In today's Washington Post and yesterday's Washington Times two very different editorials address the problem summarized by my post title - we know Democrats oppose anything George Bush wants (whether it makes sense or not) but who knows (especially Democrats themselves) what Democrats are for - what is the Democrat Party 's agenda?
First, let's look at David Broder, usually a stable voice for the Democrats, in his column Democrats In Need Of Stances: "Because Republicans control the congressional agenda, the Democratic leaders cannot bring forward their own initiatives with any hope of success. The best they can do is block GOP efforts or criticize their policies. But that strategy simply strengthens Republican accusations of negativism. The tactic of not offering an alternative on a subject as vital as Social Security -- which makes sense in the legislative context -- does nothing to enhance the Democrats' reputation with the public.
When I interviewed Dean recently, he readily acknowledged that 'people think they know what the Republicans stand for, and they can't say that about the Democrats.'
...There's a better model available, should Dean have the courage to follow it. In the late 1950s, after Adlai Stevenson had lost to President Eisenhower for the second time, DNC Chairman Paul Butler created the Democratic Advisory Council as a policy voice for the party.
...Once again, the Democrats need a vehicle for speaking to the country about the changes they would bring if entrusted with governing. They can find that vehicle in their archives."
Next look at Victor Davis Hanson, now one of the most respected voices on the right, with Who are the reactionaries: "...an understandably frustrated opposition seeks some sort of countermove. But instead of the hard, necessary work of winning the public over to a systematic alternative vision, the Democratic leadership seems to hope a quickie scandal, a noisy filibuster or a slip overseas will tip a few million voters and thus return the Democrats to power. ...Can't the Democrats find spokesmen other than a calcified Mr. Kerry, Joe Biden, Mr. Kennedy or Al Gore -- who all crashed in past general presidential elections or primaries and now drip bitterness? How do you politely tell your leadership that it, not just George W. Bush, is the problem?
...The Democrats should focus on new issues and faces and promote national optimism and an overdue return to a more inclusive broader-based populism. Instead, the leading members of the party -- who have become the new reactionaries in American political life -- choose to fixate on John Bolton and try to ankle-bite a wartime president working to bring democracy to the Middle East. Apparently, the liberal opposition thinks sarcasm and negativism can reverse the larger political tide of the last three decades. Good luck."
This is not just a political problem for Democrats. This problem is disturbing to America because I believe our country is better facing choices and making decisions as to how we move forward rather than attempts from either party to just block progress. We need to deal with the future with our heads up high and firm in this ever-changing world. I happen to trust the people to make the right choices when they understand the questions and the choices of answers. I happen to think that is why George Bush is president of the United States right now. Let's trust the people and give choices not a move forward in one direction or a roadblock.