Monday, November 06, 2006

No Plan Needed...

Sure, the Dems Hate Bush, But Do They Have An Agenda?

Saying nothing about what you might do if you're elected to office is a brilliant political strategy - if you can get away with it.

It has worked in the past - Richard Nixon alluded to a plan to win the Vietnam War throughout the 1968 campaign - and it's working again today.

Nixon capitalized on war angst and stated "new leadership" would ultimately win the war. He never called it his "secret plan." Democrats did. When pressed for details, Nixon offered only a smile and a nod.

Yet it worked. Those who wanted to win the war thought Nixon had a plan to do that. Those against the war thought Nixon had plans to withdraw. With honor. The war lasted another six years.

Fast forward almost four decades and guess what? The "secret plan" is back.
Democrats have secret plans for everything. The war. The economy (an odd thing, really, given that the economy has performed beyond our wildest dreams). Social Security. Immigration. Pick an issue, and a secret plan is in the wings.

You see, most Democratic challengers have stuck hard and fast to their party's strategy: Advance no cohesive agenda, just beat up on President Bush. Period. It's a nationwide ploy that's working, save some glitches here and there.

A Patricia Madrid ad, for example, typifies the strategy, as Heather Wilson mirrors the president and repeats "stay the course" over and over again. Madrid offers nothing in the ad about what she'll do if elected.

When Wilson, during a televised debate, asked Madrid something afield from the master script - you gonna raise taxes, or what? - the tactic backfired a tad. Today Madrid finds herself in a Wilson TV spot looking like an old Talking Heads' lyric: "lights on, nobody's home."

Each makes for great television, and at the end of the day, that's all you need. Good television.
Television's not just campaign ads and Katie Couric. Obviously debates count, too, and New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson wisely passed on them. Richardson had nothing to gain and knew he'd look bad doing anything less than answering questions while drinking a glass of water and spinning plates on sticks.

However, I've believed that just railing against something isn't enough to nationalize an election. After all, when Newt Gingrich created the "Contract for America" in 1994, it gave Republicans something to offer as an alternative to the Democrats they were bashing.

This Tuesday I may well be proved wrong. Democrats may well win back the House and possibly the Senate, based almost entirely on an anti-W strategy.

Nancy Pelosi, Democrat House leader, did say she's anxious to raise taxes. And Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid loves the amnesty-for-illegal-immigrants idea.

But as far as campaigning on their ideas or solutions? Well, aside from almost pathologically hating the president, Democrats don't really have a defined agenda.

One might argue that in today's immediate-gratification-trumps-discernment environment, they don't really need one.


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