A fresh look at the national agenda from two of the most invigorating voices in the Democratic Party
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The trouble with politics today is that both parties are more consumed with solving their own political problems than with solving the country's real ones. The Republican playbook for the post 9/11 world is to make Americans fear Democrats and terrorists as twin threats to the nation's security. In their own way, many Democrats have bought into Karl Rove's logic that the great challenge of our time is not reality, but politics. Instead of looking for answers to the country's problems, we hired consultants to look for slogans. We cursed Rove for wrecking the country, then longed for handlers who could keep up with his playbook. On both sides of the aisle, the political debate sank to a new low: Ask not what your country can do for you, ask focus groups what they want you to do for them.
Republicans find themselves trapped in the limbo of Bush's "compassionate conservatism," unsure at any given moment whether government should expand or contract. Democrats are the party of second opinions, wandering from one pathologist to the next. Consultants tell Democrats to talk more about God; bloggers tell them to talk trash about Bush; self-help books urge them to use their words, rediscover their values, and stand and fight for what they used to believe in.
We've spent much of our careers telling Democrats how to win. But in our view, that is the right answer to the wrong question. The politics of the Bush era, on both sides of the aisle, is based on a mistaken premise. America is not a partisan prize or a political project. Without a map to the challenges of the new era, all political roads lead to ruin.
The Plan is a draft of the new conditions, new requirements, and new terms that this new era will demand. We offer Americans a new bargain: more of the opportunity and security we remember, in return for more responsibilities that for too long we forgot. This new bargain includes a whole new approach to education, a radically different kind of tax code, a new stake in the economy and a dynamic new set of opportunities and guarantees, and a new set of individual, civic, and public responsibilities.
To secure this new bargain, we will need a new politics. A public debate that continues to duck the nation's hardest questions is just wasting time America no longer has. We invite Republicans and Democrats alike to steal our formula: There is nothing wrong with America--or either party--that can't be set right by finding the courage and ideas to solve our country's greatest problems.
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