Republican performance in Washington has handed Democrats "an enormous opportunity" to launch a comeback in the 2006 congressional elections, Illinois Sen. Barack Obama said Monday.In the New Yorker, George Packer lays out a game plan for taking advantage of the enormous opportunity identified by Sen. Obama:
Recent disarray in the Bush administration "punctured a hole in the sense that this White House is competent and squarely addressing issues," Obama told a news conference.
Democrats next year should offer voters "a contrast as to how Democrats would govern compared to how Republicans have governed," he said.
Obama pointed to a number of issues, including runaway deficit spending, rising health care costs, unaddressed energy challenges and, in later remarks, a brief mention of a lack of planning to deal with the aftermath of the invasion of Iraq.
[T]he Democrats need to nationalize the elections of 2006 the way the Republicans did in 1994. A Democratic manifesto that unites the Party’s own diverse factions would begin as a referendum on the ruling party: the White House and Congress have handed government over to corrupt interests, and, in so doing, the Republicans have betrayed basic American principles of honesty, competence, and fairness. There is no reason for Democrats to be on the defensive about moral values. On issue after issue, government by cronyism and corruption has sacrificed the interests of the middle class to those of the Administration’s wealthy friends. The deepening inequality in American life threatens families and democracy, and it is neither natural nor inevitable. ***So grab your jocks - if you need one.
To overcome these structural disadvantages, the Democrats’ campaign approach needs to be broad and bold.
- Energy: The Republicans have made America more dependent on foreign oil while gas prices are skyrocketing; the Democrats will push for energy independence.
- Health care: The Republicans have allowed private companies to eliminate choice while costs go up and millions of Americans lack insurance; the Democrats will enact national coverage that restores choice and holds down costs.
- Taxes: The Republicans have shifted the burden from the top to the middle; the Democrats will reverse that trend, and will end the Administration’s ruinous fiscal policies.
- National security: Republican incompetence has squandered our power abroad and failed to make us more secure at home, as the country learned after Katrina; the Democrats will rebuild the armed forces—making it at least possible for the Iraq insurgency to be defeated—and bring competence to homeland security.
Above all, the Democratic Party needs to overcome its own self-esteem problem. Its leaders have to show imagination and take risks, to be confident and aggressive, to proceed as if the current occupant of the White House no longer mattered—as if the Democrats fully intended to win and govern. The Democratic Party has to speak for the common good in a moral language; and it has to believe what it says, so that when the opposition’s attacks come, as they will, it can find the heart and the courage to fight back.