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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Make Nice — Not

Post of the day goes to Paul Waldman, whose “Democrats, Don’t Wimp Out” at TomPaine.com does a refreshing number on the “Let’s be nice bipartisans” school of thought about what congressional Democrats should do now. Waldman, a senior fellow at Media Matters for America, puts it this way:

…What Democrats need to do is spend the next two years crushing their opponents like bugs. It’s not about mercy, it’s not about manners, it’s about three fundamental goals: limiting the damage the Bush administration can do, passing whatever legislation they can in the short term to help the American public and laying the foundation for future progressive victories.

For example, with respect to empowering the federal government to negotiate lower prices for prescription drugs, Waldman counsels:

…Democrats should wage the fight…Two outcomes are equally likely: Either they won’t be able to pass such a bill in both houses, or they’ll pass a bill and Bush will veto it. Either way, it shows whose side they’re on, and whose side the Republicans are on.

His point is nicely-echoed by American Prospect co-editor Robert Kuttner in his web-exclusive piece “Bye Bye, Bipartisanship“:

Pelosi has said her first actions will include legislation to raise the federal minimum wage and create an effective prescription drug benefit under Medicare. If Bush signs these progressive bills, we can all sing bipartisan Kumbaya. If he vetoes them, Democrats can keep reminding voters which party serves whose interests.

Waldman has an interesting idea for dealing with the GOP’s lapdog media:

…Democrats should say the following to Fox: You want to spread GOP propaganda all day? Be our guest…But don’t expect any Democratic newsmakers to legitimize you with their presence. We’ll go on every other network, be interviewed by every legitimate news organization. But we don’t consider ourselves under any obligation to pretend that buffoons like Sean Hannity, Bill O’Reilly and John Gibson are news professionals who deserve a moment of our time. We’re not going to try to fight you; we’ll just act like you don’t exist.

There’s more, and Waldman concludes:

Democrats need to understand that they are engaged in a war of ideas, one that stretches far beyond any one Congress or presidency….Democrats should wake up every day thinking, “How can we keep Republicans on the run?” Never give them a moment’s rest, never let them advance their agenda, keep them on the defensive so they have to apologize for being the standard-bearers of a discredited ideology and a disgraced president. Do that, and every legislative battle and election to come will be that much more likely to swing in your favor.

Kuttner lays it out with equal clarity:

Forget treacly calls to come together to solve national problems. There are huge, principled differences here. The voters rejected the policies of the governing party and gave Congress a mandate to help regular people for a change.

If Waldman’s and Kuttner’s calls to arms seem draconian, answer one question: If the tables were turned, would the GOP hesitate to consolidate their power and crush the opposition?

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