It’s only January 2 as I write, and I’ve already broken my New Year’s resolutions. (Exercise! Keep diary! Be better person! [Start column earlier!–Ed.]) You’d think I’d learn–these are the same self-improvement projects I swore fealty to last year, and the year before (and before), with the same results. But enough about me and my slothful ways–how about some resolutions for liberals? For example:
1. Think bigger. For decades, we’ve been chasing the rightward-drifting center–a k a the “middle class”–by throwing huge chunks of our agenda overboard like ballast from a leaky ship. Now the Democrats are, however shakily, back in power, and their program is so modest you need a microscope to see it. Raise the federal minimum wage in stages to $7.25–all the way back to its 1979 levels. Restore (some) taxes on the superrich. Fund cheaper student loans. Let Americans import prescription drugs from foreign countries. There’s something so pathetic about that last item: The drug companies have us cornered, but maybe you can escape! How about: Raise the minimum wage to $9 an hour and index it to inflation so it won’t decline in value again. Single-payer healthcare for all. Quality childcare for all. Decent affordable housing–an issue that’s dropped off the radar screen even as housing costs have skyrocketed. Free or nominal tuition in public universities–sounds like utopian madness until you realize that public higher education actually was free, or cheap, until the 1980s. To complaints that these things cost too much, George W. Bush has provided a simple reply: If the government can pay for the war in Iraq–$355 billion and counting–it can pay for anything.
2. Stop giving the right credit for our ideas. It’s nice that David Kuo, the evangelical Christian who served in the White House office of faith-based initiatives, wrote a book describing the Bush Administration’s lack of commitment to so-called compassionate conservatism. But honestly, the man is a nudnik (see Alan Wolfe’s devastating review in The New Republic). The handwriting was on the wall about faith-based funding from the moment it was devised. It was never anything but a flatly unconstitutional bribe to Christian conservatives, and many, many secularists–from People for the American Way and the Freedom From Religion Foundation down to, yes, me, right here–pointed this out. Why not credit the ones who were right all along? And PS: If the pastors and priests didn’t get all the money they wanted for their evangelical prisons and fetal-protection programs, good! Similarly, why heap praise on antiwar reactionaries like Chuck Hagel or right-wing hacks with a soft spot for the ACLU like Bob Barr or antichoicers who draw the line at banning stem-cell research like John Danforth? Every time we give them the spotlight, we are reinforcing a portrait of the political stage in which right-wingers are the only players.