October 7, 2005


A Real Contract With America (Robert L. Borosage, 10/06/05, The Nation)

§ Crack Down on Corruption: In contrast to conservative cronyism, shut the revolving door between corporate lobbies and high office. Prohibit legislators, their senior aides and executive branch political appointees from lobbying for two years after leaving office. Require detailed public reporting of all contacts between lobbyists and legislators. Pledge to apply this to all, regardless of party. Take the big money out of politics by pushing for clean elections legislation.

§ Make America Safe: Commit to an independent investigation of the Department of Homeland Security's failures in response to Katrina. Detail action on the urgent needs that this Administration has ignored: Improve port security, bolster first responders and public health capacity, and require adequate defense planning by high-risk chemical plants. End the pork-barrel squandering of security funds.

§ Unleash New Energy for America: In contrast to the Big Oil policies of the Administration that leave us more dependent on foreign supplies, pledge to launch a concerted drive for energy independence like the one called for by the Apollo Alliance. Create new jobs by investing in efficiency and alternative energy sources, helping America capture the growing green industries of the future.

§ Rebuild America First: Rescind Bush's tax cuts for the rich and corporations, which create more jobs in China than here, and use that money to put people to work building the infrastructure vital to a high-wage economy. Start with challenging the Administration's trickle-down plans for the Gulf Coast, which will victimize once more those who suffered the most.

§ Make Work Pay: In contrast to the Bush economy, in which profits and CEO salaries soar while workers' wages stagnate and jobs grow insecure, put government on the side of workers. Raise the minimum wage. Empower workers to join unions by allowing card-check enrollment. Pay the prevailing wage in government contracts. Stop subsidizing the export of jobs abroad.

§ Make Healthcare Affordable for All: Pledge to fix America's broken healthcare system, with the goal of moving to universal, affordable healthcare by 2015. Start by reversing the Republican sellout to the pharmaceutical industry by empowering Medicare to bargain down costs and by allowing people to purchase drugs from safe outlets abroad.

§ Protect Retirement Security: In contrast to Bush's plan to dismantle Social Security, pledge to strengthen it and to require companies to treat the shop floor like the top floor when it comes to pensions and healthcare.

§ Keep the Promise of Opportunity: Instead of Republican plans to cut eligibility for college grants and to limit loans, offer a contract to American students: If they graduate from high school, they will be able to afford the college or higher technical training they have earned. Pay for this by preserving the tax on the wealthiest multimillion-dollar estates in America.

§ Refocus on Real Security for America: In contrast with Bush's pledge to stay in Iraq indefinitely, sapping our military and breeding terrorists, put forth a firm timeline for removing the troops from Iraq. Use the money saved to invest in security at home. Lead an aggressive international alliance to track down stateless terrorists, to get loose nukes under control and to fight nuclear proliferation.

These proposals are concrete, doable and poll well.

It's too much to ask that Democrats would listen to him. The items here that aren't insubstantial boiler-plate are the ones that poll most poorly. The genius of the Gingrich contract was that it contained concrete proposals, popular with overwhelming majorities (in the 80%s on some of them), that they could vote on immediately and be held accountable for passing or not. Put together a concrete Energy, Healthcare, or Tax plan that the Left could face running on and no item will poll over 40%.

MORE (via Lisa Fleischman):
Report Warns Democrats Not to Tilt Too Far Left (Thomas B. Edsall, October 7, 2005, Washington Post)

The liberals' hope that Democrats can win back the presidency by drawing sharp ideological contrasts and energizing the partisan base is a fantasy that could cripple the party's efforts to return to power, according to a new study by two prominent Democratic analysts.

In the latest shot in a long-running war over the party's direction -- an argument turned more passionate after Democrat John F. Kerry's loss to President Bush last year -- two intellectuals who have been aligned with former president Bill Clinton warn that the only way back to victory is down the center.

Democrats must "admit that they cannot simply grow themselves out of their electoral dilemmas," wrote William A. Galston and Elaine C. Kamarck, in a report released yesterday. "The groups that were supposed to constitute the new Democratic majority in 2004 simply failed to materialize in sufficient number to overcome the right-center coalition of the Republican Party." [...]

Their basic thesis is that the number of solidly conservative Republican voters is substantially larger that the reliably Democratic liberal voter base. To win, the argument goes, Democrats must make much larger inroads among moderates than the GOP.

Galston, a professor of public policy at the University of Maryland, and Kamarck, a lecturer at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government, in 1989 wrote the influential paper, "The Politics of Evasion," which helped set the stage for Clinton's presidential bid and the prominent role of the centrist Democratic Leadership Council. In some ways, the report released yesterday showed how difficult the debate is to resolve.

Their recommendations are much less specific than their detailed analysis of the difficulties facing the Democratic Party.

They suggest that Democratic presidential candidates replicate Clinton's tactics in 1992, when he broke with the party's liberal base by approving the execution of a semi-retarded prisoner, by challenging liberal icon Jesse L. Jackson and by calling for an end to welfare "as we know it."

Democrats Are Advised to Broaden Appeal (ROBIN TONER, 10/07/05, NY Times)
Reigniting an intense debate within the Democratic Party, a new analysis argues that Democrats cannot return to power by energizing liberals alone, but must rebuild their credibility on foreign policy and values issues and stem their losses among swing voters, notably married women and Roman Catholics.

The report, released on Thursday and prepared for the Third Way, a political and policy group for centrist Democrats, contends that the party must free itself of several myths left over from the 2000 and 2004 elections, especially the idea that the way to win in a polarized era is to do much better at mobilizing the party's political base. The authors argue that this strategy is doomed to fail for the Democrats because there are simply more voters who identify themselves as conservatives than as liberals.

Of course, Democrats could pursue the Third Way and advocate welfare-to-work, personal accounts in Social Security, vouchers for education, universal HSAs in health care, faith-based social services...

Posted by Orrin Judd at October 7, 2005 12:00 PM

Hey, it's The Nation. What did you expect.

There is a very simple answer to the demand for a "firm timeline for removing the troops from Iraq," and it's one anyone can understand.

A "firm timeline" to "bring the boys home" in 1945 would have been a message to the Nips and Nazis that if they can just hang on and keep the killing going for a little while longer, escape from justice, if not victory, will be theirs.

Thus it is that peace creeps prolong and intensify war and death, but we all knew that.

Posted by: Lou Gots at October 7, 2005 12:21 PM

Did anyone actually know about the 1994 Contract before Election Day? I have yet to meet anyone who admits to having heard of it beforehand, much less influencing their vote. Because of this, I have always been skeptical of claims that it had anything to do with the GOP regaining Congress or that those specific policies had a mandate.

Posted by: Chris Durnell at October 7, 2005 12:48 PM

"They suggest that Democratic presidential candidates replicate Clinton's tactics in 1992, when he broke with the party's liberal base by approving the execution of a semi-retarded prisoner"

They'll need a better think-tank than that.

Posted by: AllenS [TypeKey Profile Page] at October 7, 2005 12:59 PM


I remember it and I remember it being a topic of discussion before the '94 elections. I also remember the Media referring to it as the "Contract on America".


Posted by: jefferson park at October 7, 2005 1:01 PM


They could nominate W.

Posted by: oj at October 7, 2005 1:03 PM

By the way, it's nice to see somebody on that side give Ricky Ray Rector the credit he's due.

Posted by: joe shropshire at October 7, 2005 1:04 PM


Gingrich had it included in TV Guides. One of the great marketing strategies.

Posted by: Fred Jacobsen (San Fran) at October 7, 2005 1:05 PM


It wasn't until the Contract was made the centerpiece that the GOP began to open up a big lead--that may be coincidence, but a convenient one.

Posted by: oj at October 7, 2005 1:06 PM

W as in Dubya? W to run as their candidate? Or W to execute?

Posted by: AllenS [TypeKey Profile Page] at October 7, 2005 1:08 PM

Their candidate--he's who they describe.

Posted by: oj at October 7, 2005 1:23 PM

§ Crack Down on Corruption Who cares? Inside the beltway stuff for the true believers is not a vote getter.

§ Make America Safe: "Commit", "Detail action on", "improve", "bolster", "require adequate", "end the pork-barrel". I feel safer already.

§ Unleash New Energy for America What is "the Apollo Alliance"? Another inside the beltway reference which means nothing to the rest of us other than they want a huge "send a man to the moon" project. The rest of this sounds like what I heard Jimmy Carter say when he was known by the stage name of "Mr. President."

§ Rebuild America First "Building the infrastructure": you mean like more highways and levees and housing which your Green allies have been blocking for the last few decades?

§ Make Work Pay: With Energy they wanted to go back to the '70s. Here we go all the way back to the '30s.

§ Make Healthcare Affordable for All "Pledge to fix" Pledge? I can pledge to flap my arms and fly to the moon. Doesn't mean it's gonna happen.

§ Protect Retirement Security "shop floor". Shop floor? These people have rotary dial cell phones and drive Volvos with inner tube tires. Must be talking about all those high-tech companies where they blow a whistle at the start of every shift as all the workers line up to punch their timecards.

§ Keep the Promise of Opportunity Here the only promise is to take the opporunity spend other people's money.

§ Refocus on Real Security for America And when unpleasant things do happen, our first reaction will be to blame Bushitler.

"These proposals are concrete, doable and poll well." More like vague, discredited but the baristas at the Santa Cruz Starbucks like them.

Posted by: Raoul Ortega at October 7, 2005 2:05 PM

Get an even shorter midget with a broom

Posted by: Shelton at October 7, 2005 3:56 PM

As james Carville said recently, Sometimes the problem with being a Democrat is being a Democrat, Spot on Jimbo, especially when the center of gravity of your Democratic party remains dedicated to the rejection of God. All the wonk-wiggles in the world won't remedy that deficiency in an electoral contest with a contending party that gives at least some nod to our Creator.

Posted by: Luciferous at October 7, 2005 6:04 PM