November 17, 2006
The result of the elections last Tuesday represents a seismic and rather unexpected shift in American politics, but it also spells the end of President Bushs term as a political force in Washington. Simply put, the Democrats have the opportunity not only to enact their own ideals but also illuminate the Presidents entire legacy as a wholly awful experience for this country. Five years after 9/11, the blank check that this country gave George W. Bush to make sure that we would no longer have to fear terrorism has been rescinded. But while the Democrats have received this long-awaited opportunity to solidify the ideals of the party, liberals, like myself, are intimately aware of our partys ability to shoot itself in the foot whenever it is given this sort of chance. So the question remains, how do the Democrats balance the tenacity of its base without losing the new gains in the swing states and West?
First of all it must be said that I did not think the Democrats were going to take advantage of this unprecedented chance to take power until 9pm Tuesday night. Only the Democrats are capable of losing after the Republicans were plagued with spectacular scandals. John Kerry owes the former prostitute who outed the Rev. Ted Haggard a thank you note for distracting the public from possibly costing the Democrats the congress while Jim Webb has to consider himself lucky that the long-suppressed racism of George Allen surfaced during the You-Tube era of politics. Despite these distractions, the Democrats pulled off an amazing win with a rather limited platform, proving that Bushs post-9/11 prestige has finally been lost. With the exception of Liebermans win in Connecticut (which was aided by the worst example of the clueless liberal stereotype in Ned Lamont), the Im not Bush strategy finally worked.
Now that the Democrats have finally emerged from twelve years of political irrelevance with control over both the House and Senate, they must take advantage of the limited time that they have to set the ground for a complete sweep in 2008. Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi hopefully know this and are planning an alien concept for the Democratic Party: a comprehensive and tangible strategy. Simply put, it is time to put forth our version of a Contract with America. But with the mistakes of Newt Gingrich and George W. Bush to guide us, we could actually have complete political control by 2008.
This goal requires the Democrats to adhere to new political ideals and strategies that they have rejected for years but now must embrace to keep hold of the gains made in 2006.
First of all, the Democratic leadership must instill a party discipline similar to the Rovian style that the media has encountered for the last six years. This means no leaks, repeating the same well-vetted phrases during interviews, and immediately cutting ties with anyone who is accused of political corruption (the Republicans forgot about that last part and suffered greatly for it).
Secondly, the Democrats must stay on message and deliver to our new, broad base of the middle class. This means speaking only about health care, education, tax cuts (excluding the new scapegoat of big business), and increasing the economic standard of living. Nancy Pelosis first move in increasing the minimum wage and proposing tax-deductible college loans will immediately demonstrate a commitment to just one of the many groups of people who have been ignored by Bush.
Unfortunately if we want to continue to keep the Heartland and West, we must put social issues like gay marriage on the back burner. The country is just not ready to embrace gay marriage at this point and putting it on a national platform is dangerous for our long-term longevity. Abortion is safe to a degree, so Democrats must remain quiet in public in order to avoid waking the sleeping giant of the Evangelical right. What this means is that we as a party should speak about broad issues to the media and political rallies in the Heartland while quietly solidifying our traditional social issues with the grassroots supporters in the Northeast (the Republicans have been doing this for years and have been wildly successful). This challenge will be the hardest test for the Democratic leadership in Congress as they also have a responsibility to the now traditional base of minorities within the party. Blacks have been ignored for too long and the growing Hispanic population still has yet to find a party that truly meets their needs. The issues that affect these groups must be addressed in public without exceptions, while the more controversial social issues (specifically gay marriage and abortion), should be lobbied for when addressing the so-called secular progressive base on the coasts.
The reason that the Democrats are in power today is the quagmire of Iraq. If the Democrats fail to solve this problem before the Republicans are able to blame the mess on the congress then they will never recover the trust of the American people. The tenacity that the Republicans demonstrated in eliminating Donald Rumsfeld shows that the President may be staying the course, but he is also making sure that his blunder can soon be pinned on the Democrats. Iraq, by no exaggeration, is close to being a second Vietnam. The Democrats would be wise to develop a comprehensive plan to leave the country in less then two years to be replaced with UN peacekeepers (with limited American representation) while a limited support force remains in Kuwait as a safeguard to a complete collapse of the Iraqi government. Is this cut and run? Ask the people serving overseas if they would like benchmarks or wait for the President to randomly extend their tours to complete the accomplished mission. Bush has spent the last six years isolating the United States from the rest of the world, now the Democrats have to ask for help if we ever want to leave Iraq with less then 6,000 casualties.
We are now left with the question of the 2008 presidential race. In order to avoid the bruising and damaging primary of 2004, the party must rally behind a candidate now. Who is this person? Barak Obama. Like Bill Clinton before him, he has the support of the feverous American youth, but he also has a name recognition that Clinton never had before he ran in 1992. This gives Obama an advantage over the other Clinton, who has proved to be nothing more then a political windsock (on top of being a lightning rod for the right). Obamas rhetorical skills are now legendary, and he will be able to deflect the racism and other various dirty tricks that he will undoubtedly face from the Republicans (ask Harold Ford about how fun these attacks can be). Who should he run with? To appease our new voters, Obama should run with a conservative Democrat like Wesley Clark, i.e. someone who has a favorable NRA and EPA rating (gun control is a lost cause, but the environment and conservation are still important issues in the West). A military record is also essential to courting the vast land between the coasts which until recently the Democratic leadership had been to pompous to go into and ask for votes. Simply put, these issues must be solved soon by the new majority in congress, or we will soon find ourselves looking into power from the outside once again.