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Democrats Need to Offer Voters Hope, Not Rove-Fed Fear

Karl Rove is back outlining political strategy for a party in disarray. The architect of President Bush’s successful victories in 2000 and 2004, and the Republican Party’s electoral strategists, would have you believe that the 2008 election is in the bag. Karl sounds more like a magician hoping to pull out a rabbit than the brilliant architect who built a party with duct tape and fear.

[IMGCAP(1)]It sounds like the Architect needs to go back to the drawing board. The house of cards he built based on the legitimate fears of the American people after the horrific attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, was knocked down by the American people in 2006 when they said they wanted to end the war in Iraq, raise the minimum wage and fix our economy so that it honors working people again.

They also said, by their strong support of Democratic Congressional candidates in so-called “red districts” carried by Bush in 2004, that they wanted a different party, with a different set of values and different leaders to make those changes. It’s time Karl and those watching his every word to listen to what voters heading to a polling booth or caucus site near you are saying: change, change, change.

And I suspect they really want Democrats to start making those changes now.

If the Republicans, who are still fearful that their coalition of Christian evangelicals, fiscal conservatives, Hispanics and independents are underwhelmed by their choices in 2008, decide to run the next election based on fear, Democrats will be in a position to run the tables in ALL the people’s houses. Voters know that the Republican Party had eight years to get this right and that they failed. They failed on the economy, they failed on fixing the health care system and they failed to follow through on their promises to drastically improve children’s health and well-being.

Voters will decide if it’s time to give them all a nice, long vacation.

The Democratic Party must now position itself as the party of, by, and for the future. And the leaders on Capitol Hill have a golden opportunity to help lead the way. Just look at the most recent Democracy Poll where it was clear voters are prepared to back Democrats on taxes and the economy. They trust Democrats will make the system fair for all and they are not in a mood to wait.

So my message to Democrats on the Hill and those running for president is as follows: Throw away the old textbook written by Karl Rove that has guided party strategy since 2001. It is time for Democrats to lead again — not a country based on fear but one that faces it.

Whether the voters decide that it’s time to place a woman in charge, an African-American in charge or the son of a millworker in charge, the party’s nominee will once again build an America we can all be proud of.

Starting with the economic stimulus package being crafted with bipartisan interest, Democrats can lead the way by helping to jump- start an ailing economy and put some much needed cash in the hands of millions of Americans now worried about their own personal finances. People are deeply worried out there. They can’t see beyond the red ink staring at them on their credit card and heating bills. They are worried about the record foreclosure rates and what the wild ride on Wall Street means to people who live closer to Main Street.

Democrats can proudly tell voters that they helped to bring an end to the war by continuing to talk about plans to get out. They must remind voters that the troops have completed the mission that led them into combat, they have done their job in curtailing some of the violence and some of the areas around Baghdad have become more secured. But the purpose of the surge was to get a political solution — it has not happened and it will not until we start leaving.

Democrats can proudly tell voters that they will continue to honor the nearly 1.7 million men and women who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan by taking care of them and their families once the wars have ended. This administration, with Karl’s input, got everything wrong about this war. The Democrats will get the homecoming right and will keep America safe and secure.

The Democratic majority cannot wait for the nominee to emerge from a contested primary to help lead and frame the debate. The Democrats on the Hill, including every committee and subcommittee chair, and their entourage of staff and consultants, can start the drum beat now. Speak up!

The Democratic majority has racked up some impressive victories since their takeover in ’06, including a minimum wage increase, implementation of the 9/11 commission’s recommendations and successful passage of the largest-ever increase in veterans health care. Some of the victories have been pyrrhic.

The 2006 election was a change election, and 2008 is shaping up to be as well.

Democrats cannot continue to be thwarted by Republican opposition or Karl’s magical thinking. Sometimes you have to stir things up. The country should know that Democrats are marshalling resources to produce affordable health care, a vibrant economy and a country that respects civil liberties. The country should know that it’s Republicans who aren’t letting that happen. The country should also know Rove and others are banking on using their old political playbook, including using their old tricks that divide and deceive voters on major issues facing the nation.

If this election is about the future, Democrats will win. If Rove and others try to make this election about terror and fear, we’ll clean house.

Donna Brazile, the campaign manager for Democratic presidential nominee Al Gore in 2000, runs her own grass-roots political consulting firm.

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