Published on Wednesday, May 30, 2001 in The Progressive
Sweet Music from Jeffords, A Tall Order for Democrats
by Matthew Rothschild
Finally, some good news!
After five months of Republican onslaught, Democrats and progressives got a huge boost when Vermont Senator Jim Jeffords abandoned the Republican Party.
His blast at the Republicans was sweet music, and you could almost hear 50 million Americans cheering in unison.
The shift in Senatorial power offers the first possibility of preventing some of the damage that Bush has in store.
But once the giddiness wears off, and it's beginning to already, progressives should hold the Democrats to a high standard.
Yes, a patients' bill of rights is important.
Yes, increasing the minimum wage is important.
Yes, blocking drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is important.
Yes, defeating rightwing judicial appointments is important.
And yes, putting the breaks on Star Wars is important.
But Democrats need to aim higher.
Domestically, they need to put back on the table a single-payer plan to ensure that the 43 million Americans without health insurance can at last get medical care.
They need to lift up the one out of five kids in this country who are in poverty.
And they need to rebuild a floor so that no American, at whatever age, has to suffer the stings of homelessness and hunger.
On foreign policy, the two most burning issues today are the Israeli-Palestinian crisis and the civil war in Colombia.
Democrats should demand that Israel withdraw from the Occupied Territories, and Democrats must pressure Bush not to support the Colombian military but to help broker a peace agreement there.
Some of these positions will require courage; others will require a new progressive conviction.
But there's a progressive majority in America: 53 percent of those who voted in November went for Gore or Nader.
Now that this majority has power in the Senate, it should use that power for the greater good.
Copyright 2001 The Progressive, Madison WI