A NEW DIRECTION? I've been a bit remiss in not talking through the Democrats' "New Direction" agenda items -- the so-called Six for '06. As I've long believed that what parties need isn't a ten word philosophy but a pithy agenda, I'm glad to see past platitudes sacrificed for a series of actual policy proposals that could be rapidly instituted given a change in House leadership. As it stands, the agenda, which you can access here, is:

Real Security: Phased redeployment starting before the end of 2006, double the size of the special forces, beef up homeland security in accordance with the 9-11 Commission's recommendations.

Better Pay: Increase the minimum wage, block hikes in congressional pay till that's done, end tax breaks that encourage offshoring.

College Access for All: Make tuition deductible, cut interest rates on student loans, expand Pell Grants.

Energy Independence: Energy boilerplate that doesn't lend itself to specifics.

Affordable Health Care: Empower the government to negotiate Medicare drug prices (hooray!), promote stem cell research.

Retirement: Safeguard Social Security, enact pension reform, expand savings incentives.

All in all, it's a solid set. The party could use a few editors with an aversion to trite slogans and an insistence on specific ideas (Democracy Corps [PDF] has some good ideas for what that would look like), but this set of six general promises at least offers an actual shape for a renewed Democratic majority, and one that Republicans can't credibly claim to also support. That, after all, is what elections are supposed to be about: The drawing of contrasts so voters can make an informed choice. For too many years, Democrats have forgotten that, and sought to cozy up to the most popular GOP agenda items while deemphasizing their own plans. With the GOP frantically trying to pass a bastardized minimum wage bill and sham energy reform, it looks like that dynamic is about to switch. And that, in fact, may be the most telling data point yet.

--Ezra Klein