Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Time to Get Real

There has been much discussion, lately, regarding who will fill the Chairmanship of the DNC when Terry McAuliffe steps down in February. Towards this end, the Democrats keep asking: “Why did we lose the last election.” This question drives me absolutely crazy. It is politically akin to beating ones head against a wall.

Although Kerry was never going to win the Presidency by a landslide, a logical, fair-minded analysis of the Election Day antics will confirm that Kerry probably did win the election had it been fair. Although we will most likely never know who won with certainty (given, in part, to the stonewalling of the recounts), one could make a much more plausible case that Kerry won in Ohio, rather than Bush, when armed with the facts. The massive disenfranchisement in Ohio, Florida, and New Mexico is well documented and strong.

It is a fools game for the Democrats to keep wringing their collective hands and whining: “Why did we lose?” The real question is: “How do we ensure that our elections are fair so that in the future we may be certain of the true winners and losers?” Only when the broken election process is fixed, should we spend excessive energy on the former question.

Allow me a few analogies: An ounce of prevention is worth is pound of cure. Before filling your house with gold, install proper security. Build a sound foundation before constructing your home. Ensure that the election process is not stacked against you before the election, and before wearing a hair shirt due to its illegitimate outcome. It is total lunacy to not recognize these basic tenets.

Regarding the political direction the Democrats should take, as incarnated by their choice of a future leader, I believe the obvious choice is Howard Dean (check out his announcement of his candidacy: I’m Running). Lets face it; the Democrats are never going to win elections by becoming Republican-light. Harry Truman, at an address at the National Convention Banquet of the Americans for Democratic Action in 1952, spoke these wise, timeless words that the Democrats would be prudent to heed today:

The record the Democratic Party has made in the last 20 years is the greatest political asset any party ever had in the history of the world. We would be foolish to throw it away. There is nothing our enemies would like better and nothing that would do more to help them win an election.

I've seen it happen time after time. When the Democratic candidate allows himself to be put on the defensive and starts apologizing for the New Deal and the fair Deal, and says he really doesn't believe in them, he is sure to lose. The people don't want a phony Democrat. If it's a choice between a genuine Republican, and a Republican in Democratic clothing, the people will choose the genuine article, every time; that is, they will take a Republican before they will a phony Democrat, and I don't want any phony Democratic candidates in this campaign.

But when a Democratic candidate goes out and explains what the New Deal and fair Deal really are--when he stands up like a man and puts the issues before the people--then Democrats can win, even in places where they have never won before. It has been proven time and again.

We are getting a lot of suggestions to the effect that we ought to water down our platform and abandon parts of our program. These, my friends, are Trojan horse suggestions. I have been in politics for over 30 years, and I know what I am talking about, and I believe I know something about the business. One thing I am sure of: never, never throw away a winning program. This is so elementary that I suspect the people handing out this advice are not really well-wishers of the Democratic Party.

Howard Dean understands these words. For example, stand up against the illegal war in Iraq, unlike Kerry who tried to out macho Bush on this issue. Kerry’s record of bravery and devotion to his country spoke for itself, but he never drew a distinction between himself and Bush in this regard. Thus, many deduced: “If we are going to have war either way, the devil you know is better than the devil you don’t.”

I am convinced that the more the Democratic Party moves to the right, the more ineffectual they will become at governing and winning elections. The Party must embrace its Progressive roots and move strongly to the left. Let us at least lose defending the values we hold dear rather than lose acquiescing to the Republican agenda and being disingenuous to our core values. When the case is made for social programs, aiding the poor, fighting the fascism of big business, supporting environmental causes, national healthcare, and championing renewable energy, we differentiate ourselves from the other side and give people a true choice rather than a false one.

Embrace the word liberal, and explain what it really means and how liberal causes benefit the majority in this country. If we continue running from who we are and what we stand for in an effort to win, we will continue to lose and be where we deserve to be: an ineffectual, minority party.


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