December 19, 2004

More Legislative Tactics

Jeebus. Matt Yglesias is burning down the house on Social Security today. Anyways, this unity theme—Democrats shouldn't give Republicans even a fig leaf of bipartisanship—is important. I wrote a long post about it last week at Mother Jones, but maybe there are a few more points to add. I've never won a legislative battle in my life, so I don't have definitive "advice" here, but it's instructive to note that, in 1994, the Republicans managed to sink health care by turning it into a referendum on Clinton himself. Something similar could very easily be done today: Ruy Teixeira has noted that Bush is personally quite, quite unpopular among independents and moderates. More specifically, the "vital center" is frowning on the president's handling of the economy 58-37. Isn't there an opening here for Democrats to turn Social Security Abolition into a referendum on the president's entire economic worldview?

Meanwhile, Mark Schmitt has a few more lessons from 1994:
It's not that they opposed every initiative or every nominee. Rather, they found the holes and blew them wide open. They didn't oppose the Clinton health plan, for example. They found flaws in the process, or ideas that were not well-developed, and blew them up until they stood for the whole thing. They took control of the agenda by forcing Clinton to defend the weakest points of his -- or other Democrats' -- proposals. They didn't oppose the 1994 crime bill, for example, they just picked at the idea of "midnight basketball" -- a perfectly successful urban crime-prevention strategy that was funded at $1 million a year in the bill -- until most of the rest of the initiative collapsed.
Seems like sound advice. Over the next few months, a lot of dribs and drabs and trial balloons are going to start emerging, long before an actual proposal is settled. Every poorly-developed idea and procedural miscue should, I think, get hammered.
-- Brad Plumer 2:33 PM || ||