I got a letter from Howard the other day asking me if I have seen enough, meaning enough of the Republicans to contribute to the Democratic National Committee and work to get "Republican corruption, incompetence and arrogance" out of Washington DC.
The letter is a really good bill of particulars about the disgraceful behavior of the Republicans (Delay, Frist, Rove), the Bush administration's abject failures with Katrina, its packing of the courts with right-wing ideologues, its broken promises to the seniors, children, and working families of America. Four pages of a kind of evil-doer listing of how bad things are under the Republicans and how supporting Democrats can make the Republicans "pay the price for caring more about their own power than the best interests of the American people."
What is not in the letter is what really bothers me. In fact, it astounds me that there is not one mention anywhere in the letter about the war in Iraq.
Granted, there is nothing in the letter about the health care crisis, the exploding trade deficit, the record-setting national debt, the increasing concentration of wealth in America, or the takeover of our national and local media by corporate power. But to leave out what is the dominating issue of our time, a war that is killing American men and women daily, along with hundreds of Iraqis, and which is bankrupting the country, is unconscionable.
No discussion of how the Democratic Party must find a way to campaign effectively on this issue, to offer some answers, some solutions. The gorilla in the room is simply ignored.
Here is what Howard Dean wants me to do, however. In bold letters on the first page, he exhorts me to
First, please help to increase the visibility of citizen opposition to the Republican special interest agenda -- by proudly displaying the enclosed "Enough is Enough! Vote Democratic!" bumper sticker in a prominent place."
Can you guess what the second thing is he wants me to do? Yep, send money now.
Almost three pages are spent describing the Republican outrages, and I am asked to put a bumper sticker on my car and send money. In all fairness, he does mention that there is something called the 2006 Election Action Plan and that we need to recruit strong Democratic candidates, provide financial, strategic and technical support to them, and conduct effective voter outreach campaigns and extensive get-out-the-vote efforts. I am inspired now!
I started my politicial career in 1968 as a campaign worker for a Democratic candidate for the California assembly in San Diego, and worked for Alan Cranston who was running for the US Senate. In 1972, I was an advance man for Henry "Scoop" Jackson in his bid for the Democratic Presidential nomination. I know that we have to give money, and we have to put bumper stickers on our vehicles, and we have to put signs up, and we have to organize precinct workers, and telephone call centers, and we need to register voters, and we need to organize get-out-the-vote efforts, and we need drivers to take people to the polls, and we need to drink alot of coffee and work 24 hours a day. But isn't there something more? What's missing? Could it have something to do with what we stand for?
I know that the Democratic Party attacks the Republicans for giving huge tax breaks to the rich, but what is the Democratic Party plan to redistribute wealth in this country at a time when the concentration of wealth is worsening?
I know that the Democratic Party opposes the Republicans on privatization of Social Security, but why isn't the Democratic Party supporting raising the cap on the social security tax on the rich which would solve any problem the program might have for the foreseeable future?
I know the Democratic Party is outraged by record oil profits, but what is it doing to rally the country around the only thing that will solve our energy crisis, a Marshall Plan to conserve energy immediately and to develop and build alternative energy sources for the medium and long term?
And finally, I know that most Democrats are critical of the Bush war in Iraq, but why did they turn their backs on John Murtha who has spoken truth to all the lies? Democrats ignored Wayne Morse in 1964 and we had ten more years of death and horror in Vietnam.
My reaction to Howard Dean's letter was basically this: it felt like a playground fight between two boys, one that has the ball, and the other one who wants the ball. Other than one boy calling the other all kinds of names, I am left to wonder which boy really deserves the ball more.
It has to be more than this. Until the Democratic Party really starts addressing the issues that are destroying our country's democracy, it will only win because the Republicans are incompetent, or corrupt, or lose their minds.
I know that in the short term things will be better if the Democrats take control of the government. They generally have better instincts about social and economic justice issues. I have no confidence, however, that things will change sufficiently to reverse the slide into plutocracy and oligopoly.