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Dems. promise "pithy agenda"

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USA Today reports that the Democrats are working on the 2006 policy agenda -- and it's going to be pithy:

Democratic leaders say they'll soon release a pithy agenda akin to the "Contract with America" that helped Republicans take over Congress in 1994. But the past two weeks underscore the difficulties of setting clear priorities and speaking with one voice.

Seizing the moment offered by President Bush's budget and State of the Union message, Democrats came forward in droves to float dozens of their own ideas and themes. They proposed energy independence in 10 years; universal broadband access in five years; a cleaned up Congress in 100 days; 100,000 new soldiers; 100,000 new engineers, scientists and mathematicians; a 17% tax credit to companies that give health insurance.
It's a good idea to come up with the pithy agenda. But, there better be an even savvier strategy to win that backs up the pithy agenda.

For everyone reviewing the history of how Gingrich led the Republican charge to re-take Congress, it was a long-term political effort accompanied by a short-term policy strategy. The "Contract for America" wasn't launched until late in the campaign of 1994. That didn't come easy for Newt:
Opposition parties typically have trouble coalescing around a single set of ideas. Often they don't even want to. "There's always a reluctance to stand behind a positive agenda for fear it will give ammunition to the other side," says John Pitney, a former House Republican aide who now is a government professor at Claremont McKenna College. He says it took former House speaker Newt Gingrich 14 years to develop the contract that unified his party.
Every day for 14 years, Gingrich and his band of back-benchers challenged the Democratic leadership. They understood that as the minority party, they couldn't do policy, so they did politics. Every day. Hard ball politics. And, eventually, they called him Mr. Speaker.

While the Democratic leaders come up with an agenda, it would be great if a few Democratic Members of Congress actually played politics. Here's an idea, review the Gingrich strategy. Start your own back benchers effort, because, truth be told, most of you -- and your staffs -- aren't really doing policy. Every day challenge the GOP leadership. Play hard ball. It made Gingrich the Speaker.

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