July 17, 2003

POLITICAL ADVICE FOR THE DEMOCRATS -- they seem to need it, and I'm offering it over at

I don't think, though, that anyone would offer me the DNC chairmanship, though it was once held by a law school classmate of mine. And the Democrats were doing better then, too.

UPDATE: John Conyers apparently hasn't gotten the memo about the youth vote.

And here's an issue too.

And a reader has more suggestions, as follow:

Reader Robert Crantz sends the following:

Those were interesting ideas. The drinking age idea particularly makes sense, though I think it would alienate some of the Dems' suburban nanny-state base. I wrote some comments a couple of months ago about issues the Dems should focus on to beat Bush in '04. Here they are.


Robert's 8-Step Policy Guide to Send Bush Packing in '04

1. Emphasize the Bush Administration's Complete Lack of Fiscal Responsibility - I consider myself a fiscal conservative, yet even I'm opposed to Bush's latest tax cut plan. Why? Because he continues to jack up government spending like there's no tomorrow. When it comes to Congressional spending bills, the man simply doesn't know what a veto is. $50 billion for a redundant homeland security division? Check. $80 billion in farm subsidies? Sure, why not. Under Bush, domestic federal spending has grown at a faster rate than it ever did in the Clinton years. Then there's the $75 billion war, the $15 billion for AIDS spending, it goes on and on. Tax cuts aren't worth much when they go straight into a budget deficit.

Unfortunately, the Dems have been attacking this issue the wrong way. By and large, they've been playing the same class warfare cards that grew stale 20 years ago. If they focused instead on how massive deficits wind up financially screwing Americans of all classes, their message would have much more appeal.

2. Go After Bush and Ashcroft's Attacks on Civil Liberties - The Democratic Party likes to consider itself the party that defends personal/civil freedoms. Yet they've mostly been AWOL when it comes to the Patriot Act and related attacks on the Bill of Rights. Most of them supported the Patriot Act, and two of the largest critics of the Act, Bob Barr and Dick Armey, were Republicans. There are a lot of independents and moderate Republicans that are uneasy about this issue, but as long as no Democratic candidate bangs the drum on it, don't expect it to get you a whole lot of votes.

3. Form a Credible Plan for Reducing Our Dependence on Foreign Oil - This works on two fronts. You can push it from a national security angle, and you can also push it from an environmental angle. Bush's fuel cell plan is a fig leaf at best, seeing how no one expects fuel cells to be mass commercialized for another 10 or 15 years. We need things like additional gasoline taxes, improved fuel efficiency standards, new domestic oil exploration, additional tax incentives for hybrid cars, and more research for fuel efficiency improvements on traditional car designs.

We're spending over $50 billion each year on our military activities in the Persian Gulf, it wouldn't kill us to spend a few billion on activities that can reduce fuel dependency, especially since there are long term economic benefits as well. The Bush Administration, with its dozen or so ties to the oil industry, is doing very little to address this problem, which leaves the door open for a Democratic candidate to seize the mantle.

4. Create a National Broadband Policy - Our telecommunications industry is a mess. Sales have collapsed, hundreds of thousands of jobs are lost, and trillions of dollars of investor wealth have vanished. It's true that much of this is because of a popped investment bubble, but much of this is also because our broadband infrastructure is in shambles. Broadband is more expensive and slower here than it is in many other countries, and the private sector, scared of making new investments, has failed here in providing a good that the public wants. There are major economic and educational benefits to be had by seeing broadband spread, we have a long history of government-financed infrastructure projects that have paid off very well. The Interstate Highway System, the transcontinental railroads, the Erie Canal...broadband is another case where government involvement could help. There's no need for anything too heavy-handed. Tax incentives for consumer purchases and private sector in
vestments, and maybe matching funds for municipal government investments, would be enough.

Al Gore may have not invented the Internet, but he did seem to know what it was. These days, I'm not sure if Bush does. Consumers and businesses want cheap and fast broadband, the telecom industry needs it to prosper, and a Dem candidate who can bring it to them will find plenty of sympathetic ears.

5. Promote Free Trade - One of the things that I have to give Clinton credit for is that he was an unflinching supporter of free trade. Bush, sadly, views free trade as nothing more than a political tool. When it serves his ends, he supports it. When it doesn't,(steel and lumber tariffs, farm subsidies), he could care less about it. Bush even nixed a planned free-trade pact with Chile because they wouldn't support him on Iraq. As you know, Chile wasn't exactly leading the opposition to the war, but that didn't stop Bush. Call Bush out on this economically destructive gamesmanship, and dare Karl Rove to find a way to spin it to the public.

6. Attack Bush's Continued Pandering to the Religious Right - Thankfully in this country, the views of the Moral Majority represent a distinct minority. But since these theocratic creeps make up a large percentage of Bush's core support, he routinely panders to their whims. Whether it's cutting off family-planning funding for third-world countries, nominating a string of federal judges who make Pat Buchanan look like a liberal, or supporting a ban on stem-cell research, Bush has made it a point to adopt large parts of the Religious Right's agenda, no matter what the broader public thinks. But aside from stonewalling the judicial nominations, the Dems have made very little noise here. They even couldn't muster much outrage over Santorum's odious remarks.

There are many fiscally conservative types who are reluctant to vote Republican precisely because of the influence of the Falwell/Robertson wing of the party. Combine this issue with Bush's spiraling deficits and lukewarm free trade support, and you have a chance at getting them to vote for the other side.

7. Create a Plan for Improving Our Dilapidated Transporation Infrastructure - In the last 25 years, the number of cars on American roads has almost doubled. Yet the number of miles added to the Interstate Highway system has grown by less than 5%. And anyone who lives near a major metropolitan area knows very well about the mess this lack of investment has led to. The average commuter in many metro areas now spends over 40 minutes commuting to work each way. In some of the big ones, it's over 50. Outside of rural areas, the pleasures of the open road are pretty hard to find these days. And between the ever-growing check-in lines and runway waits, our airports are also being used to the limit, as anyone who has travelled frequently can attest.

This stuff isn't just a quality of life issue. When goods take longer to get from one place to another and workers have to spend time on the road that they could be spending at the office, economic productivity also gets hit. Yet while Bush jacks up spending for more government projects that can be named, he seems to be doing nothing here. The DoT's planned 2004 budget is less than the planned increases that the military is getting for its budget since Bush took office. There are millions of frustrated commuters out there whose angst can be turned into Democratic votes in '04 if a Dem candidate decided to press the matter.

8. Call for an End to Our Disgraceful "Friendship" with Saudi Arabia - This is the true achilles heel of Bush's foreign policy. Attcking him on Iraq or Israel/Palestine isn't likely to get you far with the public, but highlighting the sickening nature of our alliance with the Saudi royal family is a no-lose proposition. The alliance is sickening on a national security level - 15 of the 19 9/11 hijackers were Saudi, over half of the Guantanamo detainees are Saudi, the vast majority of Al-Qaeda's funding has come from Saudi patrons, and to this day, Saudi money continues to spread an fanatical, medieval ideology throughout the Islamic world, and even in the West. It's also sickening on a purely moral level - the Saudi regime has to be one of the five largest human rights abusers on the planet, and the country's complete lack of civil liberties, religious tolerance, and women's rights makes Iran look downright liberal by comparison.

In spite of all this, Bush continues to refer to the Saudis as "allies", and invited both the Saudi Crown Prince and Ambassador to his Crawford ranch last year. The Dems could have a field day documenting all of the oil, defense, and personal ties that the Bush family has with the Saudis, and just how damaging and corrupting Bush's insistence on maintaining the alliance is. And given the history, there's no way Bush can weasel his way out of any of the criticism. But thus far, most of the criticism about Bush's Saudi ties has come from right-wing circles. Note to would-be Democratic candidates: If you want to look serious on foreign policy without making it look as if you're parroting Bush's views, all while espousing traditional liberal values on human rights, this is your chance.

I don't necessarily endorse all of these, but they're more proof that pretty much anybody can do better than the Democrats at coming up with issues.

UPDATE: Mark Steyn is dead-on here:

One reason why the President, in defiance of last week’s Spectator, is all but certain to win re-election is the descent into madness of his opponents. They’ve let post-impeachment, post-chad-dangling bitterness unhinge them to the point where, given a choice between investigating the intelligence lapses that led to 9/11 and the intelligence lapses that led to a victorious war in Iraq, they stampede for the latter. Iraq was a brilliant campaign fought with minimal casualties, 11 September was a humiliating failure by government to fulfill its primary role of national defence. But Democrats who complained that Bush was too slow to act on doubtful intelligence re 9/11 now profess to be horrified that he was too quick to act on doubtful intelligence re Iraq. This is not a serious party.

A canny Democrat would hammer Bush for wanting to tie the American people down in useless ‘anti-terror’ regulations while letting the pen-pushers carry on with business as usual. Thus, my neighbour Scott, who has a small maple-syrup business, has been advised by the Feds to fence his property to make the sap lines from his trees to the sugar shack less vulnerable to sabotage from anthrax-wielding terrorists.

There's political gold there, but the Democrats can't bring themselves to attack a domestic government program, I guess.