Saturday, September 25, 2010

For Democrats, now is not the time to develop governing hubris

Much has been made of the Democratic Party's chances of retaining power in Congress this November, obviously not only from myself but from anyone with an opinion in the United States. Those that can speak with considerable knowledge on the subject, like Nate Silver of 538.com or Charlie Cook, base their conclusions on polling data and the apparent wave forming, and come up with clear-cut and hard evidence of a Democratic loss in at least the House of Representatives.

So you'd think that the Democratic Party congressional leadership, led by Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, DCCC Chairman Chris Van Hollen, and a host of other assorted characters, would get the message that, hey, you're in a lot of trouble. By and large, they do, as they seem to respond to it, acknowledge it, and even fear it.

So with the GOP releasing their legislative platform, "A Pledge to America," only this week, you'd think the Democrats, who have already gone through this same story before, would release their own working agenda to present to the American public, one tailored that addresses the problems the Republicans don't, making the case for a continuing Democratic majority.

Well, they haven't. In fact, they're not doing anything of the sort, no matter what they say. The Democrats, who have a fairly impressive track record behind them, seem to be relying on remaining positive sentiment for them leftover from the 2006 and 2008 elections, and the remaining negative sentiment for the GOP in general, not to mention the Tea Party force, knocking out one GOP moderate at a time.

Part of the problem is the fact that the Democratic Party has had it good for the last little while. Bush effectively destroyed the GOP brand, and the Democrats reaped the benefits, gaining control of Congress in 2006, and the White House in 2010. But it's come back to bite them in the ass, as that governance has led to them being blamed, rightly or wrongly, for much of the ills America now faces. Yet, because the GOP is still consistently more distrusted than the Dems, not to mention that the Democrats have a monetary advantage, as well as a fairly good record, there is sort of an aura of arrogance around them, almost like, well, this can't be happening, can it?

Legislative elections are about who controls Congress, and Americans aren't stupid, they realize that whoever controls Congress will set the agenda for the coming years for the country. So the reality is, sentiment will only get you so far. In order for people to take you seriously, especially in an election where both major parties are more or less equally distrusted, you need to have a coherent governing agenda, to give voters a sense that you have a plan, and want to take the country in a direction, while the other party is sort of firing all pistons in the hope something clicks.

The Democrats, by refusing to release a real agenda or platform, have allowed the Republicans to maintain not only an advantage, but nearly a monopoly, on who should take the country in what direction. This will cost them their control of Congress, because if they can't provide a proper agenda, why should anyone take them seriously?

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