Column No. 86 By Steven Jonas, MD, MPH - November 25, 2005
I have devoted the first six columns of this series to historical and analytical matters. I have dealt with certain major characteristics of the primary opponent of US Constitutional Democracy as we have known it, the Republican Party and its current incarnations that I call the Republican Religious Right and the Georgites. I have also dealt with the primary opponent of progressive Democratic thinking within our Party, the Democratic Leadership Council. In my view, and the view of numerous other observers of and commentators on the political scene, it is essential that a new, consistent, Party-wide progressive purpose, philosophy, and program be developed for the Party, for two primary reasons.
First, unless the Republicans field extraordinarily weak candidates as they did in the 1992 and 1996 elections, with DLC, “Republican-lite-with-nice-rhetoric” policies and programs combined with the Republican ability to fix elections (an issue the DLC absolutely does not take on) they will be very difficult to dislodge electorally. Second, winning an election must mean something significant and different in terms of what will be done with governmental power and authority once it is taken back. “Republican-lite” policies and programs might look better on paper and they might sound better from what we have now, but as far as making real change from the country’s present course, they are likely to change little, just because they are in their essence Republican. There is still much ground to cover in the arena of political and historical analysis. But this week I am turning my attention to certain matters of practical politics. I present some ideas on what I think the Democratic Party needs to do for 2006 and 2008, not only to win the elections but also to make them worth winning.
In the past several months there have been a number of proposals for a new basic program for the Democratic Party. Among them are Stephen Pizzo’s “10 Pledges to Demand from Democrats” (available through AlterNet) and “A ‘Real’ Contract with America” that Bob Borosage, Co-Director of the Campaign for America’s Future (http://www.ourfuture.org/) published in The Nation on Oct. 24, 2005. Inspired by the form, not the content to be sure, of Newton Gingrich’s famous 1994 “Contract on America” (oops, sorry, it was actually entitled the Contract With America) with which I will deal in some detail next week, they have often been put forward in a group of ten. I have come up with my own list of ten as a proposal for what I think the Democratic Party should go into the 2006 and then the 2008 elections with.
You will see that these are all about matters of political and governmental principles and over-all policies. They are not specific programs or proposed pieces of legislation. This is not because I do not think such new programs as national health insurance, supporting the preservation and restoration of the environment at all levels, real Federal support for education at all levels, and so on and so forth, are not important. I surely do. But since the time of the John and Robert Kennedy, time and again the Democratic Party has put forward Christmas-tree ornament wish-lists of specific legislative proposals as their platform and Platform. Principles, broad brush-strokes of what government should and should not be doing, what indeed government is for, for the society in general, not in the first instance in the specifics, have been for the most part absent. Strangely enough, Edward Kennedy, as great and important for progressive Democracy as he is, is one of the worst offenders in this regard.
My primary list for the most part eschews specific legislative proposals. Rather, for the most part it looks at principles. With apologies to the wonderful Rabbi Michael Lerner of Tikkun for the title of my list (http://www.tikkun.org/rabbi_lerner/ten_commitments), I put forward my proposed Draft “Ten Commitments.”
Henceforth, the Democratic Party will be committed to:
I. A full, planned withdrawal from all military activity in Iraq, including the construction and maintenance of bases, by a date certain, accompanied by a reactivation of the Israel/Palestine peace process along the lines of the proposed Geneva Accords, further accompanied by 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 plain language of the Constitution including the Preamble, the center of the Party’s approach to governing. A return to the Constitutional System of checks and balances and the requirement that the President fully abide by the Constitution is essential.
The Preamble to the Constitution states: “We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”
III. A vision of government that is defined by the Preamble, which 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 down the toilet. On the other hand, in accord with the prescriptions of the Constitution, when it comes to matters of personal such matters as belief as to when life begins, freedom of expression, and adult personal behavior, government needs to be small. This is the exact opposite of the Republican, anti-Constitutional view, which wants government to be overwhelmingly big when it comes to such matters of personal belief, rights, liberties, and freedom, and overwhelmingly small when dealing with the economy.
IV. A return to totally free and fair elections, and a full-scale assault on the Republican strategy of Grand Theft Elections. (See: the recent GAO analysis, the Report of the Carter-Baker election reform commission and Mark Crispin Miller’s new book, Fooled Again.)
V. A Pledge of honesty, integrity, openness, and a return to the traditional arms-length relationship between government and the private sector for all elected and politically-appointed government officials. A specific pledge to which all Democratic candidates for elected office and Democratic nominees for political appointments will be asked to subscribe will be developed.
VI. The broad and forward projection of the most important Values that define a civil society: pluralism in matters of religion in accordance with the First Amendment; tolerance of difference; the promotion of compassion and sharing the burden, leaving behind the Doctrine of Every Man for Himself and the Devil Take the Hindmost; the full promotion of human rights at home and abroad; the understanding that healthy sex is healthy and unhealthy sex is not and that for adults sex is a private matter; and the end to the promotion of the criminalization of personal belief in matters of morality and adult sexual identity and behavior.
VII. A taxation policy designed to support Commitment III, with the sharing of the burden in accordance with ability to pay.
VIII. Regulation of the market for goods and services designed to insure that it is both free and fair.
IX. The development of an Energy Policy that will deal with the potentially disastrous and very real problem of global warming, as well as ensuring that ample energy will be available to support modern human life after the petroleum runs out.
X. The establishment of nomination and hiring standards for political appointees designed to ensure competence in government. A specific list of standards will be developed.
We shall return to the list, of course. Rather different from that of the DLC for the most part, no? (Note that the full, free, and fair entry of military recruiters to college campuses, one of the DLC-touted ‘wedge issues,” is not on my list.) This is a list, I think, that arises from a reality-check on what is important now in the history of our nation and what is not. It is a list that envisions an all-out assault on the major harms being done to our nation, our Constitution and the world at large by the Georgites, with a positive perspective. It is a list that can easily be used to mobilize our base, educate the people as to what is really happening under the Georgites, and bring masses of new voters into play.
Next week I shall take a look in some detail about the fraud that was Gingrich’s Contract on America (he never does talk about the details) and then I shall begin looking at some specific strategic and tactical steps that can be taken to start pointing the Democratic Party in the direction it needs to go if the Georgite Juggernaut (yes, I do like that one) is to be derailed.