Democrats Need to Hang on to Values

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the Seattle Post-Intelligencer

Democrats Need to Hang on to Values

Democrats who joked about fleeing to Canada after the re-election of President Bush should stick around and stick to their values.

President Bush appears likely to launch vigorous policy assaults that Democrats will need to counter. The Bush drive to privatize Social Security and his eagerness to stack the U.S. Supreme Court with right-wing justices are two instances where the loyal opposition of the minority Democratic Party will be essential.

With the three branches of government in Republican hands, the chances of stopping Bush's conservative agenda will be difficult but not impossible.

And it's not the time to yield.

That may not be the advice we would expect from the Democratic Leadership Council -- closely identified with former President Clinton and Sen. Joseph Lieberman, D-Conn. They would move to the center and blend with Republican attitudes to the point where the Democrats would become invisible.

Will Marshall, president of the Progressive Policy Institute and formerly DLC policy director, said the Democrats need "to become the party of middle-class opportunity again."

He said the party emphasis should be on budget reform, the rising deficits, education, health care and Social Security.

Ruy Teixeira, political analyst and a fellow at the Center for American Progress and The Century Foundation, says the Democrats have to work to recover the support of the white "working class." He recommended that the party focus on worker issues such as the minimum wage and other benefits.

Historically, the Democrats have focused on the safety net issues, dating back to Franklin D. Roosevelt's New Deal and Lyndon B. Johnson's Great Society. That's when the word "compassion" had some meaning.

Some pundits believe it was the so-called social issues, including abortion rights and gay marriages, that turned the tide for Bush in the Nov. 2 election. And indeed, the GOP enlisted the support of churches for those causes.

Those ploys did not work with black Americans. Donna Brazile, former campaign manager for Al Gore in 2000, said black Americans were "one of the few Democratic base groups to hold fast to the party in the face of a strong so-called moral tide for Bush."

In fact, Brazile said, "an overwhelming 89 percent majority of African Americans voted against Bush in 2004."

The president successfully blunted another moral issue -- the unprovoked invasion and occupation of oil-rich Iraq -- by mushing Iraq into the war against terrorism.

This deception has gone on now for three years. It's the Big Lie that the public has come to accept over time, thanks to the administration's deadening repetition of its claim.

Truth took a holiday in this presidential campaign. Iraq was hardly mentioned by Bush except in terms of supporting our troops in the war against terrorism.

Kerry fumbled on this issue, failing to denounce the misadventure in the Middle East that has caused the deaths of thousands of Iraqis and some 1,200 Americans.

Even after all of Bush's rationales for the war fell apart, Kerry blew it big time by saying that he would have done the same thing as the president did.

Kerry had voted for the war when Bush sold Congress on a scenario of falsehoods involving Iraq.

Later, when it became clear that the president had taken the nation into war under false pretenses, Kerry failed to call his hand and instead let him off the hook. Incredible.

Look for Bush's second term to be more of the same with conservative policies at home -- and more militant policies abroad.

Democrats should stand their ground. Voters in middle America will soon find out that real family values translate into a good education, health care for all and economic prosperity. In other words, Democratic values will again be appreciated.

Helen Thomas

Helen Thomas was an American author and former news service reporter, member of the White House Press Corps and columnist. She worked for the United Press International (UPI) for 57 years, first as a correspondent, and later as White House bureau chief. She was an opinion columnist for Hearst Newspapers from 2000 to 2010, writing on national affairs and the White House. Among other books she was the author of Front Row at The White House: My Life and Times. Helen passed away on July 20, 2013.

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