Democratic strategies for 2010
After a week of turmoil in the Democratic party, how should the Dems think about the midterm elections? Below are contributions from Geoff Garin, Kiki McLean, Steve Rosenthal, Matthew Dowd, Justin Ruben, Karl Rove and Ed Rogers.
Democratic pollster and strategist; president of Hart Research Associates
In Congress, 2009 was a year of beginnings, but 2010 must be a year of conclusions. So the question of how the Democrats should proceed is not about boldness vs. caution but about what is actually achievable given Republicans' massive resistance to real change. Democrats don't have to win every legislative battle this year, but if a fight can't be won legislatively, it is worth taking on at this point only if Democrats are prepared to aggressively debate it and win it politically during the fall campaigns.
So far, the Democrats have done the most important thing they possibly could with their majority: They prevented this country from falling into the economic abyss, despite Republicans' best efforts to obstruct any action when it was desperately needed to address the disaster left behind by George W. Bush. There is still a long way to go to fix the economy and reduce unemployment, but we would be much worse off, and much further from a real recovery, if Republicans had succeeded in blocking Democrats' efforts to respond the economic crisis in the first few months of 2009.
It's hard to think of a better use of the majority this year than trying, as the Democrats have, to address the fundamental problems that caused the economic crisis: the reckless behavior of Wall Street and the big banks; predatory treatment of consumers by finance companies and health insurers; the failure to address our dependence on foreign oil; and the unwillingness of Bush and the Republicans to pay for their spending and tax cuts.
CATHERINE A. "KIKI" MCLEAN
Democratic strategist; partner at the public relations firm Porter Novelli
In for a penny, in for a pound. The Democratic majority has pursued the agenda that it promised voters in 2008 and that circumstances dictated. President Obama and members of Congress from across the country campaigned on promises of a reformed health-care system; energy legislation; a stronger, stable financial system; and a return to economic growth and job creation. Arguments about whether to tackle these issues one at a time or simultaneously are simply about tactics, not about the value or desire of the American people to see Congress make real progress.
Ten months from Election Day is not the time to abandon those efforts. The legislative process and the constant debate can be tiring, and irritating. It can exhaust the goodwill of voters. But an agenda unfulfilled is far more politically dangerous than the challenges of writing and passing legislation. Members of both parties will be held accountable to their campaign promises by their constituents, who believe that the status quo is unacceptable.
Delivering change is not without pain, but abandoning one's investment in making change happen is just shortsighted.