Page One

A Message For Democrats

Tuesday August 05, 2003

To the leaders of the Democratic Party: 

You, your party, and all Democrats, are poised to lose. You are on the brink of losing the Presidency, Congress, and elected office at every level. 

Your party and its leadership have been articulate in opposing Bush domestic policy—in its simplest and broadest terms, “enrich the rich at all costs.” Yet Bush domestic policy is inseparable from Bush foreign policy: again, in broad terms, the overt redefinition of America as a Miltary Imperium. It entails the flow of the country’s discretionary wealth, not into the physical preservation of this country and the well-being of its population, but into military bases, new generations of every form of weaponry, and the abrogation of the treaty which staved off world-scale conflict for 40 years. Half the military expenditure of the entire world is drawn from the American taxpayer. As in all totalitarianism, each step engenders the next -- the next enemy, the next level of security, the next equipment for and exercise of power. 

While the polls showed “growing support for war,” they also showed, and show, equivalent support for challenge to those policies, in Congress and on the streets, and even more massive support for cooperation with the United Nations. 

Although many distinguished Democratic leaders have spoken out, their voices, taken one by one, are negligible in the sweeping torrent of newspeak emanating from the White House each day. Invoking patriotism, insistent and carefully engendered fear, and the adroitly shifting, continual attack that nullifies rebuttal, Bush and Rove keep the fight where they can win: abstract heroics, unassailable platitudes, and a fictive image of the world. And the right-owned media march in lockstep. “The War is Over. Long Live the War.” 

This is a rich country—with crowded classrooms and closed libraries; neglected public services; unprotected natural resources; decaying infrastructure; withering arts support; and systematic withdrawal of the safety net constructed through Democratic leadership in the 1930s. 

This list defines the choice between acceptance of and payment for the United States as a Military Imperium, or the channeling of our wealth toward Life. At this point members of the minority party in Congress are the only agents with the power to frame the message and deliver it.  

We appeal to you to act now and to win. Here is a 3-point program. 

1. UNITE  

Your adversaries have a common resolute, coherent policy. Underneath identity politics and the bickering for place, so do you. Surely a majority of Democrats in Congress support increased aid to education, maintenance and extension of medical care and public health, protection of the environment, maintenance of the physical infrastructure of the country; and prevention of crime, misery, and starvation in the streets. Unite in saying so. Unite in castigating Republicans for their flagrant destruction of these basic values, item by item. There is already discussion of alternative uses of the billions assigned to cutting taxes. The even more costly and much more far-reaching military spending remains largely unchallenged. Unite in connecting the destruction of America with the shift of wealth to war and tax cuts.  


Every lawyer knows it is more effective to attack than to defend. What takes a moment to allege takes years to disprove. No sooner was one “reason” for invading Iraq challenged, than another took its place. Invasion of Iraq saved George Bush Sr. from national focus on the Savings and Loan scandals; invasion of Iraq has spared his son from explaining his and his advisors’ intimate involvement with corporate corruption and fraud. 

When it is relevant— with this administration it is very relevant—attack ad hominem—another successful Republican tactic. Once the adversary uses it, it must be matched. The overwhelming preponderance of evidence is on your side. While the Republican right engaged in irresponsible, daily, and widely disseminated vilification of the Clintons, the politically significant conflicts of interest, shady deals, and illegal actions of Bush, Cheney, and Rove are rarely if ever mentioned by their political challengers, and often confined to the miniscule circulation of the progressive press. 

Even on national security—their trump card—the Bush administration has failed. The most likely sources and ports of entry for weapons of mass destruction have been left unguarded. The numbers of people in the world deeply motivated to trade their lives for death of an American, any American, has increased under Bush foreign policy, and will continue to increase. 


Mass media are the infrastructure of the country. Not the Constitution, not the right to vote, not community—but television, that glass panel of flashing light and moving images, and billboards, and print, that slam into consciousness most of the waking hours for most of us, every day. The media have become our consciousness, our nervous system.  

The strong, able Democrats in Congress must do what the Marchers did—engineer a series of events that the press cannot ignore. It took 150,000 marchers assembling in the Capitol for the whole media apparatus to at last direct its lens to the street, but they did. Although the politburo ignored them, two-thirds of the electorate saw, heard, and said the president should listen to the message. 100 Congressional Democrats, with their own “Contract for America,” stepping over the line together at a giant press conference will not be ignored. You are leaders. You still control the purse.  

When the Labor Party in England staged a similar manifestation of dissent, it was world news. We suggest a continuing series of press conferences on the Capitol steps, programmed with real information and argument, presented in a way that will be picked up by the press. You must take back your share of the press.  

A second event, designed to coerce media attention, is a vigil, from now until the election, of the people who maintain this country: teachers and professors, medical personnel, receptionists, postal employees, librarians, artists, firemen, etc.—all of whom are being fired, squeezed dry, deprived of facilities and equipment, asked to do the impossible—all in the interest of tax cuts and military expansion. And without leaders, without political instruction, they don’t know how to voice their complaints.  

Every week a new representative group of the decent, industrious, and at this point helpless people who make this country a good place to live, would share their problems and their lives in a vigil. Their slogan, on their own behalf and on behalf of the people whom they serve: We Want Our Money Back.  

The deplorable reshaping of democracy, world governance, the nature and extent of war, and the most recent world Imperium was a long time building. The presidency of George W. Bush has pushed it to critical mass. Human life, and the conditions for life cannot support an equally long time for correction. The rapid defeat in the next two elections of the Bush troika that rules the world will go a long way toward restoration.  

They are few and we are many. You are stronger than you think.  

Ariel Parkinson is a Berkeley painter, designer and poltical activist.