Published on Wednesday, June 2, 2004 by the Seattle Post-Intelligencer
Democrats Put Weakness on Display
by Naseem Tuffaha
While President Bush's approval ratings continue to drop, Democrats have never felt as optimistic that he will not be re-elected in November.
But key questions remain. Do Democratic leaders present a bold vision that inspires us as well as Americans across party lines? Do they act with courage or merely seek to win offices by not being quite as bad as the opponents? Based on the recent actions of Democratic leaders, it appears some real soul-searching is in order.
We see Sen. John Kerry playing it safe on what is becoming the most pressing issue of our time -- the war in Iraq. In what was billed as a major foreign policy address during his Seattle visit, Kerry stopped short of putting a stake in the ground as to what he would specifically do to solve this crisis. And only a few weeks ago, in an overt display of political pandering, Kerry decided to align himself with the policies of Israel's right-wing government led by Bush confidante Ariel Sharon, who continues to flagrantly violate international law with his attacks on Palestinian civilians.
In King County, sad to say, we see similar displays of weakness. At the King County convention on May 8, a platform plank was passed by Democratic Party delegates calling for an end of U.S. aid to Israel while it violates international law. Party leaders then scurried over the following week to examine ways to undermine this plank, including challenging it on procedural grounds.
Finally, the King County chairman issued a written statement declaring "the platform plank will stand as adopted by the delegation on May 8." It appeared the democratic process would be upheld.
However, the very next day, through a series of motions, back door moves and consultations with Robert's Rules of Order, the King County Central Committee changed the language of the plank to eliminate any reference to Israel. Instead, it became a broad statement about ending aid to any nation in violation of international law.
While such a statement is a welcome addition to the platform, it is a troublesome replacement of the plank regarding aid to Israel. It loses the perspective that Israel is the largest recipient of U.S. aid. It also loses the perspective that Israel is in violation of more than 30 U.N. Security Council resolutions -- more than any country in the world.
The fact that our government should consistently respect international law should not be used to grant Israel cover behind anonymous statements. The delegates who voted for the plank felt it appropriate to bring focus to Israel, as they brought focus to many other issues in the platform. The King Country Central Committee has now washed it away, preferring instead to make it the proverbial elephant in the room.
While this process has revealed disappointing behavior by some party leaders, it has generated enormous enthusiasm and support among the grass roots of the Democratic Party. The grass roots has passed over a dozen resolutions against the Berlin-style wall that Israel is building on Palestinians' lands. An exciting, deep-rooted change is taking place on the ground floor of the Democratic Party, even though these changes seem to frighten the chairs and committees that loom large with political ambition.
Martin Luther King Jr. once said, "We must build dikes of courage to hold back the flood of fear." As Democratic leaders all too often let fear dominate their decisions, we in the grass roots must set a strong example of the courage and integrity that will inspire people and attract more voters to our party. Only then will we earn the position to help create a truly just and fair society.
Naseem Tuffaha lives in Seattle.
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