidies; they like price controls (that benefit them); they like being Paul when Peter is robbed. They like government spending--health care, welfare, defense, arts, education, etc--that aligns itself with their values.
Democrats, on the other hand, have not come to grips with the fact that the electorate also likes limited government. They really do. They like lower taxes; they like local control; they like reduced regulation (that benefits them). They like government non-intervention that aligns itself with their values.
The Republican Party wants--and, for awhile anyway, will get--it both ways, as they attempt to construct an electorally acceptable fusion of Leviathan and Liberty.
Democrats, meanwhile, simply hope the Republicans fail, so they can get back to work building a better Leviathan.
At the rate they're going, the Dems will have to wait for a caretaker Republican president like Bush41 ended up being to start taking back Congress (and even the Senate for more than 2 years at a time.)
Of course, they may get lucky and find that in 2008, I don't know.
The Democrats are in Decline, it has always been a more uneasy aliance of populists, liberals and socialists than the alliance of libertarians, business and social conservatives that the GOP put together. So they cannot put together a contract for America
Blue state hardcores are getting disenfranchised, as they fracture the DNC and start fleeing to the Greens & others then the GOP can move more right