Friday, October 29, 2004
I have said repeatedly that Kerry is going to win this election. What I have not talked about it is what we do after he wins. We need to think about this now, because what Kerry says in the last few days of the election has an impact. The most effective Presidents have been the ones who have enunciated a clear agenda before the election and then attempted to implement that agenda after they have won. A lot of candidates avoid specific policy arguments because they think it might lose them the election. But if they don't, they win an election and have no way to govern.
Kerry has wisely made Bush's incompetence the centerpiece of his closing campaign. He needs to take that message and permute it into a positive agenda. I would describe this agenda as a "Restoration"- a restoration of the Clinton policies: fiscal discipline, international cooperation, and an emphasis on human capital investments. The looming fiscal and currency crises have to be confronted without gutting what is left of the social safety net. These issues not only have to be dealt with on the merits, but they are issues that provide and opening the opposition.
I think that, properly structured, this agenda could attract the support of Republicans in Congress. Not the leadership, of course, but the moderates. He should include people like McCain, Shays and the sort in his policy-making process. He should cultivate the few moderate Republicans in the House and Senate. Doing so will enable us to forge a working majority whatever the results on election night. The radcons are going to go ballistic on Kerry, but I think that the mods might be ready to have some influence in the political process again after being treated like bastard step-children the last few years. Right-wing extremism might be a positive benefit in driving the mods toward us. This is not only a reasonable legislative strategy, it will probably attract positive media coverage, send a message that Kerry wants a "national unity government," and also start a civil war in the Republican party. (The last will be a great show- I'll bring the popcorn)
Presidents are most influential with Congress the first few months of their term- they usually get the first couple of things they ask for. Kerry can and should push for his modest health care plan. But his primary emphasis should be on policies in which there is significant overlap between liberals, centrists, and reasonable Republicans. This is not only justifiable on policy grounds, it is also good politics. We can rally a political majority behind sane government and marginalize the extreme right. Which is where they belong.
On an unrelated note, I want it on the record that I never liked Rudy Giuliani.