Monday, November 07, 2005

How Liberals Can Regain the Country

It is going to take much more than the bad news dogging this administration to defeat this administration next year. It’s fun though to recap the precipitous fall from grace that has “W” running for cover and his feeble attempts to recover such as his recent pronouncement that the White House staff will stand down for a show and tell on ethics and the handling of classified information. This bunch has been in power for five years but still don’t understand ethics. If they don’t understand what ethics is after all this time, I doubt that a three day refresher course is going to make much of an impact.

It began with the administration’s abysmal handling of Hurricane Katrina, followed by the aborted nomination of Harriet Miers for the Supreme Court. Then the white knight of prosecutors Patrick Fitzgerald rode in to take down Libby who is accused of lying to the grand jury and continue the hunt for the person in the White House who tried to smear Joseph Wilson by outing his wife who was a covert CIA agent. Let us not forget the indictment of Tom DeLay and Bill Frist’s appointments with financial investigators. In the background is the public’s ever increasing discontent with the Iraq war as the casualties and the costs mount and the reasons for going to war are revealed as a tissue of lies. All this has resulted in Bush’s approval rating being currently stuck on the wrong side of 40 percent.

Yet, Bush is not without resources. His recent naming of Samuel Alito to replace Sandra Day O’Conner on the Supreme Court may prove to be a stroke of intelligence and it has won back his conservative base and assuaged the pundits and think-tankers who want a reliable judge. He has, for better or worse the bully pulpit of the presidency to use to rally the troops coupled with his cunning and his monumental self-confidence. This Administration understands that politics is a contest between winners and losers and winning is the only thing that matters. It also understands that victory doesn’t happen over night and it begins at the local level. In other words, this administration is not going to fall just because it is not doing a very good or even a terrible job of governing. The Democrats cannot win by default; they must offer the country a clear alternative to destructive conservative policies.

The Democrats have to offer the country a national face for next year’s midterm elections. Voters may not be happy with the party in power, but the mess in Washington to them looks like one for which both parties are responsible. Democrats have to offer good reasons why they should replace the party in power. Otherwise, the voters may decide to keep the devil they know.

On Iraq, the Democrats must stop obfuscating and take a united stand. Democrats must recover from their appalling collapse in 2002 and 2003 which led to the party’s senators split down the middle on Bush’s war resolution. Democrats have to take the moral high ground and demand that troop withdrawal be pegged to concrete and substantive goals while simultaneously demand that the Republicans be brought to the court of public opinion over their lying us into this war and their appalling mishandling of it once it began.

The area where the Republicans are most vulnerable is the economy. With the huge debt coming due it gives a new meaning to chutzpah that the GOP attempting to reduce it on the backs of the poor while simultaneously proposing more tax cuts for the wealthy. The Democrats must not only demand that the poor not be the scapegoat for the deficit but also demand that the tax cuts for the wealthy are rolled back.

Democrats must show some backbone by filibustering Alito’s nomination to the Supreme Court. Alito is nothing more than Scalia dressed up in more attractive garb. His judicial record is to the right of the right and if he is appointed much of the work of the court in advancing the rights of the individual will be undone.

Democrats have made a good start by building up the party’s withered infrastructure. Under Howard Dean the party has put in place in every state a funded national staff. This will pay dividends especially in the House races which tend to emphasize local issues. Beyond that, the party must put forth a national agenda which appeals to the natural instincts of the voting public that government policies at both the national and international level should be fair, just and compassionate. It should be the party of hope in contrast to the current political climate in which fear is the primary motivator.

David M. Goldberg