Kill The Democrats; Long Live The Democrats!
This last election really turned me off. The Republicans peddled their copyrighted brand of panic, blaming Barack Obama for everything from ISIS and ebola to the scourge of ingrown toenails. The Democrats, meanwhile, continued to do their patented impressions of field mice.
Hi, Would You Vote For Me?
I’ve had it with both parties. Of course, I’ve never really not had it with the GOP; when I was 18 and registered to vote for the first time, the Grand Old Party declared itself four-square against the Equal Rights Amendment. Even at that tender age I figured any party willing to fight tooth and nail against guaranteeing Constitutional rights for half this holy land’s citizens was rotten to the core. Very, very little in the ensuing four decades has persuaded me otherwise.
For years, though, I had hopes for the Dems. I happily cast my vote for Jane Byrne in 1979 when she became Chicago’s first female mayor. I was thrilled four years later when Harold Washington became my beloved hometown’s first black mayor. I gleefully pulled the lever three times for Adlai Stevenson — once when he ran for reelection to the US Senate in 1976 and twice when he ran unsuccessfully for Illinois governor in ’82 and ’86.
I did my microscopic electoral part for House members Dan Rostenkowski and Luis Gutierrez. I even voted for Rahm Emanuel when he ran for Congress in 2002. For the first ten years of my voting life I was enthralled with the Democrats. They were my heroes and, at times, my saviors — for instance when the arch-villain Ronald Reagan was running for president.
Jimmy Carter, I sensed though, was a decent Joe but lacking in toughness. He didn’t have the killer instinct a street brawler must have. And if politics is anything, it’s a street brawl. Still I voted for him twice. I threw the lever for Walter Mondale, too, and not just because his comely daughter, radio personality Eleanor Mondale, flirted with me once at the Treasure Island grocery on Clybourn Avenue. Sigh.
Anyway, along came Michael Dukakis and I was forced to vote in November 1988 while pinching my nostrils together. The man was about as scintillating as a six-month-old bottle of canola oil. But worse, during his debate with the eventual presidential victor, his opponent George H.W. Bush charged that Dukakis had committed the unforgivable sin of being a member of the ACLU. At which point, I was hoping Dukakis would reach for his wallet, pull out his ACLU membership card, and proclaim, “You’re damned right I’m a member. I support this country’s Constitutional rights. Why aren’t you a member?”
Instead, Dukakis dithered and mumbled and looked like a little boy who had to dash home because his mother was calling.
For a brief stretch in the 1990’s, the Dems reinvigorated me. Not necessarily their standard-bearer, the right-of-center and supremely unctuous Bill Clinton, but his campaign strategist James Carville. Now, he had the killer instinct. Carville not only was willing and able to go toe to toe, he dug it. And vying against a reprobate such as the Republicans’ Lee Atwater, he had to be unafraid to get blood on his knuckles.
But then the Dems went right back to being meek as Dukakis. In 2000, when Al Gore needed every edge he could find, he eschewed the help of his former boss — Bill Clinton arguably was the nation’s finest and most charismatic campaigner — simply because the outgoing Prez had enjoyed a refreshment courtesy of Monica Lewinsky a time or two in the Oval Office. The dope. Gore lost the race to Georgey-boy Bush and that was that.
Four years later, John Kerry appeared to be positioned to knock Bush II off his perch but — wouldn’t you know it? — some ideologues and tinfoil cap-wearers came along and charged that the former Purple Heart winner had faked his injuries in Vietnam. Again I was hoping John Kerry’d take to the podium, lift his trousers leg to show his scars, and say, “How dare you bastards insult me and all the poor sons of bitches who lost blood, limbs, and their lives in that godforsaken shithole of an unjust war?”
But no, Kerry was above it all. Subsequently he was below it all — as in 3,000,000 votes shy of the man who’d embroiled us in his own ten-year-long, $2 trillion phony war.
And then this year the Dems opted to run like the wind from their latest right-of-center party leader, Barack Obama. They ran from him so hard that they had nothing left to run against the Republicans, who swept to the majority in both houses in historic fashion.
For all that, I say screw ’em. Unless the Dems start turning over the party to real, true progressives who want to take up the banner against the 1%, who want to speak for the poor and the disenfranchised, who want to foment a mini-revolution in America’s halls of Congress as well as on Wall and Main streets, they can go to hell.
To that end, I propose a manifesto. Call it Big Mike’s Platform. If the Democrats want me and the (I hope) millions of others like me who want steeled-spined fighters for truth, justice, and the American way to smash the Republicans and their uber-wealthy sugar daddies, they’ll adopt this platform. And why not? It was good enough, in large part, for Democrats for almost a hundred years — that is, the hundred years before they magically turned into field mice.
Now then, the platform:
- Reverse Citizens United
- No cap on income to deduct Social Security taxes
- Minimum wage tied to independently-set poverty level figure
- Paid family & medical leave
- Re-institute Glass-Steagal legislation
- Re-institute higher capital gains and inheritance tax levels
- Disallow investment bankers from serving on regulatory commissions overseeing investment banks
- Consider the search for effective, affordable, renewable energy sources as vital as a war effort
- Rebuild roads, bridges & ports
- Create a simple pathway to citizenship
- Complete and unfettered access to affordable contraception, including abortion
- Create a College of Lobbyists (Legislators must not meet or communicate with lobbyists outside a designated area within the Capitol that has public gallery viewing. Lobbyists register and schedule informational talks that Senators and Representatives can attend voluntarily. This way, legislators get needed information on topics as well as advocacy groups’ input on proposed laws. Any contact between lobbyists and legislators outside this arena would be punishable by jail.)
- Mandatory voting
- Month-long elections with convenient voting centers
- Complete public financing of national, state and local elections
- Abolish the Electoral College
- Single-payer, universal health care
- Universal military or social service, earning participants college credits
- Complete and thorough background checks on all gun purchasers
- A national database of gun purchases and ownership
- Restrict sales of automatic weapons and armor piercing ammunition
- Limit the number of firearms an individual may possess
- Guaranteed free public education, through college and post-graduate work
- Comprehensive public transportation, including municipal bus and light rail and national, high-speed heavy rail
- Restrict corporations’ cross-media holdings
- Eliminate no-bid federal government contracts
- Discard farm subsidies that benefit large agri-business corporations
- Encourage labor unions and persuade management and unions to work hand-in-hand to ensure the success of industry
- Increased investment in science and business research
- Decriminalize drug abuse and emphasize treatment for abusers
- Internet neutrality
- Affordable broadband access
I’m sure there’s more, only I haven’t thought of it yet. When new ideas come to me, I’ll share them.