Stories by Michael Waldman

  • Democrats Don't Need A New Message--They Need Ideas

    Democrats may not be able to win elections, but we still are world-class recriminators, as will be evident in coming days. But nearly all the pointed fingers will miss their aim.Calls to "turn left!" or "turn right!" lead to blind alleys. Democrats don't need a new "message." Tactics are overrated. The candidates were just fine. No, Democrats lacked something far more fundamental--a compelling policy agenda. The party charged into battle without a set of proposals that addressed big issues. Sure, Democrats should get tough, and a spell in the minority will give them no choice. But bold opposition requires strong policies. As Adlai Stevenson said at another time of GOP dominance: "What counts is not so much what you're against as what you're for."Lock 10 prominent (or not so prominent) Democrats in a room and give them each a piece of paper. Ask them to write down what they would do if they had power--great goals, not constrained by political reality. Very likely, the answers would...
  • The Rising Dropout Rate

    Should we be worried about the dropout problem?I DON'T MEAN teenagers in a failing urban high school. It's political parties that have the real problem. In recent weeks, two high-profile politicians have flamed-out spectacularly. Sen. Robert Torricelli's abrupt withdrawal from his re-election race came soon after Andrew Cuomo quit the New York Democratic gubernatorial primary last month. These dropouts represent a new phenomenon: candidates who fold after reading bad poll results. Far beyond the pyrotechnics of the New Jersey race, this trendlet could transform the way candidates run for office. In the long run, it may represent the next and latest step in the degradation of American politics. Yet, at the same time, it could help force the revival of something we have needed for a long time: strong parties. First, the short run: Torricelli's announcement was an instant kitsch classic. He was mesmerizingly bad--grandiose, self-obsessed and in total denial about the root causes of his...