So where are the Democrats amid this GOP disarray? Frankly, they are nowhere. They are failing utterly in the role of an opposition party, which is to provide a coherent alternative account of how the nation might solve its problems. Rather than lead a responsible examination of America's strategy for Iraq, they have handed off the debate to a distraught mother who is grieving for her lost son. Rather than address the nation's long-term fiscal problems, they have decided to play politics and let President Bush squirm on the hook of his unpopular plan to create private Social Security accounts.His column is well worth reading just for his description of Joe Biden.
Because they lack coherent plans for how to govern the country, the Democrats have become captive of the most shrill voices in the party, who seem motivated these days mainly by visceral dislike of George W. Bush. Sorry, folks, but loathing is not a strategy -- especially when much of the country finds the object of your loathing a likable guy.
We all know what the Democrats don't like about Bush. But can you name what their proposals are for Social Security, immigration, health care, fighting terrorism, education, tax reform, Iran, North Korea, energy prices, or any more of a host of issues?
The problem is that comparied to campaigning, governing is hard. You have to make tough decisions every day. And, by definition, tough decisions usually involve choosing between two bad alternatives. There isn't some ideal solution for every problem out there. You need to make tradeoffs. And tradeoffs end up ticking one group of people off no matter what you decide to do.
Ignatius recommends that the Democrats come up with their own "Contract with America" to let Americans know what they would do if they came into power. Well, even the original Contract with America didn't really make hard choices. It was mostly a clever packaging of focus group-tested ideas that would appeal to the public. Except for the welfare reform ideas few of their proposals involved ideas that would anger a large proportion of the public. Once they got into power, they found that making decisions on budget cuts would indeed involve making unpopular decisions.
So, of course the Democratic Party is not going to follow Ignatius's suggestion. But, in pursuing the politically easy path of carpet-bombing the GOP with criticism, they're leaving themselves wide open to columns like his that point out how hollow their stands are.