Friday, December 30, 2005

8 Ideas for Democrats in 2006

I remember almost going crazy in 1994 over the Republicans' "Contract with America". The idea of Newt Gingrich solemnly entering into a covenant with the American people seemed, well, repellent. I can't remember many of its details today, but I do remember that it seemed to give the Republican a united vision. That November, they won a majority in the House of Representatives for the first time in 40 years.

Though I don't remember many details, I do remember the Republicans focused on Congressional scandals to drive the idea that Democrats had grown corrupt and power mad after 40 years of controlling the Congress (I also remember a lot of talk about "term limits" which mysteriously died down once Republicans got control of the House). The scandals back then were penny ante stuff compared with what is going on now--there was a "franking" scandal involving members of Congress using postage for personal business. I imagine as much as hundreds, perhaps thousands of dollars were lost. Compare that to the millions Republican Congressman Duke Cunningham raked in from defense contractors in exchange for helping them get Pentagon contracts, or the indictment accusing Tom DeLay of using illegal corporate contributions to win an election, or the brewing Abramoff scandal, said to involve 20 members of Congress.

Democrats are onto this already. Senate minority leader Harry Reid is launching a "red state" tour aimed at focusing attention on Republican scandals. This is a good start and should be a central plank in the Democrats' platform for 2006. Here is a bare bones platform, including that idea, as well as others.

1. Corruption and cronyism: focus on specific scandals involving Republicans in Congress and on cronies Bush appointed to his administration (think FEMA's Brownie). The idea is that Republicans are out of control and unchecked--having one party control the excutive and legislative branches is not good for Americans. Republicans are a party of corruption and illicit favors; Democrats will clean this up. Specific ideas: real penalties for ethical violations by members of Congress, real scrutiny of presidential appointees, put teeth in campaign finance law enforcement to punish violations swiftly.

2. Helping American families: the idea here is that some people are doing great in recent years, but many are working hard, playing by the rules and continue to struggle. A catastrophic event like a medical emergency or a lost job can push families into bankrupcty. Go back to the Clinton promise: Americans who play by the rules and work hard should be able to make it, should be able to raise children, should not be forced into bankruptcy. Specific ideas: policies that reward work (reverse capital gains tax cuts and income tax breaks for the wealthy, give tax breaks to middle and working class families, fix alternative minimum tax that hurts many middle class families), health care reform--gradually expand Medicaid (perhaps start with coverage of all children under 18, or under 12). Fund it with money that comes from repealing tax cuts for the wealthy.

3. Break our dependence on fossil fuels from the Middle East: first step should be convening an open forum to discuss solutions (in contrast with Dick Cheney's closed door session with energy bigwigs who got to write energy policy). Invite experts in the field, but also get input from ordinary Americans. All options on the table--we can look at increased drilling at home, though be realistic about how much oil that will yield and what environmental consequences could be.

4. Get serious about defending America: the bipartisan 9/11 commission gave the administration something like 4 F's, 12 D's and 2 incompletes on a "report card" for protecting America. Address all of these issues within specific time period, perhaps six months. Remind Americans we are glad no attacks have occurred since 9/11 but we cannot rest on that and must take warnings seriously. There were warnings before 9/11 that we did not heed because there had been no attacks on American soil and we thought we were safe. We can't let that happen again.

5. Bring focus to war on terror: we took our eye off the ball (i.e away from Bin Laden and Al Qaeda, who attacked us on 9/11) when we invaded Iraq based on misrepresentations. We need a comprehensive plan to address threats abroad, not just in Iraq. Afghanistan is still a mess, and Al Qaeda operates around the world. Follow Congressman John Murtha's plan to redeploy troops from Iraq within 6 months and send them to other places where they are needed, retaining a force near Iraq that can return if necessary.

6. Real support for the troops: our troops deserve the best. They shouldn't have to ask loved ones to send them necessary equipment, at their own expense. We will make sure they have everything they need--from vehicle armor to personal armor. We will end the practice of awarding no-bid contracts to companies like Halliburton that then defraud the Pentagon and serve our troops expired meals. We will make sure their loved ones are supported at home with a safety net for families that cannot make it financially or emotionally when a family member is called to duty. We will make sure our troops receive adequate health benefits and top health care. Our troops do everything we ask of them, we should be ashamed not to give them everything they need and deserve.

7. Address presidential abuses of power that have accompanied war on terror: no more torture, shut down the secret CIA prisons in Eastern Europe, force the President to obey the Constitution rather than bypassing federal law and ordering secret warrantless spying, draft a bipartisan Patriot Act that allows us to go after terrorists while respecting the U.S. Constitution. Point out we are losing respect abroad; the United States is no longer known as a defender of human rights, but rather as an abuser. This hurts our ability to gain necessary allies in the war on terror. Most importantly, torture, secret prisons, indefinite detentions, and secret spying are simply not consonant with American values.

8. Make sure the administration fulfills its promise to rebuild New Orleans and to address underlying issues of poverty, as President Bush promised.

That's all for now. Maybe someone can up with 2 more ideas, and/or a catchy name for the platform...


Anonymous Magis said...

How about "Honest Deal"

How about:

Keeping Jobs At Home

How about:

Getting Rid of the Tax and Spend Republicans

12:09 PM  
Blogger Chris Edelson said...

I like Honest Deal--though all of the points you suggest are good. I see the Republicans more as spend and spend (since they ate big on tax cuts for the wealthy) though I see your point there too.

12:53 PM  
Anonymous Magis said...


You're right.

(revise, revise)

How 'bout
Get Rid of Budget Buster Republicans!

5:43 PM  
Blogger Chris Edelson said...

absolutely! looking forward to seeing some results in November. thanks for the comments

10:27 PM  

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