By Pamela K. Taylor
So the Democrats have swept into a significant majority in the House of Representatives, and it looks like they've taken the Senate, not to mention the 28 governorships that now are in Democratic hands.
Majorly great news!!
But only if the Democrats don't blow it. For the past six years, there has been far too much rubberstamping. Whether it was fear of being labeled soft on terror, or lack of imagination about how else to tackle the problems posed by Al-Qaeda and its sympathizers, many Democrats could hardly be distinguished from Republicans when it comes to foreign policy.
It should be obvious that the American populace has voted for change -- big time -- in Iraq and in the way we are conducting ourselves in the war on terror. If the Democrats do not deliver, they will be in for an election fiasco not so different than the one the Republicans are coping with today. Even if they are not successful (after all they don't have enough votes to override a Presidential veto unless a good number of Republicans defect), Democrats need to be visible and aggressive in pushing for change.
Here's a handy checklist for then Dem leadership.
1) Maintain a steady and resolute call to get our troops out of Iraq as soon as humanely possible.
2) Repeal of the Military Commissions Act
3) Define and narrow the scope of executive powers during a state of war, and define and narrow the concept of this war. President Bush has defined "the war on terror" as a real war with a resulting increase in autonomy and power for the president. We need clarify that you can't wage war on a tactic. Enemies will come and go. Some will use terror as one weapon in their arsenal as has always been the case, but you can't fight a war of weapons against a tactic -- at least not a war with a beginning, and end, and a clear goal. Our goal is to eradicate terror? How can you guarantee that no one will ever use that tactic ever again? You can't, so we're going to be at war, with all the expanded presidential powers, forever?? The War on Terror should legitimately have been declared a war on Al-Qaeda and its supporters, and the executive's power, even in a time of war, needs to be limited by the Constitution and American law.
4) Don't forget the economy. We need to see Democrats making some bold, progressive plans that would lead to a redistribution of wealth, so that the radical imbalance of wealth and power in this country evens out again.
5) Don't forget the environment. Most Americans do care about the environment, and the potential for runaway greenhouse problems, devastation of ocean stocks, issues in clean water, etc, etc, etc.
6) Close Guantanamo, or at least put a ton of pressure on the Pentagon to close it. And while you're at it, end the extraordinary rendition program!
7) Prove better healthcare for the poor and seniors
8) Boost Social Security
9) Do something about education funding so that we no longer have an uneven and unjust educational system where suburban schools are funded at much higher levels than urban or rural schools. Reaffirm the need for affirmative action. Bolster the college financial aid system that Bush gutted, so that college is not increasingly the province of only the rich.
10) Take the lead from progressive spiritual people about how to articulate the fact that Republicans do NOT own family values or religiosity. Let it be known that progressives find inspiration in their faith for liberal positions and that deeply held Democratic values such as a high minimum wage ARE family values. When families don't have to scrimp and save, when economic pressure relaxes, there are fewer divorces, kids have better lives, etc.
I could go on and on, but I think it's pretty clear what I'm getting at. I was sorely disappointed that John Kerry did not articulate key Democratic values and positions well. If he had, he probably would have won. The unwillingness to take a strong stand for traditional Democratic values was deadly, and if Democrats do the same now, it will be even more fatal come 2008.