Leaders of the Democratic Party in Congress – Nancy Pelosi in the House and Charles Schumer in the Senate – and their members are saying they are eager to take to the 2018 campaign field to blast away at the Republicans’ tax “reform” plan.
And indeed, there’s much not to like and yes, to fear about the GOP’s just-passed plan, which cuts taxes for the wealthy and dramatically for corporations and includes some temporary middle-class cuts that are relatively paltry – and in fact set to expire. The plan also will drive up the deficit by $1.5 trillion, deepening the debt that ultimately will have to be paid by the grandchildren and great-grandchildren of those who are getting the “breaks.”
But though Democrats for federal and state office are calling the Republican cuts a “recipe for disaster” and forecasting a Republican move to dramatically cut Social Security and Medicare in the name of reducing deficits and balancing national budgets in the future, the party of Franklin Roosevelt, who saved the country from financial ruin and even from a potential revolution, must do better than vent its anger at Republicans in the coming election.
For one thing, Democrats have never been good at “negative” campaigns. They’ve succeeded when they’ve put forward progressive plans for social programs that help people, for a fair tax system, for a hopeful, conciliatory vision – the opposite of the slash-and-burn politics of Donald Trump, for example, whose political mantra seems to be “keep shooting at your enemies – and call them enemies of the country, too – and then reload.”
So Pelosi and Schumer better come up with something other than criticisms of Republican programs. They owe the American people programs of their own, with vision and practical good sense, from a tax plan that’s more equitable to a health-care plan that will have bipartisan appeal and build on the popularity of the Affordable Care Act (ironically, getting more popular even as Republicans continued to chip away at it) without relying on it and it alone.
One of the keys to FDR’s success was his clear-eyed vision, and his fortitude in sticking with it, not allowing his plans or himself to be picked apart by naysayers, and in his ability to take his programs to the American people, trading only on their hopes and not exploiting their fears.
Ultimately, in 2018 and thereafter, the people will decide between the Democratic and Republican visions on Election Days to come. But both parties first have to define a vision.