Guide to the 2002 Election
July 2, 2002
By Mike McArdle
year I wrote The
Cynic's Approach to Democratic Victory on this site. That
was mostly a plea to the Democrats to be more practical and
less ideological in the wake of the disputed 2000 election.
I felt at the time and I still do that the demographics of
the US are turning the Democrats' way but then 9/11 happened
and the party seemed to completely lose its voice. But it's
not at all too late for the party to hold its own and possibly
gain some valuable ground this fall. Here's one way to do
First, nationalize the election. This had some positive effects
for the Republicans in 1994 when they retook the House and
Senate and although it's not a panacea I really think it's
right for the Democrats this fall. Since 9/11 the rank and
file have felt disconnected from the national leadership and
donıt feel that the party has a direction and a focus. Bush's
high approval numbers seems to have scared the party bigwigs
and rather than say anything that sounds unpatriotic they
seem to have become afraid to say anything. As a result I
sense that the voters the party needs this fall are uncertain
as to what theyıre voting for. The differences between Bush
and Gore that so dominated the political landscape two years
ago are largely forgotten. The party needs to define itself
for the post 9/11 era. Maybe have some of those 2004 hopefuls
deliver the message over national TV.
Second, the party has to realize that it can still win on
economics but they have to show where they differ from the
Bush program. The aging of America can be made to work dramatically
in favor of the Democrats but they have to know how to play
Thirdly, the "war," such as it is can be at least neutralized
and possibly turned to a slight advantage.
Caution: There are issues that it appears will not work
and could be counter-productive. Leave them alone. Among
a) Enron can be used in the broader context of corporate
corruption but in the absence of a smoking gun tying Bush
and Cheney to the Enron corruption this issue is going nowhere,
best not to mention it, at least for now.
b) The issue of who knew what in the White House before
9/11 seems to only work if it consists of calling for
an independent investigation. If it's used at all it's probably
best to do so in the presence of a 9/11 survivor.
c) The constitutional rights of Johnny Lindh, Jose Padilla,
or anybody at Guantanamo. The public isn't interested
and would resent it being brought up. It matters only to activist
types who already know who they are going to vote for.
d) The Florida 2000 election It's over and absolutely
These are our issues:
Republican strategists recently advised GOP candidates to
emphasize strongly that they oppose any plan to "privatize"
social security. This shows us that even they recognize that
Bush's "reform" is a sure fire political loser. Even though
the Republicans will never let this turkey come to a vote
in the House I see no reason why the Democrats cannot flush
each of their opponents out on this matter and make them take
A study recently done for the Center on Budget and Policy
Priorities shows that the "partial privatization" that the
administration is pushing will result in significant benefit
cuts for current recipients, the disabled and for those who
do not opt for the private accounts. With a huge percentage
of the population either currently receiving benefits or becoming
recipients in the next 20 years this could swing a significant
number of votes to the Democratic side. Have you heard any
Democrats talking about this? Me neither.
Medicare is already being squeezed by the need to cover the
deficits caused by Bush's huge tax cuts. The payment rates
are becoming more inadequate by the day and many physicians
are beginning to turn away Medicare patients. Some service
providers that cater to the elderly are in poor financial
shape or are going out of business entirely. The projections
for the next few years are dismal. The Republicans who've
hated the program since it was instituted in the early sixties
are letting it die (or at least they can be portrayed as letting
Again, do you ever hear the Democrats talk about any of this?
This a Golden Goose that our guys are simply turning their
back on. Again, the elderly or soon to be elderly are one
of the fastest growing segments of the population. The threat
to Medicare is very real and very frightening to millions
of Americans and can be a huge help this Fall if the leadership
will show some testicular fortitude and use it to their advantage.
There is a direct link between the Bushies obscene giveaway
to the wealthy and privileged and the crisis in Medicare.
It's time to make use of it.
This was a huge issue in the 2000 campaign and the GOP just
passed their version of prescription drug coverage in the
House. It is considerably less generous than the Democratic
plan, is probably unworkable in that it depends on private
insurance plans that don't even exist at the moment and leaves
vulnerable the people with the highest drug costs. (I'm sure
those private insurance companies will just be falling over
themselves to insure a bunch of old people who need lots of
drugs). The Democratic plan is more expensive but the GOP
is no position to holler about "fiscal responsibility" given
the huge deficits it's running and it's sponsorship of the
very expensive farm and education bills. They're over a barrel
and their last minute bill is just an attempt to take the
heat off. This issue can be a win, win for the Democrats.
The entire claim that the "war on terror" has been a success
rests on the Afghanistan campaign. And yet both Bin Laden
and Mullah Omar boogied out the back door that was left wide
open by the Bushies insistence on using local tribes with
no loyalty to any "error war" close out the deal. So Afghanistan
has reverted to ancient tribal rivalries that have characterized
it for centuries and the figurehead leader Hamid Karzai commands
a vast area that extends from the back wall of his office
to the front door. The US is faced with either years of "nation
building" or an Afghanistan that will again become a haven
for the Al Qaedas of the world.
This is the entirety of what has been accomplished in almost
10 months. In the meantime new evildoer warnings are coming
out every day. If the "war on terror" were a prize fight the
referee would be considering how many more punches he can
let Bushie-boy take before awarding "terror" a TKO.
This issue, of course, has to be handled delicately because
there is always a desire for unity in the face of an enemy
and the Republicans will try to scream that any criticism
is unpatriotic but the issue of competence can work, at least
slightly, in the Democrats favor.
The economic populism message didn't seem to resonate in
2000 but today the economy is hurting, there are more people
out of work, and the public is being treated to a rash of
stories of falsely inflated stock prices, huge bonuses for
executives of failing companies, insider trading and disappearing
pensions. The Senate, after the latest revelations, resumed
its push for reform of accounting practices and the creation
of an independent regulatory board. This is a positive step
but the difference between the Dem position and the GOP position
has been made clear to the public. Do you think anybody outside
the DNC knows what it is?
It also might not be a bad idea to make an issue of the employment
practices of some the largest employers. As Barbara Ehrenreich
pointed out in the New York Times last week (http://www.nytimes.com/2002/06/30/opinion/30EHRE.html)
Wal-Mart is being sued in 28 states for failing to adhere
to the Fair Labor Standards Act which requires that employers
pay overtime for more than 40 hours of work. Other retail
employers frequently require that hourly employees spend "off
clock" time at their jobs. Would it hurt to propose a crackdown
on practices like this? There are a hell of a lot of retail
employees out there.
The economy flat out stinks and has ever since these clowns
took office. But I sure as hell don't hear much about this
from our Democratic leadership. How far has the Dow dropped
in that time? How much of an effect has that had on the retirement
funds and college funds that so many Americans count so heavily
on? How many layoffs have there been? How are the deficits
affecting the aforementioned Medicare and Social Security
I don't know the answers but if the DNC knows they're keeping
quiet about it. If a Democrat was in the White House do you
think that RNC would be talking about it, war or no war?
Get the numbers, make them into an easily remembered campaign
slogan, use the slogan, repeat as necessary.
It also won't hurt to remind the suburban soccer moms and
independents that the Republican Party remains controlled
by the people who take away the reproductive rights of half
the population. It won't hurt either to refresh the memory
of people in California and Oregon (where there is a vulnerable
GOP Senate seat) about the way the Attorney General has been
attempting to override the will of the voters on medical marijuana
and assisted suicide.
The issues are out there and the voting public is largely
on the Democrats side especially when the issue is economics.
But our side has to speak up and articulate the differences
between them and the other side.
It's quite doable but it's going to take some cajones. Get
it guys? Let's see a little.
Mike McArdle is the DU writer formerly known as birdman.