No to Bipartisanship, Yes to Investigations and Accountability

What Josh Marshall points out is very important, and something we've been harping on at MyDD for some time.  Voters want investigations.

Fifty-seven percent of the respondents said they think it would be good for the country "if the Democrats in Congress were able to conduct official investigations into what the Bush administration has done in the past six years." Forty-one percent said such probes would be bad for the country. Half of the sample was asked this question, also.

Chris persuasively discredited the Democracy Corps polling conclusions that Democrats need to lay out a series of detailed plans for energy, Iraq, etc.  It isn't just bad politics to lay out plans, it's irresponsible and dishonest to do so.  Laying out plans is a promise to voters, and it's obvious that Democrats won't be able to get Bush to adopt Democratic plans in 2007 and 2008, no matter what.  So laying out plans is immediately laying out a series of preemptive broken promise.

So what can Democrats offer to voters?  Well, a positive agenda, for starters.  We often misunderstand what a 'positive agenda' really means.  'Positive agenda' is a Rorschach test type term, a generic set of words that mean whatever you want them to mean.  For current hacks in DC, it means to implement programs or 'get something done', which if I were cynical I would point out is another way for them to funnel patronage to their friends.  For voters, a positive agenda could very well simply mean investigations, because investigations to find out what's been going on in government are the first step to fixing government.

We still don't know why we went into Iraq.  Answering that question definitively would be a very positive agenda.  And to get there, we need investigations.  Voters agree.

Tags: CNN, Democracy Corps, memo (all tags)



Re: No to Bipartisanship, Yes to Investigations an

46% percent of us "know" per CNN that Saddam was behind the 9/11 attacks.  The invasion was payback, politically.  Why did Bush want to go in?  Big Oil and showing up his wussy Daddy who lacked the nerve to drive American soldiers Baghdad in 1991.

Minnie and George would not lie to us.

by Bruce Godfrey 2006-09-09 01:11PM | 0 recs
Re: No to Bipartisanship, Yes to Investigations an

I'm for investigation, but Democrats should probably think of this election as preparation for 2008.  We can't afford to lose another Presidential election.  So, while some suggest that Dems "investigate, investigate, investigate" I think the better strategy would be "legislate, legislate, investigate."

It's not that the investigations aren't necessary--they are.  It's that we need to get the Repubs on record against policies supported by most Americans.  Pass a bill to raise the minimum wage, without strings attached.  Pass a bill to reform immigration policy.  Pass a bill to address the abuses of oil companies and to reform our energy policies.  Pass a bill supporting stem cell research.

In a lot of ways, it won't matter if the bills are vetoed, or if they are blocked in a Republican controlled Senate.  If the media relations are handled competently, we can use the next two years to show the country what the Republicans really stand for, and that will help use win the Presidency in 2008.

by Reece 2006-09-09 01:23PM | 0 recs
The Democratic Party. For the Common Good.
I respectfully disagree with Matt Stoller: investigating why we went to Iraq is a negative agenda. As more me, I think that the reason (in the Maureen Dowd sense) why we went into Iraq was because Bush wanted to be a "transformational" president (much like FDR). The irony is that Bush got his wish: he transformed the Middle East by completely destabilizing it.

As far as a positive agenda that the Democrats can fulfill, how about promising to fix our broken U.S. political system (culture of corruption, toxic partisan environment, inability to solve seemingly intractable societal problems). As Thomas Mann and Norm Ornstein point out in their new book The Broken Branch: How Congress Is Failing America and How to Get It Back on Track, "bad process had led to bad policy and bad behavior."

Specifically, future House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and future Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid should promise honest leadership through fair play, and open government through Internet transparency. In other words, in 2006 the Democrats should fulfill Howard Dean's 2004 presidential campaign promise of "changing the way Washington works."

The American people are tired of the partisan bickering in Washington, and they want it to stop. As a political strategy, fixing our broken U.S. political system could attract swing voters such as disaffected Republicans and Independents since it is in the interest of ALL Americans. For example, according to GOP strategist Frank Luntz in his Republican Playbook 2006:
If Americans love anything, it's bipartisanship. Anything described as "bipartisan" is an automatic winner with the American public, and any candidate who can effectively portray themselves as "bipartisan" will automatically have an advantage.
As a political narrative, the Democratic Party should stand for the pursuit of what Thomas Jefferson and James Madison termed the "common good." In other words, the Democrats should call for the restoration of the deliberative democracy that our Founding Fathers had envisioned.

While Josh Marshall does point out something important, John Halpin and Ruy Teixeira point out something even more important:
The common good is not only a concise and clear organizing principle for progressives but also a potentially potent political theme for appealing to voters across the partisan and ideological spectrum. March 2006 research by the Center for American Progress reveals that 68 percent of Americans strongly agree that the "government should be committed to the common good and put the public's interest above the privileges of the few" (85 percent total agree). Seventy-three percent of Democrats, 62 percent of Independents, and 67 percent of Republicans strongly agree with a common-good focus. A common good progressive theme scored well above typical conservative values themes: for example only 54 percent of Americans strongly agree that "Americans have gotten too far away from God and family," and just 41 percent strongly agree that "religion is on the decline in America." Importantly, the study reveals that liberals/progressives hold a 22-point advantage over conservatives on which ideological approach most represents "the common good."
by INTP 2006-09-09 01:40PM | 0 recs
Re: The Democratic Party. For the Common Good.

It's like conventional wisdom is an addictive drug, and you're smoking it.

by Matt Stoller 2006-09-09 02:00PM | 0 recs
Re: The Democratic Party. For the Common Good.

Also, there can be no bi-partisanship when one side's goal is to return this country to a late 19th century plutocracy.

That's what irks me about the "getting things done" crap. The Joe Klein's of the world bowed down and slobbered all over Bush for "trying to do something" about Social Security. Even though that meant trying to completely tear it down and gut it.

That's what "getting things done" means to republicans; destroying the New Deal and Great Society Programs. And the media eats it up.

by adamterando 2006-09-09 02:21PM | 0 recs
Re: The Democratic Party. For the Common Good.

But Josh Marshall today also points out that the President is laying out the ground work for another assault on Social Security next term. 2006/sep/09/social_security_to_be_phased _out_in_2007

So the Democrats can truthfully, and without making promises they can't keep, promise to protect social security if elected, since to do so amounts principally to blocking Bush from destroying it.

In other words, here's a positive agenda item that contains real policy proposals that are both vital to America and also entirely within the abilities of Democrats to carry through on.

Two to four more of these, and the Democrats have a positive, policy oriented agenda, even a platform.  I say it's best to play both offense and defense.  


by Umpteenth 2006-09-09 04:10PM | 0 recs
Re: The Democratic Party. For the Common Good.

I'd love to see us return to an era where there is a consensus middle around a progressive agenda but until that occurs I don't see a reason to help the Repubs out should we gain the majority which is what bi-partisanship would do.  It is not as though they have done anything but try to kill us at every turn the last 6 years.  Give them a taste of their own medicine for a while.

by John Mills 2006-09-09 02:50PM | 0 recs
Re: The Democratic Party. For the Common Good.

If you are going to take a toke from the conventional wisdom bong, you may as well breathe as deeply as you can.  The very data use cite suggest that not hiding a liberal/progressive agenda, but <u>leading</u> with it, may be the smart move.  It may be that whatever partisan bickering is happening, is happening because Democrats have gotten away from standing up for the real life issues of real people, and instead have focused on amassing institutional influence and power (DLC, Lieberman, etc.)  We are witnessing a flowering of winning challengers throughout the country in blue districts saddled with purple clingers to power (CT-Sen, MD-4 for Congress, even local races in MD like MD-State Sen 20 where a 30 year incumbent State Senator is about to get clobbered by a sapphire-blue law professor.)

Pretending to be "all for the common good" is a waste.  The Republicans who might want to reach across the aisle are whipped mercilessly into going along with a theocratic agenda, and the better of them are probably praying to survive in minority status, when deviation from the party whip is easier.  But at 3-2 from your numbers, Americans believe that the common good is a progressive agenda.  

Let's stop pretending that either the common good or electoral victory will be found by apologizing for who we are and working closely ourselves with the likes of Frist (ruthless opportunist and Swiss-Army Knife of dipstickery), Santorum (dead man cloying), DeLay (jailbird aspirant), Brownback (Torquemada's midwestern cousin), Coburn (right-wing theocratic fanatic), Inhofe (petrotheocrat and revanchist bane of the Sooner State), Ted Stevens (bagman di tutti bagmen) and Maryland's own Roscoe Bartlett (Jurassic P&&&k and opponent of renewal of the 1964 Civil Rights Act).  The iron is very hot; it is time to swing the hammer without mercy.  Particularly on Iraq and Katrina, where the President's incompetence is perceived just as clearly as his duplicity and  intellectual laziness.

by Bruce Godfrey 2006-09-09 02:33PM | 0 recs

It isn't just bad politics to lay out plans, it's irresponsible and dishonest to do so.  Laying out plans is a promise to voters, and it's obvious that Democrats won't be able to get Bush to adopt Democratic plans in 2007 and 2008, no matter what.  So laying out plans is immediately laying out a series of preemptive broken promise.

So you're saying a Democratic Congress will have no control over its own actions until there's a Democratic president? I hope you don't mean that, because it's absurd.

If we tell the public we don't know what we plan to do, other than investigate, it will sound suspiciously like Bush's 2000 campaign for president, where he also wouldn't tell us what he planned to do. A good reason for voters to stay home.

by pdt 2006-09-09 02:21PM | 0 recs
Re: No to Bipartisanship, Yes to Investigations

A couple of thoughts.  There is no doubt that the American public wants and deserves investigations into the inept and corrupt management of the Bush Admin.  We should hold oversight hearings, something Congress has abdicated its duties on for the last 6 years.  However, I do not think the Dems can do nothing but investigate.  

The Dems, should they control one or both Houses, also need to pass bills which advocate a progressive agenda such as the minimum wage and energy independence.  If the Rs still control the Senate, force them to bottle them up.  If the Dems control both houses, force Bush to veto them.  We won't succeed in actually passing laws but we wil succeed in defining both the Dem and Repub Parties and this is important.

Running campaigns is different from governing.  THe Repubs get this which is why they have marketers run campaigns and policy wonks do the governing work.  Dems have tend to have policy wonks do both.

by John Mills 2006-09-09 02:44PM | 0 recs
Re: No to Bipartisanship, Yes to Investigations

Want to add Dems should pass their legislation only with Dem votes much the way the Repubs have done for the past 6 years.  No need to cut deals with members of the opposite party.  

by John Mills 2006-09-09 02:45PM | 0 recs
Yes to Investigations &amp; REAL Security

I'm not convinced that voters would view progressive legislation passed by a Dem-controlled House (and maybe even in near-even Senate) as broken promises if Bush vetoes it.  Couldn't the message coming out of that and moving into the 08 election cycle be: "we REALLY, REALLY DO need a Democratic president (and Senate).

Couldn't a "REAL security" message have several main components, including:

  1.  investigations/accountability
  2.  a change of course in Iraq
  3.  universal affordable health care
  4.  energy independence

The contrast would be with Bush's FALSE security, which ties into deception/accountability, Iraq vs. homeland security, Katrina, and the healthcare and energy crises, and how all are deep-sh*t problems thanks to Bushco.

If a Dem House starts passing good "REAL security" bills that don't become law, then it should be pretty clear what the problem is and how to fix it in 08.

by mitchipd 2006-09-09 02:57PM | 0 recs
A Big Yes to Investigations and Accountability
Speaking of the need for investigations and's this for criminal negligence? e?AID=/20060909/NEWS/609090335
by mitchipd 2006-09-09 03:22PM | 0 recs
CNBC: The Democrat that Business Fears Most!

Speaking of investigations if Democrats take over the House, in a short review of the race for the House on a Business Channel segment Thursday afternoon, two reporters reminded their viewers that the Republican Money Machine needed to crank up and quick, to avoid a Democratic takeover, and the superior Republican GOTV needed to be fully functional, for the same reason.

They cited their main fears if Democrats take over the House: Charles Rangel at W&M would bottle up the Bush economic agenda, though he could probably be persuaded to work on a compromise Social Security reform package.  John Conyers would launch broad-ranging hearings at the Judiciary committee, but probably would not push for an impeachment hearing.

Then one reporter went off script on the biggest threat: Henry Waxman!

He pushed in a short speech on how Waxman, who will chair Energy, is really angry at the oil companies and companies like Halliburton.  He went on to warn that Waxman would conduct very wide-ranging investigations into oil industry excesses and "war profiteering." [his exact phrase]

Well, I think big oil deserves the tender ministrations of Henry Waxman, but the clear text of his message was that big oil needs to pony up some big bucks to stop the Democrats, or face some very embarrassing federal subpoenas come January.

I take that report as the first specific announcement of the business and Republican counter-offensive against us.  They want to come after us with big meney from big oil to protect their asses (and to hell with Bush--he was very much a secondary thought in this report).

Get ready folks: This is going to get tough and ugly.

by traveler 2006-09-09 03:26PM | 0 recs
Voters Agree about Gridlock

Nearly 67% of Americans , roughly - from the same poll - believe that if Democrats take the house , American government will grind towards gridlock.

This is a canary in the coal mine: Americans do not have any confidence in the democrats, and a defeat in 2006 at the midterm will mean that the party itself is washed up for good.

Why is it, that the elections are only two months away and most democrat candidates still aren't able to provide a coherent platform for change? Not one democrat has really stood up to the greatest problem in our government - the fact that the basis of our representation is no longer the people of the country, but the corporations. And that there is an institution that controls the entire process so completely, that any bill to change that process is defeated at  their hands.  The lobbyists.

No, the polls aren't glowing with happiness for the democrats -


Let the nuanced, intelligent and ever-so-entrenched consultants that time and again return our focus to the "big issues" be heard in their margins of victory predictions of one, two or ten points. Then let it be clearly understood exactly how hungry for change the American people are: if the polls show that they would be comfortable with investigation, at the least report this -


by heyAnita 2006-09-09 03:30PM | 0 recs
What ever happened to lamont

By the way - what ever happened to that person running against lieberman -= ned whatshisname?

Lieberman is ahead as an independent , right?

by heyAnita 2006-09-09 03:32PM | 0 recs
Re: No to Bipartisanship, Yes to Investigations an

I think Democrats should run on "accountability." If a football coach screws up for 6 years in a row, he's held accountable and is fired. If a corporate CEO sees his companies profits go in the red for 6 straight years, he's fired and replaced.

If you or I screw up on the job for several yuears in a row, we're held accountable for that too.

And, if you've hold public office, and your policies have been disasterous, you should be held accounatble too.

Everybody knows what accountability means.

Don;t say: "We're going to investigate Bush." Don't say "Were going tro impeach Bush and Cheneyt."

Just say, Democrats will hold George W, Bsuh and the Repubican party accounbtable for what they've done over the past 6 years. Republicans won't.

The beauty of this message is that it's simple to communicate and it's believable.

It may be hard for voters to believe that Democrats will be able to save social secureity, or improve education, or pass a comprehensive reform to our healthcare system. But they wure as hell will believe us wehn we say we will hold the GOP and Bush "accountable."

Don;t get specific. Let each voter fill in the blanks in his or her own mind what that means. And no matter what a Republican says, no voter will belive him or her if they say they will hold their own party and own President acountable.

In fact, you could say that would be "accountability lite." Why vote for the fake accountability when you can get the real thing in a Democrat.

This is why the Iraq war should be a centerpiece oif every Democratic campaign out there. It's symbolizes Bush's corruption and incompetence.

Then, you pair it with "accountability."

In fact, the whole "accountablity" campaign should be raised to the level of a moral, and patriotic duty. The very essence of democratic and responsible government.

It also has the beuty of being both a netaive attack on yoru opponent, with a "feel good" veneer of civic duty around it.

You're not just voting in November, you're "holding public officials accountable" for their mistakes and bad decisions.

What could be more American than that?

by Hesiod Theogeny 2006-09-09 05:10PM | 0 recs
Conventional Wisdom?
It's like conventional wisdom is an addictive drug, and you're smoking it.

Huh? I believe that the conventional wisdom is making the 2006 elections about national security (Iraq, terrorism). As the RNC has announced, it wants to make the 2006 elections about "Defining the Difference." On the other hand, making the 2006 elections about fixing our broken U.S. political system would enable the Democrats to go "out of bounds" and screw Karl Rove's game plan. The Democrats should not underestimate Rove since he has a formidable track record: instead, think here of asymmetric warfare. [With sixty days to go, anything can happen in politics; Bush's last speech on Iraq is scheduled for September 19 at the United Nations. We will know soon enough whether Rove's plan is working.] More importantly, fixing our broken U.S. political system is in the interest of ALL Americans -- Democrats, Republicans and Independents. Like baseball, apple pie and motherhood, rhetorically how can one not be for Thomas Jefferson and James Madison's pursuit of the common good? Matt Stoller, are you AGAINST the pursuit of the common good? Are you AGAINST fixing our broken U.S. political system? Are you AGAINST restoring the deliberative democracy that was envisioned by our Founding Fathers? Do you think that our Founding Fathers were smoking something?

Whether I am smoking something [well yea <grin>] -- just do the math! On the one hand there is a 47%/41% split on whether Congress should "conduct official investigations into what the Bush administration has done in the past six years;" on the other, 85% of Americans agree that "government should be committed to the common good." If the Democrats could pick and choose their battles, what would YOU choose? [Note that making the 2006 elections about fixing our broken U.S. political system would also innoculate Nancy Pelosi from being demonized.] As you well know, while primary elections are all about winning the base, while general elections are all about winning the swing vote (just ask Ned Lamont). Yes, Bush should be held accountable for his "war of choice" (at the very least, Rahm Emanuel is right that what is needed is Congressional oversight) -- but we should not lose sight that the Democrats first need to win the general elections (which means winning the swing vote).

A New Direction For America
With a firm commitment to honest leadership and tough budget discipline to end record deficit spending, we propose a legislative agenda -- A New Direction -- that unites rather than divides our country. Beginning with our goal of an America that strives for the common good...

Democrats need to keep their eye on the doughnut (general elections) and not on the hole (Iraq). Remember that the American public is ambivalent about the immediate withdrawal from Iraq. Should the Democratic Party be viewed as the anti-war party, I fear that would split the Democratic Party and alienate swing voters such as Independents and disaffected Republicans. This is what Karl Rove is trying to accomplish -- I just hope that the Democrats are not falling into his trap (again!).
by INTP 2006-09-09 07:16PM | 0 recs
$9 billion &quot;lost&quot; in Iraq

When I go canvassing, I ask undecided voters if they'd like to know where that $9 billion went and point out that they never will as long as the Republicans control the Congress. It's an effective pitch for change.

by Jim in Chicago 2006-09-10 08:18AM | 0 recs


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