Unfucking the Donkey

Advice for weary, wandering Democrats

Let's talk about Social Security.

The most glorious thing about congressional Democrats is that they have drawn the line and said: No further. Don't. Touch. Social. Security. It is a heroic stand. What's more, it's been enormously politically effective.

Now think about this: They are drawing on the capital of an entitlement passed 70 years ago.

They'll be drawing on the capital from Medicare 35 years from now. Congressional Democrats won't let them kill it. Because they understand: These programs make life in America fundamentally better. And because these gooses, Social Security, Medicare, lay golden eggs. They manufacture Democrats.

It is the duty of every generation of Democrats to produce new geese to lay 70 years of golden eggs. It is the only way our party has grown—as Bill Kristol puts it, by reviving the reputation of the Democrats as the generous protector of middle-class interests. They know they're screwed if we're credible in our pledge to deliver new kinds of power to ordinary people in their every day lives.

Democratic congressmen can do that, for example, by making a credible collective pledge that if you vote Democrat enough you will never pay another medical bill as long as you live. You really think people wouldn't stop voting Republican then?

It makes a virtuous circle. The most important exit poll finding from last year's election was not about moral values. It was all the people who said they disagreed with Bush on the issues, but they were voting for him anyway because they knew what he stood for.

What I call "superjumbos"—grand policy commitments that span generations—add value by the very credibility of the commitment.

It isn't any accident that not raising taxes is a pledge every Republican makes, on pain of political death. It has not hurt them even though, according to Stanley Greenberg's polls, only 30 percent of Americans call high taxes a very serious problem.

To complete the circle—in the same poll 77 percent called "the state of health care in America" a serious problem.

Remember when Dick Morris used to tell President Clinton that he couldn't afford not to be on the side of any issue supported by 60 percent of Americans? Paul Krugman reported a poll that 72 percent of Americans favor "government-guaranteed health insurance for all."

Guaranteed. Health Insurance. For All. Not, as I found it formulated on the website of even one of the most liberal senators, "access to affordable health insurance."


Not easy.

So Democrats, let's get to work.

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