Monday, January 03, 2005

The "Yes" Option

The Moose has some useful advice to Democrats: don't be the party of "no".

Whither the Democrats? Given this challenge, the Moose has long held, that the Democrats must transform themselves into an insurgent party. That means that they cannot merely be the party of "no", but also offer an alternative vision while fervently opposing the Republicans scheme to undermine the social safety net. Yes, Democrats must unambiguously reject the Bushies' fanciful and fiscally irresponsible plan to privatize social security - no pay, no play. But the party must also convey that some type of reform is necessary to guarantee the solvency of the program and to offer younger voters an attractive savings option. Democrats must have a "yes" option. 

I agree completely. Now the issue comes down to exactly what the "yes" option will be.

I'm going to be a contrarian and say that the Democrat's problem is not a lack of ideas but rather a surplus of them. My experience over the last year or so is that there are a lot of good ideas out there about where the Democrats should go(*). The problem is that we can't settle on just one of them as our #1 issue. That will be our first task, but it won't be our only one.

For, once Democrats decide on a "yes" option, everyone must get behind it, even if it wasn't your choice.

Democrats need to bury the ghost of Will Rodgers. Rodgers has been frequently quoted as saying, "I belong to no organized party. I am a Democrat." A lot of Democrats get a chuckle out of this, but it is an attitude that we need to bury if we are to succeed. Part of that success will require coming to a consensus on the "yes" option and then getting behind it 100%.

This will be hard for a lot of Democrats to do because we have grown used to the idea of pushing our own political hot points at the expense of everyone else's. Ironically, when it comes to political issues, it is the Democrats who are the party of "what's in it for me?" We must move beyond our selfish tendency to view our own particular issue as the #1 issue for everyone. We must learn to act strategically instead of tactically. This will require many of us to make the painful choice of sacrificing our #1 issue in order to advance the Democrat's #1 issue.

We will never have a viable "yes" option unless it as an option we can all say "yes" to.


(* What distinguishes the good ideas from the bad ones is that the bad ones tend to be reactive to Republicans while the good ones are proactive for Democrats.)


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