The Moose recommends that the donkey play against type.
Both Clinton and Bush were able to run again their parties' stereotypes in order to win the presidency. Clinton was a "different kind of Democrat". Bush was a "compassionate conservative." In order to expand beyond the base, it is essential to defy the perception of the party. In contrast,neither Gore nor Kerry attempted to run against the grain.
The Moose administers some tough love to the donkey - if you continue along the path you are on you will continue to slide in popularity.
Clay Risen makes a strong case in the current issue of the New Republic that Democrats should become deficit hawks. He argues,
The Democrats can remake themselves as the party of fiscal sanity and paint the president's agenda as a waste of the country's future. They can work across the aisle with fiscal conservatives like Coburn to highlight Bush's most egregious proposals, and they can force the GOP leadership to make politically painful decisions about spending cuts for popular programs.
As the Moose has argued, the donkey can make common cause with moderate and even conservative Republicans against the rising deficit. Attacking pork barrel spending and corporate welfare has a populist resonance that can actually appeal to the exurbs. Inflation and rising interest rates as a result of the deficit will inevitably take a bite out of family budgets making this a bread and butter issue.
These days, there is more pork on Capitol Hill than a Jimmy Dean Sausage Factory. Just peruse these examples from the big spending bill that are listed today in the New York Times,
The bill also includes $1 million for seafood marketing efforts in Alaska, $269,000 for harvesting seafood in Mississippi, $200,000 for a new seafood plant on the coast of Oregon, $4 million for "shrimp aquaculture" in seven states and $443,000 for research to develop "baby food containing salmon," plus $236,000 for blueberry research in Maine and $133,000 for maple research in Vermont.
Keep in mind that Congress just raised the debt limit by another $800 billion, we have a $8 trillion debt and we are at war. And yet, a conservative and Republican led Congress is spending like LBJ on steroids.
Meanwhile, the Bush administration plans to lavish more tax cuts on their base - the ultra-rich. According to a New York Times/CBS poll, the American people have their doubts,
Nearly two-thirds of all respondents - including 51 percent of Republicans - said it was more important to reduce deficits than to cut taxes, a central element of Mr. Bush's economic agenda.
Bill Clinton proved that one could be positioned as a progressive deficit hawk. His efforts, along with those of a Republican Congress, balanced the budget and created a surplus that opened the possibility of a progressive agenda.
The Moose thought that Kerry missed a hawkish opportunity by attacking Bush from the right on national security. Now, on the domestic front, Democrats should become deficit hawks seizing the initiative against a spendthrift Republican President. Embrace budget reform. Yes, some in their ranks will object, but at this point Democrats cannot be worried about stepping on toes - particularly because the Bushies are aggressively attempting to position themselves as reformists.
Come on donkey - surprise us and defy the expectations!