Monday, May 16, 2005

Back to Social Security

Our good friends over at the laughable Social Security Choice have excerpted the latest Wall Street Journal editorial, purporting once more that it protects the idea of private accounts as unassailably right.

The editorial claims that Democratic Florida Representative Robert Wexler is the first Democrat to propose an alternative to the President's ideas for Social Security. Did you catch that? The President's ideas for Social Security. They've abandoned the whole "plan" nomenclature, since there hasn't been a plan put forth yet.

The most common complaint that I hear from Republicans about Democrats is that they don't put out any ideas themselves. They argue that the Democratic Party is only held together by hatred for Republicans and opposition to their policies. I say that's nonsense.

Since when is principled opposition a bad thing? The Democrats like the idea of Social Security. The Republicans don't. At this point, given a choice between the current system and the vague "ideas" proposed by the President, the Democrats have made clear that they'd rather have the current system. There certainly are fixes needed, as there have been throughout the years, but at this point the important fight is to preserve the system in a way which will eventually allow it to be fixed.

To claim that the liberal ideology is simply reactive to the conservative ideology, with no principles and ideals of its own, is not only insulting but blatantly untrue. There's a lot more subtle battle going on here than the political battles on the Hill. The battle of rhetoric, of framing the debate, is fought on a near-constant basis, and the Democrats are losing ground to the Republicans quickly on that front.

Democratic leaders need to get out there and talk not only about their opposition to the President's ideas, but about their own views independent of the Republicans' positions. If they honestly believe that Social Security should be saved, then they should be more aggressive about not allowing Republicans to define them. They should be more ardent in saying that they support Social Security, rather than emphasizing their opposition to the President's "plan."

Only by explicitly defining their views will the Democrats be able to prove wrong the Republicans' claims that the Democrats exist only to oppose them.