Tuesday, January 25, 2005

A Democratic "Contract with America" Version 1.0 

Via The Left Coaster, news that the Democratic leadership of the Senate is working on an opposition agenda:
Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid will do something this morning that an opposition party is supposed to do: Senate Democrats stopped playing defense and will begin playing offense by setting forward an ambitious agenda of their own. In a conference call earlier this morning, Reid’s staff announced their top ten priority bills for the 109th Congress, and they address many of the needs accumulated by this country but ignored by the White House the GOP Congress under Bill Frist and Denny Hastert...

This agenda is not yet a unified agenda with the House, but Reid’s staff feels that a great deal of this will make its way into Pelosi’s agenda for the run up to the midterms. Also, this is a legislative strategy but not necessarily a communications roadmap, and the blogosphere will be moving ahead with discussions on translating these priorities into the Democrats’ version of Gingrich’s Contract with America. Democrats will however be stressing that we intend to keep America’s promise through possibly a Promise To America, whereby the overall agenda is translated into 8-10 themes that can be used to batter the status-quo and corporate-owned GOP entrenched machinery for the next two years. And you can bet that congressional reform and Tom DeLay’s corruption will figure prominently into the overall anti-GOP incumbency message.
Check out the original post for some of the legislative details, or read Senator Reid's statement on the agenda here.

I'm glad to see Reid attempt to take the offensive, but I'm a little concerned to see the legislative strategy released before a communications roadmap is established. There does seem to be an underlying set of ideas. Reid cites the themes of "Security, Opportunity and Responsibility" repeatedly. Sounds good, I guess: This sort of thing always leaves me cold, but I know it's important.

An intriguing element of this early attempt at agenda-setting is the Democrats' focus on grabbing part of the military vote by focusing on the concerns of National Guard and Reservist voters (as well as the traditionally-targeted veterans). This seems smart to me, as my sense is there's significant discontent in this constituency, and it'll be tough for Republicans to match Democratic promises with actual policy changes during what promises to be a long stay in Iraq.

I'll need more time to render a well-considered judgment, and I am a little underwhelmed by the message aspect of the agenda, but I'm glad to see somebody get things moving here.

UPDATE: The blogosphere is sure to be full of posts saying that Reid's strategy is foolish, since its model, Newt Gingrich's 1994 "Contract with America," wasn't actually of any electoral help to the GOP. I've noted the weakness of this claim (and some strong countervailing evidence) here.

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