As a young art student in the late forties (on the GI Bill) I was delighted by the freedom and inventiveness of modernism. Freedom from traditional restraints in the arts, industry and lifestyles was the engine of modernism. But as the restriction of old values was thrown off and sensationalism often became the road to notoriety, I became aware that we have not created new values to replace the old.
Now, cutting corners has become the way to effectiveness. We did away with that stuffy old Constitution that required a Declaration of War and substituted the euphemism of use of force resolutions. In a panic of fear we circumvented the awkward elements of the Bill of Rights. We ignored the influence and abuse of the large corporations in exchange for their campaign contributions and indulged the greed of lobbyists even to the extent of allowing them to write the laws governing their industries.
The public good and the public need have been ignored in a roiling frenzy of opportunism.
One does not have to be a history major to know that this is the path to national self-destruction. We are swimming in debt from personal credit cards to national balance sheets. We have exported our industry, our jobs and our know-how. We have watched while liberalized accounting procedures led to the collapse of major corporations and with them went public confidence in their safety as investments. By many measures the United States is behind the nations of Europe in providing for its people.
No doubt Democrats will pick up some seats in the election of 2006.
However, regardless of who wins the presidential election of 2008, they will be severely limited by a depleted treasury, the hostility of formerly friendly nations, the decline in the economy, the failing infrastructure and the deteriorating environment in which we all must live.
In spite of the Civil War slogan of trusting God on our money, governments must have the trust of their people to be effective. The Bush administration has squandered that trust by leading us into war with lies, utterly failing to cope with Katrina, endless corruption and the perverse appointment of people to head agencies that they despise. Who can govern without the confidence of the people?
If we Democrats are to become a great party again, we have to publicly and substantially separate ourselves from Republican corruption and mismanagement. The support of some Congressional Democrats for Bush ¹s War, tax policies and the dis-enforcement of the laws that protect the poor, labor and the environment, have left the public wondering who can they trust. Party loyalty is a two-way proposition. The Party must prove its loyalty to the American people with a vigorous rededication to their interests.
To regain the confidence of the people Democrats have to embrace new priorities that clearly distinguish them from Republican failures.
The top priority is the rebirth of ethical legislative behavior. To succeed the Democrats must be known as the upright party that serves the American people. Such a party must have its own ethical rules and methods of enforcement. It must demand that all candidates live up to their oath of office: to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution. For example, they must not allow the substitution of a use of force resolution ¹ for a Declaration of War and the open debate that must accompany it. They must not vote for tax breaks for the rich while working people do without proper food, housing and medical care.
They must resist the temptation to weaken the Bill of Rights with the compromises of the so-called Patriot Act. They must serve the United States and its people with dedication. And they must not allow campaign contributions or the favors of lobbyists to deflect their dedication to their constituents. To make this dedication easier, Clean Money must be a top priority of the Democratic Party, while the Gifts to Federal Employees act, Title 5 #7353, should be strictly enforced.
These rules should be clearly spelled out with meaningful enforcement by the Party. A full time committee of experienced congress watchers should serve under the Chair of the Democratic Party. It could be called Democratic Empowerment, because of the strong trust and sound legislation that will follow. It must make clear to all Democrats that repeat offenders will be removed from the Party. It is an honor to serve the people of the United States and the dignity of that honor must be maintained.
To be strong, the Democratic Party must once again become the party of the people. This image must be based on the Progressive concept that it is the responsibility of government to prevent corporations from abusing their power. Laws protecting the public, labor and the environment from corporate abuse must be strictly enforced - rather than weakened as they have been by the Bush administration. Dedicated people must be put in charge of our national resources. For example, why should not Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. be in charge of the Democratic Environmental Committee and later invited to be Secretary of the Interior? This kind of appointment will make it clear to the nation that Democrats care about the environment in which our people must live.
It is simply ludicrous to campaign on domestic issues alone while thousands of our young people are maimed and dying for an obscure cause in Iraq. Most political Democrats regard the War in Iraq as a dangerous third rail; they should remember that the third rail also provides the energy that makes trains run.
We cannot have a democracy at home and be a colonial power abroad. Our security lies not in the military domination of the world, but in the advancement of international cooperation and law. The United States should be the leader in solving the world ¹s real problems - poverty, hunger, disease and shortages of food and water - rather than wasting our resources by bullying the world with its overwhelming military force.