Hey Pundits! Pay Attention!

If there's one thing I hate hearing from the Beltway conventional wisdom crunchers, it's the old nugget that Democrats have no ideas. Thomas Friedman is only the latest offender, but he takes the charge to a whole new level, not only falsely insisting that Democrats have no ideas, specifically on energy policy, but even demanding that a whole new third party spring up with ideas that he can get behind.

In response, David Roberts eviscerates Friedman's absurd criticism over at the Gristmill blog, pointing out that it's not the Democrats' fault that pundits like Friedman just can't be bothered to actually pay attention.

We know what Republicans would do on energy if they had power. They have it; they're doing it.

The Democrats have no power to implement policy, and when a party with no power to implement policy announces a set of policy proposals, no one listens -- not the press, not Friedman. But that doesn't mean they don't have policy proposals.

Beltway pundits strive above all else to be unpredictable, unorthodox, "outside the box." Pointing out that the current batch of Republicans running Washington is corrupt and destructive, and that the Democrats are advancing better ideas, is "partisan." It's "shrill." Worst of all, it's inside the box. Boooring.

Nonetheless, almost all these "pox on both their houses" stories are vapid. If one party proposes to do what you want, and the other party stands in the way, the solution is not a third party. The solution is for the second party to stop standing in the way.

If I can make a suggestion to my fellow Democrats, especially since this is an election year, take it upon yourself to really study, learn, and absorb one or two Democratic policy proposals you particularly agree with, and how they'll be help the average American. As I mentioned the other day, David Sirota's new book is full of great ideas, but many others can be found at CAP, PLAN, the DGA, DMI, etc., etc., etc. Very few people really want to talk policy, but every time you're confronted with tired jokes about the lack of Democratic ideas, you'll be armed with at least one progressive policy proposal as a counter.

While this may seem like something of a waste of time, it's important to remember that in an election year as tense as 2006, it helps to have handy every bit of information that reinforces for the typical voter that Democrats are ready, willing, and able to start fixing the disastrous policy results of the Republicans. There's a small army of Thomas Friedmans out there in the traditional media who have a seeming stake in drawing false equivalences between the two parties. For whatever reason, they take great joy in pushing a politics of hopelessness. And it's up to every Democrat to help fight back.

Tags: Democrats, energy policy, Ideas, Thomas Friedman (all tags)

Comments

8 Comments

Re: Hey Pundits! Pay Attention!

Unfortunately, you fall into the same trap that so many Democratic spokespeople do, and instead of talking about the proposals and policies, you emphasize the fact that Democrats aren't in power. You did it in this very blog entry. So in the end, the one thing that people keep hearing is "we aren't in power, the Republicans are" rather than "here is what we, as a Party, believe on issue A, on issue B, etc."  Secondly, the Democratic party has been horrific on party discipline, and instead caved into individual member egos, allowing different members of the house and Senate to posture on TV with different, and often contradictory, individual positions. When confronted, Democrats just say that shows our "diversity of opinion." But it's one more thing that prevents the public from getting a coherent understanding of what Dems stand for. This post just plays into that.

by Mark Spittle 2006-05-04 05:24AM | 0 recs
Re: Hey Pundits! Pay Attention!

The Democrats have no power to implement policy, and when a party with no power to implement policy announces a set of policy proposals, no one listens.

The big problem in his argument is that Democrats are just as culpable for the current energy crisis as the Republicans, and Friedman is right to point it out.  CAFE standards haven't been changed since the Reagan years - Clinton/Gore, despite all of Gore's supposed credentials on environmental issues, stood by and did absolutely nothing as the light truck exemption dragged down average MPG, and SUV's became the flavor of the month.  There was also big investment in alternative fuels, or any drive for conservation, despite the fact that the Dems held the presidency, Senate and the house (sound familiar?)

Friedman was spot on, for once, when he said we need a thrid party.  Of course, I diasagree that the Green Party is the wrong choice because 'connotes an agenda that is too narrow and liberal.  Clearly Friedman doesn;t know the Green Party very well, if he thinks our agenda is at all narrow.  The Green Party has been put front not only on environmental and energy issues, but on election reform, peace, immigration - all of the major issues of the day.  Dems would do well to take a look at the Green platform - the thing that keeps Greens from power is not thre popularity of their ideas, it's the huge corporate interests that prop up the two major parties.

Absent a 3rd party revival, however, the Dems would do well to co-opt Green ideas, so when you are researching policy, take a look 'over the hedge'.

by brooklyngreenie 2006-05-04 05:49AM | 0 recs
The 'Outside The Box' Box

Beltway pundits strive above all else to be unpredictable, unorthodox, "outside the box." Pointing out that the current batch of Republicans running Washington is corrupt and destructive, and that the Democrats are advancing better ideas, is "partisan." It's "shrill." Worst of all, it's inside the box. Boooring.
If they all say the same thing--that "Dems have no ideas," how is that "outside the box"?  How is it "Boooring"?

The answer to both questions is the same: Beltway pundits are lazy, juvenile narcissists.  Writing about policies would mean thinking about policies, and thinking makes their heads hurt.  It's so much more emotionally satisfying to pontificate about how bad the Democrats are.  And, of course, the ultimate put down is the self-positioning that the Dems have no ideas, but the all-knowing pundit thinks outside the box.  And this, of course, is the attraction of talking about a third party.  It's so "outside the box."

It's a label, you see.  It's a box you put yourself in, the better to sell yourself.  There's even a picture of John McCain on the package, grinning his stupid Koala-bear-stoned-on-eucalyptus-leaves grin.

by Paul Rosenberg 2006-05-04 05:55AM | 0 recs
Re: Hey Pundits! Pay Attention!

It is not that Democrats have no ideas, it is that they have bad ideas -- terrible ideas -- such as having the federal government takeover health insurances, and withdrawing immediately from Iraq, and eliminating SUVs (but never pickups which get just as terrible mileage, hmm)

by Don Surber 2006-05-04 06:10AM | 0 recs
The New California Democratic Platform
The California Democratic Party just adopted a progressive new platform this past weekend.

In the past, CDP platforms have been long-winded ponderous documents weighing in at 40+ pages. This year it's been trimmed down to a quarter of that... which is no sound-byte... but which contains good, terse language on essentially all of the policies and principles that constitute the core of Democratic Party values.

And the fingerprints of the Progressive Caucus are all over this puppy... from withdrawal from Iraq, eliminating poverty... to endorsing single-payer healthcare.
by Malacandra 2006-05-04 06:55AM | 0 recs
Re: Hey Pundits! Pay Attention!

Nice post Scott.  A couple of thoughts.  Charlie Cook took David Broder to task on Meet the Press a few weeks ago when Broder said the Dem party had no policy proposals.  Cook noted that it is not the job of minority parties to have detailed policy proposal, it is their job to oppose and point out the problems with the majority party's proposals.  

Newt Gingrich and the Repubs of the early 1990s rarely offered detailed policy proposals but instead spoke in broad terms about what they believed in and why they opposed the policies of the majority party.  However, they did have a strong network of think tanks developing ideas to be implemented for the day when they took power.

The Dems are finally starting to establish a network of think tank organizations as noted in this post but it is a young network and it does not have the credibility of the existing Repub network.  Hence you get the meme the Dems have no policy ideas.  We are in start-up mode going up against Microsoft and it will take us time to gain legitimacy with the press and DC establishment.

by John Mills 2006-05-04 07:15AM | 0 recs
CwA and think tank ideas worked together

Certainly, the CwA itself was all detailed proposals.

The trick was that the promises were all within the power of the House GOP provided that it won the election.

That is, changes to House rules and specified bills to be brought to the House floor.

Very limited promises, then - but deliverable.

But it was - I'd agree - only the final stage in the work done by the think tanks over the previous fifteen or twenty years. The voter in 1994 - mostly unaware of the details of CwA as he cast his vote - nevertheless had a pretty good general idea (or thought he had) of the what the GOP stood for.

by skeptic06 2006-05-04 11:15AM | 0 recs
Re: Hey Pundits! Pay Attention!

Good point.

It's definitely plausible that the placebo effect of knowing that a party has a plan, even without knowing what it is, may be substantial.

In fact, in some cases, revealing the details of the plan may actually diminish its effectiveness as a campaign tool. (Especially when it looks and feels like Kerry's Our Plan for America, for instance.)

Research needed.

by skeptic06 2006-05-04 11:07AM | 0 recs

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