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Democrats Make New Friends,
And Try to Keep The Old

The Democratic candidates joined bloggers at the YearlyKos convention in Chicago. (AP).

Shortly after last year's midterm elections, a group of wealthy Democratic donors who had been trying to plot the future of their party gathered in Miami for a meeting that included a keynote address by former New York governor Mario Cuomo.

The donors were in a buoyant mood after the Democratic victories but Cuomo quickly brought them back to earth. Democrats had won, he said, because of a gift -- the Bush administration's bungling of the war in Iraq.

Without Iraq, he said, Democrats had only a timid agenda to offer the country. "It leaves you in the same position you were in in 2004 -- without an issue," Cuomo told them. "Because you have no big idea."

New York Times Magazine writer Matt Bai writes about that moment at the end of his new book, "The Argument: Billionaires, Bloggers and the Battle to Remake Democratic Politics." As the battle for the Democratic presidential nomination enters a more serious phase, Bai's engaging and entertaining book is both timely and instructive, raising anew the question: What do the Democrats stand for?

This is a question that frustrates many in the party -- activists and elected officials alike. They see the Republican Party floundering and divided over a post-Bush governing blueprint and wonder why the focus so often turns to whether the Democrats have a coherent philosophy and a set of ideas to match.

But as Cuomo reminded his Miami audience in late 2006, one big idea outweighs a mountain of position papers, and on that score, he and others still find the Democrats lacking.

Bai has told the story of a Democratic Party in transition through a lens not often used, which is to say from outside the Beltway and from the perspective of the activists on the left, rather than the establishment in the capital. It is the story of a new force in Democratic politics struggling to be heard -- and struggling among themselves over ideas, strategy and tactics.

This new force -- from to prominent and not-so-prominent bloggers to rich Democrats like George Soros -- is decidedly anti-Clintonian, if not specifically anti-Clinton. Revulsion at the politics of triangulation that defined Clinton's presidency after the Republican landslide of 1994 shapes the thinking of many in this movement. As does Iraq.

One riveting scene in the book finds Bill Clinton losing his temper while addressing the wealthy donors who made up the Democracy Alliance during a retreat in Austin in May 2006. Pressed by Guy Saperstein, a wealthy civil rights lawyer, over why Democrats who had voted for the resolution authorizing the Iraq war shouldn't apologize, Clinton erupted.

"You're just wrong. Everything you just said is totally wrong. Wrong, wrong, wrong," he said, according to Bai's account.

This power of the antiwar sentiment has been evident in the battle for the Democratic nomination today. Antiwar anger among progressive Democrats has pushed the candidates to the left in what has threatened to become a bidding war over who can offer the most provocative plan for ending the war.

It has led New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson to call for removing all U.S. forces, a plan that Democrats like Sen. Joseph Biden call totally implausible, given security needs to protect U.S. civilians in Baghdad alone.

It has led Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama and Chris Dodd to vote against legislation to keep funding the war. It has led John Edwards to taunt his Senate-based rivals to stand up and just stop the war now -- although his own plan falls somewhat short of that.

The argument Bai describes in his book is about far more than Iraq. It is about the struggle of the Democratic Party to move past the Clinton era and the debate over how much of that political philosophy to retain and how much to revise or simply jettison. He is unsparing in his description of the activists' efforts to do so to date. What success Democrats had in 2006 was, as Cuomo suggested, largely a gift from Bush and the Republicans.

Navigating through the new and old forces within the Democratic Party, as Bai makes clear, is far from easy. That this is a different Democratic Party than the one Clinton restored to power in 1992 is without question. Yet the challenge today is not fundamentally different, which is adapting long-standing principles to a new era and offering a fresh governing agenda that is grounded in political reality.

Ultimately it will be left to the next Democratic nominee to resolve this debate by defining the party's future identity. There are signs of convergence among the candidates over certain policies -- ending the war but not abruptly; providing universal health care; rolling back Bush's tax cuts; reengaging diplomatically to restore American prestige; reducing dependence on foreign oil.

It is not yet clear that any of the candidates have successfully elevated these proposals beyond the level of list-making. That is what the Democratic nomination battle -- and ultimately the general election campaign -- will be about. Bai's account of the party's struggles to date raises the right questions and sets the stage for what's to come.

--Dan Balz

By Washington Post editors  |  September 7, 2007; 11:40 AM ET
Categories:  A_Blog , Dan Balz's Take  
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Hilary ain't the candidate we need at this point and time if the Dems are to take back the White House. JMHO.

Posted by: Gharza | September 9, 2007 9:30 PM | Report abuse

The problem in washington is that everythiing has become so bipartisan, nothing gets done, and no one can work togethr.

That's why i support Obama.

Obama is ALREADY getting things done in washington.

Obama has passed more bills than Hillary Clinton or John Edwards, (and has held elected office longer than either Clinton or Edwards).

Obama has experience working in a bipartisan way to get (among many other things) strong ethics bills passed in Illinois, and now in the us senate.

I like the fact that Obama has experience in lawmaking but NOT as much in washington "working the system" (s Hillary called it). He is also a constituional law expert, and has the respect of his republican associates.

Obama has the constitutional law knowledge to repair the damage done to the constitution by this administration, and the know how- to be bipartisan to get the support of republicans in order to get things done.

Look up Obama's record and history. He is more qualified than Hillary Clinton or John Edwards to be president.

Obama is experienced, has great judgement, is smart, level-headed, and should be president.

Obama can get things changed in washgington.

He's already turned staunch establishment folks like Hillary on their heads.

OBAMA '08!

Posted by: julieds | September 9, 2007 1:47 PM | Report abuse

To synthesize many of the above comments:
1. NEITHER party has any new big ideas which is a large factor in why the '08 Presidential election is so wide open at this point.
2. Most citizens hate the fact that we have indeed moved into a mode of "permanent campaigning" which invariably tends to have negative consequences for GOVERNING. I am a bit optimistic that this approach which Rove rode to failure may beginning to diminish.
3. Health Care, Part 1-moving beyond the purely compassionate point of view, what should also begin to be emphasized is something that most savvy business people started to recognize for what it was FIVE YEARS AGO: The escalating costs are already seriously hurting U.S. companies' competitiveness.
4. Health Care, Part 2-since > 80% of the $2.2T spent on U.S. health care are spent treating chronic conditions, where those conditions are influenced even modestly by personal behaviors specifically like EATING HABITS, we have to penalize people that make those choices. Want to be a 5'9" Male and carry >250 lbs.? No problem. However, you're Ins. premiums will need to be > 25% than they would be if you were 5'9 and 190.

Posted by: cliffordmc | September 9, 2007 12:53 PM | Report abuse

mainetimes, government bureaucracy is by no means synonymous with the public good. It is far more likely to mean corruption, waste, gross mis-allocation of resources, and less freedom. Your proposed "cure" is far worse than any disease.

Put your faith in people, not politicians, bureaucrats and social engineers. We can make our own decisions (really, even you can do it! Don't be afraid!).

Posted by: zjr78xva | September 9, 2007 11:31 AM | Report abuse

While Repugs stand for "privitization", Dems ought to campaign on the "Public good". Dems can run a clean and lean government, because we repsect the role of govt. Taxes can pay for: great public schools and univiersities; reponsible emergency services (not New Orleans negelct); safe working conditions (not Slago and Utah mining disasters); a universal, non-profit health care payment service (not private insurance company dominated); and an alternative fule based energy future (like the govt. funded efforts in W Europe). But all of this starts with "Good govt for the public good", not privitization for the private greed.

Posted by: mainetimes | September 9, 2007 10:20 AM | Report abuse

Your article states "ending the war but not abruptly; providing universal health care; rolling back Bush's tax cuts; reengaging diplomatically to restore American prestige; reducing dependence on foreign oil" as policies being considered by Democrats.

You don't think those are big ideas? Compared to where we are now, those accomplishments would make living here a paradise, it seems to me.

Posted by: bb211 | September 8, 2007 12:20 AM | Report abuse

Democrats stand for:

Capitulating to terrorists (or the next person who yells "boo").

Abolishing the family.

Hollywood filth.

The abortion industry's campaign to exterminate the next generation.

Political meddling in the economy.

Outlawing the practice of religion.

Replacing reading, writing and arithmetic with intensive lessons in porn, perversion and "diversity" beginning in kindergarten.

Posted by: zjr78xva | September 7, 2007 10:26 PM | Report abuse

I would suggest that there needs a big idea. The lowest common denominator and that is energy. We need a sustainable global commitment or all the "progressive" ideas will be swallowed away by the evolution of this planet.

Just like Wall Street and our children's concepts, me and now.

It does not have the far reaches of (especially) Theodore or (respectful) Franklin Roosevelt Presidency.

Posted by: jrubin1 | September 7, 2007 10:17 PM | Report abuse

Democrats should run on destroying Al Queda in Afghanistan and Pakistan. They should blame the Republican party for failing to destroy the biggest threat to this country. That fact that Osama Bin Laden and Al Queda are rebuilding their strength 6 years after 9/11 represents a complete failure by our leaders to protect this country from another attack. Iraq is a waste of time because it has no relation to the war against islamic jihadists and Congress should refuse to fund the war until a change in strategy is implemented. This is the big idea of the day.

Posted by: steven08817 | September 7, 2007 9:53 PM | Report abuse

Hsu knows, and, ghosted by Michael Moore, Hugo Chavez & The N.Y Times, Osama's cross with them for not acting expeditiously enough for him; hey, Ankleless Annie, Scarflady Pelosi, Schumie Baby & Bloomie Baby (asked the Big O about Israel lately?), B.O., Cornpone Narcissus et al., remember the 3000? Or were they just chopped liver? (?Y tu abuela donde esta`, Sr. Juez Marrero?) Imagine trying to convert that bunch of sniveling atheists and apostates to Islam. When conquering Islam came across atheists and pagans (NOT the 3 Peoples of the Book), it relieved them of their heads if they didn't convert on the spot. Oh, dear, call the ACLU...!

Posted by: philip_riggio | September 7, 2007 9:41 PM | Report abuse

Once again, you guys at the Post show what centrist puppets you are by refusing to mention Dennis Kucinich and Mike Gravel, two candidates whose beliefs never contradict, and who have a solid identity of their own. For those of you crowing about what happens when the left wing of the party takes over, and bringing up McGovern and 1972 yet AGAIN, let me remind you of another election and another landslide: 1964 and Goldwater. Tell me, did the Republicans run screaming to the center like a bunch of weaklings, and spend decades hating themselves, or did they stick to their guns and come roaring back in the next election? Unfortunate that the Democrats have failed to show that kind of fortitude, and instead served up Carter, Clinton, and decades of political incoherence and empty smiles. Therein lies the failure of the modern Democratic party, and it is one of perseverence and courage. However, despite the media's crusade to marginalize them, both Gravel and Kucinich are offering up that new direction for the Democrats every day, but as usual, the party remains spooked, even after 35 years. And until this changes, the party will remain a Mickey Mouse operation, serving up soulless, Mickey Mouse candidates.

Posted by: foolchild0 | September 7, 2007 9:39 PM | Report abuse

You mean the Defeat-o-crats. The Surrender-o-crats. No, they don't have ANY platform except the attack President George Bush platform. Really, if there wasn't an Iraq, the Democrats would have NOTHING.

No ideas. Just crying, whining and complaining. What a party.


PS The 9-11 attacks were planned during the Clinton administration after the first WTC attack in 1993.

Posted by: BuffaloJim57 | September 7, 2007 9:38 PM | Report abuse

OK let me brutally honest.

The Republicans as much as you call them names at least try and be consistent on national security and other right wing issues.

The Democrats on the other hand pay lip service to Liberal causes while being being beholden to special interests that that do not represent the views of the majority of us Americans.

With Republicans you get the beast you always suspected was hiding udner the red cloak. What you know is waht you get.

With Democrats you can never tell and that's dangerous.

They flip flop like Pavlov's dog responding to stimuli!

Posted by: ita8111 | September 7, 2007 9:28 PM | Report abuse

From his statement today, it appears that Bin Laden is in lockstep with Daily Kos and with respect to pushing the Democrats to the farthest left agenda possible. They make the Republicans look good, nor an easy task.

Posted by: filoporquequilo | September 7, 2007 9:24 PM | Report abuse

I'm a dyed in the wool Dem, but until the Dems running for Pres. decide that the winds are blowing Left, Left, Left, all that they profess is just so much hot air. My guess is that Edwards, and Kucinich will be rising in the polls, only because the voting public is beginning to believe that they are speaking the truth rather than doing the "polictics as usual" routine.

Big Daddy of Phoenix

Posted by: twistbar67 | September 7, 2007 9:18 PM | Report abuse

Edwards is the ONLY candidate to support the restoration of Constitution government, after the aggrandizements of the criminal Bush regime, and Elizabeth had the guts to chat on Kos and say so.

- The theory of the unitary executive
- The signing statements
- Torture and Gitmo
- The destruction of the Fourth amendment
- The destruction of the separation of powers.

I don't hear anything about this from Hilbama. I think Obama thinks he's back in law school, and Hillary? It think she wants the power for herself.

Posted by: lambert_strether1 | September 7, 2007 9:15 PM | Report abuse

The American people can vote for the crooks (Democrat) or the thugs (Republican). Of course, there are a lot of pols in each party who swing both ways. Just chuck your votes into those electronic receptacles so thoughtfully provided by our friends at Diebold, and keep your fingers crossed. Change might happen, but I wouldn't count on it.

Posted by: H5N1 | September 7, 2007 9:14 PM | Report abuse




Posted by: rat-the | September 7, 2007 9:10 PM | Report abuse

"It is not yet clear that any of the candidates have successfully elevated these proposals beyond the level of list-making."

Okay, that one really ticked me off (sorry for the bluntness). I am an Edwards supporter and the entire reason why I am is that - much like King, much like Robert Kennedy - he sees the interconnectedness in what many traditional politicians views as disperate issues. Just look at his speech today on fighting terrorism and his proposal for the formation of CITO, an umbrella organization that fights the spread of international terrorism through shared intelligence, counter-insurgent activities AND ending our addiction to foreign oil AND fighting global poverty.

Edwards, for my money, is the only guy out there who "gets it". We don't want laundry lists; we want systemic change to achieve peace and true justice.

Maybe if Dan Balz were a little more familiar with the Edwards campaign he would see that this is the "big idea" that of Edwards' policies are geared toward.

Posted by: grannyhelen | September 7, 2007 8:44 PM | Report abuse

The Democrat's big idea is eternal: to take the side of the powerless in all arguments against the powerful. The form such arguments take changes over time and is manifested in the various "lists" cited by the candidates. A challenge for the Democrats is there are fewer truly "powerless" people in a middle class prosperous society. But there are nevertheless no shortage of arguments to take on behalf of the ordinary (non-rich) man, e.g. be in favor of more universal health care (denied by powerful corporate interests) or environmental protection. Note exposing Republicans as the puppets they are whos job is to fool the masses with come-ons regarding Terry Sheivo, gun rights, flag burning and other assorted nonsense is the same dilemma Democrats face each election year. Those sideshows are meant to distract everyone from the Republican's central theme- to protect and promote the interests of the rich and powerful.

Posted by: boston714 | September 7, 2007 8:29 PM | Report abuse

The DEMs have no new ideas because they want to get elected. They need money to win and this money comes from folks with that type of disposible income (not me). They also must appeal to an incredible diversity of people with contradictory ideas. So they spout general BS and wave a flag like all the rest.
Technically their agenda should be something that mimics the preamble of our Constitution and the Bill of Rights. This will, of course, sound like Bush bashing but that is Bush's fault because he was also supposed to be doing the Constitutional agenda thing too.
I will list a few leadership oriented ideas that may not have entered the imagination of our American Idol nation:
1. Institutional transparency: No more secrets. It makes it nearly impossible to participate in a democratic form of Government when we are lied to.
2. one (wo)man, one vote: All campaigns should be publicly funded with a reasonable expense account for travel and all public correspondance through a government channel/web page/radio station.
3. Truth liability and accountability: Personal beliefs should not be presented as facts. We must respect and honor the integrity of data. We must have impartial fact checking and analysis presented to the public without BS. Any known manipulation of public opinion should have swift and automatic remedies. See item #1. We need to trust our Government again.
4. Energy policy: Fossil fuels pollute and are a finite resource that will require replacing. This must be a national goal with a timeline not beholden to the interests of existing commercial/political/religious entities. (politicians and capitalists did not put men on the moon-engineers did, but a leader did push the start button)
5. International standards: Free trade is meaningless without standardization of human rights, environmental, health/safety rights. Exploitation of starving humans to make a buck is a closing chapter in the history of civilization.

gotta go but feel free to add to the list.

Posted by: ricinro85212 | September 7, 2007 7:51 PM | Report abuse

the democrats have got to come up with some real time answers, the lack of which cost them in 04. hillary's health care and obama's lack of experience is just going to hurt them in 08 with the working men and women. they have got to come up with a lot more than bashing bush.

Posted by: usaII | September 7, 2007 7:51 PM | Report abuse

Speaking of agendas, how about THIS virulently homophobic agenda, advocated by Markos C.A. Moulitsas Zúñiga (Kos):

Military Right

Published on: Monday, January 25, 1993

It's truly disturbing how much ado has been made over Bill Clinton's campaign promise to lift the ban on homosexuals from the U.S. military. It's ironic how it has taken a president who has never served in the military to make a promise that affects the military in such a negative manner.

Those who have served in the military, such as myself, understand the demands and pressures of military life are incompatible with allowing integration with homosexuals. I'm neither socially conservative or prejudiced, and neither is liberal columnist Mike Royko, Gen. Colin Powell, and influential liberal Democrats Sam Nunn and Les Aspin, all who've come out against lifting the ban.

Under military circumstances, as much has to be done as possible to focus the unit's mission and keep disciplinary problems to a minimum. Worrying about whether the known homosexual sleeping next to you is watching as you change your underwear may seem trivial as you read this, but to the soldier who's short-tempered after three weeks in the field and four hours of daily sleep, it becomes a matter of great importance to his pride and sensibilities. And in any case, there aren't many people who would change clothes in a group of co-workers if members of the opposite sex were in the same room watching. There is something inherently uncomfortable about it.

Such fears would go a long way in disrupting efficiency and morale in a unit.



Freshman Northern Star, January 25, 1993

I just can't believe he said all that crap! I can't believe ANYTHING Markos Moulitsas says!

Posted by: francislholland | September 7, 2007 7:26 PM | Report abuse

The Democrats do stand for something -- killing babies, discriminating against white people, and supporting illegal immigration. They should stick to these liberal values.

Posted by: monitor1 | September 7, 2007 7:24 PM | Report abuse

Why do Democrats need big ideas? So the "pointy-headed pseudo-intellectuals," as George Wallace called the Washington Establishment, can make their comfortable living writing wonky stuff that other members of the clan can read while they never step out of Wonderland themselves?

After Katrina, Iraq, and other Bush disasters, I'll settle for one big idea from both parties: competence in governing. But that doesn't feed the pointy-headed pseudo class nearly as well as some elusive big idea that can almost provide them, as the Dire Straits song goes, "money for nothing and chicks for free."

Posted by: BuddyK | September 7, 2007 7:17 PM | Report abuse

Dennis Kuccinich has a great developed strategy for ALL of the major issues. He is the only cantidate that speaks about the issues and what his plan is clearly. Unfortunatly the only reason mainstream outlets can stand to mention his name is talk about either how "unpresidential" he looks or how hot his wife is. SHAMEFUL!

Posted by: mcgrueter | September 7, 2007 7:10 PM | Report abuse

I can tell you what democrats stand for--nothing. Not one has made a positive statement. Every day they all complain and make feel good gestures. Most working americans are socially and fiscally conservative. The iraq war is slowly turning around, progress is being made. Within 6 months that issue could go away. Should that happen Thompson could drag in enough representatives and senators to put the democrats back in the minority. you know what happens then, the 350 investigations against republicians will go away. The democrats have spent all their time investigating and what have they proved.

Posted by: harleyjohn45 | September 7, 2007 6:44 PM | Report abuse

Good question what DO the Democrats stand for? Apparently NOT what the voters gave them a MANDATE to do in 2006. This includes among other things: providing OVERSIGHT to the corrupt Bush administration, getting the nation out of the WORST foreign policy blunder since Vietnam, begin hearings on all of the pre-war intelligence lying done by Clueless George, Chicken Hawk Cheney, Ronald Dumsfeld, Paul the Troll Wolfowitz and others, and protecting stem cell research. What have they done besides pay lip service, pass meaningless resolutions, and wring their collective hands like a bunch of spineless wimps? Is it any wonder that their approval rating is even lower than that of our idiot Chimp-in-Chief? If the Dems want to be the majority party again they need to grow a pair and carry out the will of the majority.

Posted by: russ_broadway | September 7, 2007 6:21 PM | Report abuse

Six years after 9/11, and after Bush let bin Laden escape from Tora Bora, some halfwit insinuates that Clinton is responsible for bin Laden remaining alive?

Name calling is all that conservatives, and republicans, and Bush apologists have to offer America. They can't argue in favor of their successes because they haven't any, so they sneer about Bill Clinton, a president who left office with an approval rating higher than that of Ronald Reagan, and roughly twice of what Bush has now.

Don't bring up facts to Bush apologists. It crimps their delusions.

Posted by: castanea | September 7, 2007 6:16 PM | Report abuse

By all means, let's vote for republicans so we can ignore climate change and our reliance on foreign energy. Let's continue to belittle people who think that perhaps we should gear back on burning fossil fuels, calling them naysayers or doomsdayers or whatever, and ignoring overwhelming scientific evidence that indicates we may be headed for events that will gradually but drastically change life as we know it.

Let's continue to pretend that gay Americans don't exist, or that if they do, it's their choice to be gay, so they should remain in the closet and/or bathroom stall. Let's continue to believe that allowing Adam and Steve to get married threatens heterosexual marriages.

Let's continue to believe that the apocalypse is just around the corner, so nothing really matters because Jesus will soon be returning and taking the righteous with him bodily into heaven. Let's continue to believe that the Earth is only six thousand years old.

Let's continue to blame illegal immigrants who come to America to make money, not the businesses who employ them so they can get around U.S. labor and minimum wage laws.

Seriously, any talk of Democrats not having a message is lame because every time a Democrat tries to articulate a message s/he gets shot down in the media and by talking heads on cable news shows.

If you want soundbites that signify nothing, then vote republican. If you want people who actually understand that policy is difficult to formulate and often involves painful compromises, then have the stones to vote Democratic.

Posted by: castanea | September 7, 2007 5:58 PM | Report abuse

The Democrats stand for "noticing" things.

They notice we are too dependent on Middle eastern oil. They notice they have spent the entire social security trust fund of our children. They notice terrorists blew up the World Trade towers in NYC on September 11.

Unfortunately "noticing" is not "doing" anything. The Democrats have no solutions what so ever other than to put them in committee chairmanships so they can get back to the good ole days when they controlled congress for 40 years straight and created the current mess.

Notice Murtha's lust to get back into power and then notice he has the biggest amount of pork ever placed in a bill. He loaded up one bill with $121,000,000 million for his donors and cronies back home.

Murtha man of principle, the principle of two for him none for you.

Posted by: msmithnv | September 7, 2007 5:35 PM | Report abuse

I am one of those so-called "swing voters", and believe me, I haven't heard much of anything from either party or any presidential candidate that rings my bell.

From my perspective, there have been no discernable differences no matter which party in is the majority in the productivity or relevance of Congress. Each party has been equally non-productive and irrelevant. Both parties have done equally well being subservient to the elite and the monopolies to the chagrin of working class.

So...who is there to vote for? I am "swinging" to a secondary party or an independent candidate should one appear. What's Bloomberg doing?

Posted by: Vunderlutz | September 7, 2007 5:23 PM | Report abuse

If we Democrats WANT to lead the country, we should not be afraid to do what the current administration has failed to do; face the truth. It is not enough to NOT be the other guy, we have to do what, historically, we have always done. We need to go once more unto the breach and FIX the mess. Republicans HAVE been successful in articulating a vision, or, if you will a BIG idea. The problem is, it's a BAD idea.

My speech to the nation would begin: I am TIRED of political leaders who exhort Americans to take "personal responsibility" as an antidote to the disastrous economic policies promulgated by "leaders" with gold-plated insurance policies, access to the best and most expensive colleges, lovely homes in safe neighborhoods and complete immunity to the vicissitudes of every day life that ordinary Americans face with increasing trepidation. Fred Thompson will tell you that the "solution" is smaller government, less taxes and a "return" to conservative principles. What he WON'T tell you is how any of that will actually ameliorate the reality of most Americans' plight.

Instead of urging "personal responsibility" as if it is the average American's fault that he feels worse off than ever, rather, Democrats should counter that it is up to LEADERS to work for RESPONSIBLE government. 70% of the national debt was racked up in just two Republican Administrations--Reagan and Bush II. American workers (still) hold the distinction of being the most productive in the developed world, but we get the least for it. Of all developed countries, we are far down the list in health care, even though it is the most expensive. We do equally poorly in pay, benefits, vacation time, access to education and affordable housing. Our message? RETURN to the progressive policies that have guided us historically.

We are still the wealthiest and most dynamic economy in the world and we did not get that way by throwing away the talents and lives of the very workers who made our country great. We CAN invest in technologies that will liberate us from the twin perils of dependence upon foreign oil and global warming. Asian countries already have a leg up on us in many of those technologies, but we CAN get in front of the curve.

The Republicans have led by fear: Fear of immigrants; Fear of gays; Fear of open debate; fear of the poor and middle class. The Democrats' BIG IDEA? Let us not be AFRAID of the future. Let us rather embrace differences and harness our incredible ability to innovate. Americans are not asking to be taken care of, they are merely asking not to be forgotten. We have always been proud of our nation and rightly so. Preemptive war, creationism in the schools, tax cuts for the very people who don't need them; the most secretive government since Nixon and 47 million Americans without insurance--The Republicans have given us very little to be proud of, but we still pay the bills so they can continue to diminish our standing in the world. We need to stand up and tell the nay-sayers, the neo-conservative ideologues and the merchants of war and fear to get out of the way so we can restore hope with a greater return for our phenomenal efforts as workers. Universal health care, investment in climate and energy technologies and a return of power to the people. What a small price to pay for restoring America's promise!

Posted by: dhorne1 | September 7, 2007 5:23 PM | Report abuse

It is incredible that the question of "What do the Democrats stand for?" even gets asked. If you put together the key elements of the Democratic policies, they add up to one gigantic answer: "An improved QUALITY OF LIFE for all Americans." This comes from pushing such issues as better education, a more sensible health care system, cleaner air and water, equal rights, fair wages for employees, etc.

What measures to improve the quality of life in America have the Republicans ever initiated, sponsored, and/or enacted into law? Don't waste your time trying to figure this one out.

Posted by: lsolo | September 7, 2007 5:18 PM | Report abuse

Democrats should be standing for what everyone, friend and foe, thinks they stand for but won't say clearly and loudly:

A sane fiscal policy which balances the budget and leaves the social security surplus free for the kind of investment in infrastructure, education and research necessary to increase productivity and ecnomic growth to levels necessary for the government to have the revenues necessary to pay back the S.S. Trust Fund from 2017 onwards and finance boomer social security benefits.

A single payer universal health care system which will liberate patients, restore medical independence and provide first rate healthcare to all Americans for 10% of GDP or so, what the rest of the developed world is paying.

A judiciary which is a neutral arbiter of constitutional issues and will apply federal laws in accordance with their intent, rather than one which is arm of the "conservative" movement or the Republican Party.

Withdrawal from Iraq phased in a way which undoes and much of the damage to Iraq's social equilibrium as the U.S. created with its ill-planned invasion and occupation.

A "war on terror" which is focused on the actual terrorists and on homeland security, woefully underfunded and mismanaged by the present administration.

A sane foreign policy rooted in foreign policy principles accepted by every U.S. administration since WWII, save for the present one -- i.e. one which seeks to address global issues through the U.N. or regional alliances wherever posssible and unilaterally only when necessary.

Posted by: mnjam | September 7, 2007 5:15 PM | Report abuse

From Slick Willie's buddy, bin Laden -- "'You elected the Democratic Party... but the Democrats haven't made a move worth mentioning. On the contrary, they continue to agree to the spending of tens of billions to continue the killing and war'... "
If you didn't have your pants down and killed him when you had him in your sights, he wouldn't be dissing you now. Oh, and those 3000 people wouldn't have had a building fall on them.
Proud of yourselves, Democrats???

Posted by: computer1 | September 7, 2007 5:03 PM | Report abuse

This question -- "What do Democrats stand for" -- illustrates just what is wrong with the media these days.

Rather than encourage a considered, nuanced argument of policy issues, the editor (or writer - whoever framed the issue as such) contributes to the problem by assuming, without discussion, that a candidate must adopt broad platitudes and one-liners. If you adopt this assumption, you get the moronic, utterly vapid comments of posters like birvin9999. We've had six years of a President who governs with soundbites (e.g., repeating obtuse statements such as "freedom isn't free", "cut and run"). This has done nothing for this country.

Why do you encourage simplistic playground like chatter when the issues confronting our country require deliberate, detailed discussion?

Posted by: BFranklin | September 7, 2007 4:49 PM | Report abuse

What do Democrats stand for? Here are a few key stands the democrats have taken over the past two years (see if you can follow along): tax increases (but call them tax corrections), mid-level wages for everyone (but call it "helping your community), anti-white males, anti-christianity (especially anti-mormons all of the sudden), anti-war, pro-war (which is it - did you vote for the war or against it???), pro-media biases (unless it's fox news), pro-China, anti-America, pro homosexuality, bisexuality, beastiality, and all other alternative lifestyles.

Posted by: bmayhewbz | September 7, 2007 4:42 PM | Report abuse

What do Democrats stand for? Besides sucking up to special interests such as corrupt unions and the advancement of a Socialized "nanny" state, not much.

Posted by: birvin9999 | September 7, 2007 4:39 PM | Report abuse

I think this is a stupid article, but there are some great comments.

I believe the advantage that Republicans have is not ideas, but solidarity. For better or worse (and I haven't decided which one) they do their bickering behind closed doors and come out with one message that they all back.

Democrats do their committee meetings in front of the world, and committee meeting are boring.
And for a Party that is also so diverse (which I admire) the public committee meetings also look very messy.

I'm an Independent but I've voted for Democrats since the impeachment in 1998. The most frustrating thing for me being a "Democrat" is Democrats.

For example, I support Hillary Clinton. I'm usually getting the same earful about her from both HER team and the OPPOSING team.

Can anyone imagine Republicans publicly wondering if Rudy Giulani is "electable"? Republicans believe with all their hearts that ANYONE they get behind is electable.

Democrats, with every indicator pointing their way, still wonder if ANY of their candidates are electable. Sad.
And VERY frustrating.

Thanks for some very good posts on a pretty dumb topic.

Posted by: freespeak | September 7, 2007 4:35 PM | Report abuse

Dan Balz writes
"Ultimately it will be left to the next Democratic nominee to resolve this debate by defining the party's future identity... It is not yet clear that any of the candidates have successfully elevated these proposals beyond the level of list-making. That is what the Democratic nomination battle -- and ultimately the general election campaign -- will be about."

This is not only true about the Democrats, but Republicans as well. It could be argued that, in terms of offering an agenda, the Democrats are ahead of the Republicans right now - as Mr Balz points out, the Dem Presidential candidates are largely in agreement on the big issues - they merely have to convince the voters whom among them is most capable of delivering. The Republicans, meanwhile, don't have a clue what they stand for right now - as evidenced by Mr Thompson's recent entry into the race, though its not at all clear what he offers that cannot be found in the other candidates.

Whatever you have to say about prior presidents Kennedy, Nixon, Reagan and Clinton, they all offered, while running for office, a compelling vision of where they wanted to take the country. The party that nominates that candidate next year is the one that will win the Presidency. If they can turn that vision into a party-wide message, they'll win Congressional seats as well.

Right now we see each party's front-runner more interested in bashing the other side than offering a vision for the future. We'll all be better off if others take over the lead.

Posted by: bsimon | September 7, 2007 4:32 PM | Report abuse

I think that Dan has a valid point -- except that one candidate, Barack Obama, has offered more than a list. Instead, Obama has articulated a vision -- a vision of an inclusive American community that takes care of its own. I've agonized for the past year over which candidate to support. I like Edwards and Richardson, too -- at the risk of slighting Hilary, whom I admire tremendously, but don't think would make a good candidate or President. But I've settled on Obama because, in the end, he offers more than a list -- which is to say, leadership.

Posted by: REClayton | September 7, 2007 4:31 PM | Report abuse

I am tired of the media repeating this cliche right-wing talking point - it is lazy for the press to just write the same article year after year. The Left stands for progressive vales - equal opportunity for all, appealing to the betterment of society through laws helping those most in need, education, elevating science and facts over "gut feelings," etc. The Right? All they stand for is hate - hatred of immigrants, of brown people, of civil rights and privacy, of taxes that could help those in need, of any social value that might be part of "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness," etc. - you know, what the foundation of this country is. So, tell me which party has ideas and represents our ideals, and which is the traitorous one ....

Posted by: neekoo99 | September 7, 2007 4:30 PM | Report abuse

lieb666: I totally agree with you about the attacks on GW, if folks don't have enough smarts to know he is about the worst Prez to hold the office in history, then they don't know anything. The dems, for the most part, agree on the issues you mentioned, and the main problem, IMO, is the useless sniping at each other, which I hope they will at least tune down a bit.

Posted by: lylepink | September 7, 2007 4:13 PM | Report abuse

jholzhey, "provide for the general Welfare" is in the preamble of the US Constitution.

Jefferson & Madison are not Marx -- except to wingnuts like you.

Posted by: ssomo | September 7, 2007 4:00 PM | Report abuse

I am a life-long or die. But the Democrats in the house are a bunch of cowards, more interested in keeping their jobs than doing the right thing. What is the right thing you ask? Impeach Bush AND Cheney, and END THIS WAR! I am ashamed to be in the same party as these cowards. Ashamed.

Posted by: logcabin1836 | September 7, 2007 3:59 PM | Report abuse

Out here in the pacific NW, state-level Democrats are doing great. Balanced budgets, increased education funding, health care for kids, money for infrastructure, etc.

Beltway Dems need a 'big idea'? Here's two: Steady-handed grown-up competence. Look beyond the two-year cycle -- like Dr Dean.

If they need specific programs & proposals, talk to the blue state Dems. They're implementing tons of them.

Posted by: ssomo | September 7, 2007 3:57 PM | Report abuse

"The public wants the war ended."
Wrong, they want the war WON!
"Move away from dependence on fossil fuels to alternative cleaner sources of energy."
We could do that if there weren't people who claim to be environmentalists standing in the way such as Kennedy.
"Democrats need to argue for the welfare of all"
Straight out of the Communist Manifesto. Just where do the Democrats stand? I think Zell Miller hit it absolutely correct. That's why I'm a "former Democrat". Why don't they look at how people can advance themselves instead of how they can "help".

Posted by: jholzhey | September 7, 2007 3:57 PM | Report abuse

All these "tipping points" are getting tedious.

The Iraq War was necessary. The only things Dems did was make it more difficult to accomplish the task.

No doubt they appeal to the lazy mind.

Posted by: jabailo | September 7, 2007 3:51 PM | Report abuse

Let us pray that Dan is on the mark and voters will see how empty headed the democrats are in tackling the serious issues we face. Can they do anything but investigate the attorney general for, oh my goodness, doing something based on political connections? How do they think these people think you become a US Attorney? Some politician recommended them...Wow! Earth shattering news. Vote Republican for sane and honest government. Get these bums out of office. Hillary and Hsu are not making a ripple, wonder how he got out of the country...duh!

Posted by: djudge1 | September 7, 2007 3:50 PM | Report abuse

The Democrats stand for
-BIG government
-higher taxes
-open borders supporting illegal immigrants
-ineffective gun control (see DC's useless 31 year handgun ban)
-continued victimization of the poor
-do as I say not as I do policies
-global warming scam
-selling out American jobs to foreign interests
-supporting unions that have killed American manufacturing
-inefective law enforcement
-invade Pakistan

Democrats have sold out America over the last two generations. When in the world are people going to wake up and realize you should be doing for yourself and not expecting the goverment to provide for you from cradle to grave.

Posted by: kmp1 | September 7, 2007 3:44 PM | Report abuse

Neither party has much to offer in way of ideas. Country is yearning for leadership, but absent an INDEPENDENT candidate with a mandate, it will not happen. FDR was last President with mandate, so yes it has happened in our history. From my sense of talking with people in this still great country of ours, three big ideas are what is needed.

1. End Iraq war as soon as practicable.
2. Move away from dependence on fossil fuels to alternative cleaner sources of energy.
3. Stop the inexorable decline of the middle class to ensure people are given a shot at the pursuit of happiness.

None of these ideas are easy to implement, nor are the answers obvious or the solutions painless, but unless some leadership emerges to tackle these problems, we are doomed.

Posted by: merganser | September 7, 2007 3:39 PM | Report abuse

About a year ago, I believe, a Washington Post columnist wrote about the slow death of the Democratic party beginning in the late '60s with its courting of the entertainment industry. That this party continues to align itself with the most vapid, decadent, hypocritical citizens in our country is the main reason I continue to be independent.

We are now at the point where Democrats act as if it were a good thing to be the de facto "Comedy Central Party". No, this is actually embarassing.

I think that it is hard for both parties to come up with any sort of list because America is running pretty well. Not perfectly, but pretty good and improving. The worst thing to do is to invent problems just so you have something to do. Let the Republicans be the strawman party.

Posted by: biteMeWaPo | September 7, 2007 3:37 PM | Report abuse

As a registered Democrat, my main criticism of the party is that its been hijacked by those who want to do nothing but scream, yell, and take every opportunity to make Republicans look bad.

I would much rather Democratic candidates and those in office spent their time trying to work on issues like ending the Iraq War, universal health care, education, or environmental issues, than seeing how many times they could attack President Bush or his party.

Posted by: lieb666 | September 7, 2007 3:30 PM | Report abuse

Democrats seem to have sacrificed the big picture for special interests that depend on other taxpayers to realize their dreams. That doesn't work any longer. The country has changed since the 1960s, when issues were clear: America needed the civil rights movement, the women's rights movement, the anti-war movement. Today, the issues are murky. Should Obama's kids benefit from affirmative action when they are more privileged than working class white kids? Does empathy for illegal emigrants translate into unabated illegal migration and a strained social services system that many other Americans have paid into for years, without direct benefits? Where do Democrats stand on the war, and why is there such a stalemate? Why does the middle class feel abandoned by its leaders?

Posted by: disillusionedgringo | September 7, 2007 3:24 PM | Report abuse

When I think of the republicans I think of bush, pandering to the southern evangelical bigots, the dominionists, the neocons ... the "feelers" - as well as the rich. They pander to the democrat-haters, and they have no concept of the loyal opposition.

They are very shortsighted, these people. Somehow borrow-and-spend is better than tax-and-spend, because it doesn't have the word tax in it. It's the next president down the road who will have to deal with this mess -- but hey, we're all being raptured (they're all being raptured), so the hell with the costs of the future.

The republicans are dangerously stupid.

When I think of the democrats I think of that idiot prosecutor Nifong in the Duke case, pandering to one ethnic group and their self-righteious apologists in hopes of keeping or gaining power.
This guy had no second thoughts about throwing those guys to the wolves, as long as it got him what he wanted. He pandered to the bigotries of one side by claiming to fight the bigotries of another.

The democrats are dangerously useless.

BOTH political parties are full of pandering empty suits, and you the party faithful are to blame for this. go ahead, yell and scream at your opposition, but while you're at it why not hold your own panders to task for what they do and say as well, ok?

We independents don't get to choose your party favors for you, but somehow you get to choose which loser we're going to have running our government next.

If only I were allowed to include the profanity I feel is appropriate here ...

Posted by: khote14 | September 7, 2007 3:19 PM | Report abuse

Reviewing the posts to the core issues of the Democratic party, one can see that the basic themes of using government to help people, accepting decent taxes, stopping the war in Iraq in a responsible way, stopping encroachments on civil rights, and creating a simple health care program seem to be rather constantly repeated.
It is also noted that the one issue posts focus on either attacking Bill Clinton, praising or attacking Hillary.
Maybe almost any one of the other candidates (my favorite happens to be Edwards for his solid commitment to social programs)might just do fine.

Posted by: mhorwitz1 | September 7, 2007 3:18 PM | Report abuse

GHDEL, Bai deals with the George Soroses of the world (giving money), the influence of blogs like DailyKos, as a movement. Bai claims that this movement is trying to bypass the traditional party structure and revolt against what it views as a party that has failed them.

Bai's book is not just about the Democrats not standing for anything but a coming coup in who runs the party.

Posted by: lieb666 | September 7, 2007 3:18 PM | Report abuse

I'm a Democrat and like others, I know what we're SUPPOSED to stand for. When our elected officials sell out their votes on things like the Iraq war resolution or the most recent domestic spying bill, it becomes less clear to mainstream prognosticators. How about Democrats stand behind helping us out here in New Orleans? We're two years removed from the storm now. My friends from better functioning cities ask me to describe this place and I always answer "post-apocalyptic." Check out for an anecdotal story from the recovery school district.

Posted by: screeeeeaaaaam | September 7, 2007 3:17 PM | Report abuse

Amen to jbritt3 | September 7, 2007 01:40 PM

As someone who knows many people active as candidates or at the local and state party level, those like Bai should go door to door with candidates before preaching at us. Or do they think personal contact is passe because commercials can do all the work?

Democrats are not the party of all the rank and file lining up to parrot a sound bite of less than 10 words. Some Democrats enjoy policy debates (sometimes by bill number or "it is a shame that St. Sen.--'s proposal didn't get a fair hearing because...").

Other Democrats believe politics should be of the powerful (legislative or Capitol Hill caucus, for instance) by the consultants and "political professionals" and for the volunteers to just shut up and do as they are told. That leads in many cases to the volunteers with institutional memory (as well as lives outside of politics) leaving the process and in some cases becoming registered Independents unless they want to vote in primaries.

From Rahm Emanuel to writers like Bai, there seems an attempt to bypass the party structure (where Howard Dean and his 50 state project gives some power back to state and local parties) and "professionalize" politics. Why would anyone at the grass roots level want to be involved in that?

I speak as a former Dem. national convention delegate, and someone who carried a resolution into the state party platform 2 years after that as a member of the State Central Comm. Those like Bai give the impression they have not actually been to local and state party meetings but view "Democrats" as a monolith or an abstraction.

Or is Bai saying that individually elected members of both houses of Congress should line up behind some sort of document like Newtie's contract on/for America?

Posted by: GHDEL | September 7, 2007 3:07 PM | Report abuse

The two things Democrats hate is Bush and new ideas.

If they had a new idea, by accident, they would first have to run it through the special interest groups. The special interest groups only want one thing: more money for the special interest groups. That is why there are no new ideas!

Posted by: rgotzman | September 7, 2007 3:05 PM | Report abuse

You are ignoring and marginalizing Senator Mike Gravel.

He has specific "Big Ideas".

Posted by: kelargo | September 7, 2007 3:05 PM | Report abuse

What did Bush "stand for" before the 2000 election? Very little that resembles what he "stands for" today. And Cheney resolutely hid what he was up to.

The choice is really between different ways of doing things, and a different landscape of interests -- which everyone understands. It's just gamesmanship to require a ginned-up sloganized vision-thing, which will evaporate and mutate with every twist and turn on the way.

Should the disintegration of the Cheney-Bush set-up continue at its present pace, the Republicans will be flushed away regardless.

Posted by: hquain | September 7, 2007 3:01 PM | Report abuse

From observing Democrats over the last fifteen years, the "Big D" stands for only one thing...Death!
. .
. . Death of Leadership
. . Death of Ideas
. . Death of the Old, Sick and the Unborn
. .

Posted by: computer1 | September 7, 2007 2:51 PM | Report abuse

The dems are risking getting burned.

The public wants the war ended. The dems need to stop beating around (the) bush.

Keep sending bills to Bush that end the war even though he vetoes them. Keep sending them back. Over and over and over. Let the public see the true face of the administration.

Hold back any and all funds that can be used to continue the war, period. Provide funding for travel home only, period. Let's bring 'em back alive and whole.

Careful you don't get so caught up in the campaign the public loses faith in your commitment to end the war. Actions speak louder than words and promises.

Lead, lead, lead. Right now you dems are lagging behind the advanced positions the public is taking.

Get out there and break some dishes, dammit!

Posted by: apspa1 | September 7, 2007 2:48 PM | Report abuse

Hilary will never win because independents like me in the South totally abhor her. She is part of the same corrupt political machine that produces people like Bush. She has no moral core whatsover and I have never heard anything but generic platitudes about what she believes in, besides wanting to be president. In our mind, she is absolutely no different from Bush with the added insult that we are suppose to think that a woman from a wealthy background who married into power is somehow a victim of sexism.

I would vote for just about any democrat over any republican this election, but I will never vote for Hilary, even if George W. was running again, and the disdain and contempt I have for him is legendary.

Posted by: morganja | September 7, 2007 2:40 PM | Report abuse

mibrooks27: You must have a twin, or someone is using your same arguement on other threads.

Posted by: lylepink | September 7, 2007 2:39 PM | Report abuse

What the Dems are lacking is a bumper sticker slogan which lazy journalists can read from. Dan, try reading the web sites of the various candidates, the progressive think tanks, the prolific bloggers. You want the Dems to give you talking points, like the Republicans do (but never follow): Low taxes (they went up for all but the richest), smaller government (never happened during Repub administration) strong defense (wrecked by Bush), family values (see Vitter, Gingrich, Craig, Folley, etc.) The Repubs practice what they preach as well as the Soviets did.

Get off the couch and do some actual reporting, not just pasting the talking points that Rove sends you, and then you will find out what the Democrats stand for.

Posted by: Mendel | September 7, 2007 2:34 PM | Report abuse

The biggest problem the dems have is themselves. To understand this is to look at where most folks are in the political world, and that is clearly the Moderate/Middle. I can see only one dem winning in 08 and that is Hillary. All of the others are good people, but lean to far "Left" for most voters. The reasoning is quite clear, in that the repubs "Fear" her the most, because they know they cannot beat her, and this is found all over the country. Polls usually don't mean much at this stage, but they have shown over many months that Hillary has been gaining support from all across the political spectrom as well as areas of the country.

Posted by: lylepink | September 7, 2007 2:33 PM | Report abuse

My 2.2 cents worth.
The Democrats should bring the message that they will empower the common man economically to get a fair share of what this country has to offer in a sustainable fashion. The message needs to be put better than I just did, but that is the essence.
The Democratic program then flows from that common vision and leadership to bring about:
Good jobs.
Investment in infrastructure and public transportation.
Spur of private investment.
Support for better education at all levels.
Protection of environment- our common air, land, and water, from those who would despoil it without paying any of the cost to society.
Affordable, quality health care.
Protection of civil rights, particularly from newer technological capabilities.
The harnessing of the scientific community
for the best scientific advice for society as a whole; not a disregard of it to make fortunes for an elite. Better use of sociological understanding to address our multiple social issues.
A strong defense with sane foreign policy.
Balance federal and trade deficits; tax policies that are fair (!?) and that encourage saving by people; global trade agreements that are balanced and more supportive of the common man.
De-concentration of media. Whatever happened to anti-trust law ?
International leadership to build and sustain organizations that discourage rational defective strategies by countries.
Stay away from many of these divisive social issues; let many of them be solved at state or local level. You can't win 'em all.

Like I said- the message should be- the Democratic party stands with the mass of people. If you want to keep or enlarge the advantages of the well-off elites, then vote Republican. Somehow, the Dems lost this argument to the Reps- perhaps it was the NAFTA free trade support.

Posted by: steveandjanereed | September 7, 2007 2:32 PM | Report abuse

All I know is Mario Cuomo blew off a lot of steam about what the country ought to do but somehow he never worked up the guts to jump in and campaign for the presidency...don't tell us, it.

Posted by: Jerryvov | September 7, 2007 2:18 PM | Report abuse

All I know is Mario Cuomo blew off a lot of steam about what the country ought to do but somehow he never worked up the guts to jump in and campaign for the presidency...don't tell us, it.

Posted by: Jerryvov | September 7, 2007 2:18 PM | Report abuse

The leaders of my party "stand" for nothing. Seantor Kennedy inserted into the recently defeated immigration "reform" bill a dirty little provision to remove caps from H1-B visas, even though nearly 30% of Amercian engineers cannot find work. Hillary CLinton owns stock in outsourcing firms and companies that bring in Indian workers on H1-B visas to displace (usually older) Amercian workers. The Democratic leadership blathers on and on about Iraq, but votes to continue funding it and does nothing to stop it or Bush's dangerous pograms that violate our privacy and other rights. The talk about "workers" but cozy up to corporate managers and investors and do their bidding. They helped pass legislation that aided real estate speculators to bid up the price of homes where ordinary people could barely afford them. Then, when the value of those investments fell, they passed corporate firewalls that poermitted those investors to simply walk away from those bad debts, but other legislation sticks bankrupt former home owners with the difference between what they owe and what the bank can sell the busted ome for. The Democratic Party sides with public employees in raising taxes on working families, only increasing this mess and they sqwack about the need for more social services for the newly unemployed and homeless families, for the millions illegals that compete with those same working families in a downward spiral of wages and benefits. The Democratic Party stands for the same blind greedy, the same lack of vision, the same ol' same ol' that has wrecked the Middle Class, sold or traded off our security and technology, and made us an international pariah. Now this same collection of swine is trying to foist off an insider like Hillary Clinton as something "new". God help us, but the Demcratic Party is no different than the Party of Bush. Greed, marketing old failed ideas as new, empty chest beating exclamations of concern for the country, and duplicity are the rule of the day.

Posted by: mibrooks27 | September 7, 2007 2:16 PM | Report abuse

As a Republican, I have no problem believing that any Democratic candidate could offer the nation the one-point platform of "I'm not Bush", and that might be enough. That's all Kerry offered, and he almost won. Frankly, if all the Democrats are interested in is winning back the White House in 2008, they may not need much of a platform of ideas to achieve this. But I certainly agree with the more intelligent folks on the left who are concerned that this kind of deminimus politics is not great for the country.

Posted by: mbcnewspaper | September 7, 2007 2:12 PM | Report abuse

The demand put upon candidates who voted for the war to now apologize, withdraw it, or otherwise make some kind of public penance is an artificial construct and ultimately harmful to those interested in presenting a winning, progressive candidate for the Democratic Party. It harkens back to the denounce-your-apostasy, proclaim-your-commitment declarations imposed on heretics by the Mediaevals. (And how did they fare back then? The ones who refused were killed; while the confessors were killed, tortured, or allowed to re-enter the fold, albeit with a lasting stigma and no voice.) The widespread number of "guilty" within the party, the passage of time and the utter lack of anything that could be considered useful to regaining the White House resulting from such an act of imposed contriteness should by itself have silenced these calls long ago. Denouncing a vote he made two years before didn't help Kerry, even against the War's figurehead during a disastrous year of conflict. And next year, a full six years later, it is guaranteed that the opposing candidate will be either one who a) also voted for the war, but disagrees now with how it has been prosecuted or b) had no opportunity to vote for the war, but disagrees now with how it has been prosecuted. The Republican candidate, then, need only explain how he would manage the war going forward, not on how he personally acted in the past. Forcing the Democratic candidate to perform such public pleading for forgiveness would not only make no sense from a competitive standpoint, it would make the apologizer appear ridiculous and weak to all but the most fervent few who are calling for such statements. A concrete, firm plan to end pragmatically the war in Iraq is what Americans are looking for, not empty apologies and shrieking. In all likelihood the number of troops will be drawing down next year already (although probably only slightly), and if the economy continues according to its current trajectory, most Americans will not even consider the war the primary concern for 2008. They won't want someone who continually apologizes or decries a single vote they made years ago; they'll want a candidate they are confident will make things better here and overseas.

Posted by: LittleSoren | September 7, 2007 2:11 PM | Report abuse

When Kerry lost in 2004, James Carville's post-mortem summed up the Dems' problem more or less as follows: "They have a narrative; we have a litany." Even if the appeal of Democrats is that we are not Bush Republicans, we should be able to take all the Bush failures,- domestic, diplomatic, etc - and turn them into a compelling narrative of how we do government differently. This belief in the good that government can do has always been at the core of the Democratic Party, and we should be able to communicate this in a straightforward way.

That said, the time to hone this message will be AFTER the primaries when we unite behind a single candidate. And yes, we will unite or we might as well just hand over the presidency to the R's for the rest of the century, and make Karl Rove a happy man once again.

Posted by: lesliekjo | September 7, 2007 2:04 PM | Report abuse

Here's what the Democrats stand for:

They are not George Bush, Dick Cheney, Condoleeza Rice, Donald Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz, Scooter Libby, Karl Rove, Jack Abramoff, Tom Delay, etc., etc. etc.

For me that's enough because it means no illegal war, less corruption and perhaps a balanced budget and a better environment and health care.

It's a really, really stupid question.

Posted by: imright | September 7, 2007 2:04 PM | Report abuse

Left wing Democrats crack me up. They still don't get that Bill Clinton is the only Democrat to be reelected president since FDR, and that was mostly because the Republicans screwed the pooch by nominating Bob Dole. Bush has gone too far to the right and has been justifiably deserted by independent voters, who made the difference in returning Congress to Democratic control and who will decide the 2008 election as well. America is a center-right country, more independent than Republican or Democrat, and if the Democratic Party gets swallowed by the left it will become a permanent minority party reallllly fast.

Posted by: rkinneypa | September 7, 2007 2:04 PM | Report abuse

I think the problem here is the error in looking to analyze the party's position without looking at analyzing the country's position and these are two different things and always have been.

We have seen in the past what happens when the left wing of the party takes over. Remember George McGovern? Both the Republican and Democratic parties fight their primaries in front of the more radical wings of their party and then must work to win an election with an electorate which has always been more centrist. The Democrats win when they remember that like Bill Clinton did. They lose when we forget that.

I think that we in the party make it exceedingly hard for our candidates to deliver a balanced program to the nation that will win the Presidency for us. I am a liberal democrat. I worked for one of the most liberal democrats ever elected, Bella S. Abzug. But she was elected to the Congress from one of the most liberal Districts in the nation, Manhattan's Westside. When she ran in a primary for the Senate and the for a Congressional seat in Westchester she lost. There were many reasons for those losses but her out and out liberalism was one of them.

It is easy for George Soros with his millions and those who are on to spout off and try to demand that candidates meet their litmus test. But as we have seen the country isn't there yet.

I want a candidate who can get something done. I want a democratic candidate who can win and who can move our country back from the abiss. I want a democratic candidate who will work and support working people, and that doesn't only mean union people; minorities, and that means all minorities; women, and that means those who work and those who stay home and are fulltime moms; seniors, and that means those that live on social security and those that have additional savings; and children, and that means those who are the poorest and need total government support as well as those who come from middle and upper-middle class families and need something else from our society to allow them to succeed.

There is no one program that fits all. There is no one policy that fits all. There is no one platform that will have everyone agree with all it says.

There are some basic principles that I demand of my candidates. A government that will care for the least of us. A government that will defend our country and at the same time work with other countries in partnership. A government that believes in individual privacy, human and civil rights for all, and a separation of church and state.

This is my desire for the Democratic party and its candidate. But to do this we need someone with a real view of the world and the experience to understand what can be done and how to get it done.

To me the only person who can do that is Hillary Clinton. She is someone who has lived a life of dreaming big dreams in the area of education, health care, human and civil rights and she has shown she has the brains to understand that just dreaming isn't enough. Dreams must be accompanied by realistic actions that will bring those who may not share the same dreams along.

It takes a strong measure of creativity to work with those who may think differently and to build the dream piece by piece. And it takes an understanding that as long as we continue to move forward and make headway on our dreams we will eventually win out.

I supported George McGovern and he lost. I supported Al Gore and becasue he let his animosity cloud his judgement and didn't use Bill Clinton in his campaign, he had it stolen from him by the Supreme Court.

Let us look at history and recognize that a left wing candidate will have as hard a time winning as a right wing candidate. That the solution to Iraq must include an understanding of what happens when we withdraw our troops and that it is as important now to build the coaltion of nations and the UN as we withdraw, as it would have been to build that coalition before we began the war.

That Universal Health Care still won't be an easy fight and that a coalition will have to be formed to make it a reality. That GLBT rights and an end to "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" will not be done with the waving of a wand by the President but by the Congress with the strong support of the President.

These are the things that Hillary Clinton has shown she understands and is will to do. She understands the hard work needed to make progress on her dreams for the nation.

So let's stop looking for a Democratic platform and look for a platform for the nation. Let's look for a President who has shown the willingness and ability to do the hard work to make her dreams into a national platform and the experienc to bring them to fruition.

Posted by: peterdc | September 7, 2007 1:59 PM | Report abuse

Seems like we're hearing a rerun of the 2004 Democrat platform "Anybody But Bush" except its been changed to "Anybody But Republicans."

It will work as well this time as it did in 2004.

Posted by: JackESpratt | September 7, 2007 1:58 PM | Report abuse

If the Democratic Party hopes to remain in power it has to understand who it is dealing with. In other words, what works in San Francisco or New York, may not be applicable to say Montana.

The larger point is that the party has to be able to adapt to different the politics of different regions, and look for common ground if they hope to maintain a majority. For instance, even the Democrats have NRA memberships and a candidate who supports gun control is sealing his or her fate.

Bai writes about an emerging movement trying to takeover the party. I question whether this new movement really understands how to adapt to regional politics: e.g. second amendment. It appears that this new movement is trying to run one completely centralized agenda.

Posted by: lieb666 | September 7, 2007 1:53 PM | Report abuse

The Dems better start standing for something and put some teeth into their words or they'll be back in minority status faster than you can say 2008.

Posted by: rcubedkc | September 7, 2007 1:49 PM | Report abuse

This is an era when the business of government has been overwhelmed by the business of the permanent campaign, and the permanent campaign is all about establishing organization and message discipline while avoiding risk.

So the "big ideas" people like Bai and Cuomo are calling for would represent swimming into a strong current. This would be true even without the Democrats' shared compulsion to sign on "without mental reservation or purpose of evasion" to the specific agendas of a whole list of organized interests -- though the fact that any Democratic Presidential candidate would be ridden out of the party if he stood up and said "Look, I just am not going to spend any time working on gay marriage or moving the embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, because these things aren't important" doesn't help.

Another thing to note, though it will annoy people like Cuomo whose political dreams are all about making America more like Europe, is that some of the greatest successes of recent Democratic administrations have been completing projects begun under Republicans. The Panama Canal Treaty, Israeli-Egyptian peace treaty, NAFTA, PNTR with China, Nunn-Lugar, even the spending restraint of the early Clinton years all represented work started under Republican Presidents and carried forward by Democrats. This is not a bad thing (for either party); it's just inconvenient for Democrats who want to replace the mechanics of the permanent campaign with a "big ideas" platform of massive change in all sorts of areas from health care to foreign policy. As I suggest above, this is a hopeless project in any event.

Posted by: jbritt3 | September 7, 2007 1:40 PM | Report abuse

One of the major themes in Bai's book is Democrats tendency to attack Republicans and in doing so failing to provide alternative policies. I tend to agree with this analysis. Ever since President Bush got elected all the Democrats seem to have stood for is "Bush is a failure," but have had great difficulty coming up with alternative policies.

I would add along these lines, that the Democrats got into power in 2006 not because the country suddenly believed in equality and justice, but because the Republicans screwed up so bad the Democrats were seen as the lesser evil.

Posted by: lieb666 | September 7, 2007 1:38 PM | Report abuse

It is time for the Democratic Party to re-engage the political debate from the perspective of Economics. Why did the Democrats lose the "Reagan Democrats"? Why do the Republicans command loyalty among a large swath of blue-collar voters? Because Democrats do not recognize their role as accomplices in the Republicans "class war". If you accept that the "free market" functions efficiently (nice housing crisis we're in, BTW...), then the only arguments lefts are "cultural". And here is where the Republicans make suckers of those "religious" voters! Why else would poor people who oppose abortion vote to decrease the taxes of the wealthy?

As long as challenging the economic order is off the table, the Democrats will be "Republican-Lite". Democrats need to argue for the welfare of all, and most of all of us make less than $60,000/year for a family.

Taking up the economic challenge means the Democrats would have a logical rationale for attacking

1) Health Care (Universal - spread the risk, screw the Private Insurers!);

2) Poisonous Pop Culture (don't like Britney? Then vote with your TV-viewship, your buying habits, etc.).

3)Don't like Terrorism? Then recognize that people with nothing to lose (i.e., poor people) will do desperate help them by increasing foreign aid and world education.

4)Don't like War? Then beware the Military Industrial Complex and its love of war and the profits it brings.

As 2-time Congressional Medal of Honor Winner Major General S.D. Butler said, "War is a racket. It always has been. It is possibly the oldest, easily the most profitable, surely the most vicious. It is the only one international in scope. It is the only one in which the profits are reckoned in dollars and the losses in lives. A racket is best something that is not what it seems to the majority of people. Only a small inside group knows what it is about. It is conducted for the benefit of the very few, at the expense of the very many. Out of war a few people make huge fortunes."

So, bring on the Class War! Soak the rich? You bet! And ignore those "beltway boys"; they are captive of the special interests, anyway. Their perspective is skewed, and we get screwed!

Posted by: victor | September 7, 2007 1:33 PM | Report abuse

Um, Dan, what "big" idea do the Repubs have? Aren't they in the same boat, except that they have the same tired list of things from last year:
Pro-Iraq war/surge
Build a wall and kick out the immigrants
Decrease taxes for the wealthy (and bankrupt the federal gov't)
Decrease regulations so that we have more mining accidents, trucking accidents, etc.
Decrease regs on guns so that we have more crazy people able to get guns.

How is any of that a "big" idea? Isn't this just more of the usual media spin that the Democrats don't "stand" for anything? Isn't standing up for the little guy considered "standing" for something? Isn't that a big idea? At least as big as the Repubs standing up for the rich white guys?

Please explain to me whether I'm right or wrong and why.

Posted by: rlalumiere | September 7, 2007 1:32 PM | Report abuse

Why does it seem Danny that you are always Shilling for the right?What do the "Republicants" Stand For or for that matter the the Mainstream Press and their Rightwing Shills and Liars that are trying to prop up these people that brought you nothing but corruption,lies,war profiteering,fear,loathing and outright FAILURE!It takes some Balz!!!

Posted by: sjo123452000 | September 7, 2007 1:30 PM | Report abuse

The "list" must be fleshed out with practical approaches to meeting goals. It can be done! Democrats have access to many good minds to accomplish the task. And the over-riding message should be "to make government work for the people." Not to eliminate government as espoused by the right wing nuts. Dems should talk of the responsibility for leaders to deliver the services the people pay for with their taxes and fees,i.e. health care ,education, and not to waste their funds on unnecessary wars,etc. And I can't understand the inability to articulate a policy for ending our military activities in Iraq. We can surely state a plan for orderly withdrawal from the battlefield. It has been done many times in the past by many different countries. And, at the same time, adopt a policy of sound police and intelligence work to meet the terrorist threats, as has been done in Britain and Germany. That is how you fight the Islamic Fundamentalist terrorists, not with tanks, planes, napalm, divisions of soldiers kicking in doors and terrorizing communities themselves while unnecessarily displacing huge civilian popuations.

Posted by: iclintonmiller | September 7, 2007 1:22 PM | Report abuse

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