Wednesday, November 08, 2006

If I were King or at least Speaker (paca)

If I wasn't exhausted, I would be jubilant. As I am sure you all know, the Dems have taken back the House and it looks like the Senate, though the latter is still uncertain as it hinges on Virginia and Montana, which are very close still. Virginia's Webb (D) has an 8,000 vote lead and all precincts have reported, but you never know. The even closer one is out in Montana where Tester (D) is a mere 4,000 votes over Burns (R) and only 84% of precincts are in. The Dems need both seats to win control.

But all this made me start thinking about what the Democrats should do now that they control the House and perhaps all of Congress. They still have to get Bush to sign any and all laws, since they do not have a veto-proof majority. Moreover, there is no doubt that lots of people voted against Bush and the Republican congressional leadership, rather than for the Dems themselves. This means that many Americans who maybe even voted for Democratic leadership today are probably a little wary about the party they chose. Moreover, many Republicans will be very tempted to obstruct and obstruct as much as they can so that the new Democratic Congress is a failure. This hurts American citizens but scores political points. This was something the now old Democratic minority succumbed to at times as well. So what do you do?

I think you first tackle as many bi-partisan issues as you can. Moreover, you try to grab what were supposed to be Republican strong points and make them your own, showing the voters that the Dems can deliver much of what the Republicans said they could but didn't. Like what?

1) Tackle the budget deficit immediately. Show that the "tax and spend" label is just a bunch of hot air. The easiest place to start is with all the earmarked, i.e., pork, legislation. Cutting it will literally cut billions out of spending immediately. But don't stop there. Make a couple tough calls. Find some programs that you have a principled reason to think government should not be involved in and end them. Cut, cut, cut. Democrats like me have been going off about the disgraceful budget deficit. Now, it's time to put actions behind those words and show that the new Congress really can control a budget, while the others could not. And then, in the medium term, you will probably have to let those old tax cuts expire. Everyone can argue amongst themselves whether or not this is "raising taxes" or just "going back to the way it was in the 90s". It's not important. The key is that the government needs the money to get back to a balanced budget. However, remember raising revenue is the second step. Immediately, cutting spending is the way to go. I may be an optimist, but most people do understand living on a budget and that we are at war to the tune of 300 billion and counting. You can't have everything.

2) I have seen a couple proposals from Dems or liberals to lower abortion rates. They involve things like better support of adoption, sex ed, and a whole list that I'm blanking on. What they'd don't include, of course, is making it illegal. I think it's time to put such a plan into action. Make Bush veto a plan designed to lower American abortion rates. If rates are reduced substantially in 4 years, this will make everyone remember there is a real difference between pro-choice and pro-abortion.

3) Find a compromise on immigration. The old Senate plan was endorsed by the President and the Senate but ran into "wall-only" foes in the House. Those foes aren't in control anymore. I'm not very well informed on immigration, but I usually start with a couple points. 1) Thousands of children of illegal immigrants are rightful American citizens and protecting children comes above feeling righteous about punishing their parents. 2) I'm not a big fan of guest worker programs as they may not be working in places where they are already used such as France, and they seem specifically designed to prevent immigrants from integrating into the larger society. You can't simultaneously design a program which makes people guests and then decry that they don't appear to be assimilating. So, find a way to increase legal immigration significantly, since our economy can clearly handle it. (If it couldn't, then people wouldn't keep coming over for jobs and finding them.) Find a way to make sure that the illegally descended American children are protected, and I mean in the context of their family, not a state program (making it impossible for their parents to find work so that they starve is not protection). And find a way to have a border and mean it. The basic issue now is that immigrants want to be here and Americans want them to be here, since we want their labor, but we have an immigration system which limits legal immigration far below its demand.

4) About half a year in, start working on accountability for all branches of government. This is incredibly touchy, I know, since it could wreck all of the work above. But it is also important to hold Presidents accountable when they appear to intentionally break the law. The Dems wanted to be in charge and so they now have to handle these hard issues. If I have to let past transactions go to get 1, 2, and 3 above done, then so be it, but if the new Congress doesn't take this more seriously going forward, then I will be voting against them the next time around.

In short, the Democrats should focus on a) choosing important issues that they can make actual progress on with a Republican president, b) build up support among moderate Republicans and centrists so that the Democrats are a stronger party for 2008, and c) find issues that are very difficult for Republicans to be obstructionists over - cutting spending, lowering abortion rates, etc.

The ironic thing is that for the Democratic Congress to be successful, they need a successful President. So, now that the protest is in, it's time to make this the best two years of the Bush administration. I don't mean the most powerful, I mean the best. Give Bush every opportunity to sign good legislation; give him a chance to change in Iraq. It will then be up to him how he behaves in response. For America, I hope his better side wins.

1 comment:

J said...

I completely agree. I would also add to your list making it legal to get prescription drugs from Canada as a start to fixing health care.