Thursday, October 19, 2006

What the Democrats Are Fighting For

Not many people like politics and yet nearly everybody talks about it at one point or another. Why? Because every American has an idea about what ought to be done (or even how useless it is to try). The point when politics starts to become interesting is when a large majority of Americans believe the status quo is no longer acceptable. We seem to have reached that point but that doesn't mean the Democrats are coming, unless they get the votes. In most years, if the voters don't turn out, the Republicans automatically win because Republicans almost always turn out.

But there are many important issues this year. Dan Balz of The Washington Post has an article on what former President Clinton has to say about the differences between Republicans and Democrats:
Former president Bill Clinton said yesterday that the governing Republican majority has abandoned the common good in favor of ideologically driven politics that demonize its opponents, has forced ordinary Americans to fend for themselves and has too often left the United States isolated internationally.

(snip)

"[Republicans] believe the country is best served by the maximum concentration of wealth and power in the hands of the right people," he told a mostly student audience at Georgetown University. "Right in both senses."

(snip)

... "We believe in striving, at least, to cooperate with others because we think there are very few problems in the world we can solve on our own. They favor unilateralism whenever possible and cooperation when it's unavoidable."
Clinton is talking about some of the general principles of Democrats; now some of those principles used to be taken seriously by Republicans, including ideas like cooperation and the common good. George W. Bush and many of his Republican friends have too often made it clear in their arrogance that it's their way or the highway (this is one reason why moderate Republicans have been useless in mitigating some of Bush's most controversial proposals though there is much they might have done with more backbone).

There's another principle that Democrats are fighting for that Republicans used to take seriously. American Prospect has a statement of principle by liberals (hat tip to TPM Cafe), much of which can easily be embraced by most moderates; to me, the statement is a breath of fresh air, but here's the part that should concern independents and the average Republican not caught up in the current right wing agenda:
The administration's contempt for science is of a piece with its general disdain for reason -- a prejudice that any modern society ought to have left behind. Whether confronting scientific research, evolution, birth control, foreign policy, drug pricing, or the manner in which it makes decisions, the Bush administration has defied evidence and logic, sabotaging its own professional civil servants. It refuses serious consultation with experts and critics. It acts secretly, in defiance of the powers of Congress. It refuses to identify those whose advice it solicits, even concealing the names of the vice president's staff. It stifles civil servants attempting to do their jobs. It appoints cronies whose political loyalty cannot compensate for their incompetence. When challenged, it responds with lies and distortions.

---

Reason is indispensable to democratic self-government. This self-evident truth was a fundamental commitment of our Founding Fathers, who believed it was entirely compatible with every American's First Amendment right to the free exercise of religion. When debating policy in the public square, our government should base its laws on grounds that can be accepted by people regardless of their religious beliefs. Public commitment to reason and evidence is the bedrock of a pluralist democracy. Nevertheless, it has been eroded by the present administration in an ongoing campaign to pander to its hard right wing.

And finally, Harold Meyerson of The American Prospect posts on some of the things Democrats may do if, and I mean if, they gain control of one or two houses:
In the House, the Democrats have made clear that there's a first tier of legislation they mean to bring to a vote almost immediately after the new Congress convenes. It includes raising the minimum wage, repealing the Medicare legislation that forbids the government from negotiating with drug companies for lower prices, replenishing student loan programs, funding stem cell research and implementing those recommendations of the September 11 commission that have thus far languished.

All these measures command massive popular support. The reason they've not been enacted is that House Republicans have passed rules making it impossible for the Democrats to offer amendments to any significant legislation, thereby sparing themselves the indignity of having to choose, say, between the interests of their financial backers in the drug industry and their constituents.

Cognizant that they will owe their victory in part to the public's revulsion at the way Congress does (or avoids) business, the Democrats also plan to revise House rules to enable the opposition party to introduce amendments and to sit on conference committees, from which Republicans have routinely excluded them since Tom DeLay became majority leader. They also will ban members from accepting gifts and paid trips from lobbyists.

(snip)

In the course of this year's campaign, Democrats have been pleasantly surprised by the support their proposals for greater energy independence have won in all regions and sectors of the country. They will surely boost funding for alternative energy projects, which they see as a way not just to reduce greenhouse gases but to generate jobs as well. Many congressional Democrats also want to mandate stricter fuel efficiency standards, traditionally a cause that some auto-state Democrats have opposed, even though the Big Three's resistance to such standards is one reason their sales are plummeting.

"We're kidding around if we don't deal with that issue," says one leading Hill Democrat. ...

That's a reasonably good agenda to start with and I agree with it. Yes, Bush will probably veto much of it but the case has to be made.

I happen to believe it will also be necessary to have some investigations if the Democrats win a house. I'm not interested in impeachment since impeaching both Bush and Cheney would be extremely disruptive but there's been too much swept under the rug. We, as a nation, simply can't move forward unless we have a more accurate picture of where we are. Too many fictions have been coming out of Washington in the last five years. That issue alone ought to be worth a few votes along with all the rest.

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