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The Democrats need a plan, too


For all that I'm unimpressed with the Republicans' "Pledge to America," I'm glad they wrote and released it. It's important for the voters to know what the parties want to do and why they want to do it. In fact, Democrats should follow suit.

They won't, of course. They don't think they have to. They've been in the majority for two years. They've passed lots of legislation. They've got dozens of pending bills that Republican obstruction has forced into limbo. They don't need a pledge, they say. They've got a record.

But no, they still need a pledge. Voters are obviously judging Democrats on their record, but they are also judging them based on what they'll do next. Telling them to look at what Democrats have attempted but failed to pass isn't enough. Voters don't know about the 372 bills the House has passed and the Senate has ignored, or the 44 bills the Senate has passed and the House hasn't acted on. And legislation is not synonymous with vision. Legislation is about what you can get done. It's about compromises with Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins. It's about the Senate's calendar. It's about the committee structure. Vision is about what you want to get done, and it's worthwhile for voters to know that, too.

Republicans also left Democrats an opportunity by committing themselves to a backward-looking agenda -- extending Bush's tax cuts and repealing Obama's policies doesn't demonstrate much in the way of bold new thinking. But Democrats, to their credit, still have big things they want to do. They've just stopped talking about them because they can't pass them. We still need a real energy bill. A payroll-tax holiday would offer a big shot of stimulus and what about Rob Shapiro's idea to permanently end the payroll tax by replacing it with a consumption or carbon tax? The public option remains popular and so, too, does major campaign-finance reform, such as the Fair Elections Now Act.

Dedicating themselves to any or all of those policies would make for an exciting agenda. In the absence of such an agenda, however, it just seems like the Democrats are running on the fumes of the past two years. The voters deserve better.

Photo credit: White House.

By Ezra Klein  | September 23, 2010; 9:00 AM ET
Categories:  2010 Midterms  
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: The GOP's bad idea
Next: The budget in 2060


Unfortnately, compromise with Snowe, Collins, or any other Republican is unlikely as long as McConnell threatens taking away their committee assignments etc., if they break from the fold for even a minute. Collins performance yesterday was pathetic. But the thing is, as excreble as McConnell is, all the members of his caucus know he has the 'cojones' to do whatever it takes to accomplish his objectives. So does Nancy Pelosi. I just wish the same were true of Reid and Obama.

Posted by: guesswhosue | September 23, 2010 9:25 AM | Report abuse

Agreed. Voters need a comparison of X vs. Y.

Posted by: CrabHands | September 23, 2010 9:42 AM | Report abuse

If re-elected, we pledge to do things we haven't been able to do since the last time you elected us.

I guess it would be good for a laugh, but does the Democratic party really want to be laughed at?

Posted by: ostap666 | September 23, 2010 9:44 AM | Report abuse

"The Democrats need a plan, too"

1) Plastic surgery to alter appearance
2) Get Hillary to change our names on passport
3) Purchase on way airline ticket out of country.

That's about it.

Posted by: illogicbuster | September 23, 2010 9:57 AM | Report abuse

Ezra, "We still need a real energy bill?" Cap-n-trade? The public rejects the notion of allowing the energy companies to triple our electric bills.

"Fair Elections Now Act", How about the Fair Media During Elections Act?

Posted by: JBfromFL | September 23, 2010 9:57 AM | Report abuse

The one thing I can think of that would be more depressing to read than the Republicans' Bad Idea would be the Democrats' Even Worse Idea.

Posted by: bgmma50 | September 23, 2010 10:32 AM | Report abuse

If you want to know what someone will do in the future look at what they have done in the past. The GOP wants to return the US to the failed policies that were in place during the Bush/Cheney admin. During that time the wealthiest Americans (and non-Americans) strengthened their grip on the US economy and were able to pull off the largest transfer of wealth ever accomplished. The rich got super rich and the middle class and poor dropped in prosperity and possibilities. If the GOP takes over they are pledging to continue the trend of concentrating wealth in the top 2% or 3% of the country and make sure that everyone else is working very hard to ensure that things stay that way. It is quite insidious really. And they are hard at work, with the help of millions upon millions of dollars from the wealthy, convincing the public to vote against its own best interests in support of the GOP agenda. Things do not look good for the people in this country especially if the GOP takes control.

Posted by: MickyD1 | September 23, 2010 10:35 AM | Report abuse

Well, in fact, in 2006 the Democrats -- or at least the House Democrats under the leadership of Nancy Pelosi -- did come up with a widely distributed plan called, 'A New Direction for America'.

I'm not quite sure how effective it was. Not much, if I remember correctly.

Posted by: leoklein | September 23, 2010 10:42 AM | Report abuse

Ezra, theoretically, you are right. People should be able to choose at election time between the visions of each party.

But realistically, what's the upside for Democrats? Proposing a vision gets them nowhere. Immigration, energy, DADT, ENDA, a public option, etc. are all on the Democrats' to-do list, but they've all been blocked by Republican filibusters. Unless they plan on changing that (fat chance), there will be even less chance of these items passing next term.

And that would be fine if they received credit for trying and failing. But they won't. All over the country right now, Democrats and the President are being hammered by their progressive allies who accuse them of "lying during the campaign" and "breaking their promises" because they haven't been able to pass what they envisioned during the campaign.

So really, what's the point? One side will just get more enraged than ever, and the other side will get angry when you fail to fully enact your vision.

So just run some negative ads and cross your fingers. It's not a healthy state of politics, but it's where we are.

Posted by: vvf2 | September 23, 2010 10:47 AM | Report abuse

Look for Bill Clinton's interview at Politico. The guy is Master and still can eat any politician alive even today (including probably President) for his persuasive power, clarity of thought and articulation. In one single interview he lays down the entire campaign strategy & program for Democrats for Nov 2010.

It is really shame on Dems that they are not counseling from this great asset and not following a ready made script which he presented so well.

Posted by: umesh409 | September 23, 2010 11:38 AM | Report abuse

"They've been in the majority for two years."

Ezra, how short is your memory? The Democrats have been in the majority for four years. Four economically disastrous years.

Posted by: cummije5 | September 23, 2010 11:40 AM | Report abuse

RESULTS of the Dems plan as implemented:

New Jobless Claims Rise Unexpectedly
Published September 23, 2010 | Associated Press

Initial claims for jobless aid rose by 12,000 to a seasonally adjusted 465,000, the Labor Department said Thursday. The rise suggests that jobs remain scarce and some companies are still cutting workers. Initial claims have been stuck above 450,000 for most of the year.

Claims typically fall below 400,000 when hiring is robust and the economy is growing. These figures show that the economy ISN'T growing but, is shrinking. Initial claims, while volatile, are considered a real-time snapshot of the job market. The weekly claims figures are considered a measure of the pace of layoffs and an indication of companies' willingness to hire. The number of people continuing to receive jobless benefits fell by 48,000 to 4.49 million, the department said. But that doesn't include several million people who are receiving unemployment aid under extended programs approved by Congress during the recession.

The extended benefit rolls rose by about 200,000 to nearly 5.2 million in the week ending Sept. 4, the latest data available.

Hoax & Chains YOU can believe in!

Posted by: illogicbuster | September 23, 2010 12:11 PM | Report abuse

Ezra, I think this was my idea, jerkface. Well, ok, you articulated it very well. I don't think this is a problem exclusive to Democrats. I feel like majorities frequently rely on, "Look at what we've done!" which is really another way of saying, "Don't you want more of the same?!" Even if you've had good times, "more of the same" never sounds as exciting as "Check out all the cool things we want to try!"

Dems have also fallen into the boring-sounding, but factual, style of talking about how this Senate rule makes it impossible to do X and the politics of that issue make it tough to do Y. Governing is really hard. That's a given. But if you're interviewing for a job (and that's just what elections are, afterall), no interviewer wants to hear about how dreary or tough your current job is. They want to hear about the things you've done to find success in your current job and how you're going to parlay that into success if you're hired.

The Dems should start every speech talking about how they passed this raft of major legislation that fulfils on the promises they made in the last election and then transition to the things that they couldn't get done but that they want another chance to try.

Presidential candidates, even incumbants, always have a platform where they talk about the things they want to get done. There's no reason it should be any difference for Congressional majorities.

Posted by: MosBen | September 23, 2010 12:17 PM | Report abuse

You CAN"T compromise with Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins. Haven't you noticed? When push comes to shove, they will Always be an extension of Mitch McConnell's wishes. There really is no daylight remaining between them.

While they have a reputation for moderation, the fact is that their voting records this year are not moderate. With the exception of a single vote from Snowe on health care, they have both been doctrinaire extreme conservatives.

Posted by: pj_camp | September 23, 2010 5:11 PM | Report abuse

Ezra, has it ever occurred to you that more government is not the answer to these problems?

Posted by: kingstu01 | September 23, 2010 5:43 PM | Report abuse

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