Friday, October 14, 2005

Restoring America's Greatness (or striving to be what we never were)

New polls released this week show President Bush's popularity sliding even further into the abyss, and America's dissatisfaction with the Republican-controlled Congress at an all time low. In next November's midterms, Democrats have an unprecedented opportunity to recapture the House and Senate, and perhaps even work their way back into the Oval Office in '08. The Left certainly has plenty of reason for optimism, but the challenges are still plentiful as well. Strategists and pundits have been pounding the table over the Democrats' need to create our own version of the "Contract with America," the brilliant Newt Gingrich/Tom Delay document that resulted in a Republican landslide victory in the 1994 elections. To win, Democrats need a coherent message that will resonate with the growing legions of dissatisfied, disenfranchised and frustrated voters, and we need a candidate who can best deliver this message.

The resounding success of "Contract with America" was that it was revolutionary in very specifically laying out both the Republicans' plans and subsequent actions if elected. In short, they very clearly said "Elect us and this is how we will make America and your life better."

But more importantly, the Democratic Party is the party of FDR and The New Deal, and it should immediately begin formulating a new major campaign theme/message/promise built on this historically popular legislative agenda. We can call it "Restoring America's Greatness." And like the GOP's Contract, our message should be one of government reform and policy change. The Contract worked, so let's learn from it and co-opt its success as we offer Americans a new New Deal .

Let's start with Reforms that need to be passed. If put back in power, the Democrats should promise voters that its "Restoring America's Greatness" plan will:

1. Demand that our elected representatives abide by the same laws as every other American;
2. Conduct a comprehensive and independent audit of Congressional waste, fraud and/or abuse;
3. Reduce the number of House committees; cut committee staff by one-third; ban proxy voting in committee; open committee meetings to the public; and impose shorter limits on committee chairs;
4. Require a three-fifths majority vote to pass a tax increase, tax decrease or repeal of other taxes such as the estate tax;
5. Require a three-fifths majority in order to pass changes to House rules that would benefit the majority party;
6. Allow only a zero based budget--no spending increases--until the deficit is appreciably reduced.

Now let's talk Policy. The Democrats should craft a clear platform that, as a start, includes the following significant domestic and foreign policy changes:

1. The immediate creation of an near-term exit strategy from Iraq;
2. A ten-point plan to protect America from acts of terrorism and/or natural disaster, to be coordinated with state and local governments;
3. The creation of a specific budget earmarked for resources and manpower to capture and bring to justice terror masterminds Osama bin Laden, Ayman al-Zawahiri and Abu Musab al-Zarqawi.
4. A reduction in the term limits for Congressman from six years to four;
5. A ten-point energy conservation plan to dramatically reduce gas and oil prices as well as America's dependency on foreign fuel;
6. The creation of a Global Warming subcommittee to address this growing environmental problem that scientists say is causing an increased frequency of Category 4+ hurricanes and other natural disasters;
7. A ten-point plan to cut the record budget deficit in half by 2008 and have it balanced by 2010;
8. An immediate 25% increase in soldiers' pay and signing bonus to attract new recruits; the passage of a new bill to increase insurance and benefits for veterans;
9. The creation of a guaranteed government health plan for all Americans;
10. Immediate repeal of the Bush tax cuts for the wealthiest taxpayers;
11. Creation of a $10-billion jobs-creation program to put Americans back to work;
12. Legislation preventing government from tapping the Social Security Trust Fund;
13. Create a 10-point plan for improving the nation's education system, working closely with state and local governments.

It all seems so simple, this message. America is the greatest nation in the world; a nation that has protected its citizens and international allies; has cared for its young, its elderly, its sick, its destitute; has provided housing, food and education for those in need; and has created "the land of opportunity" for anyone with ambition, hopes and dreams for a better life. Throughout history we've used our immense power and influence to help change the world. That is the greatness of America, and that is what the Democratic Party in this country stands for as well.

"Restoring America's Greatness." It's a clear message we need right now. A message from the Democratic Party to all of America that we are the party of ideas, hope and change. That Democrats promise to deliver to Americans a better America. A message that, if coherently crafted, conveyed and confidently delivered, could resonate quite well with an electorate fed up with Republican failure and its culture of cronyism and corruption. It worked in 1994. History has a habit of repeating itself.


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