Advice to the Democrats

In December, 2002, one month after the elections, TalkLeft, subbing for Eric Alterman's Altercation (December 4), gave some advice to the Democrats. We're reprinting it because we still believe it. We went looking for it last night after a commenter in another thread suggested we thought the Dems should toe a more conservative line. Wrong. If we were calling the shots, we'd still suggest a sharp turn to the left:

Yesterday I opined here that the Democrats are in danger of losing their potential for a 2004 win if they don't move to the left. With centrism so entrenched, there is little to distinguish the two major parties these days. By not having a forceful and vocal left, we risk becoming a one party nation.

Former President Clinton disagrees. Speaking to a group of 200 gathered for the National Democratic Leadership Council at New York University, Clinton advised the Democrats, "We don't have to be more liberal, but we do have to be more relevant in a positive way." He told them that national security and going after terrorists should be their first priority. After that comes building up the economy. Clinton has been a centrist since founding the DLC in the 1980s. It may have helped him win his elections, but I don't think it will help Democrats in 2004 any more than it did in 2002. We need fewer, not more, politicians like Dick Gephardt .... championing the Bush Administration war plans.

Al Gore, Howard Dean and John Kerry have gotten the message that the Democrats have become one unhappy group of campers since November 5. Joe Lieberman may be the only potential viable candidate still bearing Clinton's "New Democrats" label.

Rather than trying to woo independent and republican voters with a centrist platform, the Democrats need to reclaim their own disaffected and disenchanted voters--with a sharp left turn. My advice: Don't compromise on tax cuts, trade bills or the war with Iraq--lean in harder. Protect our civil liberties, come out against increased wiretapping, surveillance and intrusion into the privacy rights of ordinary citizens. Endorse same-sex unions and protect the legal rights of surviving partners.

Come out for medical marijuana laws to ease the suffering of so many afflicted Americans. Appeal to hard-working immigrants and promise them fair treatment. End felony disenfranchisement and grab those votes.

Embrace constitutional rights, eschew right-wing judicial activists and promise to restore our courts to their former luster. Forget the soccer moms and reclaim abortion rights supporters, environmentalists, minorities and union members. Show your pride in America for being the beacon of liberty.

The Democrats can only hope to win in 2004 if they present candidates with an alternative vision for America, one that will refuel the passions of the voters and provide them with a real choice.

PS. We know we're in the minority on this. After that column appeared in Altercation, Eric made us promise that we'd stick to criminal justice issues and not opine on politics when writing for him in the future. We think we're just a little ahead of our time. If Bush is re-elected and Ashcroft and the Patriot Act and civil liberties abuses continue, we think by 2008 there will be a tidal wave of support for the left.

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