On March 17, when Darcy Burner stood at a podium in Washington D.C. and introduced the Responsible Plan to end the war in Iraq, it was hard to predict what might happen. It was an overly ambitious venture for a mere Congressional challenger to cajole a group of generals, national security experts and fellow candidates behind a unified legislative blueprint on such a divisive issue, and while the nine initial co-endorsers comprised an impressive lineup, that coalition was months in the making. Candidates are generally advised not to get too specific on the issues this early the campaign; you don’t want to give your opponent even the tiniest club with which to bash you. Would other challengers momentarily put conventional wisdom (and their precious “call time”) aside, and join Burner in sticking her neck out on such a bold endeavor? Or would the Plan, and Burner’s energetic efforts to promote it, more than likely fizzle?
Only ten days later, 43 Democratic challengers have already signed on to the Responsible Plan — with many more closely considering it — and the national media is beginning to take notice. Mother Jones, the Washington Post and NPR have all cited the plan, and The Nation will publish an editorial in their next issue. Beltway buzz has been building ahead of a media conference call scheduled today with Burner and several of the other endorsers, and the call is expected to be well attended by both local and national journalists. I wouldn’t be surprised to see a flurry of fresh coverage in the coming days, and with it, a flurry of new endorsements.
Some have started comparing the Responsible Plan to the GOP’s “Contract With America” back in 1994, but the differences are as striking as the similarities. Like the Contract, the Plan delivers to voters a clear and coherent message about what they can expect from the endorsers should they be elected, but while the Contract never reached beyond core principles, the Responsible Plan offers specific proposals and cites existing legislation. And while the heavily focus-grouped Contract was formulated by GOP uber-strategist Frank Luntz and imposed on the challengers from above by incoming Speaker Newt Gingrich, the Responsible Plan is the outcome of a genuinely grassroots efforts, outside the purview (and I’d wager, the wishes) of the DCCC.
Back in August of 2007, when Burner closed her Internet Town Hall on Iraq with a promise to work with Gen. Paul Eaton to develop a plan, her staff and advisers dared to hope that the announcement was just some clever political ploy; indeed they strongly advised her not to get distracted from a candidate’s primary task: raising the millions of dollars necessary to wage a viable campaign. Well… if they thought they’d dissuade her, they sure didn’t know our Darcy. Burner may be eager to seek out advice, but she’s not so quick to follow it blindly. And if there’s one thing I’ve learned in the three years I’ve known her, it’s that she’s not to be underestimated.
Support the original ten endorsers of the Responsible Plan: