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Do Democrats have a plan?

PH2010011102022.jpg

They think so:

The emerging strategy seeks to take advantage of the partisan stalemate in Congress over Obama's nominees and major policy initiatives, and to turn the page on a year when the White House failed to secure passage of complicated health-care and energy legislation.

The idea is to make Republicans either vote for a series of more modest bills identified as popular with the public or explain to constituents this fall why they opposed them.

The decision by Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) to offer a pared-down jobs-creation bill and dare the GOP to oppose it is the most visible sign of the plan so far. White House officials and congressional staff members say it will be followed in coming weeks by a House vote to lift the antitrust exemption for insurance companies, measures to assist small businesses and extend unemployment benefits, and a proposal to levy fees on Wall Street banks that received bailout money.

But no one has done a very good job defining what it means for this strategy to succeed. Does it mean Democrats pick up seats in the next election? Because that's unlikely to work: Historically, a bad economy and the odd politics of midterm elections (the president's party has gained seats three times since the Civil War) are simply much more powerful than the politics of any particular bills.

But the strategy could be aimed at other things: momentum in the eyes of the media and their base, or laying an education campaign about the costs of obstruction in the Senate that will help build understanding of the need to reform Senate procedures? Democrats may have a strategy, but they've not been terribly clear about its goals.

Photo credit: Jonathan Ernst/Reuters.

By Ezra Klein  |  February 15, 2010; 10:54 AM ET
Categories:  Democrats  
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Next: When opinions on health-care insurance stop being polite and start getting complicated

Comments

If the government intentionally lessened the cost of economic success, would there be more economic success to go around?

How about a "jobs" bill that was purely designed to lower the cost incurred by private corporations when they create jobs?

Posted by: FastEddieO007 | February 15, 2010 11:04 AM | Report abuse

Their plan is the roll over, play dead, and then see if they Republicans go away.

"The idea is to make Republicans either vote for a series of more modest bills identified as popular with the public or explain to constituents this fall why they opposed them."

They should have been doing this from the get-go. Now, this might well work--I think it's the smartest thing they can do. But it may be hard to walk back the attempted grandiosity of the first year.

And Republicans have a potential response to this. A small bill that is popular? Add an extension of the Bush tax cuts. Especially for the middle class. Pop on a little indefinite corporate tax cuts for small businesses. In other words, attempt to amend bills with popular (or, at least, not unpopular) conservative ideas.

Thus, when the Republicans vote for the already popular legislation that might grow government or add regulation, they can also vote for a bill with a fresh middle class tax cut in it. And if the Democrats object to the amendment, attempt to strip it, or vote against their own legislation, they have to explain why they can't work to get their own legislation passed, and why they don't want middle class people to have more money.

It's a good idea generally, but I think the Republicans are going to have some political responses to it to help keep the momentum on their side.

Posted by: Kevin_Willis | February 15, 2010 11:09 AM | Report abuse

I'm going to go out on a limb here and say that momentum in the eyes of the base is pretty low on their priority-list.

Posted by: adamiani | February 15, 2010 11:16 AM | Report abuse

"But no one has done a very good job defining what it means for this strategy to succeed."

Hmm, passing legislation designed to "provide for the General Welfare"?

'agenda' in Latin not just 'things to be done' but instead 'things that ought to be done'. There was a day when Democrats consciously thought that they were on a path forward that they were moving towards "The New Frontier" that they were forging "The Great Society", the notion of 'Progress' actually being embedded in 'Progressive'. Then inexplicably they decided to take the Third Way to stasis.

Incrementalism may not be as satisfactory as passing the Great X Reform, just as a grind it out ground game isn't as exciting as the long ball. On the other hand it moves to ball down the field.

The goal is to win the game en route to the championship, not just to keep the team assembled for next year.

Posted by: BruceWebb | February 15, 2010 11:52 AM | Report abuse

Democrats will do whatever is necessary to give the Republicans control of the agenda, Congress and everything else.

their actions ensure this agenda.

i often wonder who the Democrats are representing. it is obviously not the people who voted for them in the last election cycle. Maybe it will take more Scott Browns before we see who the Democrats represent. it sure ain't us, the people who aren't republicans.

watching the Democrats give up power, from Obama on down, makes for a fascinating insight into the Corporate Versailles we are today.

thanks to the Democrats for folding in the poker game called Congress. Way to go Republican lites!!!!

Posted by: BernardEckholdt | February 15, 2010 12:08 PM | Report abuse

Are we measuring the success of policy or politics here? My assumption was that the plan's success would be measured by its ability to obtain: a lifting of the anti-trust exemption for insurance companies, measures to assist small businesses and extend unemployment benefits, and fees on Wall Street banks that received bailout money. If political benefits accrue to this, so much the better, but frankly, shouldn't we be measuring these two things--policy and politics--separately? Why wouldn't getting these measures passed be success enough?

Posted by: JJenkins2 | February 15, 2010 12:39 PM | Report abuse

Heres some hard math!:

Democrats= (Leadership of Harry Reid) + (Integrity of Chris Dodd) + (Statesmanship of Nancy Pelosi) + (The Foreign Policy Expertise of Joe Biden) + (The Substance of Obama)


Oh well....I tried to work in something about Eric Holder's Pardons of FALN or investigation of CIA Heroes but nothing is perfect.

Posted by: FastEddieO007 | February 15, 2010 1:38 PM | Report abuse

Here's a question -- what does post-healthcare Democratic messaging look like?

I mean no matter which way this goes, healthcare is simply off the table for the Democrats as an issue for several years. Even a victory at this point will carry such a bad taste among both liberals and conservatives that it will be legislatively toxic. A loss will make it even more untouchable.

But this has been a core element of the Democratic platform for 60 years. More to the point, the Clinton years saw the systematic disavowal of most other parts of that platform -- affirmative promotion of racial equity, gun control, protectionism, anti-poverty programs, all of them were knocked out by the Last Successful Democratic President. Healthcare was the last affirmative argument for electing Democratic politicians. What does their messaging strategy look like without it?

Posted by: NS12345 | February 15, 2010 2:00 PM | Report abuse

"healthcare is simply off the table for the Democrats as an issue for several years. Even a victory at this point will carry such a bad taste among both liberals and conservatives that it will be legislatively toxic. "

I understand why you might have this belief and it probably matches the prevailing thought in Washington, but I think it ignores what is likely the next item on either party's agenda: Fixing the deficit.

I think most serious proposals to do this will focus on reducing how much is spent on Medicare/Medicaid. That's how Paul Ryan's budget accomplishes deficit reduction. I think Democrats could make a very sound case that in order to reduce the budget we need healthcare reform that actually bends down the cost curve.

Also, keep in mind that this time last year there was a lot of talk about whether or not the unpopular Republicans would be reduced to a regional party. The political landscape can change very quickly and I don't think it will take very long for everyone to forget just how painful the whole healthcare bill process has been.

Posted by: dbackes | February 15, 2010 9:28 PM | Report abuse

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