Column: Get back to policy

By Matt Simmons

With the Republican Party in trouble because of a bloody war, an unpopular president and soaring energy prices, you would think that the Democratic Party would use this opportunity to persuade the American people to support its agenda. But the party has decided to focus on uncovering Republican scandals instead, partly because it lacks such an agenda. In recent months, Democrats have tried to tie Deputy Chief of Staff Karl Rove, House Majority Leader Tom Delay, R-Texas, and Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn., to corruption.

I am sure Delay is a crook and has done his share of shady dealings, but I agree with Delay when he said the Democrats are on a corruption witch hunt. Honestly, I couldn’t care less how Delay and other congressmen fund their campaigns. There are worse things in the world than breaking campaign finance laws. If you check out the website of the Democratic National Committee, you will see that there is an entire section dedicated to the “Republican culture of corruption.” I did not see one single policy suggestion on their website. I am sure there are many members of Congress on both sides of the aisle that have done the same things Daley is accused of.

If Democrats want to attack Republicans, they should attack their policies and not individual Republicans. The national Democratic Party needs to turn its attention away from Republicans and focus on making good public policy. As the dominant center-left party in the country, they should instead be concentrating on working with the Republican majority to reform education, fight poverty and contain rising healthcare costs.

As former Democratic Senator Zell Miller pointed out, the Democratic Party is no longer a national power. The party needs a complete overhaul. I am not advocating that Democrats should move to the right or to the left, but they need to show some spine and support sound policies. They also need a clear consistent message to send to the American people to battle the “compassionate conservatism” of the Republican Party.

I understand that it is hard for the Democrats, considering that Republicans control both houses of Congress and the Presidency. They might not be able to move forward with any of their policy ideas. However, they could at least tell us what they would do differently if they were in charge of the country.

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The Illinois Republican Party is in the same situation as the national Democratic Party. They are in the minority of both houses of the state legislature, and most of the major executive offices are held by Democrats. Their voice in policy-making has been diminished. Yet instead of working to rebuild their party based on its policies, it has chosen to try to win back the seats through wild accusations and bounties.

In July, Cook County Republican Chairman Gary Skoien offered $10,000 in exchange for Mayor Daley’s indictment in a corruption probe. GOP gubernatorial candidate and State Senator Steve Rauschenberger, R-22nd., and other state Republicans are accusing Governor Blagojevich of giving jobs in return for campaign funds. I have no idea what Illinois Republicans stand for. Again, I know there are Illinois Republicans that have participated in illegal or corrupt practices. It looks like minority parties are becoming increasingly bitter and are moving away from policy to concentrate on personal attacks and witch hunts. Maybe that explains why they are out of power.

I do not want to give the impression that corruption should be tolerated. I think government works best when jobs are given on merit and everyone follows the campaign rules. But politicians should not make it their priority to accuse their opposition of corruption when our country needs them to find solutions to real problems. They have enough to worry about with deficits, wars and natural disasters. Prosecutors should make accusations and indictments. Politicians should stick to making public policy.

Matt Simmons is a senior in LAS. His column appears every Thursday. He can be reached at [email protected].