The Democrats have been on the receiving end of a lot of criticism lately, not only from Republicans, but from allegedly objective observers, for failing to come up with their own proposed solutions for various problems currently afflicting the body politic. "You can't beat something with nothing," the complaint goes. It's all very well to complain that the situation in Iraq is a mess, and that President Bush doesn't seem to have any idea what to do about Iran (other than say that its manufacture of nuclear weapons would be "unacceptable"), and that the GOP's disarray on the issue of illegal immigration leaves us with no effective policy there, but where and what are the Democratic alternatives?
These are fair questions, but I cannot persuade myself that the Democrats must be faulted for failing to come up with answers of their own. On the contrary, I think it is strategically wise for the Democrats to leave their responses to them shrouded in ambiguity.
In the first place, it's the Republicans who are running the country, and it's first and foremost their obligation to come up with policies that solve the nation's problems. It would be nice if the Democrats would make constructive suggestions from time to time, which the Republicans could then implement -- and, of course, take credit for implementing. But when a party has controlled the White House and both houses of Congress for nearly eight years, it's pretty hard cheese to demand that its rival come up with ideas to bail it out of trouble. If the Democrats did have any useful ideas, they would no doubt rather implement them themselves.
In the second place, the harsh truth is that the Democrats don't have any very hot ideas. Or, more precisely, they are themselves deeply divided, or at least in grave doubt, about the solution to almost every major problem afflicting the country.
Take Iraq. It's a safe bet that, in a free vote, the delegates to the next Democratic national convention will (like the delegates to the last one, in Boston) long to vote for a prompt bug-out. But their presidential candidate, Hillary Clinton, like her predecessor John Kerry (and, for that matter, such rivals as former Virginia Gov. Mark Warner and John Edwards), knows very well that this would be suicidal. So she is already strapping on her ceremonial sword, planning to swamp the stage with uniforms again, and practicing that snappy Kerry salute. Meanwhile, she reminds everyone that she voted for the invasion, and continues to support the war. What hope is there for a unified Democratic policy on Iraq?
William Rusher is a Distinguished Fellow of the Claremont Institute for the Study of Statesmanship and Political Philosophy and author of How to Win Arguments .
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