Column: The View From Here: Dare We Dream About Democracy?

By P. M. Price
Friday November 17, 2006

It would be easy for Democrats to become a bit heady what with the newly won House and Senate seats and all. But before getting too carried away, I would suggest that the “Blue” party take stock and ask themselves some serious questions, namely; who are we and what are we doing here?  

As I write this column, the media has just announced that our new Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, has already experienced her first defeat. Pelosi had publically backed her longtime ally Rep. John Murtha to become the House majority leader over her previous competitor, Rep. Steny Hoyer. Fellow Democrats rallied around Hoyer to defeat Murtha 149-86. “It was a stunning victory for him,” declared Pelosi, looking quite stunned.  

What was Pelosi thinking? Most reports so far—and we can be sure this outcome will be the leading news story on all of the networks for days to come—harp on Pelosi’s extreme loyalty to those who have supported her career. Murtha not only managed her 2000 campaign against Hoyer to become the Democratic whip, his opposition to the Iraq war has made him a semi-celebrity, despite his questionable ethics. (I hestitate to even bring up Murtha’s ties to the 1980 Abscam sting—he was only “almost caught” whereas I believe that most politicians engage in unscrupulous backroom dealing—it’s the nature of the beast.)  

In fact, Hoyer, who is pro-choice and supports gun control and the protection of the environment (unlike Murtha), more closely represents Pelosi’s constituents. So, Pelosi did not select Murtha to benefit us. She chose him for personal reasons. Big mistake. She hasn’t even had a chance to warm up her seat yet and she’s already kow-towing to conservatives. Where’s your power, Nancy? Don’t give it away so soon. 

Democrats have given away a lot over the past few decades. Their claim to certain words, for example. Words and phrases like “family values,” “pro-life,” “concerned citizens” and “morally correct.” I recently heard a gay activist on the radio who referred to his opponents more than 10 times during 60 seconds as “values voters,” giving credence and free advertising to those on the right who claim to be the only ones with “values.” How dumb is that? (By the way, I miss rainbows standing for nothing but rainbows.)  

Meanwhile, Dems run away from words they should embrace, like “liberal” and “affirmative action.” To be a liberal and support affirmative action is essentially to acknowledge that many Americans are treated unfairly and need our help. (Note to Christian voters: Jesus was a liberal. They say he even had a bleeding heart.)  

If there’s one thing I hope Democrats have finally learned after this mid-year election, it’s that they are sorely in need of a brand manager. There are Democrats who oppose abortion and gun control while they support the war. There are Democrats, like Bill Clinton, who prefer that gays and lesbians stay in the closet and who believe in dismantling welfare but only as it applies to the poor. There are Democrats like John Kerry who will make a “botched joke,” then ignore it for a few days and then try to take it back. (Talk about your “cut and run.”) Worse are the other Dems who distanced themselves from Kerry when they should have either explained and defended his “joke” or stated the underlying truth; that many young people serving in our armed forces are poorly educated and have few other options. 

Most Dems are not liberal in my book. It is not “liberal” to fight for an increase in the minimum wage from a paltry $5.15 an hour all the way up to a measly $7.25. What would be liberal—meaning morally correct and might I say, Christian—would be to fight for a living wage; to value working families’ efforts to feed their children and keep the lights on over excessive corporate profit. 

Republicans have many Americans thinking that they are the only “true” or “real” Americans because they adhere to certain self-proscribed “values.” In a country such as ours, based on consumerism and run by ad agencies, I find it not only puzzling but alarming that Democrats have yet to figure out how to manipulate the media in order to acquire votes, as their bretheren have done so expertly for so long.  

As the old saying goes; “If you don’t stand for something you will fall for anything.”  

Democrats: Figure out who the hell you are and then stand up for it. These recent victories are mere battles. It is time for Democrats to redefine themselves and prepare to engage in the real war, that of competing ideologies. Take back your power; turn the word “liberal” into a word full of empathy for our fellow human beings and for our planet. Make it “Christian” to care more about people than profit. Declare that red, black, brown and yellow people are at the top of the list of “real” Americans and that there is room for everyone. Make it a “family value” to think it so. Hire an ad agency and get moving.