I'd like to make it clear to the people who run the Democratic Party that I will not support Hillary Clinton for president.
Enough. Enough triangulation, calculation and equivocation. Enough clever straddling, enough not offending anyone This is not a Dick Morris election. Sen. Clinton is apparently incapable of taking a clear stand on the war in Iraq, and that alone is enough to disqualify her. Her failure to speak out on Terri Schiavo, not to mention that gross pandering on flag-burning, are just contemptible little dodges.
The majority of the American people (55 percent) think the war in Iraq is a mistake and that we should get out. The majority (65 percent) of the American people want single-payer health care and are willing to pay more taxes to get it. The majority (86 percent) of the American people favor raising the minimum wage. The majority of the American people (60 percent) favor repealing Bush's tax cuts, or at least those that go only to the rich. The majority (66 percent) wants to reduce the deficit not by cutting domestic spending, but by reducing Pentagon spending or raising taxes.
The majority (77 percent) thinks we should do "whatever it takes" to protect the environment. The majority (87 percent) thinks big oil companies are gouging consumers and would support a windfall profits tax. That is the center, you fools. WHO ARE YOU AFRAID OF?
You sit there in Washington so frightened of the big, bad Republican machine you have no idea what people are thinking. I'm telling you right now, Tom DeLay is going to lose in his district. If Democrats in Washington haven't got enough sense to OWN the issue of political reform, I give up on them entirely.
Do it all, go long, go for public campaign financing for Congress. I'm serious as a stroke about this -- that is the only reform that will work, and you know it, as well as everyone else who's ever studied this. Do all the goo-goo stuff everybody has made fun of all these years: embrace redistricting reform, electoral reform, House rules changes, the whole package. Put up, or shut up. Own this issue, or let Jack Abramoff politics continue to run your town.
This is precisely the kind of platform that the Democrats--and the United States--need to embrace. Chomsky has been making this same point for a while. The US has no effective opposition party, no party that actually cares about what most people want.
I think running on universal healthcare (paid for with the repeal of the Bush tax cuts, maybe even a tax increase relative to what was in place before to make up for lost revenue) alone would be sufficient to propel the Democrats into Congressional majorities and a 2008 presidency.
Nevertheless, our democracy is ailing and in need of serious reform. In addition to the recommendations Ivins makes, I would add one further suggestion:
Make voting mandatory. Sound extreme? Belgium and Australia do it. This is how it would work:
First, election day becomes a national holiday--this is done by many democracies and should really be a no-brainer. The idea is that if voting is a disincentive--if it imposes a cost on individuals without any clear gain--then people will be more inclined not to go to the polls. Losing part of a day's pay is too great a cost for many.
Second, to increase the incentive for voting, impose a fine--on the order of a speeding ticket, say, between $100 and $250--for all those registered to vote who fail to do so. In addition, just as 18-year-old men are required to register for the draft, all turning this age would be required to register to vote (the same kind of penalties for not registering for the draft could be used, i.e., no access to federal financial aid for college, etc.).
Included on the ballot would be a "no vote" option, for those who favor no candidates, wish to register some protest vote, etc. Those who want a greater statement of protest can just choose not to vote and pay the fine.
Third, for this to be fair, the means of voting must be made less difficult: easier absentee balloting, less restrictive rules about provisional ballots, more opportunities for early voting, etc. Perhaps people could even be given a receipt (or mailed one), so they have some kind of evidence in the case of a mix up. (With electronic voting, there would need to be a paper trail anyway.)
The Republicans might argue that this would increase "voter fraud"--probably because too many people voting would render them a more or less permanent minority party. Nevertheless, the concern is a legitimate one, and reforms making voting easier would have to come with certain precautions. Unfortunately, I don't know enough about the mechanics of voting to create an in-depth articulation, so I leave this issue open for the moment.
This is a surefire way to increase voter turnout and strengthen our democratic process. Coupled with completely public financing for elections and a ban on lobbying, it could restore power to the people and strip the unfair influence away from the wealthy few.
Do I think this is plausible? Well, I know it's not perfect, but I believe that such an implementation could work, after careful investigations of how most effectively to implement it. Federal funding for these researches and the implementation of the program would be necessary to ensure consistency between states.
Where does such money come from? My solution to this kind of problem will always be the same: tax the rich. A CEO does not need to make 800 times what the lowest level employees make. Even if this hurts our economy significantly--and it is not certain that it would--it is worth the cost in the long run to live in a more democratic nation.
I don't see the Democrats embracing an idea like this in the near future. But if they don't advocate something, they should not expect to count on my vote. I am sick and tired of the marginalization of progressives and leftists in this country. If Republicans can embrace their radical elements and still win elections, why can't the Democrats--especially when this "radical" fringe, in many cases, is constituted by the majority of Americans.
So, like Ivins, I will not vote for Hillary Clinton, Joe Biden, Joe Lieberman, or any of these saps unworthy of the progressive movement. To steal a line from Stephen Colbert: Democrats, you're on notice.