There shouldn’t be any question about a Democratic takeover of the government this year. President Bush’s approval ratings continue to hover in the doldrums. The list of gripes about the Republicans is long and familiar. It would not seem to be much of a challenge for the Democrats to skip right into the majority.
The Democrats’ ability to skip, however, may be in question. One cannot skip when one does not have a functional spine.
The location of the spine of the Democratic Party is an intriguing puzzle. Many accuse the party of not having one at all. In a recent column in The Washington Times, columnist David Lambro accuses the Democratic party of not having an agenda. He cites Leon Panetta, former White House chief of staff for President Clinton, as saying “(Democrats) ought to present a very clear vision to the country in four or five areas. People want to know they stand for something.”
Both Panetta and Lambro give the Democratic Party too much credit. It has an agenda; it just isn’t revealing it because the party’s members know the agenda’s unpopular.
Take, for instance, recent comments by House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) on Tim Russert’s May 7 edition of Meet the Press. Three main points Pelosi addressed on the program were the budget, the Iraq war, and governmental corruption. Pelosi takes a stand on all three counts, but the stands she takes are euphemistic and thinly veiled.
She promised a Democrat-led government would not engage in deficit spending, saying “(Bush’s approval rating) is down because of uneasiness over the economy.”
She also said that she did not agree with Bush’s tax cuts. It wasn’t until she was speaking of public financing for political campaigns that her true budgetary thoughts became clear. She noted that expenses for publicly funded political campaigns could be an “add-on” to the American tax burden. “Add-on” sounds better than “tax hike.”
Pelosi made another budget balancing tactic clear: She admitted she would withdraw troops from Iraq. “2006 must be a year of significant transition in Iraq,” she said, although she did not say how that transition would be achieved without American help.
The death of Abu Musab Al-Zarqawi, however, was apparently not a step in the transition she foresaw at the time. Of the Democrats who have said anything at all about this success, their praise is filled with suspiciously defeatist caveats.
Finally, Pelosi accused the Republicans of a culture of corruption. Such an indictment could potentially be scathing if used wisely. However, stating that corruption is unique to the Republicans is probably unwise considering the Democrats’ recent blemished track record.
Conservatives are upset with Bush about ethics violations, Iraq, overspending and a lot more, but the economy is not on the list. The deficit, while large, is actually quite reasonable for a time of war. The deficit at the height of World War II was 30.3 percent of the GDP. For 2004, the budget deficit was only 3.6 percent of the GDP.
The idea of running away from Iraq deserves no retort. As bad as things are, they will be disastrously worse if America withdraws. It is far too late for America to merely say adieu to the Iraq problem. The United States has taken responsibility for that nation. Abandoning it is out of the question.
The “culture of corruption” is not unique to the Republicans. Cynthia Mckinney (D-GA) was accused of assaulting a police officer and Rep. Patrick Kennedy (D-RI) crashed his car and spent nearly a month in a drug treatment center, both recently.
The problem is not that Democrats have no agenda. They believe in the usual failed things: increased taxation, increased government and turning a blind eye to international problems that don’t go away diplomatically. The Democratic Party simply won’t admit to this agenda because no one would vote for it.
Jordan Capobianco is a senior majoring in English literature.