Looking For A Leader In 2004

by Jan Baughman

May 12, 2003


So while the president rides high on his 'victory' in "Operation Iraqi Freedom," landing squarely on the platform of campaign 2004 with his reaffirmed co-pilot Cheney, the Democrats made their first bold entrée into the campaign with a Saturday Night Special debate seen by no one. It was probably better that way; and, of course, it's hard to compete with "America's Most Wanted," "Law and Order" and "Buffy the Vampire Slayer," even with Stephanopolous as host.

Anyway, it seems that debating is not permitted because it may send the 'wrong message.' "Democrats' First Presidential Debate Shows Party Fissures," read the morning-after headline in The New York Times. Isn't that the point? Without a true debate -- without one individual taking a stand and standing out -- the dems may as well just officially resign and join the Republican Party once and for all. "Republicans are watching, we should not have the bottom line tonight be that George Bush won because we were taking cheap shots at one another," implored the wise and aspiring politician, Rev. Al Sharpton. "How can we win if we send a message of weakness to the American people?" asked Lieberman. I'm afraid, Joe, you sent that message a long time ago...

Every election cycle, which is now pretty much continuous, the Democrats struggle to find an identity, all the while moving further and further from any semblance of the social conscience on which they once defined themselves. Not allowing one representative to rock the boat and lead the way, they drift along in a bobbing life raft on a sea of political uncertainty, clinging to the status quo of whoever is in status.

Here is a hint for an aspiring president: if you really want to make a go at it, try something different. Show you are genuinely concerned about recession, unemployment, health care, civil rights, Medicare. Take a bold step toward universal health care. Decry Bob Graham's cautious approach of incremental expansion of health coverage -- a reaction to the Clintons' failed health care reform. Give it another try, and another, until we understand that nothing less than sweeping change will work. Incremental baby steps cannot keep up with the growing number of uninsured and the rising cost of health care. We're not getting any younger.

Take an 'unpopular' stand in favor of reproductive rights. Here's another tip: there are a lot of women in this country, and a lot of women who fought for Roe v. Wade. You could probably garner a few votes by opposing the quiet disintegration of abortion rights by the current administration. Not everyone has noticed it yet. Yes, you will loose a few votes from religious groups. Take a chance.

Deconstruct the president's simpleton logic that says if a little tax cut is good, then a lot of tax cut is better. We're not a completely stupid people, but repetition helps. We've heard enough about evil evildoers to scare us into irrational submission. How about repeating the truth about the tax cuts for the wealthy until we develop a Pavlovian aversion to the slightest mention of trickle down theory? Have you visited your state recently? I can report from California that people are pretty upset about the budget deficits; the resulting increased local costs; the huge cuts in education and social services. It's not very controversial to stand up for children and education, or to expose 'tax relief for every American' for the scam that it is.

Redefine our role in the world. Give some thought to the global crises we are creating and/or ignoring. Look beyond your term limit -- there's a lot of good material to work with and there are reparations to be made. Why don't you challenge why we destroyed Afghanistan, and how we forgot to restore it? Stand up and be true to 'humanitarianism.' Do the same for Iraq, and whoever is next on the list, before it's too late. If you must preach, then preach diplomacy and peace. That would distinguish you from the rest.

Hello? Is there a leader out there? The time has come to step forward...

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Iraq on Swans


Jan Baughman on Swans (with bio).

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Published May 12, 2003
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