The Platform of a Democratic Realignment: What Is the American Agenda?
The train's leaving the station — you better get on board, George. You too, Rahm.
So, as you've probably already read elsewhere, Oliver Willis reminds us this morning that about this time two years ago, Karl Rove was gloating about a semi-permanent Republican alignment that would "last for years, maybe decades." Ha, ha, ha… I guess it's safe to say that particular pooch isn't a virgin anymore, if you know what I mean.
But as we celebrate Tuesday's results, how can our side avoid making the same mistake? Already, I've noticed some normally cynical bloggers waxing effusively about a "mainstream, progressive Democratic majority." Is that true? Given the newly released Gallup analysis that says Democrats won the election through the support of a lot of groups who don't usually back them — largely due to their disgust with the Iraq war and congressional corruption — it seems to me more like a first date than a wedding.
Which raises the question of how we convince those folks to settle down for a long-term relationship. And how do we balance that against our desire to immediately jump in and undo the outrages and injustices of the past several years? As Christy says just below:
Whether we like it or not, governance is, in some measure for some things, about compromise. Advocacy is about standing on principle. We need to start being smarter about how we marry the two in order to get what we want.
There's a recommended dKos diary and a post at TPM Cafe by Greg Sargent on this subject that are both worth reading, but the lesson I would draw is that we need to "compromise" in the sense of choosing (and framing) our issues carefully, but not backing down once the battle has been joined on those issues.
Isn't that the lesson of the two great political victories Democrats have won since 2005 — first on Social Security, and then in nationalizing the midterm elections around Iraq? In both cases, progressives stood up knowing that despite the tut-tutting from DC elite opinionmakers, the broad majority of the public was on our side… and by standing our ground, we won (leaving the timid elitists to jump on the bandwagon afterward and claim it was their idea all along).
The important thing to focus on is picking the issues that will put the centrists on our side — and recognizing where we might have to wait on, or figure out a way of reframing, certain issues whose urgency or value isn't as immediately apparent. Here's something I said at Needlenose on Tuesday:
Democrats should position themselves as talking not simply on behalf of themselves but as ordinary Americans, with whom Republicans are out of sync… in other words, just how they've tried to paint us all these years.
Particularly with the divided government that (we hope!) is likely to result from today's election — with Democrats having their first real voice in national politics in years, but without the power to force legislation through on their own — it is vital that we don't get trapped in talking about a "Democratic agenda" versus a "Republican agenda." That will only enable the spineless triangulators and the compromise-for-compromise's-sake crowd. This election is about Republicans' failure to do the people's business, to fulfill an American agenda that we support and will not compromise on. Republicans will either have to come on board or force the American people to reject them more decisively in 2008.
So that's what it comes down to… understanding what issues the broad American public considers to be the most pressing business before the country, and presenting common-sense solutions to them. If we let ourselves get distracted from that, we're in danger of letting the Republicans re-take the political initiative.
But on issues where we know we're in sync with the center, we shouldn't let up just for the sake of seeming "bipartisan." As with Social Security and Iraq, we should let anyone who stands in our way know that the train is leaving the station, and it's up to them to get on board.