Wednesday, December 11, 2002

A Democratic Message William Saletan has an excellent piece in Slate that highlights just how Daschle's leadership failed the Democrats in 2002. He contrasts his comments with those of Debbie Stabenow of Michigan. Here's Daschle, when asked about the Dems getting behind one economic plan:
It's always been the case that there is diversity within our caucus. And I view that as always a strength, not a weakness. I think diversity gives us even more opportunity to consider options. … Our expectation is that we're going to be very much together on a plan.
Well... Gee... Who couldn't get behind that... I guess. You know a political leader is in trouble when the only positive thing he can say about his party is that they are diverse. I'm all for diversity, but it doesn't grab people as a message for the future. "Vote for us. You are many. We are many. We have so much in common." People want specifics. The kind of wishy-washy platform presented by Daschle leaves people scratching their heads and asking, "it all sounds wonderful, but what does it mean?" Contrast this with Stabenow:
During the tax debate last year it was the Democrats, the Democrats in the Senate that brought forward the $300 that ended up directly in people's pockets, which may be for most people the only tax cut that they get over the next 10 years under this plan. We have a philosophy and a plan that's consistent, and that is that you have to have a demand side to economics and that by putting money directly in working people's pockets, family farmers, small businesses, that you drive the economy. … I'm proud to represent the automakers. The automakers know that this is about having people who can afford to buy their cars. That's who we are standing up for.
She doesn't mince words or hem and haw about how wonderful the Dems are because they are diverse. She gets right down to the meat and makes it clear that it is the Republicans, not the Democrats, who have failed to present a concise economic plan that will actually benefit the people. The Democrats have one and Stabenow labels it clearly: "demand side economics". This is the principle that it is the consumers, not the producers, that are the engine of a healthy economy. Stabenow also avoids the anti-business theme that could be read into Gore's "people vs. the powerful" message by pointing out that business (in her case, the auto makers of Michigan) understand that they can't make money if people don't have the money to buy their products. The Democrats need to stop being "Republican-Lite", but they also have to avoid the past mistake of being associated with an anti-business agenda. Stabenow leads the way here by pointing out that demand side policies are not antithetical to capitalism. Indeed, they encourage the full potential of capitalism by giving it the fuel that it needs to grow: namely, the capital in the consumer's pocket. Saletan closes with this:
Stabenow's answer gives her party credit for the only tax rebates voters have received lately. It warns them that Bush may give them no more. It draws an understandable connection between government spending and economic growth. It makes the liberal conception of fairness look essential rather than hostile to free enterprise. It does commit Democrats to tax cuts, presumably at the price of bigger deficits. But that's the price of politics. To campaign, as to govern, is to choose.
Amen brother.

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