Thursday, July 2, 2009

An Independence Day Rant

With the Democrats landing a monumental victory in gaining the disputed Minnesota Senate seat (thus attaining the 60-person supermajority needed to break Republican filibusters), many long-time supporters of progressive causes are expecting a great deal of work to pass through Congress with relative ease.

They shouldn’t hold their breath. Democrats are stalling, with some in Congress remaining skeptical over spending packages and “controversial” bills that are the very reason supporters voted for them in the first place. Constituents want health care reform, economic recovery, a sound foreign policy and so much more. But what they’re getting is much of the same from Democrats of years past -- that is, disappointment, appeasement to conservatives and bills lacking substance.

It’s discouraging that, while Congress was controlled in both houses by conservatives during the tenure of President George W. Bush, an enormous overhaul of laws were rubber-stamped by the Republicans that the right-wing base drooled over. Today, we’ll be lucky if environmental legislation isn’t watered down more than the rivers we’re actually trying to water down. The health care crisis isn’t looking much better either, with conservative Democrats insisting upon a “trigger” clause, or legislation that would only take effect if the insurance companies don’t shape up in a few years on their own. The gay rights movement continues to face an uphill battle as well, with the president doing little-to-nothing on “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” or on working to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act.

Meanwhile, conservatives continue to insist that our party is one full of socialists, out of touch with mainstream American values, that our Supreme Court nominee is a “reverse racist,” that we’re endangering the world with our foreign policies and so much more. These lies are nothing to worry about for the most part -- a majority of Americans can see right through them -- but they are annoyingly present, nonetheless, and cater to an already radical base of the conservative movement that is prepared to use violence as a means to reach their political ends.

This shouldn’t be happening -- the American people chose change on election night. Sure, a sizable minority is making a lot of noise over the change Obama and Democrats want to implement. But that noise is coming from the fringe, from the few who remain dedicated to the principles of Reagan -- the very principles that are partially responsible for the economic mess we now see ourselves in. The vast majority of Americans, however, still support the core principles that put Democrats in office in November, that delivered a supermajority in the Senate, expanded a majority in the House, and put the first African American president in the White House.

They want a public option on health care; resolution in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan; economic stability and regulation on corporations; a growth in the number of jobs available to Americans; government assistance to those seeking a secondary education; a strengthening of our civil rights and liberties; a promise to all Americans, regardless of race, sex, orientation, or religion, that they will be treated equally; and the right to live their lives the way Americans should: freely and in pursuit of their goals.

This Independence Day, remember that you’re part of the greatest country that ever was. But remember this as well: there is so much more we can be, so much greater we could become. Call your representatives in Congress -- Tammy Baldwin, Russ Feingold, and Herb Kohl -- and tell them to support the progressive agenda that Democrats should be fighting for. Then tell them to tell their colleagues, too, what they’ve been hearing. It might just make a difference, and that’s why our country is so great: because every little helps.

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