United and on the offensive, [Democrats] should drive home a simple triumvirate of charges: corruption, incompetence, and unresponsiveness to the concerns of the great American middle.
Of course, this will ultimately mean some degree of agreement on a positive alternativeâ€”on a shared vision of what America is and what American government should be doing to make America better. — Jacob Hacker and Paul Pierson, The Washington Monthly
Today I (once again!) ran into a rightie blogger who said “Democrats have no ideas.” This is an article of faith on the Right, which has been dragging around the same few zombie ideas since Goldwater. The fact is that Demcrats, progressives anyway, have multitudes of ideas. No one ever hears about them because no one, including the gutless wonders calling themselves “Democrats” who inhabit Washington, listens to us.
There’s an article by Robert Borosage in the current issue of The Nation, called “A *Real* Contract With America” that presents the following items as a clear platform for change [numbers added]:
 Crack Down on Corruption: In contrast to conservative cronyism, shut the revolving door between corporate lobbies and high office. Prohibit legislators, their senior aides and executive branch political appointees from lobbying for two years after leaving office. Require detailed public reporting of all contacts between lobbyists and legislators. Pledge to apply this to all, regardless of party. Take the big money out of politics by pushing for clean elections legislation.
 Make America Safe: Commit to an independent investigation of the Department of Homeland Security’s failures in response to Katrina. Detail action on the urgent needs that this Administration has ignored: Improve port security, bolster first responders and public health capacity, and require adequate defense planning by high-risk chemical plants. End the pork-barrel squandering of security funds.
 Unleash New Energy for America: In contrast to the Big Oil policies of the Administration that leave us more dependent on foreign supplies, pledge to launch a concerted drive for energy independence like the one called for by the Apollo Alliance. Create new jobs by investing in efficiency and alternative energy sources, helping America capture the growing green industries of the future.
 Rebuild America First: Rescind Bush’s tax cuts for the rich and corporations, which create more jobs in China than here, and use that money to put people to work building the infrastructure vital to a high-wage economy. Start with challenging the Administration’s trickle-down plans for the Gulf Coast, which will victimize once more those who suffered the most.
 Make Work Pay: In contrast to the Bush economy, in which profits and CEO salaries soar while workers’ wages stagnate and jobs grow insecure, put government on the side of workers. Raise the minimum wage. Empower workers to join unions by allowing card-check enrollment. Pay the prevailing wage in government contracts. Stop subsidizing the export of jobs abroad.
 Make Healthcare Affordable for All: Pledge to fix America’s broken healthcare system, with the goal of moving to universal, affordable healthcare by 2015. Start by reversing the Republican sellout to the pharmaceutical industry by empowering Medicare to bargain down costs and by allowing people to purchase drugs from safe outlets abroad.
 Protect Retirement Security: In contrast to Bush’s plan to dismantle Social Security, pledge to strengthen it and to require companies to treat the shop floor like the top floor when it comes to pensions and healthcare.
 Keep the Promise of Opportunity: Instead of Republican plans to cut eligibility for college grants and to limit loans, offer a contract to American students: If they graduate from high school, they will be able to afford the college or higher technical training they have earned. Pay for this by preserving the tax on the wealthiest multimillion-dollar estates in America.
 Refocus on Real Security for America: In contrast with Bush’s pledge to stay in Iraq indefinitely, sapping our military and breeding terrorists, put forth a firm timeline for removing the troops from Iraq. Use the money saved to invest in security at home. Lead an aggressive international alliance to track down stateless terrorists, to get loose nukes under control and to fight nuclear proliferation.
There is nothing in the list above that I and myriad other leftie bloggers haven’t been saying all along. Further, I believe there is nothing on that list that the average, middle-class, middle-of-the-road citizen would find objectionable. In fact, most of these items would be welcomed by the “average middle middle” citizen. I’d make item six a little bolder–national health care!–but otherwise it seems a good agenda to me.
The other day I read that Nancy Pelosi and other House leaders are putting together a Democratic policy platform for next year’s campaigns.
An early draft of the agenda outlines the specific initiatives House Democrats will pledge to enact if given control of the House. Leaders have been working on the document for months, and have already started encouraging Members to unify around it and stick to its themes.
Among the proposals are: â€œreal securityâ€ for America through stronger investments in U.S. armed forces and benchmarks for determining when to bring troops home from Iraq; affordable health insurance for all Americans; energy independence in 10 years; an economic package that includes an increase in the minimum wage and budget restrictions to end deficit spending; and universal college education through scholarships and grants as well as funding for the No Child Left Behind act.
Democrats will also promise to return ethical standards to Washington through bipartisan ethics oversight and tighter lobbying restrictions, increase assistance to Katrina disaster victims through Medicaid and housing vouchers, save Social Security from privatization and tighten pension laws.
I think they should just run with the Borosage list. I’m afraid the Washington Dems will come up with mealy-mouthed promises that will end up sounding the like same old same old. I think they should be careful that grand themes (Rebuild America first!) don’t get buried by the policy-wonk stuff (housing vouchers!). But now’s the time to start talking about those grand themes.