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An Open Letter To The Democratic Party

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Message Ed Menken


An Open Letter to the Democratic Party

Well, the Democrats in congress finally did it. They actually succeeded in confirming the conservatives’ long-held claim, the independents’ long-held suspicions, and the long-held fears of loyal progressives, that the Democrats are weak, spineless, cowards.

Allegedly because of a “fear of an appearance of being weak on terrorism” (according to the mainstream media), House and Senate democrats caved in to the tyranny of Bush, Cheney, and the right-wing noise machine and, in a powerful affront to Democrats throughout the country, passed the expanded Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. I fully expect that this action will result in a major fracture within the Democratic Party, and that millions of us will now begin to look for the emergence of a new Progressive Democratic Party that will reflect the hopes, the dreams, and the aspirations of the vast majority of Americans, which the decrepit Democratic Party has clearly abandoned.

The millions of us who were more than disappointed in those Democrats who voted to support Bush’s plan to invade Iraq without a close examination of the manipulated intelligence, without ever challenging the implication of Iraqi involvement in 9/11, without ever investigating the shoddy claims of the Bush administration’s justification for war, and without ever exploring the contradictory evidence from the CIA, the State Department, the Department of Energy, and the UN inspectors who were on the ground until Bush told them to leave, will now, after the despicable votes to support Bush’s continuing assault on the Constitution, turn their energy and support to the creation of that new Progressive Democratic Party and away from the thoroughly shameful performance of those who have clearly betrayed the principles of the party of FDR, JFK, and RFK.

And lest you believe that the votes to endorse Bush’s latest treachery are all there is to this call for a new political party, you should know that the Democratic support for the “bankruptcy bill”, while ignoring the fact that 50% of those Americans who had to file for bankruptcy protection were forced to do so because of their inability to pay for health care costs, was one of the “straws” that would eventually “break the camel’s back”, as was the sheepish, disastrous  response to Bush’s nominations of Alito and Roberts, the failure of John Kerry to challenge the “swift-boating” that was so brazenly done to him, the failure to stand up to the religious right by reinforcing, rather than withdrawing from, the Founder’s intention that this nation was to be a secular haven, and the irresponsible declaration of Nancy Pelosi that “impeachment was off the table.” So, while the votes to support the expansion of FISA may be the final “straw”, you shouldn’t deceive yourself into believing that that was all there was – or is – to the anger and frustration toward the party that no longer represents the beliefs of mainstream Democrats.

Long-term Democrats like me – who are not, by the way, either “radical”, nor “extremist” – have stood by helplessly as our Party has drifted steadily toward, and finally into, an abyss of fear and cowardice, while Democratic “leaders” have for too long taken us and our votes for granted. This will no longer be the case. There might be a handful of Democrats that I will continue to support, but I will no longer support the Party, no longer identify myself as a “Democrat”, and no longer contribute money or time to a Party that deserves neither. Rather, I’m convinced that the mounting pile of egregious actions – and inactions – on the part of national Democratic elected officials will give birth to that new Progressive Democratic Party, and that that Party will attract the interest, support, and commitment of millions of progressive activists. And I, and every progressive I know, will join that movement with a heightened sense of urgency, a deeper sense of loyalty, and a greater sense of purpose than ever before.

Apart from the spinelessness demonstrated by the FISA votes, there is another general characterization that the Democratic Party should recognize; while the GOP and the broader right-wing noise machine long ago learned how to “street fight”, and has been using that technique and style to it’s huge advantage since 1994, the Democrats have consistently acted as though the major political struggle of our time can only be won by a gentleman-like mild manner that relies solely on substance and detail to combat the opposition, as though appropriately caustic language and a purposefully assaultive presentation were beneath them. A few excellent examples make the point:

1. In defending the continuous erosion of a woman’s right to choose, Democrats have backed themselves into the corner of, “It’s a women’s health issue that should be between a woman and her doctor.” That’s consistently and effectively countered by dishonest and mischaracterized descriptions of a fetus, the deceptive and manipulative references to “unborn children”, and the accusation that “abortion is murder.” But rather than shrink from such outrageous right-wing claims, as the Democrats have been doing for far too long, they should be countering with statements like, “These pro-life zealots want to turn women’s bodies into procreation factories for the state”, or, “We will not allow American women to be turned into brood mares to satisfy someone’s personal religious views.” What Democrats fail to understand is that not only do the vast majority of Americans want to maintain a woman’s right to choose, they would be ecstatic to finally see and hear Democrats” take off the gloves.” And the other not insignificant result is that the media – who already believe that the charge of weakness is accurate, and pursue their reporting accordingly – would sit up and take notice, and begin showing a new kind of respect toward Democrats. But the Democrats have neither the understanding nor the courage to engage in the “street fighting” that the GOP has virtually mastered…though their mastery has been achieved only because the opposition has never truly engaged them in battle….much like a one horse race.

2. Why haven’t the Democrats promoted the numerous comparisons between the Bush and Nixon administrations? Therein lay a huge opportunity to capitalize on another Republican administration that broke the law, discarded the Constitution, and believed that the president was above the law. Every day that passes without having established the connection in the minds of the public and the media results in the Democratic Party losing more ground.

3. Why haven’t the Democrats promoted the brilliance of JFK’s handling of the Cuban missile crisis by comparing it to the global catastrophe of all-out nuclear war had George W. Bush and Dick Cheney been in the White House at the time?  “Left to the irresponsibility and recklessness of Bush/Cheney and their GOP supporters and apologists, hundreds of millions of people would have been vaporized…because those war lovers could never imagine, no less achieve, a strategy that required caution and brilliance, instead of bluster and ignorance.” These are the kinds of statements that Democrats need to make if they want the respect of the American people and the media. And this is the kind of position that would win elections and bring the country back from the brink.

4. And how in the world have the Democrats let the GOP extremists and their right-wing echo chamber get away with painting them as unpatriotic, when a few of them – but unfortunately not all – stood against Bush’s scuttling of the Constitution? How was it possible that not one prominent Democrat went before the microphones to declare that our brave and courageous military in Iraq are dying and being maimed for Bush’s and Cheney’s megalomania, not for our freedom? Why is it that when Bush’s brain, Karl Rove, promoted the despicable label of “cut and run liberals”, no prominent Democrat went before the cameras to declare that “This president misled us into an unnecessary and unprovoked war in Iraq, and anyone who believes that trying to get yourself out of that lethal pool of quicksand is “cutting and running” is a supreme idiot or pathologically suicidal.” But no prominent democrat made any such public statement. And why is it that none of the so-called Democratic leaders in the Congress held a major press conference to expose the fact that while George Bush and Dick Cheney like to play dress up in military garb, visit various bases around the country and pay lip service to our servicemen and women about how much they’re appreciated, while at the same time they want our vets to pay more of their health care costs at the VA, want less of a pay raise than the Democrats proposed, still haven’t provided the latest protective gear for all of our soldiers and marines in battle, and don’t have the decency to enforce the laws that protect the jobs of our reserves and national guard while they’re fighting overseas? No, the Democrats have done none of these barely courageous things. Instead, they wither and withdraw. And grass roots Democrats and progressives throughout the country are fed up with their cowardice.

I could offer numerous other examples, but I’m not optimistic enough to believe that it would matter. The Democrats in the House and Senate became the majority in the 2006 election only because the American people were angry, frustrated, and wanted real change. Essentially, they won by default. But the Democrats have already failed the American people because they have refused to engage in the kind of “street fighting” that has been beating them for far too long. They are, indeed, fearful wimps who will never – as long as they maintain that spinelessness – convince the American people that they can successfully combat terrorism and keep the country safe. And that’s what the mainstream media continues to remind us of, day after day.

Harry Reid should jump back onto the canvas of American Gothic and leave the majority leader’s position to someone like Russ Feingold. Nancy Pelosi should hold a press conference and state clearly that when she said impeachment was “off the table”, she wasn’t aware of the extent of impeachable offenses that George Bush and Dick Cheney were guilty of, which have now become clear, and she should allow impeachment proceedings to go forward.

Democrats will not win elections indefinitely, simply because they are “the lesser of two evils.” They will only win, and achieve veto-proof majorities, when they crawl out from behind the shelter they’ve been hiding behind for too many years. They will only garner the long term respect and support of the American people when they engage the right-wing in a street fight, and win. That battle can be won because the Democratic style of street fighting can be fought without the deception, distraction and disinformation practiced by the GOP.  But it takes courage.

Thankfully, we now have the Internet, the bloggers, and the rising tide of activism that finally has the capacity to instigate real political change. All one has to do is listen carefully to the sound of growing disenchantment, the echo of disappointment traveling across the country, and the crescendo of determination that promises a new wave of progressive influence among the people of this great country. It’s time for a new Progressive Democratic Party, and tens of millions of us await it with excitement, enthusiasm and open arms.


Ed Menken

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Ed Menken is a life-long, self-described "unapologetic progressive", a proud member of the ACLU, and a strong supporter of Barack Obama.
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