Here is my Intercollegiate Studies Institute intern Brian Sopp's take on the Democratic agenda announced last week. I would phrase some of this differently myself, but I do think the agenda was pretty thin gruel. But I think we have to admit that it's hard for an opposition party to come up with an agenda and that it's particularly difficult for the Democratic Party, which throughout its history has tended to be more heterogeneous and fissiparous than the Republican Party:
Democrats in Congress launched a new platform this week entitled "A New Direction for America." They hope that this new platform will help them win the 15 seats they need in the House and the six seats needed in the Senate to gain a majority.
"Trying to promote Democrats as belonging to a party of ideas, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi is pushing a laundry list of domestic proposals she says Congress will immediately pass if Democrats regain the majority next year," the Chicago Tribune reports. ";'It's something we can do in the first week of Congress,' she said, though she rejected the inevitable comparison to Republicans' Contract With America, which was unveiled weeks before the GOP won control of the House in 1994."
However, there are two interesting aspects of this "new" plan that the Democratic leadership hasn't shared.
First off, it took them eight months to put this "comprehensive" plan together. The Washington Post reported in March that the Democrats had planned to unveil their platform in November 2005 and then again in January. However, "the new date slipped twice again, and now House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (Calif.) says the document will be unveiled in 'a matter of weeks.';" Those weeks turned into months.
Why has this plan taken so long to develop? Because it is very difficult to chart a "New Direction" without any new ideas. Just take a look at the six-point plan:
1) "Make health care more affordable." I think I remember a healthcare plan in the '90s working out real well for Hillary Rodham Clinton. And what happened to universal healthcare?
2) "Lower gas prices and achieve energy independence." Can we say ANWR?
3) "Help working families." Translated: raising the minimum wage and raising taxes (which both actually hurt the American worker).
4) "Cut college costs." This is an effort to capitalize on the anger caused by the cuts in student aid in the president's 2006 budget proposal. The only problem for Democrats is that education access is not a "new" idea. Furthermore, students don't vote.
5) "Ensure dignified retirement." This includes preserving Social Security in its current form. A program started in 1935that's new.
6) "Require fiscal responsibility." Translation: raise taxes. With all the people they are promising money, that will be their only option.
In short, the "New Direction" being touted by the Democrats is not new at all.