Tuesday, January 25, 2005

Perils for the GOP

Interesting article in the Times(registration required) today that talks about challenges that are in store for Republicans as such a large majority.

First off, let’s not delude ourselves. There are some positives to the situation, but there are not many and the alternative would be much preferred (Dems with all the power).

That said, derailing the Privatization of our Social Security and Tort Reform (we need a more proactive term for this farce) may allow us to block the Bush agenda for the entire term.

There are several major difficulties to Bush hegemony before he even started overreaching with Social Security and Torts. These posts came out pretty long, so I’m breaking them up into separate posts below. I hope to put up a few posts next week about how Dems can exacerbate these divides.

1) What Mandate?

Bush is still spouting off about his ‘mandate’ from the American people. This is patently false and offensive. Bush has tried to make his mandate become a foregone conclusion by repeating it. But 51% is not a mandate. And all the more recent polls show Bush’s approval dropping into the 40s%. This doesn’t help us now, but it shows that the American people do not support the Bush Agenda. It seems to me a bigger problem is that neither candidate really had to talk about concrete policies (beyond abortion rights and our role in the international community), so now when confronted with what this president wants to do, they realize they don’t like him.

2) Lame Ducks and the Mid-Term Elections

2005- Historically, the most productive year of a presidency is the first year. Even more so when it is the first year of a second term, as the President’s staff has experience moving legislation and the President has passed a vote of confidence by the public.

2006- After the first year in power, you start approaching the mid-term elections and the House gets conservative on passing major legislation as politicians look to avoid issues that their opponents can use against them. The flip-side to this generality is that Bush and Rove took the Dems to school in 2002 by forcing them to take a stand on the Iraq Resolution just before the mid-terms.

2007- It’s a decent bet that Dems will take back a few seats in both Houses of Congress – though they will probably still be in the minority. That said, an ascendant Democratic Party is likely to form a stronger coalition than it recently has and will find it relatively easy to pick off Moderate Republicans on the more expansive legislation.

2008- As the election year gets into full swing, policy divides within each party get exacerbated. You also get many egos looking for different things. As Bush scurries to solidify his legacy, the ideological divides within the Republican party rise to the surface.

3) What's A Republican?

It’s much easier to build a coalition than to maintain one and the Republicans are going to quickly realize this. As Bush begins to push his legislative agenda he will be haunted by demands from the Christian Right who try to claim credit for his victory and want retribution.

There’s also a large divide among the neo-cons, conservatives, libertarians and the Christian Right (ignoring that dying breed of Moderate Republican). Libertarians are isolationist and small government. Neo-Cons think it’s America’s right to save the world and meddle wherever they want. And the Christian right wants their religion integrated into the government.

Sure, there’s a lot they agree about, but they all think they have a monopoly on the party. There will be major rifts as the various factions circle the wagons for the 2008 primaries. If the President overreaches too far in any direction, the other factions are not likely to go along.

Thursday, January 13, 2005

Back on track

So it's been almost a month since I posted and I've got no excuses.

I started law school a week ago at Cardozo Law School in NYC. It should be fun, and it's already pretty interesting.

I'm just going to throw out a few very brief thoughts on the major issues going on and hopefully I'll get to revisit some of these in more depth. Please comment if you have any thoughts or opinions on these issues, so I know which ones are worth revisiting.

Social Security Privitization: This is a huge opportunity for the Democrats to solidify our party and define ourselves in light of our huge minority in DC. It looks like the Democratic caucus is standing together pretty strong on this issue. Minority Leader Reid is doing a good job of keeping our Senators united on this issue and Pelosi is showing herself to be a pretty strong leader.

Bush is trying his favorite strategy of creating a crisis (see Iraq) to make the public feel that reform is inevitable. The fact is that Social Security is safe for 50+ years according to various accounts. While there are some major issues with Social Security, it is no risk of collapse.

I personally feel that a better plan would be to change the age that benefits kick in to better reflect our longer lives, but the Republicans are not interested in ever discussing this. Their issue is not fixing Social Security, but instead finding a new way to give people a tax-free savings account and to drive business to Wall Street and inject life into the stock market.

We can not budge on this.

The best coverage I've seen of this has been at Talking Points Memo

DNC Elections: For the first time ever, there is a ton of attention being focused on the 400+ voters who will determine who is the next head of the DNC.

The current favorite for the nomination is probably Howard Dean who announced his candidacy this week. The former Governor got an unjust rap as an Uber-Liberal during the Democratic primaries, when he is much more of a centrist.

The top centrist candidate is probably former Congressman Tim Roemer of Ohio who has a lot of experience in DC - not always a benefit. Roemer seems to be a 'career politician' and does not seem to be getting a lot of support outside of the Beltway.

Other top candidates are: Simon Rosenberg of the New Democrat Network, Howard Ickes an side to Bill Clinton, Donny Fowler (his father used to run the DNC), Coloradoan Wellington Webb and some other names we'll never hear again after next month.

On a personal note, I met Simon Rosenberg several times when I was working in DC and he was one of the first powerful people in DC to see the Dean campaign as a positive grassroots thing despite his difference over politics. I think he would make an excellent candidate uniting many wings of the party.

I think Rosenberg makes an excellent case study. There are two ways to look at people. Howard Dean as DNC Chair would not be about his policies but about his campaigning - same thing for Rosenberg. They come from opposite sides of the Democratic party but they both represent reform - as does Donny Fowler (though I have some issues with him trashing the Clark campaign when he left). The status quo doesn't work, these guys will expand the party regardless of politics.

I've been getting a lot of good info from Chris and Jerome over at MyDD

I was also going to touch briefly on Payolagate and Voting Irregularities, but I'm tapped out for today.

Please check out Oliver Willis for more info on Payolagate.