On Native Ground
THE SPINELESSNESS OF THE DEMOCRATS
by Randolph T. Holhut
American Reporter Correspondent
DUMMERSTON, Vt. -- If ever there was a moment that is ripe for political change in America, it is now.
The danger that the Bush administration poses to our nation and the world is abundantly clear - the combination of a unilateralist foreign policy and an economic policy designed to transfer more wealth to the few at the expense of the many.
The mid-term elections that are less than a month away may be the first opportunity to slow down the Bush administration's rush to take this nation into the abyss of war and economic collapse. But this implies that the Democrats have the backbone to stop President Bush.
The Republicans have always been the party of big business and the biggest supporters of the military-industrial complex. While they have always gotten more corporate campaign money than the Democrats, the Democrats now are as beholden as the Republicans to corporate America.
The Democrats also seem unwilling to truly fight for the few principles it does have left. Conservatives don't care about things such as truth, the rule of law and fair play in the pursuit of political victory. The 2000 presidential election conclusively proved that.
By any objective standard, Al Gore defeated George W. Bush in 2000. Gore led in the popular vote by more than 500,000 votes and appeared to have won enough electoral votes with an apparent victory in Florida. When the Florida vote was too close to call, the Gore team led by Warren Christopher and Bill Daley played it safe and viewed the post-election recount dispute as a legal matter for the courts to resolve. The Republicans, led by James Baker, played the game as a political battle by spinning the news media, organizing protests and fighting for every ballot - legal or not.
The passiveness of Gore and the Democrats played right into the hands of the Bush crowd and they got clobbered - thus proving correct one of sports columnist Heywood Broun's great aphorisms: "A liberal is a man who leaves the room when the fight starts."
The congressional debate over war with Iraq is another example. It ended before it could start when the Democratic leadership in Congress caved in to the Bush administration's demands in the days before the final vote to authorize an attack. Never mind that Congress was flooded with letters, faxes, phone calls and e-mails from people opposed to the war. Too many Democrats are too afraid of losing an election or harming their future political ambitions to come out against this war.
It's easy to win battles when the other side doesn't fight. Liberals have been missing in action for too long; walking away from their core principles or arguing over ideological minutiae while allowing conservatives to control the political debate. All it takes to change this is a willingness to come together on the most important issues where the prevailing conservative view can be challenged plus a commitment to fight for those issues for as long as it takes to prevail.
There's no shortage of issues to where clear distinctions can be drawn:
I could go on, but if you cut it down to the nut, it comes down to this: the conservative policies of President George W. Bush - perpetual war, handouts and tax breaks for the wealthy, social Darwinism and environmental degradation at the top of the list - are hazardous to the health of our nation and the rest of the planet. More and more Americans realize this and that is why the President's approval rating has been going down steadily over the last few months. But the Democratic Party hasn't caught up with the people and shown that it has enough guts to effectively challenge the Bush administration's ruinous policies.
It's time for liberals to step up and demand the Democrats - the only party with enough critical mass to effectively fight the right wingers - to start fighting on behalf on the majority of Americans who want a nation that acts on behalf of the general welfare instead of on behalf of those who were the biggest campaign donors. It's time to fight for better health care, better schools and more economic opportunity for all. It's time to fight for a foreign policy of international cooperation and human rights for a peaceful and ecologically sound world.
The Republicans now control the White House, the Supreme Court and the House of Representatives. Only the defection of Vermont Sen. James Jeffords kept the Senate out of Republican hands. Given the damage that's been done to this country so far, and the potential for lasting damage that total Republican control of Congress will bring, it may be enough to vote for Democrats simply because they aren't Republicans. But being the party of the lesser evil isn't a winning strategy in the long run, no matter how evil the other guys are.
Randolph T. Holhut has been a journalist in New England for more than 20 years. He edited "The George Seldes Reader" (Barricade Books).