Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Why Democrats Don't Need a Plan

A common refrain we hear from Republicans -- and even from the pundits and commentators -- in response to Democratic criticisms is that Democrats, in order to be taken seriously as critics or as election-day alternatives, need to offer specific plans of their own first. They don't. And they can win without them. Here's why.

For one thing, I would be mightily surprised to hear of a single president, or even a senator, who won because of a single plan or even a set of plans on how to address anything -- the economy, a military foe, job creation, etc. Bush didn't. Clinton didn't. (Yes, they offered plans, but those plans were not meaningful elements of their success). Democrats shouldn't feel like they need to, individually or even as a party. (And media gatekeepers should stop acting like plans are prerequisites for valid criticism: No one requires theater critics to rewrite scenes before explaining why a play stinks).

In fact, Democrats should let the Republicans run on plans. Democrats should stipulate that they're not running on the basis of plan superiority. Democrats can run and win, instead, not just on personality superiority (which, unfortunately, looms far too largely in electoral decision-making) but also on philosophical superiority. Because where once the parties shared the same goals and basic philosophies of American governance, that's no longer the case. The White House has opened up a philosophical divide and most of the Congressional leadership has followed. Democrats should make the next elections a referendum on the philosophies on either side of that divide.

This country wasn't founded on plans for how best to organize executive-branch agencies or how to ensure independence from foreign supplies. This country was founded on the philosophy of how to go about deciding our plans and what system best embodies that philosophy. That system was intended to be both open and adversarial. We -- Americans -- were and are supposed to know as much as we can about everything, and then fight about it. That's why the plans were less important than establishing a system of three branches -- each somewhat insulated from and answerable to the others -- to determine the plans.

President Bush and the Republican Congress have not wounded this country's economic strength, its national security and its standing in the world because they had bad plans -- they have done so because they formulated and executed their plans by rejecting and subverting the governing systems that embody core American principles.

This fact is central to understanding the political and popular fallout from the Dubai Ports deal, the Katrina failures, the wiretapping debate, renditioning, Abu Ghraib and the war with Iraq itself. Each and every one of these was made possible by congressional abdication of its role as a check on the executive branch. Even the Cheney shooting gained traction because it embodied both the administration's lack of accountability and its lack of communication internally and externally.

Democrats don't need to run on lengthy, detailed plans for how they propose not to let companies owned by foreign dictatorships run our ports, not to botch disaster preparedness and response, not to violate the Constitution by spying on Americans without warrants, not to torture people and not to launch pre-emptive wars based on not skewing and not cherry-picking intelligence instead of not not continuing the hunt for Osama bin Laden. All that Democrats need to run on is a return to the American way of life: Engaging all of America's voices in healthy debate about America's future and then building consensus for how to get there. That's how we used to do things in this country not that long ago. Polls historically have shown that Americans are happiest, in fact, when neither party controls both the legislative and executive branches.

The only argument Bush has had to justify not governing this way has been the need for secrecy that national security entails. The reason that argument no longer holds is that Americans have now seen enough empirical evidence -- Iraq, Katrina, wiretapping, Dubai -- that the Bush administration lacks the basic competence we were promised from the wartime, CEO president. That means Americans are no longer willing to defer to him. And that means Democrats can and should run on one plan and one plan only: Expanding American-style democracy to America.


Anonymous said...

Liberals, I've decided to help you. Why? Because I feel sorry for you. The Democratic party has become so impotent, so ineffective, I swear I almost feel bad for you. So, today you get some free advice. Yes, I'm sure you'll be too stupid to take it, or even really listen... but that won't be my fault. At least I'll have tried.

Here's your problem: You're not really a political party anymore. You've turned into little more than a band of HECKLERS. That's what you've become: hecklers. I'll explain further in a moment.

First, let's assume that you liberals do want change. Let's assume you don't like the way the country is being run. We all know why little blogs like this exist. Of course, the host will tell me I don't really "get it" -- because he likes to fancy himself so "intellectual" and "complicated" that some common dude like me can't even "get" his points. But it's all pretty simple, even if he (and those like him) want to deny it.

This blog, and the ideas expressed in it are for one purpose: to try to help "bring down" republicans. The host of this blog (and others like him) spend their time reading as much as they can about the Bush administration in a desperate attempt to uncover something... anything... so they can then say, "See? See how bad they are? See how right we liberals are? Look at this bad thing the republicans are doing! See?! Look what we've uncovered this time! NOW don't you hate Bush and the republicans?!?!?!"

Reality check: It's not working, kids. No one cares. When are you going to get a clue? Sitting back and HECKLING the republicans doesn't make you look good or advance your agendas. It's not effective. The only people cheering you on are those who were on your side before your great "digging." You're preaching to your own choir. It's all just diarrhea of your computer keyboard.

No one cares. Blah blah blah. Bush lies. Bush is dumb. Bush tried cocaine. Bush avoided the military. No weapons of mass destruction. Cindy Sheehan. Cheney's shotgun. Waaah waaah waaah. Yawn.

What's your point? Are you trying to keep Bush from winning a THIRD term? Okay. Keep digging then. If you're not worried about a third term for Bush, are you heckling him so relentlessly because you're worried about other republicans riding his coattails to victory in 2006 and 2008? Newsflash: Bush doesn't have coattails. In fact, who does? I can't remember a President having real coattails since the end of Reagan's first term.

I assume you demcrats/liberals want change. You want better national leadership in this country. I assume the constant heckling of Bush isn't just for sport. I assume you hope your constant scrutiny and attacks will weaken him, and pave the way for... ummmmm...

And there's the big question. For what? What do you want? WHO do you want? Who would you like to see assume power so these "terrible things" the republicans do can't be done anymore? Is it Hillary? Is that who you want? If so, that's fine. Start telling me how great Hillary would be. Convince me of THAT on your blog. Or if not Hillary, pick whoever you like. Win me over. What are you ideas?

Instead of heckling Bush which, by almost anyone's standards, has grown painfully tiresome... why don't you spend your time advancing better ideas than his... and/or promoting your candidates and agendas? What's YOUR big appealing plan to fix everything you so expertly whine about? Whatcha got? Let's hear it! Hell, if you have some great ideas, and some great candidates to articulate them and eventually put them into action, maybe you can win ME over (and those like me). Maybe you can actually get your way. But... WHAT'S YOUR WAY? WHO'S YOUR GUY?

What do you want?

See, I don't know. I don't know what you want. All I know is that you think Bush is incapable, ineffective, unscrupulous, bad, and a joke. Yeah, we get that. You don't like Bush. Okaaaaaay. It's really, really clear. I promise! I applaud you -- you've been HIGHLY effective in making it clear that you don't like the Bush administration. Bravo. Man, what a great job you've done conveying that point -- and in so many wonderful and creative ways. I'm sure the weeks ahead will bring us even more postings about how dumb and bad the Bush administration is. It's soooo refreshing.

And let's see... what will all your fancy heckling amount to? George W. will go home, and he'll likely be replaced by another republican... and my team will still have the White House, the House, the Senate, and a couple more right wingers on the Supreme Court. Fine with me, fellas.

Or... maybe you can learn a little something here. If you don't like the way things are, stop heckling Bush and offer something/someone better. Find something/someone better. PUSH something/someone better.

Or... just keep on HECKLING and trying to turn minor hunting accidents into "scandal." Cool with me.

Yeah, I know. I don't really "understand" your intentions. They're too complex for me. I'm sure I've "missed the point."

Yep. Since I'm too dumb to understand your complex intentions, I guess I'll just keep on winning the game.

You guys keep heckling. We'll keep winning.

I'll look forward to you next post about how dumb and bad the Bush administration is.

Ol' Zeb said...

Sparky is a Liberal! Wow!

1. He wants to help the needy;

2. He'll help though certain we will fail;

3. He wants to empower us;

4. He is engaging us in a Socratic dialog;

5. He is pointing out our weaknesses;

6. He is encouraging positive actions;

Welcome to the dark side Sparky!

(We accept you, one of us, gobble gobble, one of us....)

Anonymous said...

Yep. Just watch... next I'll be saying a black guy should get the job you want, even though you're more qualified. Then, I'll be a perfect thinker!

Ol' Zeb said...

And who says I'm not black?

You're getting careless -- another sign of your conversion.

Anonymous said...

And who says I'M not black?

That'd shake ya up, now wouldn't it? ;)

Ol' Zeb said...


Anonymous said...


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