Open Letter to the Democratic Leadership
by Christopher A. Harrison
Christopher A. Harrison, registered Democratic voter
A strategy for the future
I am a registered
Democrat. I have always been attracted to the ideals of the
Democratic Party - the responsibility of society to provide
a framework for its citizenry to succeed, sticking up for
the blue-collar workers who built this country, ensuring that
assistance is accessible to citizens in their time of need,
protecting the environment, protecting human rights, and so
on. I have become increasingly alarmed at the right-wing assault
on these ideals which has taken place over the past 30 years.
I am even more alarmed at the manner in which the very party
I believe in has not stopped this assault from taking place.
fellow Democrats, we have allowed the battle to be taken to
us. We have attempted to play fair and compromise with a group
of people who are not interested in doing either. We have
allowed the political climate to shift so far to the right
in this country that anything right-wing is considered centrist,
anything centrist is considered "off-the-scale liberal" and
anything progressive is considered downright communist. It
is only the Democratic Party which has the ability to take
back the rhetoric and make this country stand for the ideals
it should once again.
gentlemen, we need a plan. We need a long-range plan of where
we want the direction of our Party, and our country, to go.
Some 30 years ago, elements of the Conservative leadership
set out with such a plan, and their plan has been successful
at the expense of the vast majority of the American citizenry.
They have seen their vision come to fruition, while we have
been too fractious and accommodating to stop them. The time
has come for us to formulate our plan, and to stop at nothing
until we achieve our goals.
AND MEANINGFUL CAMPAIGN FINANCE REFORM. Through the massive
influx of corporate cash into our political system, concern
has moved from the plight of working citizens to the protection
of the corporate class. The Republican leadership has almost
completely sold out to this principle of "Guarantors of Privilege"
as President Harry S. Truman once called them. But we Democrats
are not far behind the Republicans in our addiction to corporate
cash.. A cornerstone of the argument for campaign finance
should be the "clean election laws" currently instituted in
states such as Maine and Arizona. These laws do nothing to
stifle free speech (money does not equal free speech, no matter
what conservatives may say) and they succeed in freeing the
recipients of public funds from the shackles of corporate
I.O.U.'s. For a Party which espouses to protect the "little
guy," settling for anything less than complete reform of our
election system is to betray his or her interests in favor
of those who can afford to buy access.
THE FAIRNESS DOCTRINE. The elimination of the fairness
doctrine during the Reagan administration could be cited as
the single event which gave prominence to conservative figures
such as Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Dr. Laura Schlessinger,
and so on. Where are the liberal voices to counter these right-wing
pundits? They either don't exist, or they are suffering from
a terrible lack of exposure. Corporate interests which own
media outlets are not enamored with giving equal time to points
of view which run counter to their goals. However, the airways
have always belonged to the public, not the broadcasters.
As a result, the FCC could demand the reinstitution of the
"fairness doctrine," under which every right-wing point of
view would have to be followed by a left-of-center point of
view. Additionally, television and radio stations could be
forced to air public "issue statements" during political campaigns
rather than reaping huge profits from political advertising
which does little to contribute toward a real debate on policy.
Public broadcasting outlets - PBS and NPR - do this already,
with the result being that candidates are forced to talk about
the issues rather than concentrating on smearing their opponent
through sound bites and 30-second ads.
THE GLOBALIZATION MYTH. The world has gotten much smaller
as communications and transportation technologies have developed.
This is a fact which cannot be disputed. We are quickly moving
toward becoming a "global society" whether we like it or not.
But one of the biggest fallacies out there surrounding this
move toward a "global society" is what is commonly termed
"free trade." This "free" trade is in fact anything but "free."
It is an attempt to make trade an end in itself, rather than
a means, thereby forcing poorer nations to become increasingly
dependent on the wealthier ones. Eventually, it also widens
the gap between the "haves" and the "have-nots" here at home.
We should be promoting economic models which promote independence
for both communities here at home and countries abroad. We
should be promoting sustenance farming over export farming,
at the same time moving back to where trade was recognized
as a means to procure materials which you may not have organically;
rather than an end in itself with the result being control
of the world's resources by corporate interests. The current
model of "free" trade goes against everything that the Democratic
Party should stand for, and as such, it should be exposed
as the scam it really is. The Democratic Party should instead
promote economic models of "fair" trade.
HEALTH CARE AND EDUCATION FOR ALL. These are rights of
all citizens, not privileges for those who can afford to pay.
How can we call ourselves a truly free and equal society when
so many of our children are born without access to either
of these necessities? This issue should be a cornerstone of
our free society, a society which is supposed to give all
its citizens an equal chance to succeed.
DEMOCRACY WORLDWIDE. Too often we have allowed our short-term
economic interests to overrule our support of democracy worldwide.
This is all too evident from our support of dictators such
as Saddam Hussein, Ferdinand Marcos, Manuel Noriega and the
Shah of Iran; rebel factions such as the Nicaraguan Contras
and the Afghan Mujahadeen; and oppressive regimes such as
the Saudi Monarchy. The time has come for this short-sighted
policy to stop. The Democratic Party should be leading the
charge toward the promotion of democracy throughout the world,
even if this support temporarily counters our short-term economic
interests. Sure, it may result in some short-term pains such
as cutting back on our mass consumerism and moving toward
a more stable, conservationist-based economy; but the end
result will be a much more harmonious and prosperous world
community. If we spread democracy throughout the rest of the
world, economic interests will eventually take care of themselves.
THE ENVIRONMENT. I often shake my head over how the GOP
can beat us in elections based on this issue alone. As citizens
of the planet, we have a responsibility to do what we can
to protect and preserve the earth for the use and enjoyment
of future generations. We must lead the charge in promoting
economic models which encourage preservation and protection
of the environment rather than encouraging deforestation and
degradation of the planet which we all inhabit together. Destruction
of the earth is something for which people and businesses
should be punished. Instead, the current economic model allows
them to profit from this destruction, and it is the global
community which suffers in the end.
IN THE TAX CODE. Simply put, those who make more and can
afford it should pay more than those who can't. But the current
plan is much to complex. A close childhood friend of mine
who is a graduate of the Wharton business school and an accountant
for Ernst & Young once remarked that as a CPA even he couldn't
understand the federal tax code. The current code is also
full of loopholes which allow the wealthy and corporate interests
to exploit the code for their own benefit at the expense of
society as a whole. The Democratic Party should be pushing
for a slightly progressive, easily understood tax code with
a minimum of deductions to ensure that everyone truly pays
DOMESTIC BUSINESS. Establish incentives to encourage employment
of American workers within United States borders. Penalize
corporations who cut jobs domestically in order to move them
overseas where labor costs are much less. Encourage the unionization
of US workers. Repeal Taft-Hartley in order to facilitate
more unionization among workers. Push for repeal of "right
to work" laws. Economic independence both at home and abroad
is one of the best weapons at our disposal for combating poverty.
THE DRUG WAR. After more than 25 years and billions of
dollars, drugs are just as readily available in this country
as they were in 1975 - if not more so. We also have large
segments of mostly minority populations behind bars for non-violent
offenses. The drug war costs us not only billions of budget
dollars each year, dollars which could be better spent on
education, but it also tears apart the fabric of our society.
The Democratic Party should spearhead the call to reform drug
policy in the United States by focusing on treatment, education,
and decriminalization instead of continuing to follow policies
which do not work.
THE FIGHT TO THEM. For too long we have allowed the right
to paint us in terms of our own choosing. We must begin painting
them in terms of our choosing, to expose their rhetoric for
the straw man argument it truly is. We must continually pound
on such issues as "corporate giveaways" and "voodoo economics."
Every time a conservative utters the words "tax-and-spend
liberal," counter with "subsidy and deficit conservative."
We need to get mean, and we need to take the battle to them.
So long as they control the terms of the argument, they will
continue to control the popular debate.
that I am far from a policy maker with experience in any level
of government. But I also realize that the beliefs I have
are far from isolated. Given the right argument and the right
strategy, but most of all by upholding the right principles,
we will be able to see America return to its ideals of a government
"of the people, for the people, and by the people." The core
beliefs of the Democratic Party espouse these ideals. It's
high time we got back in the business of working to achieve
Sen. Thomas Daschle Rep. Richard Gephardt
Sen. Harry Reid Rep. David Bonior
Sen. Byron Dorgan Rep. Martin Frost
Sen. Tom Harkin Rep. Nancy Pelosi
Sen. Robert Byrd Rep. Charles Stenholm
Sen. Carl Levin Rep. David Obey
Sen. Paul Sarbanes Rep. Ike Skelton
Sen. Kent Conrad Rep. John Spratt, Jr.
Sen. Ernest Hollings Rep. George Miller
Sen. Jeff Bingaman Rep. John Dingell
Sen. Max Baucus Rep. John LaFalce
Sen. Joseph Biden Rep. Henry Waxman
Sen. Joe Lieberman Rep. Steny Hoyer
Sen. Edward Kennedy Rep. Tom Lantos
Sen. Patrick Leahy Rep. John Conyers, Jr.
Sen. Christopher Dodd Rep. Nick Rahall
Sen. John Kerry Rep. Ralph Hall
Sen. John Rockefeller Rep. Nydia Velazquez
Sen. Harry Reid Rep. Howard Berman
Sen. Daniel Inouye Rep. James Overstar
Sen. Bob Graham Rep. Lane Evans
Sen. John Breaux Rep. Charles Rangel
Sen. Jack Reed
Sen. Mark Dayton
Paul Wellstone Rep. Jesse Jackson, Jr.
Sen. Russell Feingold Rep. Marcy Kaptur
Sen. Hillary Clinton Rep. Nita Lowey
Sen. Charles Schumer Rep. Eliot Engel
author is the trade issues lead for the Lower Hudson (NY)
Sierra Club and an Irate Citizen.
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