Covering the Front and Back Pages of the Newspaper
November 7, 2002
POLITICS: Plan For The Democrats
An entertaining piece on the Democrats' formation of a circular firing squad after Teusday night's debacle; among other things, Washington Post reporter Kevin Merida uses the occasion as an excuse to interview Red Auerbach (“You show me a guy who loses an election and he’s happy, he’s an idiot. If you lose, you have to go out and say, ‘I’m the unhappiest person in the world.’ When you lose, I want you to be unhappy, I want you to be miserable.”) Great quote, only partially tongue in cheek, from James Carville, who proves to be a much more graceful in defeat than in victory: “I kind of enjoy the second-guessing and recriminations and finger-pointing . . . I enjoy observing the pettiness that defeat brings out in people."
What I also find very entertaining is the large number of Democratic pooh-bahs coming out of the woodwork to argue that the Democrats' two biggest problems were:
1. Failure to politicize the war. (How quickly we forget that being the big no-no way back in the old days of September 2002)
2. Failure to take a firm position in favor of raising taxes.
They can compare Bush to something out of Orwell all day long, but look who's trying to run like it's 1984 . . .
Look, this is like arguing that the best way to beat the Lakers is to turn the game into a one-on-one battle in the paint. It's insane, it's exactly the game (we) Republicans want. To win, the Democrats needed the election to be about something other than taxes and the war. They needed it to be about healthcare, corporate corruption, and a million little small-bore how-can-we-give-the-voters-some-of-other-people's-money issues.
The other funny thing is the fact that Democrats are now all claiming to be in favor of "investors." Of course, the Democratic message has always been that anybody with money to invest is "the rich" who want to rip off "working families." In the 80s, for example, Democrats loved to trash "corporate raiders," who were basically pro-investor in battles against labor and management, and guys like Michael Moore thought all the world's problems were caused by shareholder-wealth-maximizing corporations. Hint: unless you are talking about corporate disclosures (which is a hot issue these days), being opposed to corporations making money is, ipso facto, being opposed to their investors seeing their retirement accounts prosper.
My own suspicion is that the Democratic leadership should do the following on taxes and the war -
1. Support the war with Iraq. It's the right thing to do, and they haven't a prayer of winning the White House as an echo chamber for the nation's critics. And argue for a big UN role in nation-building after the war.
2. Argue for more defense spending, and that more tax revenue is needed for a bigger military. Guess what? You can rip Republicans for selling out the nation's defenses for tax cuts. And military contracts and bases are big-time pork, and will provide lots of good-paying jobs for skilled blue-collar workers. Invoke FDR and the "Arsenal of Democracy."
3. Propose broader tax reform - including tax simplification and loophole-closing - and try to smuggle in higher rates on the dreaded "top 1%" or whatever as part of an overall package. This was how bipartisan support was built for the 1986 tax reform bill that lowered income tax rates and raised the capital gains tax.
4. Propose indexing capital gains, or exempting individuals over age 60 or 65, as an alternative to GOP plans to cut the tax. Argue that the Democratic plan is more "targeted" at seniors.
Yes, these moves would involve moving to the Right, but like Republican plans about prescription drugs, they would give Democrats the opportunity to join the debate, appear moderate, and shape the solutions in a way that warms their big-government, tax-the-rich hearts.
The good news? They'll never do it.