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Ten Things Democrats Must Do To Win 2004
November 9, 2002
By Steven Maurer

Ok, we got shellacked. The GOP succeeded. We failed. Yes, we came close. Across all the states more people voted for the Democrats than the Republicans. But politics is like sports: the team that looses the most games in the series - even if it's several by just one point - still looses. We got beat. And it hurts.

But this doesn't mean Democrats can simply stand pat and just blame the GOP for damaging the country. That's what we tried this last election, and it failed spectacularly. Instead, we need to get our house in order now, so that we can take advantage of the electorate's inevitable rejection of their failed policies.

So how do we win in 2004? Here's my top ten list:

1. Fix - Don't Accuse

Do Democrats need to move left? Do we need to move center? The answer is yes. Our party has room for many points of view. Certainly we need to adjust our communications strategy, and this may mean having some of our present leaders step aside to give more effective voices a chance. But remember: tolerance is one of our core beliefs. Now is the time to pull together. Leave the vicious backbiting to the denizens of hate radio.

2. We're the Opposition - We Need To Start Acting Like It

Let's face facts: Democrats are way too nice. Cooperating with the GOP doesn't get us anywhere. It only gives the GOP cover when their policies fail. So contact your Democratic representative and tell them to get a backbone - pronto. It doesn't even matter why we vote no - liberal Democrats might oppose a GOP law because it hurts kids, conservative Democrats because it unbalances the budget. The important thing is to point out what isn't going to work.

3. Develop Talking Points To Take Advantage Of GOP Predictability

"Raising taxes in a recession is bad for the economy!" Really? In 1992, that is exactly what President Clinton did when the stock market was at 2,700. Senator Phil Graham (R) Texas said the economy in 1996 would be so bad people would be "hunting Democrats like dogs". Well, woof woof woof. Weak GOP assertions are so predictable Democrats should be able to knock them back flat. We just need to do our homework. Looking surprised on a TV show doesn't cut it anymore.

4. Defend Our Positions

If there was one issue on which we lost the elections, it was that we did not forthrightly defend our positions. Because of that, we let the GOP define what we stood for. Remember, Bill Clinton WON promising higher taxes. Why? Because he qualified it - higher taxes for people making over $180,000 a year. Furthermore, he said exactly what the taxes were going for - reducing the deficit. Remember people, the GOP can get away with finessing and disguising their extremist positions only because they largely own the media. We don't have that advantage, so their "stealth candidacy" strategy won't work for us. Unlike the GOP, we have to trust the voters to act like adults. They will.

5. Filibuster Reaganite "Credit-Card Prosperity"

Americans have a national credit card problem, and not just individually. Reagan made it his national program. Reduce your payments (taxes), buy a bunch of expensive weapons on credit, and your balance will go… down? That's supply-side insanity in a nutshell. It didn't work then, and it won't work now. But you sure feel rich before the bill comes due. Bush is going to try the same thing. He's probably going to try to time the false credit-card prosperity just in time for his reelection. It is absolutely PARAMOUNT that Democrats establish the position now that they will filibuster deficit spending before the GOP media tries to paint them as obstructionists.

6. Fight By Sound Bite

I understand why liberals dislike sound bites in theory - the subtleties get lost in the sloganeering. But understand people, we don't own the media. We don't have hours every day to blather on like Rush Limbaugh, or any of his hundreds of well-financed radio, cable, and broadcast imitators do. We don't have Murdoch's Fox News as a permanent place to present opinion as fact. Sound bites are often all the media exposure we will ever get. So drop the disdain and fit the words onto the bumper sticker. Brevity isn't just the soul of wit; it's often the soul of a successful campaign.

7. Actively Work On Campaigns

If there is one thing that saddens me, it's how quickly supposed "commitment" to the Democratic Party drops off when it comes time to volunteer. Let me put it bluntly: ranting on DU discussions forums doesn't do squat. You have to do what my wife and I do: man the phones, walk the neighborhood, put up lawn signs, host coffees, donate. Democrats have a problem with turnout, and that means we always need people to get our voters to vote. This will sometimes break your heart (in Oregon on Tuesday we lost one state campaign by 800 votes, another by 200), but it is necessary for the good of our country. So ask yourself this: how much do I love my country? How important is it to me that America is as decent, unpolluted, uncorrupt, fair, educated, enlightened, and tolerant as it can be?

Oh, and even on bad nights, there are good things about being involved too. I don't write letters to my Congressman (David Wu (D) 1st Congressional District of Oregon). On Tuesday, he was patting me on the back - literally.

8. Reach Out To Independents - To A Point

Many Independents have negative views of Democrats. Supposedly we're spendthrifts. Taxaholics. Worst of all - unpatriotic. While much of this is due to nonstop GOP media propaganda, there are times we need to listen. But we also need to communicate: Why pay for Midnight Basketball? Because kids don't go for noontime Parcheesi. Is there really 25% waste in federal government? Social Security, Medicare, Veterans Benefits, Defense Spending, and Interest on the Debt account for over 80% of federal spending. Which of those programs do you want cut? While we will always care about the poor, Democrats are also the party of fiscal responsibility. Unlike the GOP, we address issues honestly. Remember that.

9. Reach Out To Greens and Social Progressives - To A Point

If our friends on the deep left haven't figured out by now that the term "Republocrats" is a canard, these next two years will unfortunately make it plain. And Democrats need to make it clear to everyone - believing the U.S. is on the wrong track isn't unpatriotic, it's a sign of sanity. Still, our vaunted tolerance must have limits. True anti-American kooks are not welcome in the Democratic Party. While it's obvious some U.S. leaders have made dreadful foreign policy mistakes in the last fifty years, Americans are generally good, and our system of government is self-correcting. Real Democrats don't burn our flag; we wash it.

10. Be Positive

These next two years are going to be painful. The Republicans are going to run roughshod over much of what makes our country great. They will stuff the courts with people who will refuse to enforce our Constitution (making a mockery of their fatuous attacks on Janet Reno), pass more laws to reward corrupt insider capitalists and tax cheats, and try to rack up so much debt we will be forced to renege on Social Security benefits in twenty years. Still, there is a ray of light to all this, and that is this: America's right wing is about to get its most precious lie exposed.

Ever since Reagan, the GOP built its rhetorical house of cards on promising more spending, bigger tax cuts for the wealthy, and a balanced budget - predicated on eliminating "waste fraud and abuse" in government. And they have always excused their inability to eliminate this supposed "waste" by blaming Democrats. But now they have run out of excuses. Ordinary Americans will finally see through the sham - and not all the biased media spin from all the outlets their crony tycoons have spent so many billions to acquire will be able to disguise it.

The GOP has won a hollow victory, and many of them already know it.

Further, President Clinton is right. There is nothing wrong with America that cannot be fixed by what is right with America. While much of the damage the GOP is going to do to our country will be permanent, a lot of the damage can be undone. There is still time to save enough money to get us through the boomer Social Security retirement hump. And we can fix whatever tax loopholes the GOP adds to the tax code. This can and will be aided by selective use of new government programs that result in more savings than the taxes that go to support it. So hold your head high, people. And redouble your efforts. Better times are coming.

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