It’s tough to be a Democrat these days. President Bush has stratospheric approval ratings, the country seems to have tilted rightward after 9/11, and the Democrats seem compelled to defend their patriotism every time they nervously issue the mildest criticism of George Bush’s foreign policy.
While those are significant obstacles to Democratic success, they pale in comparison to the Democrats biggest problem. The nastiest fly in the Democratic ointment these days is that they really don’t seem to stand for anything except electing more Democrats.
This absence of issues has inspired the Democrats to test a novel hypothesis this campaign season. Can the Democratic Party take back the House and retain control of the Senate based on nothing more than being against everything George Bush is for on the domestic front?
Now I don’t want to overstate my case. The Democrats have strongly supported several pieces of legislation that they think will help get more Democrats elected like campaign finance reform, Federalizing airport workers, attempting to Federalize nuclear plant workers, and unionizing police and fire departments.
But, what about issues that aren’t primarily designed to fill the coffers of Democratic Party allies and expand the pool of Democratic voters?
The Democrats are trying to give the impression that they’re behind the president in the ‘War on Terrorism’ although most people expect them to start pulling out the long knives once the election is over. Still, there are currently no clear differences between the Democrats and the president on the war.
What about taxes? After much soul-searching and flip-flopping the Democrats are still waffling on that issue. The general consensus on the Left seems to be that the tax cuts were ‘bad’ and the Democrats don’t want to make them permanent, but they also don’t want to repeal them. So they’re against tax cuts, but not very much, sort of, well…never mind. Actually the Democrats are sorry they brought it up. Next question please.
Then there is the environment. The Democrats are espousing a few principles here. Unfortunately, they seem to be the same ones Jimmy Carter was putting forth in his notorious “malaise speech.” Basically, everyone should put on a sweater, turn the thermostat down a couple of degrees, and get in their government mandated go-cart rather than drill for oil on 2000 acres of frozen wasteland in Alaska. Of course, this position again appears to be mainly designed to thwart George Bush’s desire to drill ANWR rather than because the Democrats actually believe and intend to fight for all this pap.
Of course, there are plenty of other issues the Democrats may tackle. Gun Control? That would cost them too many Southern votes so forget about it. Immigration? Well, umm, so, ah’what’s the next issue? Abortion? That’s basically a wash on the national level so what’s the point? Social Security? The Democrats may try to scare old people by claiming that seniors will be driven to eating dog food because George Bush is suggesting privatizing part of Social Security but they have no ideas of their own. Drugs? Let’s not go there OK?
That brings us back to the November elections. Because of the Democrats reluctance to give voters anything to “vote for”, the Republicans are a shoe-in to continue controlling the House and may very well take back the Senate. That’s despite the fact that the party that isn’t in the White House usually cleans up in off-year elections. Now many people may wonder why the Democrats would choose to pursue the unwise strategy of opposing everything a president with an 80% approval rating is for, rather than state their positions. The answer is simple. Whatever losses the Democrats take from executing this strategy can’t possibly be as bad as running on a platform of raising taxes, expanding government, undercutting the ‘War on Terrorism’, and electing more Democrats. Sometimes it’s better to be thought of as having no ideas at all, than to show people how foolish your ideas really are.