NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Democrats' Usual Approach isn't Working This Year

October 23, 2002

This year, Democrats assumed the historical pattern would hold and they would make the usual off-year election gains that fall to the party not in White House. Party leaders didn't put forth an agenda, or fight for election year staples like the minimum wage or tax hikes for the rich. But this year the pattern appears to be changing, and they've been caught off guard.

  • Democratic fundraising has suffered, but party bosses resisted demands to raise hot button issues and didn't oppose the president on Iraq.
  • Now they've suddenly awoken to the predictions of campaign experts that Republicans will likely hold the House and have a good shot at retaking the Senate.
  • In their desperation, Democrats are grabbing for anything that has worked in the past: frightening seniors with non-existent threats Social Security will be abolished and pushing economic scare stories.

The most underhanded effort, says Bruce Bartlett, comes from a Democratic front group called Mainstreet USA, which is running a particularly dishonest ad about Republican economic policies.

  • The premise of the ad is that every bad thing -- lost jobs, falling income, rising poverty and corporate malfeasance -- is George W. Bush's fault, and wouldn't have happened if Al Gore had won.
  • Partisan Democrat economist Paul Krugman has gone so far as to say the last good old days were the 1930s, because income inequality fell thanks to the New Deal -- a preposterous notion given that the income equalizer was the disaster of the Great Depression.

But as Bill Clinton's chief economist, Joseph Stiglitz, writes in this month's Atlantic Monthly, "It would be nice for us veterans of the Clinton Administration if we could simply blame mismanagement by President George W. Bush's economic team...But although there has been mismanagement...the economy was slipping into recession even before Bush took office."

Source: Bruce Bartlett, senior fellow, National Center for Policy Analysis, October 23, 2002.


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