09 November 2018

A Two Year Plan For Democrats

Ballots are still being counts and close races are still being decided. But, soon enough, it will be time to return to governing, instead of running for office. 

What should Democrats do when that time comes?

* Advance a broad, dynamic, progressive agenda in every state where Democrats have control of the entire state level legislative process. A lot can be accomplished in two years with total control.

* Develop a package of initiatives in states where Democrats have no control over the legislative process or only partial control of the legislative process that advance pocket book issues with wide popularity like Medicaid expansion and minimum wage initiatives did this year. Start early to have organized campaigns to get these measures on the ballot and to fund campaigns for those issues.

* Take Secretary of State and County Clerk jobs seriously, make extraordinary efforts to continue to register voters in the offseason in states where this is necessary, and to have a voter friendly environment that is well planned in 2020.

* Use control of the House to insist upon tax increases on the rich and corporations to make up for the deficit exploding revenue shortfalls caused by Republican tax cuts for them in 2017, and stand strong to protect the social safety net and Obamacare. Identify select big ticket defense expenditures that are wasteful, like more destroyers and attack submarines, and push for spending cuts in those areas.

* Narrow the scope of federal court jurisdiction over non-governmental parties in both diversity and federal question cases.

* Don't relent in punishing people socially and economically and sullying their reputations for abhorrent conduct even when there are no other legal consequences for it.

* Identify and push issues that have widespread popularity. For example:

Reproductive Health and Children

1. Support government funding for long term birth control, especially for teen moms and teens at risk of becoming teen moms, like a Colorado pilot program did. Call out birth control opponents for being out of the mainstream.

2. Support public health campaigns to urge universal vaccination, including for HPV.

3. Establish nurse visits for all newborn children an provide mentors for first time moms.

4. Subsidize preschool and provide family support for families with preschoolers that relieves pressures on parents that can lead to child abuse and neglect. In Colorado, eliminate disproportionate penalties relative to mens rea for crimes against children and neonatal homicides by mothers in the throes of labor and delivery alone.

5. Provide universal all day kindergarten.

6. Provide quality food to children at schools without regard to need.

7. Do not use the criminal justice system to address school discipline problems except at the greatest extremes.

8. Make juvenile justice more transparent and humane, while sacrificing privacy. Don't shackle or handcuff children.

9. Legally establish and widely publicize the duty of gun owners to keep guns secure and out of the hands of children. Train nurses and mentors to inquire about children's access to guns.

10. Don't put children into the juvenile justice system for status offenses, and presume that children may have run away for good cause.

11. Prefer guardianships for minors by family to foster child arrangements. Spend what it takes to do right by foster children even after they turn eighteen, to provide greater stability, and to keep siblings together or at least in touch with each other.

12. Establish a right to right of each adult party and each older child to the assistance of a legal paraprofessional at state expense if you can't afford a lawyer in any case involving private parties presenting an issue of child custody or paternity.

Drugs, Substance Abuse and Mental Health

1. Mobilize a large, grassroots program to medically treat opioid addictions with proven methods including opioid addiction drugs, greatly expanding the corps of people who can prescribe these drugs. 

2. Widely distribute and train people to use Narcan.

3. Train physicians and other prescribers to be more cautious in prescribing opioids, with greater oversight of these prescriptions to discourage abuses.

4. Fund inpatient mental health and substance abuse rehab beds that will keep people who have trouble controlling their conduct out of jails and prisons and that will prevent vagrancy. Keep people on mental health holds out of jails. Establish "mental health crisis living rooms" where people can go.

5. Legalize recreational and medical marijuana nationwide. Push at the federal level to repeal Internal Revenue Code 280E that taxes marijuana businesses as unfairly high rates.

6. Eliminate crimes for personal drug possession and vacate the sentences of everyone serving time for felony drug possession; instead impose mandatory treatment where appropriate. 

7. Punish other drug crimes at levels reflecting the economic benefit received by the violators on scales similar to non-violent theft crimes and responsibility within an organized crime group, rather than based upon drug quantity.


1. Spend whatever it takes to make sure that no veteran is homeless, or hungry, or without medical care for either physical or mental health.

2. Take a housing first approach to homelessness. Move away from public housing projects as a tool. Eliminating waiting lists for people eligible for Section 8 and make it easier for landlords to qualify for Section 8.

3. Fight NIMBY regulations that make housing unaffordable. Permit the good to be built, even if it is not the best (e.g. single occupancy hotels, tiny homes, camp grounds, accessory dwelling units, rentals in single family homes). Prefer changes that permit affordable housing to co-exist with existing unsubsidized housing like accessory dwelling units. Move away from rent and price controls as a tool. 

4. Strengthen protections for homeowners in HOAs from abuses by the HOAs.

General Criminal Justice

Stop Incarcerating People Because They Are Poor

1. Greatly curtail the use of cash bonds in the criminal justice system.

2. Stop imprisoning people for an inability to pay court costs and fines, and create far more due process for people who are not paying child supports to limit contempt sanctions for non-payment to people who are able to pay but willfully refuse to do so despite a present ability to do so.

Curtail Criminal Justice Misconduct

1. Bring "takings" jurisprudence to the civil rights context with more of a focus on the victims of violations of rights and less on the intent of the perpetrator.

2. Screen law enforcement officers strictly for histories of civil rights violations, domestic violence, etc.

3. Require better internal discipline for bad cops and make bad cops easier to fire.

4. Give judges in civil rights cases the power to deny civil rights violators the right to be employed by the government in all or certain kinds of positions as a remedy.

5. Vigorous discipline prosecutors for Brady violations and other unethical conduct.

6. Forfeit absolute immunity in cases where prosecutors or judges have been adjudicated to have committed ethical violations or crimes.

7. Narrow the circumstances under which law enforcement officers are allowed to lie.

8. Establish a per se prohibition against sex with suspects or incarcerated persons while on the job.


1. Find alternatives to re-incarceration in prison for technical parole violations.

2. Eliminate felon disenfranchisement. 

3. Address occupational disqualifications globally, not piecemeal, so that there are job options upon re-entry.

4. Avoid sex offender registry overkill.

Prosecutions and Trials and Penalties

1. End non-unanimous juries in felony trials in Oregon.

2. Allow all criminal defendants to testify not under oath at trial, without fear of having their criminal records revealed.

3. Cap trial penalties when plea bargains have been offered to a maximum multiple of the offered deal.

4. Limit mandatory minimums to violent crimes with specific victims, in cases where the victim (or a representative of a murder or incapacity induced victim) objects to a lesser sentence. Don't allow prosecutors to control when mandatory minimums are invoked, and don't allow mandatory minimums for non-violent crimes or crimes with no specific victim.

5. Don't over punish "child porn" or use child porn statutes to criminalize adolescent sexuality.

6. Decriminalize prostitution prosecutions of prostitutes. They aren't criminals and are frequently victims.

Access To Firearms

1. Proactively and swiftly remove firearms for many people under protection orders, released prior to a criminal trial, on probation or on parole.

2. Expand the roster of offenses that disqualify someone from possessing or purchasing a firearm either for a period of time or permanently or until cleared affirmatively to do so again.


1. Limit general public access to arrest records for background check purposes.

2. Find ways to make driver's license revocations more meaningfully enforceable.

3. Remove incarceration as a default punishment for municipal ordinance violations.

4. Replace criminal penalties with civil penalties whenever possible.


1. Guarantee that no one with an American citizen spouse, and no one who grew up in the United States since they were children, will ever be denied entry to the U.S. or deported. 

2. Establish a ten year statute of limitations from falling out of status within which a deportation can take place.

3. Do not separate children from their parents in the immigration system, ever.

4. Allow people who get higher educations in the U.S. to stay.

5. Replace distant relative legal immigration with work and education related immigration.

Infrastructure and Governmental Basics

1. Invest in maintaining and improving roads, bridges, bike paths, pedestrian paths, transit, and electric car infrastructure.

2. End "security theater" that isn't enhancing real safety for airline passengers.

3. Spend the small amount of extra money it takes to make ordinary government bureaucracies that don't spend lots of money, like the DMV, permit and licensing offices, and the state judiciary, the best funded in the nation. Push the notion that red tape is a necessity of life and that the pro-business thing to do is to do it well, rather than skimping on funding and doing a half-assed job.


Dave Barnes said...

Too many items.
Three (3) is the right number.

andrew said...

If I were in an ex-temp debate contest you'd be right (and indeed I judged one speaker with that very topic who chose three). Also for click-bait. For here, I'm happy to be less concise and pithy.