Saturday, August 12, 2006

Robert Reich on Using Political Power

Robert Reich has a post on his blog that offers some insightful advice on what the Dems need to do with legislative power should they win back the House in November, as seems likely, and particularly if they get the Senate, too, as seems increasingly possible.

His first word of advice is not to turn the House into a non-stop investigation machine, and offers excellent reasons - It will be portrayed as merely partisan (the weakest argument, but one recognizing the role of the media in smearing Democrats); the Bushies will simply stall and refuse, and there is already enough info in the public realm to use to discredit the administration; Bush is already so unpopular that he's losing his utility as a focus for the Dems - they need to watch out for the McCains and Hegels; enough with the whining, which is Republican focused and keeping ourselves on Republican turf.

I think Reich over-states his case somewhat. There is room for some nice, on-going investigations if only to feed the scandal machine, but he is right that it can't be the only thing. As for what he thinks is a good thing to do, I'm with him:
...House Dems should use the two years instead to lay the groundwork for a new Democratic agenda. Bring in expert witnesses. Put new ideas on table. Frame the central issues boldly. Don't get caught up in arid policy-wonkdom.

For example, instead of framing basic economic question as whether to roll back Bush's tax cuts, make it how to recreate good jobs at good wages and rebuild the middle class. Consider ideas for doing this through trade policy, industrial policy, antitrust, publicly-financed research and development, and stronger trade unions.

Instead of framing central foreign-policy question as whether we should have invaded Iraq, make it how to partition Iraq into Shiite, Suni, and Kurdish zones while America gets out. Focus the national security debate on how to control loose nukes and fissile material, and secure American ports. Open direct negotiations with North Korea and Iran.

On energy and the environment, they should offer ideas for developing new non-fossil based energy industries in America, and how to ratify a realistic Kyoto accord.

Help the public understand how these are all related. Show why, for example, we'll never have a sane foreign policy unless we reduce our dependence on oil, how the creation of new alternative-energy industries can help create good jobs in America, why good jobs are essential to a reviving the middle class and saving the environment.

Most important, be positive. Avoid the blame game. Bush's shameful record is plain enough. Start the new record. Help America dream again.

Dems have to contrast the paucity and venality of Republican governance (more money for the rich, screw the poor, use war & terror as electoral instruments) against a (dare I say it?) Clintonian vision of the nation as a whole doing better and thriving. Tying security, economy and environment together is not just an obvious way to distance ourselves from Republican banditry, it is simply the right way to approach the challenges of this century. It also contains something that has not been much in evidence since Boy George took office - US international leadership, which, at its best, has meant leading by example.

The way to reverse the wounds inflicted on the nation by the neocon right since Gingrich's cynical Contract With America was launched is to recast America's dream of itself.


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