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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Dems Tread Carefully in Advancing Agenda

The National Journal‘s Charlie Cook pulls the plug on the party lights in his post “Reality check for the Democrats: Fragile majority seems to be acknowledging its limitations” at MSNBC‘s Politics page. Cook says GOP pundits who expected the Dems under Speaker Pelosi to press a full-speed-ahead leftist agenda are disappointed by the House Dems'”moderate and measured” leadership. Noting that approval ratings of congress in opinion polls have improved only slightly, Cook explains:

Public antipathy toward Congress is deeply engrained; trying to turn it around is akin to changing the direction of an aircraft carrier — it only happens very slowly. Democrats had the luxury of attacking a much-maligned institution in 2006; in 2008 they must defend it and justify its performance.
…As tempting as it must be for Democrats to embark on a bold and ambitious policy agenda, particularly after having been mired in the minority for a dozen years, the simple truth is that between the reality of narrow majorities and their decision to abide by pay-as-you-go spending and tax rules, their options are few and limited to relatively small-ticket items.

According to Cook, the average post-election approval rating for Congress in the most recent polls is 34.4 percent, which is an improvement over pre-election figures averaging about 27 percent. With just over a third of respondents holding a favorable impression of Congress, however, it may be that the public wants bolder action on leading priorities such as disengaging from Iraq and better health care security.
Cook describes the House Dems’ 15-seat majority as “narrow,” but it’s extravagant compared to the 1-seat margin that allows Dems to run the Senate. A 15-seat lead should be enough to hold the House in ’08, barring any major disasters. Winning some breathing space in the Senate is the more urgent challenge — and the key to bolder Democratic leadership in Congress.

3 comments on “Dems Tread Carefully in Advancing Agenda

  1. Gene Payne on

    Oh great! This is exactly the attitude which will give the Congress back to the GOP in 2008.
    It’s hard to be civil when dealing with this kind of material, so I’m not going to try. Instead, I want to go on record to point out that Dems who followed Mr. Cook’s strategy, Harold Ford Jr and Tammy Duckworth come to mind did much worse than those who listened to the netroots and spoke out.
    So, instead of seeing “few options”, we should put forth the most aggressive aganda possible and then throw rocks at those who stop it. Our majorities will increase in 2008 that way. And Mr Cook’s approach is a guarantee that we will lose control.
    I’ll stop now, before I describe in more graphic terms exactly what I think of the thinking being demonstrated in the article.
    As Jon Tester said on the Senate floor yesterday that he’s traveled all around his home state of Montana, and “not a single person told me we should debate about whether or not to have a debate on Iraq.”
    Don’t seek small victories, attack, attack, attack, until the GOP is shown for what it is. Then elections get easy.

  2. farley l. hatcher on

    I am personally disappointed in the house and senate. I had high hopes for an end to the war, accountability of the Bush administration, passage of the “Employee Free Choice” bill which would strenghten the middle class and the Dem party, real Campaing finance reform, including public financing in federal elections and lobby reform. Whith the dem candidates opting out of fed matching funds, this important issue is forgotten, and the business (DLC) free traders are gaining control of the party. Most of America will have no say in who the nominee is and it will be based on fund raising and the results in a few states. We are disenfranchised, and if the Dems nominate Clinton, Gore, or any other free trader, I will be forced to write in Nader!

  3. BillE on

    I am really confused as to why a 27% increase in the favorable rating for Congress is considered poor. Sure, the overall rating is not that high, but as a being trend it is enromous!


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