Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Liberals: Help is Here

I recently had the pleasure of attending a session of the Campaign for America’s Future Take Back America Conference held in Washington, D.C. It lifted my spirits and helped to renew my enthusiasm to work for progressive political candidates and values.

The day began with a rousing speech by Howard Dean, former Democratic Presidential candidate and now the Chairman of the Democratic National Committee. The theme of his speech was that we have the power. His message was that Democrats cannot win by only criticizing Republicans, although he said there was much to criticize about this most corrupt administration, but we must have a positive message and agenda to solve America’s problems. He outlined a comprehensive four-year program to turn what he called the purple states blue. Specifically, he called for fully portable pensions, independent control of pension plans, real campaign finance reforms, and election reforms such as instant run-off voting and verifiable voting including an auditable paper trail.

There were both morning and afternoon parallel plenary sessions. I choose to attend the morning sessions on A Real Security Agenda for America and The Fight for the Courts: Will the Right Reverse 20th Century Progress?. The Security Agenda panel consisted of Katrina Vanden Heuvel, Editor of The Nation, Ray McGovern, former CIA official and founding member of Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity, John Tirman, Executive Director, MIT Center for International Studies, and Jeffrey Sachs, Director, Earth Institute at Columbia University. Mc Govern said the war in Iraq is not winnable; he is afraid that if Bush must choose between losing the war and the draft, he will choose the draft. His solution for the war is to set a time table for withdrawal and implement it. It is as he said the better of all the very bad alternatives. Vanden Heuvel said that American troops are not regarded as liberators but as occupiers in Iraq and our best course of action now is to leave in an orderly fashion, very much echoing Mc Govern.The other panel members concentrated on what can be done domestically to improve our security such as less reliance on fossil fuels, and dismantling the Homeland Security apparatus.

The future of the judiciary is, in the opinion of the Fight for the Courts panel, the most important issue facing us for the next three decades. All panel members agreed it is vital to contact moderate Republicans to prevent a takeover of the judiciary by the extreme right and to make sure that Democrats are united in their opposition to radical court nominees. Otherwise, a conservative court will roll back social programs and civil rights.

John Edwards was the luncheon keynote speaker and, in the opinion of this writer, he is preparing to run for the presidency in 2008. His speech titled, Moving Beyond the Two Americas, was very upbeat and, as you would expect, very critical of the Bush administration.

The afternoon consisted of a very important and informative presentation on five initiatives for a more perfect union. The themes were: Apollo: New Energy for America, Pre-School for All, Affordable Healthcare for All, America Needs a Raise, and A True Family Values Agenda. Taken together, the ideas presented could provide an excellent framework for a progressive domestic agenda for the coming years.

The finally plenary I attended was Talking American. The two panel members were George Lakoff, of Don’t Think of an Elephant fame and the Goldman Professor of Cognitive Science and Linguistics at UC Berkeley and Diane Feldman, President, The Feldman Group a polling organization. Lakoff reviewed his work on framing issues and presented the following ideas: We are for the commonwealth for the common good so that individuals can pursue their personal goals; Taxes are repayments into the system;
Work is a contribution to society and as such workers are entitled to be compensated including good healthcare. Our current economy is structured to drive down wages and transfer wealth to the wealthy.

We need to take back life. Start with the fact of the insanely high infant mortality rate of the United States, the number of toxic chemicals in infant’s blood. Use these and other and other examples to portray the extreme right as the party of death.

Lakoff through his Rockbridge Institute is developing a progressive manual on how to reframe allthe issues important to the voting public. It will be available this fall.for free.

I came away very energized and with renewed hope that liberals and progressives have got their act together and are ready to fight the radical right for the soul of this country.