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A Unifying Message for the Democratic Party

April 9, 2005
By Paul S. Hardersen

Ever since the November 2004 elections, I have been listening to the relentless wailing of political pundits and amateurs about the state of the Democratic Party and how we could lose - again - to a Republican president who is figuratively bankrupt in so many ways, it almost boggles the imagination.

While I am far from being directly involved in the political process, I do have a fair bit of background knowledge in politics. My job and other commitments keep me from becoming more involved, but my political urges are growing stronger as I seek to join with people who want to advocate for a healthy civic society and body politic in the United States.

With that in mind, I have a few suggestions that may help the Democratic Party develop a message that resonates with very diverse people from coast-to-coast. I do not offer these ideas as cure-alls, but maybe someone within the Party will find my thoughts worthwhile and maybe even use some of them.

Overall vision. I submit that one of the fundamental values that the Democratic Party should espouse - and espouse strongly and vigorously - is the ideal of strength through diversity. We must state strongly that we will never live in a mono-cultural nation with one set of ethical, religious, and moral values. We are approximately 300 million very different people who have varying views about many, many issues. It is not the role of government to tell people how to live - but it is the role of government to ensure that all people can pursue life, liberty, and happiness. This dictates that government should not favor one group over another, but should seek to manage the diverse constituencies to ensure that everyone receives fair and equitable treatment under the law.

I also suggest that, if used wisely, we can use this issue to highlight some of the more unseemly aspects of the Republican Party. There are those within the opposition party who hold views that some might consider discriminatory, which are used to promote the conservative social and political values of the party. We should highlight Republicans who hold such discriminatory values and let people know that this type of behavior is not conducive to a strong, united society. Whether the issue is equal rights for women, gays, racial minorities, or any other underrepresented group in society, we must proudly state that discrimination of any group in any way is wrong and should be eliminated. This, I think, will thrust Republican skeletons out of their closet and cause a major political raucous - but will also get people's attention.

Let's take the values fight to the Republicans - history is on the side of people who accept a diverse, multi-cultural society. There is no turning back from this reality.

Economics. The Republican Party and its President are already stumbling on economic issues this year, but a strong Democratic message should be pronounced that distinguishes us from the Republicans. Aggressively promoting a more equitable society - while still encouraging innovation and competition - are issues that we need to take to the public. The minimum wage should be increased, businesses should be encouraged to become more socially responsible, and the government should be used as a way to protect workers from the excesses of private industry. While we often hear of the "miracle" of private enterprise, little attention is paid to its adverse consequences. Government-industry hand-holding must stop - objective government oversight of industry must be re-established and promoted as a benefit for workers and businesses.

At the same time, promoting government-industry collaboration in important economic arenas, such as scientific research and high technology, should be promoted - along with greater government investment in the scientific education and training of our citizenry. Democracies only work with an educated citizenry and we are currently failing (miserably) to produce an educated electorate that can competently consider, discuss, and debate important public policy issues that affect their lives. We must stop the "dumbing down" of our society and promote the values of reason, understanding, and the discussion of important issues.

Foreign policy and defense. The situation in Iraq and the philosophies behind this military action is the sad continuation of an American foreign policy that is becoming increasingly imperialistic and intolerant of the wishes of the rest of the world. The simple acknowledgement that we are one member of the global community will go a long way toward changing our perception around the world. It will also begin to change the "do as we say and not as we do" philosophy that currently reigns. Promoting democracy is wonderful, but it must start at home. That is something, sadly, which seems less prevalent here as the President (or his minions) has (on at least two occasions) been accused of preventing some people from attending his "discussions" on Social Security. Reports of the lack of dissent in White House policy discussions are also disturbing. How are we to be a beacon of hope to the world when we increasingly act like a burgeoning oligarchy?

Americans who hold the imperialistic, nationalistic view that we should not and must not be concerned with the rest of the world simply need to understand, once again, that we are one nation in a very diverse world. We do not give up our sovereignty by listening to the needs, desires, and thoughts of other peoples. In fact, if our goal as a nation and a people is to improve the quality of lives of the people of the world, then we must listen and develop joint strategies to accomplish that goal.

Whether at home or abroad, it must be stated that the goal of our government is to improve the quality of all or lives. Stated strongly and loudly, this simple message will resonate with many, many people.

These are a few humble suggestions that I put forth to the Democratic Party. The time for weakness is over. Our diversity is our strength and it must be successfully argued, debated, and announced throughout the country - now!

What will actually happen to the Democratic Party? I'm not sure, but I give these thoughts to you for due consideration.

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