"Yesterday, Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid gave an important speech contrasting the Democratic and Republican agendas. He said:
Time and again, the American people have seen George Bush and the Republican leadership choose between their partisan interests and the people's interest. And every time, they have chosen an ideological agenda over an American agenda...
We Democrats have something better to offer. A reform agenda that will cleanse Washington give power to the people -- not special interests and make sure that everyday Americans and their concerns get back on the Congressional calendar.
Strengthening our national defense. Rebuilding our economy. Providing families with affordable health care. Making America energy independent. Securing our retirement. That's our agenda. That's America's agenda. But the Republican Congress has put all this and more on hold. I hope that now we can finally turn to the people's business.
Six months have passed since this Republican Congress began and here's their record:
They spent precious days trying to overturn constitutional principles.
They tried to overturn the decisions of courts and duly elected legislatures in order to insert themselves into one family's tragedy in Florida.
They all-but disbanded the House Ethics Committee in order to protect the Republican leader from scrutiny -- but then were forced to reverse themselves under public pressure.
But perhaps the greatest abuse of power is to have the ability to help but choose to do nothing.
While gas prices have shot past $2 a gallon, this Republican Congress did nothing to lower prices and give families some relief.
At a time that parents are having to tell their children that the family can't afford to send them to college, this Republican Congress rejected a proposal to make college more affordable.
And even though we have gone eight years without an increase in the minimum wage -- the second longest period ever -- this Republican Congress rejected an increase that would give the hardest working Americans the chance to provide for their families.
Whether it is rejecting Democratic initiatives to provide medical care to veterans or to return to fiscal responsibility, this Republican Congress's record is clear: when it comes to answering the call of the far right, it's "I'll do it ASAP." When it comes to doing the people's business, it's "take a message."
yada yada yada.... yawn.
Look for the policy in there. Do you see it? You have to look closely. There it is, right at the end - "let's raise the minimum wage." Great. I'm all for it. But let's face it folks, that's been our mantra for 60 years. Don't we have anything new in the tank? Do we really have to lead with, "let's raise the minimum wage!" Of course we do. Because it's the only tried and true poll tested policy the Dems have.
I suppose it says more about politics than it does about anything else that this is what constitutes an important speech in Washington these days. A lot of bashing of Republicans for doing this and that. A nice sound bite hoping some journalist will put it in an article and the staff can feel good about themselves for having written something that ended up in the paper. And just about zero substance. And we wonder why people don't trust the Democratic Party to lead them, don't believe they have an agenda to implement from day one if they were to assume power. (Well gee, what do you expect, everything else is so, you know, controversial) It's really quite sad. Yes the Democrats are the Party of the Opposition so criticism is important. And yes, Republicans control every branch of the Federal Government so we can't do anything anyway. But it seems to me that an important speech ought to say something important. Like perhaps, here is what we have in mind....
I think one of the 'Eureka' moments for me recently was watching TV last fall and coming across an ad by Republican Tom Tancredo, one of the most Neanderthal troglodytes you are ever gonna see on the Hill. He sometimes makes James Trafficant look downright 20th Century. Tancredo's ad says something like, "Tom Tancredo is working for lower taxes, better schools, more jobs, health care for our seniors, immigration and keeping our promises to our veterans."
As the Church Lady says, "gee, isn't that lovely." Tom Tancredo is for the same thing you are. In fact, all politicians are for the same thing you are. Everyone agrees. So why are things in Washington so screwed up? Why do our schools stink and why does the health care system remain both a national disgrace and a threat to our economic security? Politicians have learned that you don't actually have to do anything, you just have to say you are for something. Nevermind that the details are what policy and politics are all about and what really matter.
Kos talks about this: Frank Luntz is credited with having taught the Republicans that they were losing the environmental issue because they cast it as clean everything versus business. Now they say they are for the environment but they just want to do it responsibly and the issue is neutralized because to say anything more is to have to talk specifics, to bore journalists and voters, and to open yourself to attack from whatever side for either not doing enough or for wanting to impose costs on people.
Reid does mention a few things towards the end of his speech: "We'll end the tax breaks that encourage companies to take jobs overseas. Restore fiscal responsibility. Spur innovation. Open the doors to college. And make work pay more than welfare.
I count two specific policy initiatives that tell me what Dems would do and each of them impose potential costs, but make no mention of who is gonna pay. There's a good reason why people are cynical about politics and an even better reason why people don't have much faith in Democrats and it's staring us right in the face there in Reid's important speech.