Alex's Outlook

Thursday, May 15, 2003

Just what do the Democrats stand for these days? I can't figure it out.

Complete, unfettered access to abortion and gay rights are the only clear Democrat planks that really come to mind.

Guns? The Democratic Party is completely split on this issue, probably because gun control is such a political loser nowadays. The "assault weapons ban" of 1994 is set to asphyxiate in the House of Representatives next year, with many House Democrats joining the GOP in terminating it.
Social programs? That's what they'd do if they had power, but they don't have power and they won't get back in power by endorsing Big Government.

Taxes? Except for Gephardt's audacious and apparently foolish gamble, not a single serious Democratic candidate for President is willing to raise taxes to pay for the deficit, new social programs or anything else.

"Universal health care"? Every Democrat wants that idea, but none of them has a clue as to how to fund it (except Gephardt). Besides, that issue consistently places at the bottom of almost every opinion poll.

The Democrats are in a real bind. They have no clue how to stimulate the economy. They had one good idea - a payroll tax cut - but they shelved it right after Mary Landrieu survived her Louisiana runoff because a payroll tax cut would take a monster bite out of Social Security, the ultimate Democratic sacred cow. They can't afford to endorse that, even though that tax falls most heavily on middle- and lower-class Americans. Any other kind of tax cut almost inevitably "favors the rich", so tax cuts are pretty much out of the question for Democrats. Keynesian hikes in public spending are out of favor, so the Democrats won't endorse that either. They won't hike spending for new programs and they won't cut taxes; they have no prescription for economic growth.

That wouldn't matter if the Democrats were merely torn between opposing viewpoints, or having some kind of policy debate; but they aren't. Other than the arch-liberal The Nation crowd, liberals really have no idea about what to do about the economy.

Joe Klein, a liberal journalist, wrote a lengthy piece about "how to build a better Democrat" in the latest issue of TIME. It was a long article, but there was no substance to it. He talked about being tough on national security, being brashly confident while campaigning, blah blah blah. The only new idea he could come up with was - get this - "digital highways" with a 70 mph computer-enforced speed limit! That strikes me as a great way to scare anybody who has ever been late for school or work. Anyway, the point is, not even the liberals have any clear idea about what to do. They are heading into 2004 completely rudderless. No matter what the state of the nation is, the Democrats won't win if they don't have a coherent alternative to Bush's socioeconomic vision.

I think that, unless the economy undergoes cataclysmic damage between now and November of 2004, Bush will be unbeatable even if the economy continues to mildly stagnate and even if there are no WMD found in Iraq.


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