Every Great Offense Starts With a Good Defense
One of the many great articles in The Best American Political Writing - 2005 is a piece by John Heilemann of New York magazine. In King Karl, the author examines the political machinations, motivations, and intellect of none other than White House Deputy Chief of Staff and Political Advisor Karl Rove. Although Rove's power(s) and abilities have grown to myth-like status, especially in Democratic circles, his ability to think and plan strategically have to be admired by politicians across the spectrum.
Heilemann makes the important point that, although Rove is generally lumped in with the "true believers" (i.e. the President, Ashcroft, Cheney, etc.) with in the GOP, he is actually much more of a pragmatic thinker and actor than most residents of Blue states would like to believe. For example, on Social Security, although Rove was obviously disappointed the President's ideas have failed, he recognizes that by virtually forcing the Democrats to unite against the proposal, he has "wedded (Democrats) to the past instead of the future - and that's not a good place to be in American politics."
So what's the lesson? It's obviously not that Democrats should have allowed the President to go forward with the dismantling of social security. Rather, it's that now that Democrats have won, for all intensive purposes, the battle on social security, we must build a positive vision for the future and retake the "mantle of idealism" that Rove claims the Republican party has stolen away. This vision cannot be a laundry list of different policies, which can easily be dismissed as "more of the same." If it is, we fail. Instead, it should be a broadly outlined "opportunity society" where each individual, no matter their race, sexual orientation, class, or creed, has a real opportunity to succeed. It should be a society in which the playing field is level for all and competition in pursuit of the greater good is promoted.
Beating back the President's plan for dismantling Social Security provided Democrats with an incredible opportunity to present the country with a new vision for our new united future. However, that opportunity will have been lost if our leaders continue to defend the past, without speaking to the future, to the ideal, to what American could and should be.