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A Modest Proposal
November 13, 2002
Eddi Ortiz

To my fellow progressives and moderates:

The old saying goes: If you don't stand for something, you'll fall for anything. In 2002 the Democratic Party virtually stood for nothing. As a result, the American electorate fell for lies, distorted issues and false priorities propagated by the Republican Party.

I am a lifelong Democrat. I'm not sure about the rest of you, but I believe it is time for a rebellion. A rebellion against a socio-political establishment brimming with arrogant Republicans; lapdog media conglomerates and affluent lobbyists who are dedicated to the preservation of a self-serving, impersonal, bloated government.

In spite of growing concern about President Bush's handling of the economy, foreign affairs and the so-called war on terrorism, Democratic politicians across the nation provided opposition without idealization. It seems so many campaigns during this mid-term election were devoid of new ideas. Instead, candidates and incumbents offered either the status quo or slight variations of Republican objectives. Meanwhile, almost no challenges were offered when conservatives continued to charge that Democrats were "unpatriotic" and "tax-and-spend liberals." Without an effective response, the charges stuck.

Now, what will America have to endure for the next two years, at the very least? More tax cuts for the rich, anti-environmentalism on a massive scale, unofficial persecution of political dissenters, neglect of health care and educational issues, a new layer of unnecessary bureaucracy, more attacks on equal rights and civil liberties, a more extremist judicial system, unchecked hubris among corporations, and the growth of a global war machine that has unlimited strength and technology. And all of this is inspired by our appointed president, who lost the overall national vote count in 2000, and his administration of amateurs, has-beens, wannabes and bush-league ideologues. Aren't you tired of this madness? I am. It's time to take off the kid gloves and do battle.

The Democratic Party must aspire to grow a backbone and develop a consistent set of values. Get some new blood. Leading stalwarts such as Terry McAuliffe, Dick Gephardt and Tom Daschle have done their best to strengthen the party, but obviously it was not good enough. Let the rising stars begin their ascent to key leadership positions. You can't keep campaigning as pure centrists that are currently part of the opposition party in name, but not in action. You must distinguish yourselves from Republicans and right-wing conservatives.

Reactionaries have made "liberal" a dirty word. Check a thesaurus: Liberal means tolerant, freethinking, enlightened, reformist. Use this to your advantage, for crying out loud. Do something to rid yourselves of the "tax-and-spend" label. Saddle Republicans with a "tax-and-waste" tag, as they levy fluff tax cuts and siphon off billions of dollars into the military-industrial complex while leaving other programs to wither. To fix the economy and other social ills, present plans that are viable for the average voter and your faithful power base. Expose blatantly hypocritical Republicans and conservatives on various issues; think about this: A pro-life stance is not just about abortion. It's about debating the worth of capital punishment, improving health care, being ecologically sensitive, and taking care of our children and elderly.

The Democratic Party should embrace a mix of traditional conservative, moderate and liberal principles - fiscal responsibility and social progressivism. If this is going to a party of the people, then the party must be made up of members and leaders who are brave enough to challenge corrupt forms of our electoral system, and fight the sickening influence money has on campaigns and lobbying. This party should have a comprehensive platform that is attractive to disenfranchised Democrats, independents, even Greens, Reformists, Libertarians, maybe a disenchanted Republican or two. The party has plenty of room for diverse views, especially among those who oppose the Republicans and their mission to drive America further to the right.

I believe a reinvigorated Democratic Party should address these basic ideals:

• Restructuring the tax code to make it easier to follow, and less cumbersome for workers, the middle class and small businesses
• Maximizing availability of adequate, affordable health-care benefits to all Americans
• Ensuring adequate funds, standards and resources for an excellent public education system where youngsters have more opportunities and proper training for the future
• Cooperating with the private and public sector to create a vibrant economy featuring healthy competition and decent jobs where people are paid enough money to care for their families, and where corporations realize that a safe environment, respect for employees and consumers, and business ethics are as vital as "the bottom line"
• Maintaining the environment with a focus on sustainable development and renewable energies
• Protecting individual rights as best as possible with emphasis on civic responsibility; promoting foreign, trade and security policies that have the same principles by which Americans live and work: A profound respect for fellow human beings across the world, a reverence for free will, democracy, ecology, cultural and religious tolerance, economic cooperation and the sanctity of life
• Maintaining a properly nourished, fiscally efficient and well-trained military that is not to be used for political gain nor as a mere show of strength
• Emphasizing crime prevention
• Formulating rational economic programs that include balanced budgets, surplus plans, ways to address debts and deficits, and prioritized spending; reforming campaign finance and voting systems
• Tort reform

I am not so much politically opposed to the Bush administration as I am morally opposed. I am a proud Christian progressive who is tired of the small yet vocal, spiteful minority of partisan evangelicals and fundamentalists who pretend to speak for all American Christians. You know of whom I speak: Pat Robertson, Jerry Falwell, William Safire, among others. They and their ilk rule mainstream media airwaves and newspapers, spewing vindictive propaganda. They talk of a "liberal media," a myth when you see that conservatives own and run most major newspaper companies, radio and television networks.

Want proof of "conservative bias" in the press? Take a look at Fox News. Consider that many talk radio stations refuse to air progressive-minded pundits, not because of a lack of marketability, but because of management's ideology. The reckless, haughty likes of Rush Limbaugh and Bill O'Reilly talk of "the truth" and "equal time" while belittling anyone who disagrees with them. I urge you all, especially moderate and progressive spiritualists, to storm the switchboards of radio and TV talk shows. Create new think tanks and rebuild old ones. Fight to get your own TV and radio programs. Write letters to editors of newspapers and news/political magazines. Defend your beliefs with a fervency that is equal to that of your rightist counterparts. This isn't supposed to ignite a political holy war, just level the playing field of socio-political discourse. This is your country, too, you know.

This is a dark time in American history, but it doesn't have to stay that way for long. Get out and fight the good fight. Promote feasible progressive and moderate ideals through the grassroots level, among loca and state political parties and activist organizations. Get online and spread the word. Do whatever it takes. Do what's right. The voters punished Democrats this fall, not because of a pro-Republican resolve, but because Democrats failed to articulate to the public solid alternative solutions to our problems. We can't be fooled again.

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