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Friday, February 11, 2005
Brownstein on the Democrats
By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 7:20 am

Writes Ron Brownstein of the LAT: Democrats Aren’t Giving Bush a Break This Term

In style and substance, Democrats are mounting a much more aggressive and unified opposition to President Bush than they did following his election in 2000.

Are they? I find Hary Reid’s approach to be essentially the same as Daschle’s to date. And if we are going back to 2001, let’s not forget that the Dems managed to convince Jim Jeffords to switch parties. It wasn’t as if it was honeymoon city in ‘01.

I certainly am unclear as to his evidence of greater unity. Indeed, wasn’t the argument last year (and one I didn’t buy) that the Dems were “as unified as they have ever been” behind Kerry? And an analytical matter: how would one measure said “unity”? To date I see no empirical evidence of greater (or lesser) unity.

Brownsteins evidence?

With the expected selection Saturday of firebrand Howard Dean as chairman of the Democratic National Committee, Sen. John F. Kerry’s rapid reemergence as a Bush critic, and the sharp congressional challenges to Cabinet nominees Alberto R. Gonzales and Condoleezza Rice, Democrats are consistently choosing confrontation over conciliation in their early responses to Bush in his second term.

That would be as oppossed to filibustering appelas court nominees? Granted they didn’t do that right out of the gate in 2001, but still, I see no radical shift here. It isn’t as if they were lapdogs in the first term. And, as I recall, the Ashcroft hearings weren’t a cakewalk.

He further notes:

That approach contrasts sharply with the opening months of Bush’s first term, when even some leading party liberals worked with him on education reform and several centrists supported his tax cuts.

Well, numerous Democrats in the Senate voted for his Class Action reform yesteday. I still don’t see a massive difference to this point. Further, one would expect at least some difference in legislative behavior first term v. second. There is less incentive to try and get along at this point, so any such shifts may not signal much of anything other than the fact that it is the second term. One could argue that Bush did education reform first las time because he knew it would get bipartisan support. Regardless, Brownstein is pulling some these arguments, and the evidence to support them, out of thin air. Of perhaps it is all wishful thinking.

There is some clear aggression out there in the Democratic Party, but I don’t see it as radically different than anything that we have seen in the last four years. The Democrats’ problem isn’t aggresiveness (or the lack thereof) but it is the lack of a coherent and appealing alternative message to the one the President offers.

For example: had the Democrats nominated someone who had had a clear alternative to Bush’s Iraq and anti-terror policies, then I think that that candidate would’ve bested Bush. He was vulnerable. However, Kerry offered no such plan.

The Democrats have to find a way to go beyond saying “no” and “we’ll do better”–neither of those is a working alternative to anything.

4 Comments »

  1. From a Democrat’s perspective, the problem with bringing an alternative policy towards Iraq and terrorism is, we feel, that President Bush has left no alternative but the current policy: agressively go after terrorists, prevent attacks on the homeland, and keep troops in Iraq until the Iraqis can take control. The current situation doesn’t really leave many more options.

    Comment by Joshua — Friday, February 11, 2005 @ 8:44 am

  2. I would concur that there has been a narrowing of options, but there are ways to formulate policy alternatives aside from saying “it’s screwed up, and we will do better”.

    There are more than one set of policy visions that could be applied to the war on terror and so forth.

    Even when it comes to domestic policy, I have not seen an especially coherent effort to formulate policy alternatives.

    Comment by Steven Taylor — Friday, February 11, 2005 @ 8:51 am

  3. Retribution for Democrats Cooperating with White House?
    Congressman: Democrat Leadership Threatening ‘Retribution’ for Dems Who Cooperate with White House (Human Events)

    Rep. Paul Ryan (R.-Wis.) was asked at a CATO conference in Washington yesterday whether he had persuaded any Democrats to back his pl…

    Trackback by Outside The Beltway — Friday, February 11, 2005 @ 9:18 am

  4. The big issue is can the Democrats offer a different vision on a whole range of issues. They could start by being serious about social security reform–not just saying no. They can offer a real new deal for the 21st century if they can figure out what they want to say. They cannot simply oppose. It may be that their options are limited when it comes to Iraq or terror but not about tax reform or many other issues. I believe that if Kerry would have had real big ideas about domestic policy he would have won.

    Comment by Mark — Friday, February 11, 2005 @ 1:07 pm

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