Column No. 81 By Steven Jonas, MD, MPH - October 20, 2005
In my original plan for this series of columns I had thought to deal with the principal political issues first. Then I would get into the specifics of Party growth and development so that it may become as a true opposition and governing alternative to the Georgite juggernaut. Given the rapid development of certain major political scenarios now on the scene, I thought in this column to present in outline my thoughts on progressive Democratic Party development. I will return to political specifics in upcoming columns, and then further down the road consider proposals for Party strategy and tactics in more depth. Thus along the way I will interweave consideration of both subjects, rather than trying to separate them one from the other, which is really artificial anyway.
On the subject of the development of the Democratic Party as a true Opposition, a good friend raised an interesting point regarding language that I used in the notice sent to the Personal Notification List that I maintain for family and friends for my column, this one for the October 5/6 issue of TPJ. In that particular notice I said that “progressive Democrats, who now likely make up a majority of Democratic voters in our nation and who believe that Georgitism is wrong, dead wrong, for the country and the world, are going to have to take over the Party from the Collaborationist-Democratic Leadership Council.”
My friend wrote: “What and [whence from?] are the numbers to support your ‘who now likely’ assertion [referring to the use of the word ‘progressive’]?” I responded that: “the polling numbers show that a majority of Americans now support withdrawal from Iraq on some sort of schedule (slow, fast, and in between), and Bush's poll numbers are abysmal (majority do not approve). I think that it is safe to assume that a majority of those in both groups are Democrats, meaning then that it is safe from a statistical point of view to project that indeed a majority of Democrats (about half of the voting public) are anti-war/anti-Bush. However (I went on), perhaps the use of the term ‘progressive,’ which means much more than simply ‘anti-war/anti-Bush,’ was an overreach.” My friend and I agreed that the term “progressive” needs further definition (I will be offering mine as we proceed with this series); but that we can safely say that a majority of Democrats are at a minimum “anti-war/anti-Bush.” For the time-being then, that is the term I will use to describe the majority of the anti-Georgite Democrats.
It is fascinating that as I was putting together the components for this week’s writing on the subject of what the Democratic Party is, what it stands for, and what its public position should be, what should appear in the October 8 issue of TPJ but a summary of the latest broadside from the Collaborationist-DLC. In his introductory comment on the content of the issue, Judge Gheen noted that:
Since 2000, Democrats have been trying to build a consensus of what the Party stands for and how to mount an effective attack on radical Republican policy. The debate has been largely engaged between the ‘progressive’ and ‘centrist’ wings of the Party. During the past week, James Carville and two leading centrists have separately made presentations that simply defy description. Collectively, TPJ interprets the centrist message to the Party as follows: ‘Democrats need to reject its failed progressive heritage and adopt centrist doctrines in order to attract sufficient voters to win elections. Democrats can exemplify their new centrist policies by approving executions of a few semi-retarded prisoners, challenging Black liberal leaders in the Party and openly renouncing progressive doctrines. In order to sell the centrist doctrines, Democrats only need field candidates that are smart, but not too smart, and strong, but not too strong. Democrats need candidates who can convince Americans to adopt the new centrist doctrine by communicating to citizens as if telling a Winnie the Pooh story.’ It is not a joke. Every Democrat should read: ‘Advice for the Forlorn Democrat.’
I do recommend going back to read the full article by Judge Gheen, if you haven’t already.
Perhaps the biggest shocker in the piece reproduced in full in the October 6 issue of TPJ, was that James Carville --- who used to be at least somewhat on the liberal, if not progressive, side of the Party -- is now full-bore with the Collaborationists. Since the time he married the far-right wing political attack specialist Mary Matalin some years back, I have wondered who would finally win the ideological battle that must have occurred from time-to-time in that household. When asked, Carville (although not Matalin) would say that they simply did not talk about politics. I never believed him, and now we know who won.
Briefly here I will review the DLC position as presented by Carville. What Carville says does tell us why, if Constitutional Democracy is to be restored and Civil War avoided, our side is going to have to take over the Party from the Collaborationist-DLC, or split the Party and then win electorally. The DLC is big on criticism of the anti-war/anti-Bush Democrats, apparently not so big on criticizing Bush (don’t believe me? Just check out their website: http://www.ndol.org/). They seem to think that there is some huge pool of “undecided” voters out there that they can get to vote Democratic by abandoning certain key Democratic principles, like defending equal rights for non-white Americans, women, and homosexuals.
Carville himself is currently circulating a fund-raising mailing on behalf of the Democratic anti-choice candidate for the US Senate seat in Pennsylvania, William Casey, Jr. Carville stresses the differences between Casey and the incumbent, the far-right wing Republican Sen. Santorum, on Social Security. In a note to Carville responding to the fund-raiser, I told him that the issue of whether one’s belief as to when life begins could and should be criminalized was even more important for the future of our nation as a Constitutional Democracy than Social Security. On this critical issue, the criminalization of belief, Casey and Santorum are in full agreement. Why should any Democrat support Casey?
The DLC-ers seem to believe that there have been a series of “progressive” or “liberal” Democratic Presidential candidates who have contested national elections and lost (when in fact all of the Democratic Presidential candidates since Sen. McGovern, most of whom lost, have been of the DLC persuasion, to a greater or lesser extent). They seem to believe what they define as “centrism,” which seems to be “rightism but not quite so right as Bushism,” would be good for the country. Like the Republicans, they seem to enjoy engaging in data-free politics and policy-making.
Carville and Casey are playing right into Republican hands by putting Social Security out in front, leaving the larger issues concerning the very nature of the Untied States as a Constitutional Democracy right out of the equation. I believe that if the Democratic Party is to truly become an Opposition there are four issues that have to be out front. These four issues are not only the most critical ones facing the country, but the development of the specifics with which to deal with them will at the same time produce that new Grand Vision for the Democratic Party that so many observers have called for, for so long.
I. An end to the US War on Iraq, with a return to the multi-lateral foreign policy that worked so well for our country from the time we entered the Second World War until the advent of Georgitism, and a return to abiding by the UN Charter, which forbids “pre-emptive war” of the Georgite type. A specific plan for achieving that withdrawal can be found in my column of Sept. 1, 2005.
II. Making the protection and promotion of Constitutional Democracy, in accordance with the Preamble to the Constitution, the center of the Democratic Party’s approach to governing. A return to the System of Checks and Balances and the requirement that the President abide by the Constitution is essential
III. A vision of government that understands that big problems require big solutions, that when necessary for the common economic good, government needs to be big, that the Norquist Doctrine of Bathtub Government needs to be flushed won the toilet. On the other hand, when it comes to matters of personal belief, expression, and adult behavior, government needs to be small. This is the exact opposite of the Republican view, which wants government to be overwhelmingly big when it comes to such matters and overwhelmingly small when dealing with the economy.
IV. A return to totally free elections, and a full-scale assault on the Republican practice of Grand Theft Elections. The Report of the Carter-Baker election reform commission, http://usgovinfo.about.com/b/a/203832.htm, is a good place to start (although not to finish).
A number of current proposals for a Democratic version of the old (misleading) Gingrich “Contract on (oops, he said “for”) America, begin and end with versions of the usual Democratic “Christmas Tree Ornaments” list of programs: Social Security, health insurance, and etc. Those elements are of course vital, but they are not the central issues now. We need to move well beyond them if we are to get the country back from the crypto-theocratic fascists (see Lewis Lapham in Harper’s, at http://www.harpers.org/LewisLapham.html). We also need to develop a viable alternative to the Democratic Leadership Council. Very briefly, there are a number of progressive Democratic Organizations now in the field, such as the Progressive Democrats of America (http://www.pdamerica.org/), 21st Century Democrats (www.21stcenturydems.org) and Democracy for America (http://www.democracyforamerica.com/, formerly Dean for America). They do both policy development and political organizing. I believe that what we need to successfully go up against the DLC is an organization similar to it, policy-only, not connected with the electoral campaigns of any candidates, but hoping to attract Democratic office-holders to sign on. How does Council for Progressive Democrats sound?
Of course I will be returning to these subjects in more detail down the line.