In New Year, Democrats Must Resolve to Stand Firm for America
Since early childhood, I have spent a great deal of time around the holidays soul-searching and contemplating the significance of major events that dominated the year. This year is no exception. [IMGCAP(1)]
True, this is a season of renewal and change. But, it’s also a time to settle on resolutions for the coming year. In this, my last column of the year, I offer Congressional Democrats a couple of New Year resolutions to help improve both their standing and mood in the 109th Congress.
My first resolution is to be patient.
The Republicans, who still control both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue, took power after 40 years of Democratic Congressional rule by pointing out — sometimes accurately — that Democrats were taking their power for granted, “manhandling” Republicans, engaging in ethical abuses and generally overreaching.
Democrats now have the opportunity to regain both strength and credibility, even as Republicans systematically sabotage their own standing with the American people. The Grand Old Party’s hubris, exemplified by running deficits because they can; considering only legislation that will be supported by a “majority of the majority”; nominating federal judges who threaten to overturn our basic freedoms; giving more of our public treasure to private interests; and changing its internal ethics rules to shield House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Texas).
At some point the public will start to catch on, and Democrats must be ready to exploit that opportunity and offer a real alternative.
Second, Democrats must resolve to not wait for openings, but instead launch their own pre-emptive strike.
Get on the offensive as soon as the 109th Congress convenes, and vow to stop playing defense. Be prepared to advocate for and speak about the people you represent, rather than simply repeat the details of policy or legislation. Remember, we are not in control of the agenda, so we must set our own course.
President Bush and the GOP-controlled Congress will introduce several controversial proposals, the biggest aimed at overhauling Social Security and changing the tax code. Democrats must emphasize the impact of these changes on ordinary people and offer superior alternatives. Republicans will tell you they prevailed in the November elections because Democrats were seen as “obstructionists.” But the last thing any Democrat should do is try to make distasteful Republican legislation palatable with amendments that will amount to little more than window dressing.
My third resolution to a wounded party is: stand your ground.
We can never forget what we stand for — and, we must more effectively frame the debate on our terms. Democrats have strong opinions on both major policy issues and moral values to uphold. This is no time to waiver in the fight for liberty, security, equality and prosperity for all Americans.
Now that they have gained more seats on Capitol Hill, it’s time Republicans own the responsibility for the messes created while ramming unreasonable policy down our throats. Fight back. Express healthy outrage and remind Americans that the Democratic Party has a strong political pulse and the right ideas for what they want accomplished in Washington, D.C. Above all, don’t surrender, and use the rules to our advantage. Lately, our leaders seem to get this point.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) was absolutely right to insist that a recorded vote be held on the omnibus spending bill which included giving Members and staff the means to inspect individual tax returns. The provision was stripped from the bill. Pelosi deserves credit for standing her ground.
Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) recently held firm after learning about a controversial provision that would deny women a full range of reproductive health services. Senate Republican leader Bill Frist (Tenn.) has promised Boxer four hours of debate and an up or down vote next spring. You go girl!
My final resolution is for Congressional Democrats to use their power and influence as lawmakers to invigorate and strengthen the party.
In a letter to his friend Charlie Murphy, President Harry Truman wrote: “My only objective is to save the Democratic Party as the party of the people, the people who have no pull at the seat of the mighty.”
As Democrats, we are the voice of those who lack influence and power. Don’t be afraid to talk from the heart. It’s time we let our light shine so all will know that we share basic values. Constituents are counting on representatives from both blue and red states to protect their interests. They want Congress to keep them safe and secure, while also enabling them to make ends meet. They want safe drinking water, clean air and a decent place to live. They want quality schools and the dignity that comes with jobs that earn a living wage.
Many Americans are still counting on Democrats to renew their resolve and to take back their role as a voice for all Americans. With hard work, 2005 can be the year we reclaim our voice and rejoice again.
Donna L. Brazile, the campaign manager for Democratic presidential nominee Al Gore in 2000, runs her own grassroots political consulting firm.