Before any cabinet secretaries are selected, before statehouse leadership positions are filled, before any bills are authored, it seems to me Democrats (ie. Obama, congressional/state legislative leaders) must answer a major strategic question: Do they go the incrementalist route, or do they go big? As I say in my syndicated newspaper column today, the answer should be clear for both policy and political reasons: They have to Go Big.
It's easy to see this necessity as a matter of policy. The crises we face on health care, trade, national security and energy simply cannot be solved - or even dented - with small-bore measures.
As a matter of politics, Going Big is also an imperative - though, thanks to the elite media's incessant "center-right nation" lie and D.C.'s corporate-funded Mandate Manipulation Machine preaching "centrism" (read: corporatism), it may be hard for naturally weak-kneed Democratic politicians to initially see this truism.
The fact is, Democrats across the country now no longer have a Republican scapegoat to blame inaction or half-measure disappointments on.
President Obama, Speaker Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid will be rightly laughed at by the media and the public if, after a mandate-creating landslide election, they attempt to claim that the remaining demoralized Republicans are too powerful to overcome on issues that have broad majority support like universal health care, getting out of Iraq, reforming our trade laws and green-ifying our energy economy.
Likewise, 17 states are Democratic trifectas (ie. Democrats control both chambers of the legislature and the governorship). Democrats in these places can neither blame Washington for their failures because Washington is now controlled by Democrats, nor can they blame Republicans in their own states for paralysis, especially because Republican state legislators don't have filibuster power.
The public believes it voted for aggressive progressive change on Tuesday - it doesn't believe it voted for Establishment thumb-twiddling. And because the emergencies we're dealing with now are so huge, no amount of charisma, salesmanship or spin will be able to effectively package do-nothingism or half-measures as the far-reaching change that was promised in the 2008 campaign. Democrats are going to have to deliver real results if they want to stay in power - results that every American can easily identify and feel. Because (and I hope even an old-school incrementalist like Rahm Emanuel can see this) if they don't deliver, or worse, they try to pretend that weak legislation is hugely transformative, the prospect of a 1980 or 1994 backlash is significant.
The column relies on grassroots support, so if you'd like to see my column regularly in your local paper, use this directory to find the contact info for your local editorial page editors. Get get in touch with them and point them to my Creators Syndicate site. Thanks, as always, for your ongoing readership and help contacting local editors. This column couldn't be what it is without your help.