Democrats suffering Beyeritis on death tax  

By Paul Goldman

Goldman, the Rebel With A Cause, was chief political strategist for the past two winning Democratic governors in Virginia and was credited with leading a "revolution in American politics" by The New York Times for his role in breaking America's 300-year-old color barrier in national politics. He alone will be responsible for his column, ideas, and opinions.

Democrats need to learn from Beyer's mistake -- we all make them -- and Reagan's success -- he lost a few himself before winning the big one.

    Right now, Governor Warner and the Democrats in the General Assembly
are in the right pew, but reciting the wrong prayer, on the Estate Tax fight.

      Strategically, they seem to be following the Beyer 1997 strategy.

          For those who have forgotten, Beyer FIRST said the Car Tax cut
was "fiscally irresponsible" and then SECOND offered up a Car Tax Lite alternative
that he said was more affordable; and then THIRD, moved back and forth from
each position.

          By making the SECOND argument, BEYER undercut the credibility of his FIRST ARGUMENT. But by arguing for a more "responsible" tax cut, he played the game on Gilmore's political turf.

           If you have followed the Estate Tax debate, the Governor and the GA Democrats have basically been following the Beyer strategy, alternating between calling the GOP action "fiscally irresponsible" [see the statement yesterday from the Warner Administration] and then endorsing what they say is a more responsible, and affordable estate tax cut.

        This comes perilously close to the 1997 Beyer formula, even though the Estate Tax cut has nowhere near the political power of the car tax promise in the
1997 gubernatorial campaign.

     DON BEYER was a good man. In politics, everyone makes mistakes, it goes with the territory. The goal is to learn from them.

        SO LETS LEARN.


      If you study what RR did, the former President kept his reputation as a tax
TAXES. He kept his reputation as FISCALLY RESPONSIBLE even though
he nearly busted the federal budget. He kept his reputation as a fighter against
big budgets EVEN THOUGH HIS BUDGETS contained record spending.

     How did he do it?

     It wasn't luck.

     He understood the reality of having to play offense, not defensive.

     Right now, the Governor and the General Assembly Democrats are playing
defense on the estate tax fight.

     There are now three basic possible outcomes: The GOP gets credit for a tax cut, the Dems get credit for blocking the tax cut in the name of fiscal responsibility and fairness, or there is a compromise tax cut, which the GOP will ultimately get credit for as this is their issue.

     Thus, this gives the GOP a 67% percent chance of winning.

     DEMOCRATS NEED TO INJECT THE REAGAN OUTCOME, those leveling the playing field so we can have an equal chance of winning the politics.

     Think Reagan. He was successful because he took the offense and forced
the Congress to give him a victory even when they rejected his Plan.

     Reagan understood his strong issues, and never wavered: He never let himself be defined by a debate over a Reagan-lite DEM plan on an issue. He would rather lose
a fight over a Reagan plan than win a fight for a Reagan-lite Dem plan.

    Come on DEMS: Let's take a page from Reagan's play book, for a change, and turn the tables of the VA GOP.

    It is a lot easier than you think, although it will be a hard fight that may take
sometime to ultimately win.

    But the facts are on our side and in the end, we have to have confidence in the
good judgment of the people of Virginia.

(c) Copyright. All rights reserved. Paul Goldman. 2003.