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Dems May Revel,


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10/10/05

By Gloria Borger

Standing for Something

No Doubt About It, Democrats Are a pretty happy bunch these days. President Bush's poll numbers are heading south because of Iraq and Hurricane Katrina. House Majority Leader Tom DeLay's indictment on alleged campaign finance violations compounds the woe, as does Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist's questioning by federal investigators about his stock sales. A federal leak investigation, meanwhile, could lead inside the White House, where an administration budget official was recently arrested, charged with lying to the feds in a separate matter. Meantime, conservatives are griping about runaway spending, as they start to separate themselves from the White House.

So if you're a Democrat, things are looking up.

And you're also looking back--to 1994, when voters handed control of the House to Newt Gingrich and his Republicans, who railed against a "culture of corruption" in the Democratic majority. After 40 years of Democratic rule, the GOP mavericks moved in to run the place as the party of change. Now, after more than a decade, the revolutionaries look more like the ruling class--a majority that has forgotten its reformist roots. And the polls show it: Congress's approval ratings are in the mid-30 percent range, the lowest in about eight years.

But wait. Before voters decide to throw the bums out, don't they have to know what they're buying into next? In 1994, Gingrich & Co. produced a "Contract With America" to let the voters in on their plan for governing. Today's Democratic agenda is somewhere between hate for George W. Bush and disdain for George W. Bush. That's not enough for a party looking to revive itself as a governing entity. People already know what they are voting against; they need to know what they're voting for.

That's the hard part for Democrats. Consider the John G. Roberts nomination: Half of all Senate Democrats supported the nominee for chief justice, including some reliably liberal voices like Pat Leahy of Vermont and Carl Levin of Michigan. Despite intense pressure from single-issue, outside interest groups, these senators decided one thing: Roberts is qualified. If the next nominee is someone they cannot vote for, they now have credibility. After voting with Bush on nominee No. 1, they can say: This is not about politics; it's about the court. It's about the future.

But those are the grown-up Democrats, or at least the ones not running for president. Every presidential wannabe--save for maverick Russ Feingold of Wisconsin--cast a vote against Roberts. They knew that a vote for Roberts could kill them, at least with the all-important left-leaning primary voters. They are allowed no flexibility in their views. Indeed, when Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid announced his vote against Roberts, the outside groups claimed to be his body snatchers. "He got the message loud and clear, didn't he?" Kim Gandy, president of the National Organization for Women, crowed to the New York Times. Reid, who is not running for president, might be wise to ban Gandy from his office; Democratic presidential candidates have no such luxury.

Tipping point. So what does this say about Democrats as the alternative to the reeling majority? Not much, at least so far. The Republicans may no longer be reformers, but the Democrats seem stuck, bound by an inability to rise above their own inflexibility. As long as activists rule the roost, party litmus tests on issues like abortion will remain in place. That doesn't broaden the party; it guarantees that it offers nothing new to voters who are in the mood for change.

Republicans have real reason to fear that their hold on power is growing more and more tentative. Congressional sources tell me that around 70 House seats could be up for grabs in 2006--that's twice as many as anyone originally predicted. Sure, the House is so gerrymandered into safe districts that it's an uphill battle for the Democrats to make huge gains. But anything is possible when the public gets in the mood to throw the bums who run the place out of office.

But for what? For Democrats who pander to the litmus tests imposed by special interests? Hardly. If this is a "tipping point" for Republicans--a moment when the movement seems unable to see or correct its own problems--it's one for the Democrats, too. If they can see beyond their old orthodoxies, they just might be able to convince the country they are ready to govern again. But that's a big "if."

http://www.usnews.com/usnews/opinion/artic...51010/10glo.htm

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read an article by mort kondrite(?) this past week that said a strategy of the Dem's is to go 'positive' in 06.... talked about how they've offered nothing of substance in the recent past, and they perhaps will have an agendy similar to the Contract w/ America in 94.

what a novel idea...offer something to vote FOR as opposed to reasons not to vote for the other guy.

as long as they are honest with themselves and the american people, i think it'd be a welcomed strategy....

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read an article by mort kondrite(?) this past week that said a strategy of the Dem's is to go 'positive' in 06....  talked about how they've offered nothing of substance in the recent past, and they perhaps will have an agendy similar to the Contract w/ America in 94.

what a novel idea...offer something to vote FOR as opposed to reasons not to vote for the other guy.

as long as they are honest with themselves and the american people, i think it'd be a welcomed strategy....

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I agree, it would be welcomed nation wide.

But does that mean they will have to fire Howard Dean? Would/could they distance themselves from the left wing extremist groups they are beholden to for money and votes?

We hear continuously of the Republican attack machine, but it appears to me the Democrat attack machine is just as large, just as well funded and maybe even more stridently vocal.

Anything the two parties can do to diminish the rancorous elections would be good for the country. I say the two parties, because so far there is little chance of a third party gaining any major power.

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