I want to confess that I'm left scratching my (very bald) head about Democratic public relations post-election, especially headed into the all-important Turkey Day political love-fest that we call Thanksgiving Dinner Discussion with our relatives.
As far as I can tell there is one thing that everyone in the country is aware of regarding what our new Democratic majority is going to do in what promises to be an action-packed January. That one thing is Speaker-elect Pelosi's program for the first 100 Hours of a Democratic-controlled House. Why aren't more people talking about the specifics of this? If the GOP had a 100 Hours program they'd be selling it like it was going out of style.
Heck, we in the netroots should be able to run down the list of that Democratic program as if it were the menu for Thursday's Thanksgiving dinner.
I'd like to offer a brief break-down of this 100 Hour Plan (w/ links) and speculate on how we in the netroots fit in to Democratic strategy a bit...
Let's take a look at Speaker-elect Pelosi's plan:
The Democratic One Hundred Hour Plan
1. Cleaning up Congress
a). Breaking the link between lobbyists and legislation
b). Commiting to Pay as You Go
c). No new Deficit Spending
2. Making our Nation Safer
a). Implementing the recommendations of the 9/11 commission
3. Making our Economy Fairer
a). Raising the Federal Minimum Wage
b). No new pay raises for Congress without a raise in the minimum wage
4. Making health care more affordable
a). Fixing the Medicare Prescription Drug Program by Negotiating Lower Prices
b). Promote Stem Cell Research
5. Broaden College Opportunity
a). Cut interest rates for student loans by half
6. Energize America for Energy Independence
a). Roll back subsidies for big oil companies
7. Guarantee a Dignified Retirement
a). Fight the attempt to privatize Social Security
That's seven planks with 10 action items. Step one for the "Democratic netroots framing brigades" should be to learn this list, critique it, and practice selling the hell out of it. Hell, we've been talking about framing the debate for years now. Here's some policy...we're all heading into the critical Turkey Day political melt down...let's do some work on Pay as You Go and Minimum Wage, let's move the ball on Lobbying Reform and Stem Cell Research. Let's examine what the specifics of the Oil Industry Subsidy roll backs will be.
I wrote a post-election diary on MyDD called Crafting the 60 percent position. The point of that essay was that we Democrats and our newly-minted majorities need to get focused on taking action and delivering the goods for this country on policy. Outrage and opposition won't cut it anymore. It's time to craft and win with majority positions. Let me be frank, I think we liberals and progressives have a lot to learn in this department. FDR knew how to craft majority positions, we should too.
Now, there are naturally debates within the Democratic Party and the netroots about strategy going forward. I've got some thoughts on that that I'll share below. But, before I dive into that I'd like to make this simple point. Everybody in the country knows that Speaker Pelosi and the Democratic Party have a 100 hours program. Shouldn't we all get behind it and talk about it a bit?
The netroots and Pelosi's 100 Hours
The exact wording of these bills are still open for debate and amendment. Let's get involved. If we in the netroots are going to be more than ACTBlue ATMs for campaigns, we've got to have a hand in shaping and impacting policy.
Here are two netroots-related programs we should push for inclusion as part of, or in addition to, the 100 Hours push.
1. The netroots should advance the effort to have legislation available to the public ahead of time enunciated at ReadtheBill.org. Imo, folks should contact Speaker-elect Pelosi and push for this great idea.
2. The netroots should insist that some aspect of net neutrality be a part or follow fast upon the 100 hours. We helped in the victory. There should be a netroots specific action as a part of or soon following the 100 hours.
Second, I want to address oversight and impeachment. We've had some cart and horse debates about impeachment here in the progressive netroots. I think most of us have come to a point where we all can respect that some folks have differing views. For myself, I am for oversight and investigation, period, end of sentence. I think advancing impeachment as a part of that now is a mistake. Coming out of those debates, however, I have one suggestion I'd like to make to those who think our highest priority in 2007 should be oversight and impeachment: focus on the Unitary Executive.
The Unitary Executive theory is the lynchpin of the Bush/Cheney defense of the legality of their actions, and is at the heart of their power grab in the balance of powers. With the Democrats controlling Congress, the Unitary Executive is now an active issue. We will see this debate play out in 2007 over and over again. What will signing statements mean? Is there a way to combat them? How will the executive branch respond to Congressional subpeonas and investigations? How will the Bush Administration respond to Congressional legislation on torture and rendition? My advice to the broad swath of the netroots that has focused on impeachement over the last years and months is this: focus on the Unitary Executive debate. That is where the action is and, I think, the best and most effective focus for anyone concerned with holding this administration accountable.
Finally, I'd like to address Iraq and the 100 Hours.
We all agree that this election was a referendum on Bush policy in Iraq. To say that the 100 hours does not address Iraq or military policy is both stating the obvious and no small thing. This is an issue. Let's talk about that.
In conversations with friends and dicussions online, I've found myself perplexed by a conundrum: American voters re-elected Bush in 2004 and gave the Democrats control of Congress in 2006. Given that, most folks I talk to over-estimate what Congress can do to change American policy in Iraq. The conundrum is this. The one zone that we all agree the 2006 elections were about is the one zone where the executive branch still maintains a very large degree of autonomy and control: foreign policy.
I have three ideas in this regard:
1. The voters wanted to put a check on the Bush Administration. Let's give it to them.
This will sound counter-intuitive, but I'll make the argument anyway. We need to build the votes to override a Bush veto on Stem Cells in order to visibly show the country that this Congress is serious about providing a check to the power of the Bush Administration. Beating a Bush veto on Stem Cells would send a strong message about Bush's ability to override the will of Congress, and the American people. That will impact how folks view Bush's mandate on Iraq. In effect, Congressional Democrats should use the Stem Cell veto battle to prime the pump for passage of a new Iraq war resolution expressing the will of Congress.
Any new resolution Democrats make regarding Iraq will only be taken seriously within a clear cut redefinition of Congressional power versus the Executive Branch. We should use Stem Cells to define that balance of power and then pass a resolution on Iraq.
2. Use the Purple Finger
Bush has talked ad nauseum about bringing Democracy to Iraq. It's time for the Democratic Party to use the power of the purple finger to implement a phased-withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq.
We need to craft a withdrawal plan that incorporates a vote by, and hence the implied cooperation of, the Iraqi people on that withdrawal. We should send a Congressional delegation to Iraq to coordinate with the Iraqi government so that this can be implemented. Whatever resolution we endorse should have a "purple finger" moment written into it. Congress must advance a plan that can be sealed with a "purple finger" vote in Iraq.
3. Focus on our Troops
The Hundred Hour Plan does not have a focus on our troops. It should. This is the one aspect that I think we should demand that Pelosi add to the 100 hours.
We in the netroots should make clear to Speaker-elect Pelosi that the 100 Hour Plan, while it cannot come up with an "instant solution" in Iraq, should send a clear message of support and reform to every last American in uniform.
Whether it's body armor legislation, or reforming veteran's health benefits, or holding oversight hearings on how our National Guard and Reserves have been stretched to the limit, I would propose incorporating one defining moment to the first one hundred hours of the Democratic Congress: we should have a moment where we listen directly to our troops.
The first voices, the first feedback that the Democratic Congress should take in should be the feedback of veterans from Iraq. Perhaps this could be our first order of business at the 100 hour mark. We should give rank and file veterans center stage. We should make it clear that we are listening to them. I think that would send the strongest message to this nation about what the Democratic Party's priorities are. The troops should be a front and center part of the 100 hours.Nancy Pelosi 100 Hours Politics Democrats Pay as You Go Minimum Wage Stem Cell Research