In his State of the Union address tomorrow night, we can expect Bush to riff on a familiar theme: the onward march of "freedom." When it comes to this President though, watch the deeds, ignore the rhetoric.
Few would argue that achieving "freedom" and "liberty" are valuable goals though, as historian Eric Foner reminds us, "freedom by its very nature is a contested concept, to which different individuals and groups have imparted different meanings." What progressives need to do is reclaim these terms from an Administration that has corroded their meaning. It's time to stand up for a redefined and affirmative vision of national security and US foreign-policy. The good news: there's a real political opening for a credible and alternative progressive security policy. And as John Powers observed recently in a provocative piece in the LA Weekly, "Money and organization can only take any political movement so far." Ideas matter.
We know what not to do. The New Republic's Peter Beinart recently argued that Democrats should adopt a get-tough crusade, launching a "war against fanatical Islam." But this strategy not only buys into the GOP's fear-mongering and militarized approach to the threat of terror, it is more likely to give life to Bin-Ladenism than it is to liberate people in the Islamic world or serve to protect America's security.
The images of Iraqis crowding polling places for that country's first free election in a half century were both moving and hopeful. The voting, while marred by violence, irregularities and boycotts, went off more smoothly than even the most optimistic members of the Bush administration had dared predict.
Unfortunately, President Bush and his aides could not let the images speak for themselves. The White House spin machine had to declare, even before the last votes were cast, that what happened Sunday was a "turning point" in the painful history of that battered country.
The claim is another example of the sort of wishful thinking that has so frequently trumped reality when it comes to the administration's approach to Iraq in particular and the Middle East in general.
Howard Dean was in NYC this weekend for the last of the candidate forums for DNC chair before the party's final meeting from February 10 to 12th. On Saturday he spoke to New York's DNC members; and on Sunday, he met with the state party chairmen. (About fifty of the DNC's 447 voting members have already announced support for Dean, far more than any other candidate.)
On Saturday night, I saw Dean at a small gathering where he spoke passionately about his vision for the Democrats. His smart and pungent comments about how the party needs to give genuine power to the grassroots and build the new politics at the "netroots"; support and build state parties; develop a fifty-state strategy; mobilize the young; change the way we talk about issues, without changing our core principles, makes me pretty certain that Dean has checked out Zack Exley's must-read "Letter to the Next DNC Chair."
Exley--former director of organizing for MoveOn.org, and former Dean and Kerry net mobilizer--describes a new kind of politics emerging and lays out a fascinating scenario for how the Democratic Party can build a vast, permanent field organization with the "New Grassroots" by leveraging email, the web and a little technology.
Under pressure from the Bush Administration, political parties campaigning in this weekend's so-called "election" in Iraq did not proposed timetables for the withdrawal of US troops from their homeland.
This constraint upon the debate effectively denied the Iraqi people an honest choice. Polls suggest that the majority of Iraqis favor the quick withdrawal of US forces, yet the voters of that battered land were cheated out of a campaign that could have allowed them to send a clear signal of opposition to the occupation.
Despite this disconnect, when the voting was done, Administration aides declared a victory in President's Bush's crusade for "liberty." And thus was born the latest lie of an Administration that has built its arguments for the invasion and occupation of Iraq on a foundation of petty deception and gross deceit.
Thanks to Michael Sylvester, the executive director of Common Cause in Maine, for his letter clarifying some key features of his state's revoutionary Clean Elections Act. I'm pleased to post it below and you can check out Common Cause's website for more info. I'd also like to encourage further dialogue on this topic--and other issues that are addressed in this space--so please click here to send letters to Editor's Cut.
Dear Ms. vanden Heuvel,
I appreciated your recent Editor's Cut reviewing several progressive state initiatives. These laws are models for how we can create change at the local level even when national politics might not leave a very good taste in our mouths.
I wanted to point out, however, that you were mistaken about Clean Elections in Maine. You stated that the Maine State Legislature had approved the Clean Election Act when, in fact, the law is even more revolutionary because it was voted in by Citizen's Initiative in 1996. You also stated that over 50 percent of candidates made use of public financing but the great news is that nearly 80 percent of all candidates used public financing. This number (a hair over 79 percent) includes over 50 percent of Republican candidates and all Green Independent candidates.
The Maine Clean Election Act is an enormous success story and Common Cause is working with our allies to pass a similar law in the state of Connecticut. Yet even the Maine Clean Election Act's success has not stopped attacks on the law. In this legislative session, we will see bills to repeal MCEA and to allow loopholes in the law even as we fight to close loopholes in the current law and to continue to pass progressive legislation including a bill to limit all PACS to a $250 limit, to introduce Instant Run-Off Voting and bills to make election day a state holiday. Keep fighting the good fight in the states. Someday we'll get the chance to roll it out nationally.
Michael Sylvester,Executive Director, Common Cause in Maine
As the violence in Iraq escalates ahead of Sunday's national elections, there are disturbing reports of intimidation, death threats and murders specifically targeting members of the Iraqi Federation of Trade Unions (IFTU).
These reports come on the heels of the torture and assassination in Baghdad on January 4 of Hadi Salih, the International Secretary of IFTU.
In protest, please click here to join Nation writers Katha Pollitt, Doug Henwood, Marc Cooper, Adam Shatz, Norman Birnbaum, Carl Bromley and many others in signing on to the Campaign for Peace and Democracy's statement condemning attacks on Iraqi trade unionists.
On issues of war and peace, progressives should take heart from the fact that no matter how aggressive the Bush Administration's intentions may be, its ability to carry them out is likely to be s