As Byron York at the Washington Examiner, writes, “Republicans could have endorsed Obamacare, embraced the stimulus, and praised $1.5 trillion deficits and Democrats still would have condemned the Pledge as a return to Bush.” But can the Democrats’ articulate their own position?
Shortly before the Republicans rolled out their plan in Sterling, Virginia, I called the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. I asked spokesman Ryan Rudominer whether, since we now have the GOP agenda, there is a similar document laying out what Democrats will do if voters return them to power in the House. There was a moment of silence on the other end of the call.
“I’m sorry, you mean, like, a current one?” Rudominer asked.
Yes, I said.
“I don’t think we have, like, you know, a 21-page sort of infommercial-type package like this,” Rudominer said.
Well, any sort of agenda would be fine, I said.
“Look, you know, each race is going to have their own individualized message,” Rudominer answered. “So look, we’re not putting together a gimmicky package like this six weeks before the election. We’re talking about making each of these elections a choice.”
Rudominer didn’t handle my question very well, which suggests that the DCCC hasn’t gotten a lot of inquiries about the specifics of the Democratic agenda. If officials at the office charged with electing Democrats to the House felt pressured to produce an agenda of their own, then they would have had talking points to explain it.
In the absence of a specific Democratic agenda, perhaps the best way to guess at what Democrats would do if re-elected is to look at the unfinished portions of their 2009-2010 agenda. There is cap-and-trade environmental regulation. More economic stimulus. Comprehensive immigration reform. Union-favored “card check” legislation. And, of course, resisting Republican efforts to repeal or chip away at Obamacare. (Democrats recently beat back a proposed change to the health care law that would fix a tax reporting requirement that just about everyone agrees is terribly burdensome on businesses, which suggests they will try to stop any changes to the health care law, despite pledges to “fix” the legislation.)
The problem with that agenda, of course, is that it is pretty much roundly opposed by the voters. That could be the reason so many Democrats would rather give you their opinion of the GOP’s Pledge to America.
Maybe we can let Lyndon Johnson, author of the second the Democrats’ troika of New Deal programs answer that question, via William Voegeli, who wrote in 2004:
At a  campaign rally in Providence [Johnson] climbed onto his car, grabbed a bullhorn, and summed up his political philosophy: “I just want to tell you this—we’re in favor of a lot of things and we’re against mighty few.” The Democrats’ problem is not that they, like Seinfeld, are a show about nothing. It’s that they are a show about everything, or anything. (At one point, the Kerry-for-President website referred to 79 separate federal programs he wanted to create or expand.)
Ruy Teixeira says that after 2004, “The bigger question is: What do the Democrats stand for?” Here’s a better and bigger question still: What do the Democrats stand against? Tell us, if indeed it’s true, that Democrats don’t want to do for America what social democrats have done for France or Sweden. Tell us that the stacking of one government program on top of the other is going to stop, if indeed it will, well short of a public sector that absorbs half the nation’s income and extensively regulates what we do with the other half. Explain how the spirit of live-and-let-live applies, if indeed it does, to everyone equally—to people who take family, piety, and patriotism seriously, not merely to people whose lives and outlooks are predicated on regarding them ironically.
Until those questions are answered, until Americans have confidence about the limits liberalism will establish and observe, it’s hard to see when the Democratic narrative will again have a happy ending.
But plenty of false starts, and wrecked economies along the way.