In an opinion piece that ran in The Beacon's Oct. 6 issue, I recently made the argument that, for strategic reasons, the Democrats need to shift back toward the left if they hope to win elections. The question posed here, however, is quite different. Rather than focus on what is in the best interest for the Democratic Party in 2008, the focus is on what would be best for the nation. What kind of president do we need in 2008?
While the question is different, the answer remains the same. We need a left-leaning, progressive candidate who will strive to make real, substantive changes and challenge the status quo.
The first reason for this is also the most obvious. After two terms of a Bush White House, we need someone with a vastly different vision of where to take this country if we hope to begin to clean up the mess that Bush will have inevitably left us with.
For starters, we are stuck in an unjust quagmire of a war with Iraq-the Vietnam of our time-and have alienated most of the world with our foreign policies. What is most frightening about Iraq is that it reflects a neoconservative policy of pre-emptive interventionism, not a last-resort effort to ensure national security or a reaction to Sept. 11, 2001.
The Project of the New American Century (PNAC), a neo-con think-tank that shares Bush's vision for foreign policy, lists on its Web site its statements of principles. They read: "We need to increase defense spending significantly if we are to carry out our global responsibilities today and modernize our armed forces for the future."
It continues, "We need to accept responsibility for America's unique role in preserving and extending an international order friendly to our security, our prosperity and our principles." This was written in 1997 and signed by many of today's top government officials, including Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, former Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz, Vice President Dick Cheney, his top aide I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, current United Nations Ambassador John Bolton and Florida Governor Jeb Bush. PNAC also drafted a letter in January of 1998 to President Clinton, urging him to show a "willingness to undertake military action." This shows quite clearly that many of the people who currently dictate foreign policy today have a deep ideological belief in military interventionism.
In 2008 we need a president who will not only end the war in Iraq, but also change the way we think about the military. We deserve a candidate who is willing to cut the absurdly inflated Pentagon budget and allocate funds for desperately needed social programs. In other words, we need a progressive president.
If we wish to change our foreign policy, we must start by electing leaders who offer us a different vision. "Moderate" voices like Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) or Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-NY) have called for more troops and have been supportive of the war effort. To elect one of those people is, in essence, a vote to continue the war.
Iraq, however, is just one issue for a prospective president to deal with. Over the course of the last five years, Bush has violated civil liberties with the USA Patriot Act, spent the country into a record deficit and passed various fiscal policies-such as tax cuts for the rich and more restrictive bankruptcy laws-that have made life even more difficult for the poor. We need to elect a person who will reverse this legislation-something a Republican or a right-leaning Democrat would likely not be willing to do.
A progressive-minded president is not needed just to counteract to the work of President Bush. Since the days of FDR, our nation has been shifting continuously toward the right. It is time we started to tilt the scales back a bit the other way. In 20 of the 28 years since Ronald Reagan was first elected president, we have had supply-side/trickle-down economists in the White House. Even Clinton, the lone Democrat to hold office during this time period, was essentially a fiscal conservative.
Clearly, dramatic reform is needed. Over the last 50 years, the labor movement has weakened considerably. According to the Department of Labor, only 12.5 percent of workers belong to unions.
Meanwhile, our national minimum wage is currently at an absurdly low $5.15 an hour and hasn't been raised since 1997.
In fact, our nation has moved so much in favor of big business over the years that a left-wing candidate today would have been considered moderate by party regulars only a few decades ago. Moreover, today's "liberal" candidates would have been viewed as centrists during the 1960s.In fact, the Democratic Party, which is labeled as left wing in the States, is actually considered right of center in many parts of Europe.
No one in the Republican Party has shown the type of opposition to Bush that would convince me they would make serious changes to our nations policies. In fact, to this day no Democrats have either.
If our nation wishes to instill positive change, however, we had better hope a viable anti-war, progressive candidate emerges soon. Otherwise, we will be left with exactly what we don't want: more of the same.