Preserving the Promise
At the most recent Democracy For America meetup I got into a lively discussion with another fellow about the Social Security fight. He argued that Democrats were playing it stupidly by defeating Bush to quickly. If the Democrats want to win in 2006, he argued, they need the issue of the Republican's assault on Social Security to be fresh in the voters minds. If Bush's proposal goes down to defeat in the next 60 days then it will be forgotten by the time voters go to the polls in November 2006. My debating partner argued that it would be better for Democrats to lose this battle just so we could use the Republican votes on it as a hammer to hit them next year.
My response was this: losing leads to losing and winning leads to winning.
When you lose a battle, it makes it that much harder to get up and fight the next battle. Furthermore, continued losses make you look like a loser, and in politics perception is everything. However, if you win the battle, even if that means it won't be ever-present in the voters mind next year, it is still a win. And a win, especially on an issue that Bush has made the center of his 2nd term domestic agenda, makes you look like a winner.
Of course I would love it if Bush's attempt to destroy Social Security were still an active issue going into the 2006 election. But if the choice comes between a potential political boon and preserving the promise of Social Security then the choice for me is clear, we preserve the promise.
Josh Marshall argues the point well:
The hook for some of this second-guessing about Democratic strategy is a memo out a few days ago from James Carville and Stan Greenberg of Democracy Corps. And in that memo they argue that the deeper vulnerability for Democrats (and why they are yet to derive greater political returns on Social Security) is what they call "voters' deeper feelings about the Democrats who appear to lack direction, conviction, values, advocacy or a larger public purpose."
Well, here's the deal. Spin has its limits. You show voters that you have direction and conviction and values principally by having them. And for all the short- and medium-term political handicapping, I believe that's what they are doing right now.
Democrats are standing to preserve the promise because it is the right thing to do.
And, strangely enough, standing up makes a lot of political sense.