Although many Democrats will likely never emerge from their post-election catatonia, those who do must either face the growing need to redefine their party's platform or reconcile themselves to the fate of history's many dodo birds. Radicals can continue to insist that the war in Iraq is doomed to failure, that Bush's pro-growth economic policy is merely a conspiracy to enrich mega corporations, or that Social Security is fine as it is, but it is difficult to imagine many congressional seats being won two years from now unless such viewpoints are shoved to the fringe of the Democratic Party.
With successful elections in Iraq, when even old Europe is beginning to rally behind U.S. policy in the Middle East, Democrats who are continuing to cast bizarre projections of Vietnam-like quagmires, civil war, and rising terrorism appear to be losing what little connection they had with reality. Indeed, considering that the President's spirited policies have left a wake of democracy and peace amid a sea of Islamic fundamentalism and terror (not to mention the historic peace now ensuing between the Israelis and Palestinians), it is perhaps time that Democratic moderates make their own peace with the administration, or at least distance themselves from their comrades' political suicide.
The success of the president's policy of tax cuts and deregulation suggests the Democrats' progressive 1940s-style tax-and-spend platform might be ill conceived. In spite of the burst of the dot-com bubble, corporate scandals, and the attacks of September 11, the Bush administration saw not only an addition of more than one hundred thousand jobs, but also robust recovery in equity markets, corporate profits, cap-ex spending, and, just released for 2003, growth of more than 5.4 percent in the domestic private sector. Apparently there's more than a trickle in trickle-down economics.
In his State of the Union address, the President vowed to continue his successful foreign and domestic policies in spite of heated opposition from the Democratic Party. The focus on the partial privatization and reform of Social Security along with possible tax and Medicare/Medicaid reform bodes well for the reduction of big government and the doomed welfare state while promising expansion of an ownership society, all of which run contrary to the Democratic agenda.
Rather than staking out a viable alternative to the President's vision, many Democrats charge the administration with using distortion and scare tactics to advance an ideologically charged agenda. With regard to Social Security, those who actually acknowledge the pressing need for reform generally suggest something along the lines of eliminating the cap on payroll taxes, thereby resolving unfunded liabilities with the largest tax increase in history. This is precisely the type of drastic recourse that reform is meant to avoid. It is doubtless an odd sort of scare tactic that is required to convince people to accept modification of a program which demands a whopping 12.4 percent payroll tax while promising only a one percent return (if any) when the only other alternative is massive taxation. One begins to wonder if it truly is the President who is motivated by a dangerous and un-American ideology.
As it stands, Democrats clearly retain the political clout to stall much of the administration's proposed legislation in the senate and preserve their beloved New Deal- and Great Society-era programs, but the larger question remains whether by continuing to support a platform of big government, centralized planning and wealth redistribution, the Democratic Party will remain a significant force in the future of American politics.