Public Comment

Commentary: Wellstone Club’s Questions for Democratic Candidates

By Jack Kurzweil
Friday October 19, 2007

America is awakening from the nightmare of the most dangerous and destructive right-wing government in our nation’s history. A majority has seen the failure of conservative policies, and they want a new direction.  

We need leadership from the Democratic Party. Progressives, who were key to the Democratic Party’s successes in 2006, must now act to ensure that elected Democrats carry through the changes this country needs. 

We believe that the California Primary Election will be crucial and that progressives have to make their weight felt in that election. 

The Wellstone Democratic Renewal Club has developed some policy benchmarks and questions that we will be posing to all of the Democratic Presidential Candidates.  

Please join us in this effort. 


1. Iraq, Peace, and American Foreign Policy. There must be a speedy and complete withdrawal of all American troops from Iraq. The cost in treasure, lives, and world standing is a burden this nation can no longer bear. Only when our military occupation ends and Iraq regains its sovereignty will its people be able to end their civil war and create the unity necessary to re-build their country. We need candidates who are committed to end our military presence now! 


• Are you committed to a speedy and total withdrawal of troops and contractors from Iraq? 

• Are you committed to leaving no bases in Iraq? 

• Are you committed to Iraq maintaining complete control over its oil resources? 

• How would you provide sufficient resources to Iraq to rebuild its country? 

• Will you pledge not to attack Iran without Congressional approval? 


2. Civil Rights and Civil Liberties. The constitutional safeguards that protect our liberties and our democracy must be restored. As commander-in-chief of an endless “war on terror,” George Bush has systematically undermined Congress’ constitutional role, created an all-powerful executive branch, and weakened our entire system of checks and balances. 

Never in the history of our nation has secrecy, invasion of privacy, and abuse of government power for narrow ideological and partisan political purposes been carried to such an extreme. Torture has been embraced while fundamental human rights have been disregarded. We need candidates who are unequivocally committed to restoring the rule of law in America. 


• Do you think that there is any way in which the Patriot Act increases our national security? If not, would you support its total repeal? Are there sections that you would keep? What, in your view, would create a safer America? 

• How will you restore the balance of powers mandated by the Constitution? 

• Will you restore the right of habeas corpus? 

• Will you promise not to use signing statements that negate the intention of legislation? 

• What will you do to make sure that every American has a full right to vote and have that vote be counted? 


3. Health Care. Americans need and deserve a medical system that is second to none. Our well-being and our economy can no longer afford to be held hostage to the interests of insurance companies, HMO’s, and the pharmaceutical industry. It is a disgrace that this wealthy and innovative nation, alone among industrial countries, does not provide free, universal, and quality care for all its people. We need candidates who have the courage to stand for the public good against powerful private interests.  


• Do you agree that eliminating any significant role for the insurance industry is the key to meaningful health care reform? 

• Will you support extending Medicare to all Americans?  


4. Renewable Energy, Global Warming. Just as the resources of government built our highway system, financed the microchip, and invented the Internet, government must now devote its resources to jump-starting a new, “green” industrial revolution in the United States. We need a crash program to develop wind and solar energy, create incentives for conversion to organic agriculture, and renew America’s aging infrastructure with eco-friendly designs and materials. It is time for a major reduction in the use of fossil fuels in transportation, energy, and agriculture. We need candidates who put forth a vision that can put America on the path to real sustainable growth.  


• What will you do to accelerate the switch to solar and wind generated electricity from dependence on fossil fuels? 

• What will you do to encourage the sustainable growing of food? 

• How will you reduce the dependence of transportation on fossil fuels? 

• What are your plans for generating new jobs based on a green economy? 

• Will you sign the Kyoto Agreements? 


5) Church, State, and Reproductive Rights. Conservatives seek to erase the Consti-tutional boundaries between Church and State. By denying women the right to control their own lives and bodies, they endow the faith of some with the power of law over everyone else. We need candidates who understand that without freedom of choice for women, there will be no liberty for anyone. 


• Will you lead the effort to restore the rights of women to control their own bodies? 

• Will you pledge to support the separation of Church and State? 


6. The Economy and America’s Future. Conservatives have cut taxes for the rich, reduced necessary services for the poor and middle class, and subsidized the transfer of industry and jobs abroad. As the rich get richer, America gets poorer. The interests of the few are served at the expense of the country as a whole. We need candidates who understand that investing in our own people and our own country holds the key to our nation’s future.  


• Will you end Bush’s tax cuts to the rich? 

• How will you make it easier for workers to join unions? 

• What will you do to stop the flow of good jobs abroad? 

• How will you restore America’s social safety net? 

• Do you agree to revise NAFTA and all other trade agreements to include protection for the environment and the rights of workers? 


7. Public Education. Conservative hostility to the principle of universal public education has been elevated to government policy by “No Child Left Behind.” Instead of being encouraged to transform itself to address the diverse needs of America’s children, public education has been under-funded and saddled with punitive testing. We need candidates who are committed to fully fund and support high quality public education for all of America’s children. 


• How will you fix “No Child Left Behind?” 

• Are you committed to major funding increases for public schools? 


Jack Kurzweil is a member of the Wellstone Democratic Renewal Club.