Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) says Democrats over the next 10 months will pivot away from an effort to highlight accomplishments in the Senate and instead will make the case that the party is an “agent of change” and needs a wider margin of control in order to meet the American people’s expectations.
While saying Democrats are proud of the work they have done over the past year, Reid acknowledged in an interview with Roll Call last week that his party’s weakness has been its focus on legislative accomplishments rather than a broader message of change.
The problem has been in “trying to effectuate to the American people the things we’ve accomplished and that we’re agents of change,” Reid said. “And that is something that I think is becoming more obvious by the day. The American people expect so much out of us ... and I think our Achilles’ heel is that people [expect] our accomplishments to be more than we could do.
“We need to start moving the target from our accomplishments, which we’re proud of, to that we are agents of change,” Reid explained, adding that the process of shifting his Conference’s message focus is under way. “We are doing that. ... We tried to do all these good things and the American people said ‘OK, we’re glad you did these but we want more done.’ So our goal has to [be to] let the American people know we need change in the Senate. We need more Senate seats. I can’t complete massive change with having a majority of one.”
Noting strong Democratic prospects in Virginia, New Hampshire, New Mexico and Colorado, Reid said “we have opportunities in so many different places. We have opportunities in Mississippi, North Carolina, Maine, Alaska and on and on. So that’s my goal, to let the American people know how important it is that we change the makeup of the Senate so we can do things.”
‘In the Minority as the Majority’
Reid defended his party’s record this year, saying that Sen. Tim Johnson’s (D-S.D.) illness essentially eliminated his already thin majority for much of the session — a dynamic that, in the context of Iraq, was compounded by Sen. Joe Lieberman’s (ID-Conn.) support for the war.
“My majority one year ago dropped from 51 to 50,” Reid said. “I worked for nine months this year with a majority of one. Tim Johnson was sick. On issues dealing with Iraq, I was in the minority. Joe Lieberman supports me in everything except Iraq. So every time we brought something up on Iraq, I was in the minority, 49 to 50.
“So I say to all those who criticize: Think of what I had to work with. I had no majority most of the time. The No. 1 issue facing the people of America, the war in Iraq, I was in the minority, and I would say that this little Caucus of 49 Senators did pretty well. We had a few Republicans who joined us on occasion, but I can’t ever think of apologizing to anyone for the fight we’ve put up much of the time being in the minority as the majority.”
Reid acknowledged that the party still has several unfulfilled goals. “We believe in change, and that’s the message we gave the American people. And we have effected change,” he said.
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