Friday, November 11, 2005

A New Contract for America

A favorite talking-point of the right-wing TV and radio spin machine is that Democrats are attacking Bush on Plame etc. only because he is down in the polls and they have no plan of their own. Forget for a moment that people who attack a grieving mother like Cindy Sheehan whine like babies when someone attacks them back. Forget that these people are thin-skinned, hypocritical, and utterly vicious all at once. They have a point.

The Democrats have left themselves wide open to this charge, by having a platform with the consistency of Jello. The latest slogan is a gag-reflex-inducing repetition of the doomed Kerry campaign: "We can do better." How about "Restoring the American Dream"? Copyright Ralph Lopez.

We can do, uh, what? More of the same, but better? Just better? That really fires me up and makes me want to go vote.

A tight set of proposals will do wonders for the party of promise-you-the-moon-and-trust-us-on-how-we'll-get-there. As during the Kerry presidential campaign, the Republicans are lobbing slow softballs the Dems aren't even swinging at. Remember when Bush proposed cutting back time-and-a-half for overtime, and Kerry schlepped on with his "we can do better" canned speech? The Repubs laughed as Kerry stood at the plate with his helmet down over his eyes. How badly do you have to screw the American worker get these guys to get a pulse?

Here's my suggestion for a Democratic platform:

-Save American Pensions - Time magazine reveals that more and more people who have worked twenty or thirty years for the same company are getting their pensions yanked. At fault are recently-passed laws that enable corporations to renege on their pension promises. More than one little old lady in what was once solid middle America is collecting cans to make ends meet. We're not talking about New York bag ladies; we're talking Main Street. Did this trigger immediate and sustained calls for a congressional investigation from the Democrats? No, the silence is deafening. No wonder they are identified solely as the party of pro-sodomy baby-killers that wants to take away your guns, as Boston's little newspaper the Weekly Dig says.

-Restore college opportunity, by enabling students to go to any college to which they earn admission. Yes, I'll take credit for this idea, which I've been pushing since my first days as a candidate, in my books, and in many emails to the Kerry campaign. College "sticker shock" is a winning middle-class issue, because even parents making good money can't afford Junior's first-choice school. In addition, this is a "bootstrap" program that only leverages hard work already done. You have to get into the college first, then we help you go. In other words, this is no welfare hand-out. This is the first rung on the ladder of the American Dream.

-Distinguish Iraq from real war on terror - the task for Democrats is to articulate a position on Iraq that cannot be miscast as appeasement. We are properly at war in Afghanistan and in the mountainous border regions of Pakistan, but Iraq is exactly the quagmire bin Laden wanted. It draws resources away from the hunt for Al Qaeda and from the critical stablization of Afghanistan. This is what the former chief of the CIA's Al Qaeda unit, Michael Scheuer, says. He calls the invasion of Iraq a “never-to-be-hoped-for gift” to bin Laden. Scheuer says al-Zawahari practically cheered when we invaded Iraq, and gave thanks to God for "appeasing" Al Qaeda with the American invasion (see his book "Imperial Hubris: Why the West is Losing the War on Terror.") Now one foreign policy heavyweight after another is calling for an exit from Iraq. The most recent is former Nixon Defense Secretary Melvin Laird, who says ""Our presence is what feeds the insurgency (in Iraq), and our gradual withdrawal would feed the confidence and the ability of average Iraqis to stand up to the insurgency." Joining him is former National Security Advisor for Bush Senior, Brent Scowcroft, who says "This was said to be part of the war on terror, but Iraq feeds terrorism."

George Bush takes extreme pains to conflate the Iraq War with the war on terror, for good reason. Once separation surgery is successfully performed, he stands vulnerable to charges of bungling the war on terror. I believe that drawing down forces in Iraq must be accompanied by boosting troop levels in Afghanistan, and that we must pour troops into the Afghan-Paki border region to hunt down the people who attacked us on 9/11.

This is not appeasement or pulling back. This is pulling the steering wheel back into the right lane after George Bush has drifted onto the sandy shoulder. The right-wing attack in the face of too much truth is predictable. When you can't argue with facts, just accuse "traitors" of "undermining our troops." This time Democrats should slash back. Number one, it was George Bush who appeased bin Laden with the war in Iraq. Two, it was the Bush administration that committed treason by betraying Valerie Plame (forget this "outting" talk, this is not about Plame's sexual preference. This is a national security betrayal, pure and simple.)

Three, anytime the righties can't answer an argument, they hide behind the troops, like sissies. Another idea: if Sean Hannity is so patriotic why don't we start a public challenge to him, to enlist and go fight?

Bush's grand plan of bombing the Middle East into democracy is shot through with hypocrisy that makes Middle Easterners hate us. They have been trying to win their freedom from corrupt and dictatorial regimes for years, in Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Pakistan, and the Gulf states, only to face armies and police equipped with American weapons. Our addiction to oil is the cause of our unholy alliances with these governments, says Scheuer. He contradicts Bush's assertion that there is an Islamo-fascist ideology bent on taking over the world.

9/11 should not have been a surprise. It was the culmination of a steady stream of Al Qaeda attacks which included the Khobar Towers, the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, and the USS Cole. Each attack was preceeded by demands by Al Qaeda that the US change its policies of permanently stationing troops in the Arabian peninsula, of sending money and arms to Arab dictators, and of our lopsided support for Israel. Scheuer predicts that without changes in US policy to accompany the military campaign, we are in for "hundred years war drenched with blood on our own soil."

-Environment - A "Marshall Plan" commencing within the first hundred days of a non-Republican, filibuster-proof majority to put us on the path toward clean, sustainable energy independence. The wind, solar, geothermal, biomass, and conservation technologies necessary to set us free from Middle East oil have existed for years. All that remains is the political will to make it a reality.

-Back progressive candidates who are pro-gun-rights in red states. What's right in Manhattan is not necessarily what's right in Cheyenne, Wyoming. Our buddy Paul Hackett (for Congress!) says for a long time he thought "gun control meant being able to hit your target."

More specifically, challengers to Republicans should come out as the true defenders of the Constitution, while the Republicans are the ones who always talk about freedom but who actually hate it unless it means you are "free" to agree with them. No one ever got kicked out of a Kerry rally last year for wearing a pro-Bush T-shirt, the way Bush's thugs threw people out of Bush rallies for having the wrong bumper sticker on their cars outside. See "Life in Bush's America: Wear an anti-Bush T-shirt, get arrested, lose your job" by Tara Tuckwiller.

- speak the language of the fair playing field in a free market, not the language of big government. I've always said if we had a fair economic playing field, we wouldn't need much in the way of social programs. You could afford the rent, you could afford food, a house, health insurance. Instead of a fair playing field we have the biggest welfare bums of all, corporate welfare bums, sucking wealth from the middle to the top one percent of shareholders. Ralph Nader is the only public figure talking about it. Cut them off to pay for worker training vouchers, college tuitions, and reduction of the national debt.

It is tempting to keep adding to what could be done with a non-Republican majority in 2006, but this is a do-able list people can remember, and get excited about. If the opposition does not learn message discipline, it is doomed to lose, because when righties ask - "tell me what they stand for besides being against Bush?" - the average voter will keep drawing a blank, beyond vague promises of more of everything.


Post a Comment

<< Home