Three men and a party.

Notes from the political sidelines.
Oct. 6 2005 11:43 AM

Three Men and a Party

At last, Democrats get a clue.

80_thehasbeen

Thursday, Oct. 6, 2005

Triple Play: If you asked my fellow Democrats in Washington to name the three best things that have happened to their party in the past month, most would say: 1) Tom DeLay's indictment; 2) the conservative crackup over Harriet Miers; and 3) yesterday's indictment of ex-White House aide and Abramoff pal David Safavian, coupled with swirling rumors that much bigger fish will soon be indicted in the Plame case.

Wrong answers! All three highlights from the Republicans' Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Week were great fun for my side to watch, but they merely give Democrats an opening. We can't indict our way back to the majority. The jury we have to convince is the American people.

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The best Democratic news this past week is that three of the party's rising stars showed that they are tired of a strategy that depends on the other side falling to pieces.

On Sunday, Tim Russert was gobsmacked to discover that when he asked his usual showstopper, "But what are the Democratic ideas?", Illinois congressman and ex-has-been Rahm Emanuel actually had an answer.

Rahm could have said, "Three things: Convict DeLay. Filibuster Miers. Stick pins in our voodoo dolls of George Bush and Karl Rove." Instead, he spelled out five real ideas: making college universal, demanding a budget summit, cutting energy dependence in half with a hybrid economy, creating a science and technology institute to rival NIH, and making health care universal over the next 10 years.

You might have your own ideas, but that's the point—when you listen to a Democrat with ideas, you don't fall into a deep funk or get hungry again half an hour later. (Full disclosure: Rahm Emanuel is my best friend in Congress, and next to him, I am his biggest promoter.)

You're Hired: If you do have a new idea, Andy Stern and the Service Employees International Union just created a platform for it. This week, Stern launched a Web site called www.sinceslicedbread.com, which will host a nationwide competition over the next two months to find the best new idea to promote economic opportunity for ordinary people.

The winner will receive a prize of $100,000; two runners-up will win $50,000. In the past, Democrats only gave that kind of money to consultants who had no ideas. Now everybody has an incentive to solve the country's problems.

Wherever it leads, the competition itself is such a great idea that Fox and the other networks must be kicking themselves for not coming up with it. Real people going head to head in a cross between the Nobel Prize and American Idol. It's just what Democrats need: reality thinking.

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