The Moose counsels the donkey not to just say no.
The political landscape for 2005 is fairly clear. Now that they are in complete control in Washington, Republicans plan to transform the welfare state in a fundamental fashion. By partially privatizing social security and further deepening the deficit, the GOP strategy conceives that it will profoundly alter the relationship between the citizen and the welfare state. Discretionary spending, including defense, will be limited and entitlements will no longer be the province of the Democratic Party. By also enacting tort reform, the trial bar will be weakened as a political force which is a traditional bastion of Democratic support.
Whither the Democrats? Given this challenge, the Moose has long held, that the Democrats must transform themselves into an insurgent party. That means that they cannot merely be the party of "no", but also offer an alternative vision while fervently opposing the Republicans scheme to undermine the social safety net. Yes, Democrats must unambiguously reject the Bushies' fanciful and fiscally irresponsible plan to privatize social security - no pay, no play. But the party must also convey that some type of reform is necessary to guarantee the solvency of the program and to offer younger voters an attractive savings option. Democrats must have a "yes" option.
The danger for the Democrats is that the President will characterize them as the party of the status quo and age while the Republicans are the party of reform and youth. Democrats cannot entirely rely on a negative campaign by the AARP and the AFL-CIO to defeat the Bushies. Clearly, those are important allies in the effort to prevent privatization. But, the Democrats must also offer an affirmative alternative that is attractive to younger Americans.
It would be perversely ironic if the party of craven corporate cronyism successfully stigmatizes the Democrats as captives of Washington special interests. Don't misunderestimate the President's ability to do just that.
Similarly, on the foreign policy front, Democrats should not fall victim to a leftist variant of DeLayism, an infantile disorder. During the later years of the Clinton Administration, reactionary Republicans led by DeLay opposed all of the military actions even when it resulted in halting a potential genocide in the Balkans. Democrats must offer a robust anti-terrorist alternative agenda. They cannot be merely naysayers or the Bushies will tag them as dovish and even anti-American.
Don't just say no.