Friday, August 12, 2005

Will the Demos take advatange?

Julian Zelizer asks the right question when he wonders whether the Democrats will squander the opportunity to go on the offensive as the GOP agenda flounders in the face of unfoldering disaster in Iraq, Actonian scandals in Washington power, and the general failure of the Bush regime to enact its major domestic legislative items, namely the repeal of Social Security.

Zelizer calls for the Democrats to "promote five issues on the 'public' table where the Republicans are vulnerable as a result of President Bush’s record: the exit strategy for Iraq, adequate homeland defense measures, deficit reduction, the environment, and poverty." These seems like as good a list as any, but I would turn up the heat on the last item and talk not about "poverty." Poverty per se is not an issue most Americans personally identify with; the abstract idea of poverty implies either hillbillies with broken down cars, or perhaps the urban homeless, or perhaps black people -- but it's not an issue that resonates with Joe Sixpack. On the other hand, the idea of "the gap between rich and poor" is an issue that agitates the middle class, playing to their (correct) fear of downward mobility, and also their outrage at their sense of fair play. The Democrats need to do what the Republicans fear most, which is engage in class warfare openly.

A media campaign against the estate tax, and in defense of Social Security should be front and center of his agenda. One idea would be to go out and find a bunch of particularly loathesome rich people who have managed to avoid paying taxes over the last few years, and do profiles of them, asking, "Is this the kind of person our tax system should reward? Or should it reward hard working Americans?" Along the same lines, the Democrats should coopt the idea of "personal savings funds" as an add-on to (rather than carve-out from) Social Security.

But will the Dems do this? Or will they waste their time fighting Roberts's nomination -- a politically fruitless project if there's ever been one.

P.S. Zelizer's blog is part of a new group blog by a number of well-known Presidential historians. It'll be worth reading once in a while, I suspect.

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