It's been just over a year since I started writing "Get Well, America!" columns, intended to offer policy ideas as an alternative to the organized crime syndicate some of you continue to call a "Grand Old Party." At the time, Republican leaders were howling that Democrats had no new ideas, that our only unifying position was our common loathing of George Bush.
In that column and one following, I suggested a dozen or so approaches Democrats might take to help pull America out of the Bush mud. Some of those suggestions were dead serious and some, not so much. I meant it when I said we should tax voracious business conglomerates that disguise themselves as churches, reinstate the Fairness Doctrine to the public's airwaves, cut off all government largesse to any enterprise that goes off-shore for their labor, and strive to make the voting process as incorruptible as anything humans have ever devised.
I meant it less when I said we should raise the minimum wage of illegal immigrants to double that of citizens, trade the other party Joe Lieberman straight across for Senator Chuck Hagel, and give Texas back to Mexico. Not that I think those are bad ideas. I'm just not confident others will fully appreciate the benefits.
I have never pretended my intention in presenting those suggestions wasn't to influence how people vote in the '06 elections. But as I continue here with "GWA!" now that the election is over, I must make a realignment in the purpose of the series. Instead of trying to convince regular people to vote for Democratic leaders, I will now be trying to convince Democratic leaders to take more of their guidance from regular people. It is regular people who, I believe, have turned America onto a much healthier heading, and they did it without much help from leaders in either party.
Now, there are those who would question whether I qualify for a "regular people" badge. They would insist I am far too liberal, and that the new congressional majority would be crazy to follow any advice I'm hawking if they want to remain the majority for more than two years. But then, these are the same naggers who've spent the last four decades turning "liberal" into a curse, and who are now trying to redefine the election results as a minor shift to the center instead of a stampede away from themselves.
Frankly, now that the Right is coming apart like a New Orleans levee, don't be surprised by anything that comes from their gaping, gasping mouths. In their present state of shock, they are much like waterboarding victims, struggling to say what they think their tormentors want to hear. One day, it might be, "Yes, no doubt about it ... we have received America's message loud and clear and will make the necessary adjustments," while the next day it will be "America didn't choose Democrats, they merely rejected Bush ... who abandoned conservative standards, anyway...which makes him a liberal ... so, really, America rejected liberalism!"
See what I mean? At heart, they're all like Preacher Ted Haggard, fishing about for a plausible excuse.
Let the advice begin:
• Henceforth, the campaign must never end. Progressives need to realize this bicker fest 'twixt opposing philosophies is an ongoing process that only appears to go into hibernation once an election is over. All too often, they have been taken by surprise because the Right has been scheming away like backroom vampires throughout the quiet times, undermining the foundations with cabals like The Federalist Society or Club for Growth or The Heritage Foundation. As a result, Democrats seem to be always playing defense, trying to stave off attacks that were years in the planning.
I'm sure it's exhausting to be on the perpetual offense, but if we can rely on anything from the Right, it's that they are determined to have power back, one way or the other, and the last six years should be ample demonstration of what's at stake when it's in their hands.
• Clean your own house and keep it clean. Start by excluding Rep. William Jefferson (of the ice-box cash fame) from office until he is proven either innocent or guilty of those bribery charges. As long as the Democrats have even one suspect Congressman in their midst (as compared to the steady drip, drip, drip of indicted Republicans), the GOP will be able to say, "See? They're just as bad as us!"
Then tell those K Street vermin that any money they care to contribute to the new majority will be, from here on, used to counter the corruptive influence of corporate power on our governing bodies. For instance, any and all contributions from Big Oil would go directly into research and development of alternative energy. The money from pharmaceutical giants would go into creating a national health care plan. Chemical company cash would promote organic farming. You get the picture.
• Make a law that says the final presidential candidates from each party must pick key Cabinet members and publicly announce who those appointees would be at least a month before the general election. This isn't an unreasonable requirement, not when you consider that the secretaries of this 'n' that are the direct links between a president and enormous components of the populace. And the populace should have some sort of idea, ahead of time, what it's in for. If you doubt what I say, I have two words for you: Donald Rumsfield.
• We--and by "we," I mean small-time little grass-rootsy sorts--have fought to take back the word "liberal." We did it for both ourselves and for you, Democrat leaders, because 1) far too many of you were too cowed to fight for it yourselves; and 2) we refused to give up on an ideal that has been moving humans to ever-higher ground from the Athenian polis, on through Jesus' Sermon on the Mount to the Magna Carta, to the Enlightenment and the American Revolution.
Now it's time for you to quit running from it, to embrace the liberal impulse for what it has always been, the engine of ethical behavior and the fuel of civilized societies. In short, "Liberal" is on the verge of being respectable again, so help us push it over the finish line. And let us never again allow it to fall into the filthy paws of the likes of Limbaugh and O'Reilly.
Drat! I'm out of room and I haven't even gotten to the best part yet. You know ... the part about how Bush must pay for his crimes. So count on it. Next week ... "Get Well America! III: Part Two."