(7 of 9)
All the above would create jobs, unlike Bush's rather indirect and speculative tax cuts, and they would have some social "security" benefits as well. But none are ideas to stir the soul. Democrats haven't done much soul stirring since the Kennedy era--and they haven't spent much time courting young people since then, either. (Their fixations on prescription drugs for the elderly and leaving Social Security alone are utter losers with nongraybeards.) If the Democrats want to think romantic as well as big, the obvious area is the environment. Several of the candidates have proposed dour, incremental "energy-independence" schemes that feature many of the worthy, ho-hum notions of years past--conservation, fuel-efficiency standards and the like. But the fun part of the environment is gizmos. The President, a gizmo kind of guy, embraced the hydrogen car. The Democrats could do that and more--nuclear fusion, wind power, digital interstate highways (a computer chip in your car locks you in at 70 m.p.h. a safe distance from the cars in front of and behind you). Whatever. The key is to have at least one issue on which the candidate is free to dream, think big, tap the national spirit of adventure in a way that doesn't involve Abrams tanks. My guess is that enthusiasm is contagious. A candidate who sounds stoked about the environment will have an easier time selling less inspirational issues like health insurance.
There wasn't much romance in campaign-finance reform, either, but John McCain managed to make it into a rollicking adventure in 2000. McCain was a brash, confident, unfettered candidate. The Democrats have been too frightened--scared that their belief in government, in larger public purposes, could be twisted into public perversity by the Republicans--to even attempt fizziness, to say nothing of brashitude. This lack of confidence has shriveled the Democrats. They run for office in shackles of their own making.
STEP THREE Kill the Consultants
In the spring of 2000, Al Gore hired a new--it seemed his umpteenth--team of political consultants. They asked him what he cared about most, as consultants always do. He said the environment. They told him the environment was nice, but it wouldn't win him any more electoral votes than he already had. They gave him a list of issues that might win a few crucial states. Gore followed their advice. "They ran about 26 different Senate races rather than a presidential campaign," says John Podesta, Clinton's former chief of staff. "They won more votes than the Republicans, but they lost something too. They gave up having Gore look like a President."