The Democrats have a deep divide on electoral strategy, the Los Angeles Times reports, which has its basis in policy, at least indirectly. Instead of a party debate between moderates and leftists on the nature of the Democratic legislative agenda, however, the party cannot decide whether to be honest with the American public:
With President Bush and the Republican-controlled Congress facing bleak approval ratings, many Democrats are increasingly confident that the public is ready to hear the party’s alternative policy ideas as the 2006 campaign heats up.
The question is whether the Democrats have an alternative ready to present. …
On one side are those who believe the Democrats must present a sharp alternative to Bush’s direction — as Republicans did with their “Contract with America” before sweeping into control of Congress in 1994.
“It is a time to move toward offense and toward talking about the big things that we stand for,” said Eli Pariser, executive director of the political action committee associated with liberal MoveOn.org.
On the other side are strategists who fear that offering too many specifics could allow Republicans to shift focus away from public discontent with how they have governed. Those sentiments appear especially strong among Senate Democrats.
“If you start to [discuss] big government programs … you open yourself up to criticism in all directions, and there’s no reason for Democrats to do that now,” said one senior Democratic Senate aide, who asked not to be identified when discussing internal party deliberations.
In other words, the Democrats know that their agenda will lose them support in the upcoming elections. They want to offer more big-government, big-spending programs at a time when we can’t afford the programs we already have. Democrats don’t need a debate to determine this; it appears to be a consensus. Instead, they divide on the tactical wisdom of telling voters who they are and what they will do if elected. Honesty may be the best policy, but dishonesty seems to be the Democratic strategy for the midterms.
That may cause them more headaches than simply acknowledging their affinity for increased government spending — an affinity shared by some Republicans as well, as we have noted often. If the Democrats offer nothing more than broad strokes about the benefit of positive government action, they will give the Republicans an opening to translate that gibberish into more specific policy implications. The longer the Democrats wait to explain their legislative agenda, the more time Republicans have to parse it out for American voters nationwide.
This reluctance to discuss their policy aims makes it clear that they already know that voters will not support it. This is the odd state of the Democratic party these days, pushed into increasingly radical postures by its powerful but fringe elements, especially MoveOn. They have torpedoed centrist candidates, and even talk of doing the same to the more liberal Hillary Clinton in 2008 for supporting the war in Iraq. Their fundraising goes to far-left politicians like Russ Feingold and Barbara Boxer instead of reaching out to the center. Small wonder that Senate Democrats have pushed especially hard for agenda silence in the mid-terms.
In a way, it’s 1972 all over again but with a different, more cynical twist. The McGovernites believed that their policies would resonate with voters and did not hesitate to share them. Thirty-four years later, the Left knows that their ideas will find no resonance — and so they simply choose to remain silent about their policy objectives. Instead, they want to campaign on Republican negatives, and we have seen the effort in the so-called “culture of corruption”. Unfortunately for Democrats, it turns out that corruption knows no party affiliation, and the cases of William Jefferson and Alan Mollohan have almost nullified that argument entirely.
Will this force the Left into actually revealing an agenda for voters to appraise? Not if the Democrats can help it.