The doctrine of “Keep It Simple Stupid” says never give the American Public more than three things to consider during any election season. Democrats tend to diffuse their message because they have too many issues to discuss.  From a policy standpoint, that’s great, but from a winning the next election standpoint — Not so much.

Dems won’t make any headway in 2006 (despite the Bush scandals) unless they can narrow and focus their election year message, like the Repubs have done so well in recent times.  In 2004 the GOP ran on TERROR, TAXES and GAYS.  By narrowly defining their message they were able to claim that everyone knew where they stood, while offering up the canard that Democrats “had no ideas.”

They were lying about that, but in the larger sense they were on to something: Democratic issues never managed grip the public debate, partly because there were too many of them Dems  tried to campaign on.

So what are the BIG THREE that I believe will help focus the Dems’ message in 2006?  Well, they have all been the subject of recent diaries at KOS.  

More after the break . . .


(Hat tip to a Dkos diary by another American)

In a NY Times Op-Ed piece by John Deutch, the former CIA Director and  Deputy Secretary of Defense during the Clinton Administration makes the case for why we should be withdrawing from Iraq in “calm, reasonable terms” that avoid the emotional pitfalls of much recent debate regarding the war and looks long and hard at the question of how best our national interests can be served at this point in time:

We should not shirk from quick military action for the purpose of saving lives that are in immediate danger. . . . But we should not be lured into intervention that has as its driving purpose the replacement of despotic regimes with systems of government more like our own. It is not that the purpose is unworthy, but rather that it is unlikely to succeed.

Moreover, in trying to achieve regime change or nation-building, we tend to rely on military force rather than diplomacy, trade and economic assistance. The American military, the best in the world, is built to fight and win wars . . . but maintaining local security, brokering political alliances and running local water systems, hospitals, power plants and schools are not major parts of its mission or training. Reshaping our military to take on . . .  “stability and security” operations will come at a cost – both in terms of potentially compromising the war-fighting capacity of our troops and in diverting the resources needed to support the civic action that underlies nation-building. . . .  

So where does that leave us on Iraq? There is a widespread view . . . that we have a responsibility to keep our troops in place until certain minimum conditions are achieved: some degree of security for the Iraqi people; a reasonable start on stable and representative self-government; and partial reconstruction of the civilian infrastructure. Prompt withdrawal is considered unthinkable . . . because it is difficult to envision a pullout that leaves a peaceful Iraq in its wake and doesn’t invite further unrest in the region. . . .

THIS conventional view, however, ignores two important questions. [First], how much are American interests in the Arab world being harmed by our continued presence in Iraq? Second, how much does the United States’ presence in Iraq reduce our ability to deal with other important security challenges, notably . . . North Korea, Iran and international terrorism? Those who argue that we should “stay the course” because an early withdrawal from Iraq would hurt America’s global credibility must consider the possibility that we will fail in our objectives in Iraq and suffer an even worse loss of credibility down the road.  . . .

Our best strategy now is a prompt withdrawal plan consisting of clearly defined political, military and economic elements. Politically, the United States should declare its intention to remove its troops and urge the Iraqi government and its neighbors to recognize the common regional interest in allowing Iraq to evolve peacefully and without external intervention. The first Iraqi election under the permanent constitution, planned for Dec. 15, is an appropriate date for beginning the pullout.  . . .

As they say, go read the whole article.  It’s thoughtful and persuasive, and lays out both a  rationale and a strategy for the withdrawal of our troops.

This is precisely the issue Dems need to hammer the Republicans on.  Most Americans now agree that the invasion of Iraq was a mistake, and that our country was misled into war by the Bush administration.  Yet without a clear alternative to the “stay the course” plan, and the political courage to offer a better solution, most Americans will likely vote to maintain the status quo, which means their votes by default will go to Republicans.  Why?  Because rightly or wrongly, the GOP is seen as the better party to fight a war.  Democrats are not going to overcome that prejudice by 2006, but they can take advantage of the public’s discontent with Iraq to say that now is the time to withdraw our forces.

Because while the GOP may do better on questions of war, Democrtas do better when the need for international cooperation and working with our allies is seen as crucial.  And that’s the point:  war is no longer a viable strategy in Iraq.  Now is the time to let diplomacy, our allies and economic aid work to stabilize Iraq and the region.

Dems should be making these points every single minute of every single day until the 2006 elections are completed:

“We tried invading Iraq and only made things worse for both the Iraqis’ security and our own.  Indeed, our presence in Iraq is increasing the risk of terrorist attacks here in America by providing the jihadists a training ground in which to hone and perfect their tactics of urban terrorism.   Now is the time to begin to withdraw our forces according to a set timetable in order to end the senseless  loss of more innocent American and Iraqi lives.”

“Withdrawal removes a major incentive for insurgents and foreign fighters to continue their efforts to disrupt Iraq and puts the onus on other nations to get involved to help achieve a peaceful resolution to the situation in Iraq through negotiations among all the various factions in Iraq.  The benefits of a withdrawal from Iraq will be felt immediately in our armed forces (no longer stretched to the breaking point and once again properly deployed to protect the homeland and pursue Al Qaida) and in enhanced relations with, and cooperation from, our allies, whose assistance we badly need to combat the threat of global terrorism.”

Is it risky to take this stance? Considering the polls, I think it’s risky not to.  Dissatisfaction with the Iraq War and the Bush lies that led to it will only grow over the course of the next year.  But if Democrats have nothing more to campaign on than “We won’t be as deceitful/incompetent as the GOP” they won’t fully benefit from the outrage Americans feel about this war.  Democrats have to stand up and say enough is enough.  It’s time to bring the troops home.  I believe if they have the guts to do this they’ll reap the electoral benefits.

Corollary issue:  A coherent and comprehensive Energy Strategy.  While I wouldn’t make energy policy a principal theme of the campaign, here is where it can be slipped into the mix, as part of the discussion to end the war in Iraq.  Basically,  Democrats need to remind the public that energy independence is vital to keep us out of wars in the Middle East.  The less need we have for foreign oil, the less chance some future President will be tempted to put to send their sons and daughters in harm’s way in order to keep the oil flowing to the US.  Democrats need to sing out that it is the failure of the Bush energy policy, which relies almost exclusively on finding and protecting sources of oil, which led them to push for war in Iraq in the first place.  When the issue of the war comes up, Democrats need to remind voters why this war happened, and also that we have other options than wasting the valuable lives of the men and women in our military in order to maintain access to a declining resource in an uncertain region of the world


Democrats can’t win on just one issue, however, particularly one solely within the foreign policy arena.  Democrats also need to play to their strengths, and health care is a definite Democratic strength.  Health care is a major concern of the American Public, because we are in the midst of a growing health care crisis, one to which the GOP’s generic policy of “do nothing and let the free market operate (except in the case of Big Pharma, of course)” is certainly not providing the solution. But don’t take my word for it.  Look what recent Dkos diarists have to say on the subject:

First some statistics from Health Crisis: Here are the Statistics to Prove Why:

Annual private employer-sponsored insurance premiums averaged $3,695 for single coverage and $9,950 for family coverage in 2004.  Broken down into monthly figures these numbers are $308/month for a single person and $830/month for a family.

From 2001-2004, average earnings increased 4%, 2.6%, 3%, 2.2% respectively.  Over the same period, health insurance premiums increased 10.9, 11.9, 12.9 and 13.2% respectively.  At their lowest level, health insurance premiums increased 2.5 times faster than wages.

From 1996-2004, the average annual increase in health plan premiums was 8.5%.

For those of you who think national health care is a bad idea, here is some very bad news: the public sector already pays for 44.2% of health expenditures.

Next, a few reasons why business, big and small, should support a National Health Care Plan, as shown in this diary: National health care is a life or death matter . . . for U.S. businesses

. . . Employers who always assumed health care had to be an employment benefit are now reconsidering.  Traditionally, employers have seen their choices [as] two.  To attract good employees, they can provide private insurance, knowing that it will be more expensive and for lower quality services each year.  Or they can provide no health insurance and attract only workers who will take a job with no health care coverage.

National health care has been off the agenda for most employers, but the starkness of these choices is forcing a change in thinking.

Let me help make that decision easier for them.

There are many costs employers now shoulder that are driven by the cost of our private health care system. The cost of all sorts of insurance are affected.  To go back to my auto insurance. Because my New Zealand car insurance did not have to pay for accident victims’ health care it decreased what I paid for my car insurance  . . .

And finally, the most significant public intellectual and economist on the left has our back on this issue as demonstrated in this diary: Krugman Endorses Single-Payer Health Care

Today, Paul Krugman’s new New York Times column endorsed single-payer health care.  It’s time for the Democrats to stop licking their wounds over the mid-90’s fiasco of Hillarycare and embrace a health care plan that the American people can understand and support.  Here, Krugman speaks for me:

Harry Truman tried to create a national health insurance system. Public opinion was initially on his side: Jill Quadagno’s book “One Nation, Uninsured” tells us that in 1945, 75 percent of Americans favored national health insurance. If Truman had succeeded, universal coverage for everyone, not just the elderly, would today be an accepted part of the social contract.

But Truman failed. Special interests, especially the American Medical Association and Southern politicians who feared that national insurance would lead to racially integrated hospitals, triumphed.

Sixty years later, the patchwork system that evolved in the absence of national health insurance is unraveling. The cost of health care is exploding, the number of uninsured is growing, and corporations that still provide employee coverage are groaning under the strain.

So the time will soon be ripe for another try at universal coverage. Public opinion is already favorable: a 2003 Pew poll found that 72 percent of Americans favored government-guaranteed health insurance for all.

Again, I repeat.  Go read the whole thing.  Or in this case, with these three great diaries, the whole thangs.

This issue can and should be presented by Democratic candidates in a way that is easy to explain and easy to understand.  

First, Universal Health Care saves a ton of money for American businesses, enhancing their ability to compete overseas with countries which already provide universal health care.  It’s good for the economy, stupid!

Second, it saves money for patients and consumers.  By controlling costs (especially pharmaceutical costs) and eliminating the myriad of private companies which now offer health care insurance we can provide more coverage to more people for less.

Third, and this is important as a “values issue”, it provides coverage for all Americans, not just those who are wealthy, or still employed by a company that offers health insurance, but everyone, no matter how poor, no matter how sick, no matter who they are.  This is the parable of the Good Samaritan writ large, ladies and gentleman, and that’s also how we need to frame it – not just as an economic issue, but as a moral issue.


My last of the Big 3, jobs, is pretty obviously a Democratic strength (as polls have shown for years now) but it’s not one they’ve taken full advantage of recently.  Why that is I haven’t a clue.  Kerry emphasized it a little in 2004, but his plan was too little understood (focusing primarily on eliminating tax breaks for US companies who move their headquarters offshore) and he certainly failed to get the public or the media to focus attention on it.  That needs to change.  And who better to tell us how than our own bonddad:

I propose a two-pronged approach.  The first involves prevention of outsourcing and the second is to focus on industries that have strong long-term potential to create high-paying jobs.

First, why do we need to create jobs?  The unemployment rate is 5%.  The economy is rocking!!!!  Well, that’s not entirely true.  According to the Bureau of Economic Analysis, the US has lost 3.4 million high-paying jobs between 2000-2003 (the last year they have statistics).  Comprising that total are: 100,000 Information and data processing jobs, 200,000 Broadcast and telecommunications jobs, 205,000 Computer System Designer jobs, 2.8 million manufacturing jobs and 121 publishing jobs which include software.  The jobs we are creating are lower-paying jobs, specifically in health care and social assistance (+1,279,000 ), government (+791,000) and food service and drinking establishment jobs (+465,000).  

As a result, real wages aren’t increasing.  According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average earnings increase from 2000-2004 was 3.86%, 3.22%, 3.12%, 1.71% and 2.39% respectively.  However wages have to be compared to inflation to determine the real rate of wage growth.  For the same years, annual inflation was 3.4%, 2.8%, 1.6%, 2.3% and 2.7% respectively.  When inflation is subtracted from wages, overall wage growth becomes .46%, .42%, 1.52%, -.59% and-.31% respectively for 2000-2004.

. . . What the US should do is find and implement policies that make outsourcing less advantageous while not being so draconian to prevent beneficial domestic economic development from occurring.

 . . . The AFL-CIO has a great proposal.  There are numerous companies that outsource American jobs that also get large government contracts. Take the contracts away.  You don’t want to play in our sandbox?  Fine.  We won’t give you any money.

. . . The foreign tax code (26 USC section 900) allows US companies who pay foreign taxes on income earned outside the US to deduct those foreign taxes from domestic taxes. (The rules are a bit more complicated, but you get the idea).  I would add a provision along the following lines: If said company outsources US jobs to a country, a certain percentage of that deduction will go away.

. . . Create a tax break to allow for the wage differential.  Suppose country A has wages that are 50% of US wages and company X is considering moving some of its jobs to country A.  Give Company X a tax break of say half the difference between the wage differential to keep the jobs in the US.

. . . Deal with health care expenses.  [an obvious tie-in to issue number 2 on my list]

. . . [D]evelop industries that are somewhat immune from outsourcing. . . . Here are some industries the US should develop at all costs: Alternate energy, stem-cell research and applications, US infrastructure (such as a new national power grid), nanotechnology, and aerospace.

Read the whole enchilada.  It’s well worth the effort.  And while you’re at it check out these other diaries on the subject: How to Create High-Paying Jobs and Slow Outsourcing and YO, ASSHOLES!!! It’s About Creating GOOD-PAYING JOBS.

This is such an obvious issue for Democrats.  We can’t allow the Republicans with their false hope of tax relief generating new jobs to short circuit the discussion.  Instead this issue should be front and center in every speech any  Democratic candidate makes for the next however-long-it-is-until-the-election.  Talking Points?  Here they are:

Good Jobs are being Lost as a result of Bush’s policies.

New Jobs being created Pay Less and are mostly unskilled labor and service sector jobs.

Jobs are going Overseas due to outsourcing by US Companies.

We can turn this around, but only with a determined strategy to Keep Jobs in America.

To do that:  Stop Rewarding Companies for Moving Jobs Overseas.

Develop programs/subsidies to foster new industries that create High Paying Jobs.

Upgrade America’s infrastructure for the 21st Century.

Add your own.

Final thoughts:

I know there are a lot of issues that are getting dropped by the wayside.  Election reform. Environment protection.  Civil Rights (including the Right to Choose, voting rights, the Patriot Act, etc.).  Judicial Nominations.  The budget deficit.  Veteran’s benefits.  All are worthy of consideration.  But in my opinion, we need to hammer home a few issues and so imprint them on the Public’s mind that Democrats can never again be accused of “lacking ideas” or having no solutions to propose.  We have solutions for a lot of problems.  Let’s push these three now.  Once Democrats take back Congress, we can worry about the rest of the Progressive Agenda.

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