Column No. 110 By Steven Jonas, MD, MPH - June 15, 2006
I have twice shared with you my proposed “Ten Commitments” for the Democratic Party (once on November 25, 2006, and more recently on February 9 of this year). I must say that I still like them and I still think that they are a good candidate for that “list of ten” that many Democrats are searching for. (They are substantive and thus stand in stark contrast to the ten of Gingrich’s infamous 1994 “Contract on America” almost all of which were about process: “we will introduce . . .” not necessarily implement. For the most part they did the former and did not do the latter.) I am republishing them here in this “Ideas for Democrats” Series because our Party certainly is a long way from closure about what it is going to put at the center of our Campaign for both 2006 and 2008.
As I have noted previously, my primary list for the most part eschews specific legislative proposals. I do remain convinced that first we need to find that new “overarching philosophy” that has been talked about for so many years. (I presented my candidate for that position in the first column in this series). Then, I think that a “top ten” list can be very useful, if it focuses on those principles of governance and governing that so distinguish the Democratic Party of Roosevelt, Kennedy, and the pre-Viet Nam Lyndon Johnson, from the Republican Party. Democrats have been good with laundry lists of proposed legislative programs for decades. They don’t win elections. Principles do. (Viz. the Republicans’ “cut taxes,” “shrink government,” “end regulation,” “fight flanking maneuvers [oops, I mean “terrorism”], none true representations of their positions but presented as if they were nevertheless.) With apologies to the wonderful Rabbi Michael Lerner of Tikkun for the title of my list (http://www.tikkun.org/rabbi_lerner/ten_commitments), once again I put forward for your consideration a slightly modified version of 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 all military bases, by a date certain. This withdrawal is to be accompanied by a reactivation of the Israel/Palestine peace process along the lines of the proposed Geneva Accords. It is further to be 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 the Iraq withdrawal can be found in my column of Dec. 15, 2005.)
II. 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, at http://www.democrats.reform.house.gov/Documents/20051021122225-53143.pdf, the Report of the Carter-Baker election reform commission, http://usgovinfo.about.com/b/a/203832.htm, Mark Crispin Miller’s new book, Fooled Again, and now Robert F. Kennedy Jr.’s major article on Rolling Stone, http://www.rollingstone.com/news/story/10432334/was_the_2004_election_stolen).
III. 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.”
IV. 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 such matters as belief as to when life begins, freedom of political, moral and ethical 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 said matters of personal belief, rights, liberties, and freedom, and overwhelmingly small when dealing with the economy.
V. In support of this Commitment, a taxation policy designed to share the burden, in accordance with ability to pay, of supporting those actions of government necessary for the full implementation of its responsibilities as set forth in the Preamble.
VI. Also in support of Commitment IV, regulation of the market for goods and services designed to insure that it is both free and fair.
VII. 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 ethical pledge to which all Democratic candidates for elected office and Democratic nominees for political appointments will be asked to subscribe will be developed.
VIII. 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 of adult sexual identity and behavior.
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.
This is where I think the Democratic Party has to go. If one tries to pick out “what issues can we win with?” first without examining and establishing principles, that is “why” we should win, one almost assures losing (as has been proven over and over again since the election of 1964). Neither our country, nor indeed the world, nor indeed in my view the human species as we know it, could afford that.