Democrats: The Party of Results?
DNC Chair Tim Kaine has announced that Democrats will run on a platform of being the “results party”–a move that leaves me wondering whether it is stupid or simply the only choice for Democrats. . . because they can’t deny the fact that they fully control Washington. From Tim Kaine’s remarks:
At a time when many Americans doubted the capacity of government to tackle and solve big problems, we have shown that we are the Results Party. We act decisively to solve problems that confront Americans in their homes, businesses, schools and communities. And, most of what we have done has been in the face of Republican obstruction trying to protect a special interest status quo that has not worked for the American people. So, voters will have a clear choice between continued progress and a return to the failed policies that created the biggest period of economic decline since the Great Depression.
The “results” Kaine lists in his speech are pretty pathetic for a party with huge majorities in both chambers. Also, unfortunately for Democrats, their two biggest pieces of legislation in the last two years have been the stimulus action and the health care reform law. Both laws are currently unpopular, and therefore not the kind of “results” around which one can really expect to build a political campaign. To make matters worse, the health care reform law is a more a legislative achievement than a “result,” since very few people will actually get insurance as a result of the law before 2014. I would add student loan reform as a big accomplishment for the Democrats, one that had the added political benefit of sticking it to the big banks. But, for some reason, Democrats have spent very little time promoting this victory, and I doubt more than 25% of Americans even know about it.
The problem with running on a platform of results is that the results seem pretty meager and have left huge constituencies of the party with little to show for all the work they did to get Democrats elected. Many of the top goals of different Democratic-leaning groups are unrealized. Labor has not gotten EFCA. Latinos have not gotten immigration reform. The LGBT community still has not seen “don’t ask, don’t tell” stopped or ENDA passed. Environmentalists are waiting on a climate change bill that seems a longshot to pass, and might do more harm than good if it does. Even many health care reform advocates in the party feel betrayed because single payer was not even considered and the public option was unnecessarily dropped.
Kaine is correct that the economy is starting to turn around and the stock market has improved, but that still seems too little too late. Unless we start seeing a significant improvement in the unemployment situation, I doubt Democrats are going to get much support from voters because they improved the economy from terrible to just plain bad.
The only possible silver lining I see from the DNC’s party of results platform is that it might finally be an acknowledgment that blaming Senate Republican obstructionism simply will not work as a political issue. (Most Americans don’t even know that it takes 60 votes to overcome a filibuster.) It is just possible Democrats are getting that regular Americans will not accept excuses about parliamentary rules for why the Majority has failed deliver on their promises, so Democrats need to run on what they have actually achieved, instead of what the big, bad Senate Republicans won’t let them do.
One hopes deciding to run as the party of results might encourage Democrats to actually do everything in their power, including using reconciliation, to actually deliver on some real results. Somehow, though, I think the logical one-two punch of running as the party that gets results while using every tool at their disposal to deliver actual results for the American people will sadly be missing this election season.