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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Introducing Donkey Rising

Welcome to Donkey Rising, a political blog devoted to advancing the cause of the emerging Democratic majority. That doesn’t mean a lot of rah-rah cheerleading. On the contrary, DR will strive to be fact-based, continuously reporting on public opinion, voting and demographic trends and trying to make sense of them. And DR will be hard-hitting in its criticism of those–even within our own ranks–who aren’t really helping the cause or are just generally clueless.
DR, of course, will monitor political events and dissect the commentary about them, in time-honored blog fashion. But we’ll also try to do a bit more, by putting these events, and the commentary on them, in a longer-term context. We’ll always be coming back to fundamental strategic questions about how to overcome current obstacles and build the new Democratic majority.
Take, for example, the evolving debate among Democratic Presidential candidates about the best way to address the health care issue. Gephardt has an ambitious plan to move toward universal health care. But is it the right plan? Are any of the other candidates’ plans any better? Is health care even the right issue for candidates to be focusing on? DR is amazed, for example, that none of the major candidates seem to have much to say about education, where the Republicans have now disgraced themselves by presiding over federal and state budget cutbacks. Indeed, education is an area where the terrain has shifted dramatically in the Democrats’ favor.
After all, when Bush came into office, Democrats had no advantage at all on the education issue, a situation that continued through the passage of the No Child Left Behind act in early 2002. But ever since then, the public has been moving the Democrats’ way. They want education well-funded and improved in this country and, increasingly, they don’t trust the Republicans to do it. Beyond mandating tough standards, the GOP just doesn’t seem to have much of a program for the public schools. How are schools to meet these mandated tough standards, especially schools with disadvantaged students? And how are schools going to provide smaller class size and better teachers? Maintain and modernize school buildings? Provide pre-school and after-school? The Bushies just don’t seem to care, as they merrily cut taxes, slash education funding and watch states’ budgets–primarily responsible for public school support–crash and burn. The contours of this situation are fairly clear to the public, which is why they’re moving toward the Democrats on the issue.
But are the Democrats moving toward them? That’s less clear. So far, the focus seems to be on health care–a hugely complicated, hugely expensive issue, that sucks up political oxygen, not to mention budgetary room, and makes it hard for Presidential candidates to advocate investment in anything else without seeming completely profligate. Yet, in open-ended poll questions asking people what their most important issues are, education typically out-polls health care. DR says that’s a result worth pondering, as Democrats look toward ’04 and the issues with which they want to be identified.