New rule for Democrats: Don’t repeat GOP mistakes |

New rule for Democrats: Don’t repeat GOP mistakes

Kirk Caraway

I watch with amusement and fear as Democrats rejoice at the plummeting poll numbers of George W. Bush.

There is still this idea among leading Democrats that if they just keep their mouths shut, the Republicans will self-destruct during this midterm election year and hand over control of Congress.

Keep dreaming.

Just because Americans don’t like the direction the Republicans are driving this country doesn’t mean they will vote for the backseat drivers who will not say where they want to go.

In that spirit, and with apologies to comedian Bill Maher, let me offer some new rules for Democrats.

New Rule: You can’t criticize Republican policies without offering an alternative. It’s easy to just take swings at “The Decider” and his cronies. Yes, they are making comedy so effortless that nearly anyone could work “The Tonight Show.” But that doesn’t mean people would vote for Jay Leno.

Negative campaigns have worked so well for so long that politicians have forgotten that leadership is still about accomplishing something positive.

New Rule: Just because Bush’s approval ratings are at 32 percent doesn’t mean the people want you to impeach him and make Dick Cheney president. Or, if you make this a double-impeachment party, I doubt they want Nancy Pelosi sitting in the Oval Office, either.

In the wake of the disasters created by Katrina, the war in Iraq, domestic spying, out-of-control spending, rising gas prices, etc., Democrats SHOULD be talking about investigations, accountability, even censure. But suggesting we overthrow an elected president doesn’t sit well with most voters. The current trampling of the Constitution notwithstanding, we are not some banana republic. Democrats have an opportunity to show America they are above seeking revenge for Bill Clinton’s impeachment.

New Rule: Accept your share of the blame. Yes, you can make a case how Republicans are mostly to blame for all of this mess. But just like in grade school, if you get into a fight, you both go to the principal’s office, no matter who started it.

There is plenty of blame to go around. Want to complain about Iraq? Why weren’t Democrats standing up before the war? Medicare drug plan? How many Democrats voted for that piece of crap? Budget deficits? Energy prices? You get the picture.

Do something that Bush will not do: Accept your share of responsibility for what has gone wrong in this country, and vow to make it better. You can’t fix the mistakes unless you admit you made them in the first place. Bush may never learn that lesson, but Democrats can.

New Rule: Talk about the war. This is the No. 1 reason Bush’s numbers are in the tank. If Democrats can’t come up with any better plan of action, you lose. People will opt for bad leadership over no leadership at all.

The mess in Iraq has no easy solutions, and perhaps there are no solutions we can offer that will work. But Democrats have to engage the issue. Democrats need to get together, formulate a policy that most can live with, and start leading. If they simply hunker down in fear that those bad old Republicans will call them cowards, then they will be, well, cowards. And voters can smell cowardice without someone pointing it out.

And finally, one last New Rule: It’s consensus, stupid. Polls show that people hate Congress more than they hate Bush. Why? The biggest reason (44 percent) is partisanship. America is tired of the Bickering Bickersons.

When you take a look at this country, one third are hardcore liberals, and another third are hardcore conservatives. These forces continually battle over the one third in the middle, hoping to pull them to one side or the other. That strategy may win you power for the short term, but as we have seen with both the Republicans today and the Democrats a decade earlier, you can’t maintain that grip on power for long by ignoring the other two-thirds of the country.

It’s time to work together. Forget the wedge issues, the votes staged to create campaign ammunition and all the other tricks of the trade. Democrats (and Republicans) need to look for compromises that include their foes and those independents in the middle, creating balanced policies that serve everyone.

That doesn’t mean Democrats should abandon their core principles and move to the right, like so many have already done. A successful America is one that is balanced between left and right. The ship tips over if everyone moves to one side.

Democrats have a right to be excited about their chances in this election. But they need to remember the ultimate goal isn’t winning elections. It’s about making the country better.