January 22, 2005


Donkeys in Denial: Almost three months after the Presidential election, Democrats still have no clue how to take on George Bush (MITCH FRANK, 1/20/05, TIME)

What bold leadership moves have national Democrats made so far? When Congress convened earlier this month to certify presidential electors and confirm Bush's reelection, House Democrats and California Senator Barbara Boxer challenged Ohio's electoral ballots, forcing a few hours' debate on election reform. They had the noblest intentions, attempting to call attention to election day breakdowns in Ohio and the sad state of election reform since 2000. But as one Republican aide told ABC News, "This is a golden opportunity to remind people that President Bush won and John Kerry lost." Most Americans outside the beltway got the impression that the Democrats couldn't accept the election results. It sounded like whining.

As noble as the Dems' intentions were, they knew it was a losing battle. If the party is serious about election reform, it first needs to win some elections. It can't get its agenda enacted without taking back the White House and Congress. But party members seem more enthusiastic about noble losing causes then about winning. Several party members say the key to success during the 2nd Bush term is to fight the President tooth and nail on his agenda with every obstructionist technique they have at their disposal, particularly Senate filibusters. That's worked wonders in the past two Congressional elections. Most Americans would rather support politicians who have ideas—even ideas the voters don't completely agree with.

What should the Democrats be doing now? Proposing ambitious alternatives to the President's agenda, plans that demonstrate the party's principles and vision for the country. Bush has spent weeks sowing the seeds for his Social Security reform plan by telling Americans that the popular entitlement program is on the brink of insolvency and that private investment accounts are the only solution. Democrats have responded by accusing the President of distorting the facts. They may have a point—Economists disagree on whether or not the system is in any real danger. But most voters like Social Security and at the same time feel insecure about its future. The Dems can't just reject Bush's agenda—they need to present their own proposal for guaranteeing its long-term survival. If they don't, Bush will frame the debate for the next year.

How should they devise this agenda? Party members will have to decide what common principles they share, what matters most to them and look for ways to effectively sell those ideas to voters.

Sure, except for one thing: they don't share any common principles. It's just a coalition of interest groups that is each in it only for themselves and for what a Democratic Party in charge of government could hand them.

Posted by Orrin Judd at January 22, 2005 8:15 AM

. . . "a coalition of interest groups that is each in it only for themselves and for what a Democratic Party in charge of government could hand them."

And ever was it so.

My introduction to politics was watching what I think was the first televised convention in 1960-- Huntley and Brinkley presiding. To refresh memories that was the convention the sainted JFK was nominated. Television was live then. They just let everything hang out and hang out it did.

The dirty dealing and quid pro quos among the thugs from every special interest group which ever met in back of the pool hall was out there for all to see. Made a life-long Republican and Conservative out of me.

Democrats and the liberal media got a lot better at spinning leftwing propaganda as mainstream, but the makeup of the left hasn't changed.

Posted by: erp at January 22, 2005 8:38 AM

TIME's scribbler, while flirting with reality about the Democrats' problems, twice used the word "noble" referring to the challenge to the Ohio electoral votes. It was as noble as scrofula. The supposed inconveniences to minority voters occurred in cities controlled by Democrats, and which were reportedly as well supplied with voting machines per 1,000 voters as other Ohio locales. If the lines were oppressive, perhaps it was from the crush of fraudulent registrants, cadavers, and repeat voters. If the Democrats had any noble intentions, they could have at least fretted about the dubious Milwaukee results, if only for appearance's sake. If the GOP didn't need a viable opposition party to keep it sharp, I'd be content for the Dems to remain the riven, intellectually bankrupt, morally clueless pack of whiny losers they have become.

Posted by: Axel Kassel at January 22, 2005 9:06 AM

Using the word "noble" in the article to describe a prime example of Bush Derangement Syndrome indicates this is as much an effort at intervetion on Time's part as it is a news analysis piece. You complement those you're trying to persuade for their crazed effort in futility in hopes they'll listen to you on the other items.

Unfortuately, those who Frank is trying to get to will merely see his suggestions and a call for the Democrats to sell out their party principles coming from another corner of the "right-wing media." Those folks won't be open to any sort of 12-step political recovery program until 2009 at the earliest, depending on the outcome of the 2008 vote (if they lose another close one, push the date back to 2013).

Posted by: John at January 22, 2005 9:47 AM

If the party is serious about election reform, it first needs to win some elections. --

What a load of BS. Just get on TV and say we agree that only Americans should vote and you must show some form of ID.

Posted by: Sandy P at January 22, 2005 10:46 AM

"They had the noblest intentions . . . It sounded like whining."

Can someone explain why a media that says garbage like this is lecturing the Democrats on how to move on? It WAS whining, for cripes sake!

Dems know good and well that they can't be both the party of electoral reform and the party that fills out absentee ballots for dead people the same way they put up yard signs or stuff envelopes--as a matter of standard operating procedure. They don't want reform--they want the issue to scare blacks and other groups who perceive themselves as vulnerable into staying on the plantation. Period. And if I can figure that out, does that make me overqualified to be a paid political expert for a mainstream news outlet?

Posted by: AC at January 22, 2005 11:06 AM

As we here in the Banana Republic of Washington have seen, you don't need party hacks going around shouting "Bring out your dead!" on election day to perpetrate vote fraud. What you do need are lax procedures and a tolerance for abuse of the rules (AbuGhraib anyone?), along with the suggestion that winning for a good cause makes it right. The only thing keeping our electoral system from completely collapsing is that the GOP hasn't really taken the same advantage. (See Jim Miller's list of vote fraud— almost all Dem, even in the primaries.) If the system doesn't get cleaned up soon, a lot of low level GOP supporters are going to start fighting back with the same tactics the Dems use. Instead of throwing away that absentee ballot intended for the previous tenant, as a good little citizen should, the GOPer will fill it out and send it in, justifying their action as intended only to cancel out at least one of those many Dem vote cast in the same manner. That's when we get a real collapse of trust in our elections.

Posted by: Raoul Ortega at January 22, 2005 12:53 PM