By Mark Mellman - 05/10/06 12:00 AM EDT
Many are asking the right question of the wrong people. Commentators regularly inquire as to whether Democrats have an “agenda.” That question is better directed to Republicans.
Though fully in control, the GOP is devoid of any vision, ambition or program, offering nothing but drift — a failing effort merely to muddle through. Can anybody really articulate what Republicans hope to achieve?
When Democrats controlled the presidency and the Congress, America got Social Security, Medicare, civil rights, and a balanced budget. What are Republicans offering? In 2005, President Bush proposed massive cuts in Social Security disguised as reform. Stillborn, the proposal no longer gets even rhetorical fealty from Bush and his party. Before this year’s State of the Union, we were led to believe major healthcare reform was in the offing. It wasn’t.
And congressional Republicans? While House Majority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) dithers over whether to call it an “agenda” or a “vision,” it is mighty thin gruel under either label.
Reportedly the “manifesto” claims Republicans “will promote the dignity and future of every individual by securing a free society under limited accountable government that protects our liberty, security and prosperity, for a brighter American dream.” In short, Republicans offer America poorly written pabulum and vacuous platitudes. The GOP cannot even unite behind readable syntax. “Promote the … future of every individual?” What can that possibly mean?
There are “specifics.” Republicans promise “to keep America prosperous; affordable and accessible healthcare; to spend tax dollars wisely; and to strengthen national security and border security.” Gee, why didn’t Democrats think of coming out in favor of prosperity or healthcare or border security?
If Democrats dared call such blather an “agenda,” critics would howl. “What will Democrats actually do?” they would ask.
In this instance, we are actually observing what Republicans will do in real time: nothing. With complete control of the government and prosperity merely a slogan for the squeezed middle class, what have Republicans done? Valiantly struggling to protect oil profits, they have frustrated Democratic attempts to give Americans a gas-tax holiday paid for by a windfall-profits tax on oil companies.
Following Boehner’s agenda, Dr. Frist declared this “Health Week.” His solution: two bills designed to aid insurance companies. One purports to save insurers money on lawsuits but includes no requirement that they pass on any savings. The other repeals state laws that require doctors, not insurance-company bureaucrats, to make medical decisions.
The Doctor Leader ought to be embarrassed. Americans face a healthcare crisis and as a physician the only thing Bill Frist can do is shill for insurance companies with two old bills that he, and we, already know have no chance of passing.
Again it is Democrats with plans: Give every American access to the same coverage members of Congress get and require Medicare to negotiate with drug companies for lower prices.
The GOP prescription for “limited government” is clear, if Orwellian: the biggest spending bills ever and the largest federal deficit in human history.
So it goes through national security and other policy domains. Democrats are offering plans and policies, while Republicans put forward undecipherable nostrums.
Next time somebody complains about Democrats’ not having an agenda, ask them how the dullards in the GOP are using the power they already have to achieve “a brighter American dream.”
Mellman is president of The Mellman Group and has worked for Democratic candidates and causes since 1982, including Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) in 2004.