Friday, August 25, 2006

Perhaps Surrender Shouldn't Be Our First Move In The Fight

Although my dislike opinion of Rahm Emanuel and his undermining of local, grassroots candidates leadership style is well chronicled in this blog, that is not the basis for my low opinion of his new book "The Plan." I would be perfectly willing to embrace a smart program laid out by a smart, but personally distasteful, Machiavelli. But, although he is Machiavellian, Emanuel is no Machiavelli.

Rather, "The Plan" -- like most products of the Democratic Leadership Council -- is not strategically sound.1 The DLC prides itself as a centrist Democratic organization. But by repeatedly surrendering every position left of center, "The Plan" inevitably puts Democrats at a strategic disadvantage.

But don't take my word for it -- just watch "The Plan" at work in your Chicago Sun-Times.

In the August 24 edition of your Chicago Sun-Times, Steve Huntley took a look at Emanuel's new book. After recounting the tired, old saw about the Democrats not having a unified agenda, Huntley begins addressing "The Plan" in the exact same way that every DLC proposal has been addressed by the Republicans -- Start at the Center, Then Negotiate Right.

Consider Rahm's proposal that Americans 18 to 25 be required to do three months of civilian service of basic training, civil defense preparation and community service. Seems like a sound, centerist idea to me. But, of course, we never just stop at the center.

Huntley then pulls the idea to the right: "Given the long struggle we face against terrorist Islamism, what the country needs is a serious discussion about reviving the draft." By having the Democrats begin the debate from the center, "The Plan" makes Republican negotiation to the right ever so much easier.

But that is not an isolated instance. In fact, when discussing "The Plan" for tax reform, Huntley expressly states how the Republicans confront what he characterizes as "centrist Democratic stuff":
Emanuel proposes whacking the 1.4-million-word tax code with its myriad loopholes and replacing it with a system that would mean a one-page tax form for the average family. You might not, and many Republicans certainly won't, sign on to all the details of his plan but it's a good place to start the debate
And that's just how it will go. The DLCers surrender everything left of center before debate even begins and then the Republicans negotiate further and further right.

And I'm not merely crystal ball gazing either.

Hiram Wurf's look back at Bill Clinton's DLC-inspired welfare reform -- "they changed the law and failed to provide a viable alternative for a tremendous number of people" -- shows how a flawed, but fair, centrist idea was constantly tugged to the right until it became deeply flawed and grossly unfair self-parody. Clinton, an otherwise brilliant politician, only now seems aware that every Democratic plan is subjected to ongoing pressure from the right-wing of the GOP and that plans that start from the center simply don't have to slide as much to end up at the far right.

The old saying goes, "If you give them an inch, they'll take a mile."

"The Plan" from the DLC gives them a half-mile. After such a compromise surrender, should Democrats be surprised by how much the Republicans take.

1 This is written under the presumption that "The Plan" is about actual governance and that the DLC has not taken another page from the GOP playbook, i.e. focus solely on winning elections and
disregard concerns about actually governing the country.

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