05 August 2006

Words from 2004

The Crolian Progressive wrote this the night of the disappointing 2004 election. The relevant parts are reprinted below. This was from a time when I was involved with an organization called the College Nonpartisans.

Nonpartisanship: America's challenge for the future

In the aftermath of what for many of us is a disappointing election, it is a good idea to take a hard and honest look at what went wrong. I would encourage us not to give a simple answer to this query, but to probe the deeper questions of the failings in our very political system.

It is tempting for Kerry partisans to argue that it was the electoral college system which gave the election to Bush; however, Bush won an even higher victory in the popular vote, scoring what even in a runoff system would be an outright win with 51% of the vote. Again, we could argue that too many people were disillusioned with the political process and did not vote; but voter turnout was higher than it has been in decades. We are forced to admit that the Bush Administration received a mandate on Election Night, a mandate for what Kerry ironically termed "more of the same."

Why was the President given this mandate? According to exit polls posted at CNN.com, a plurality of Americans believed that the most important issue in this election was neither terrorism nor economy, but what the pollsters termed "values".

Of course, moral values are an important part of any vibrant, healthy economy. However, in the language of polling data, the term "values" is a highly conservative idea. It means narrow thinking on issues such as abortion, gay marriage, and freedom of speech -- in short, restricting Americans' freedom to be Americans. Historically, all nations which have attempted to limit the liberties of their people have gone down to defeat and destruction. Yet in America, the greatest international superpower, not only the Republicans but the Democrats support many of these same restrictive provisions.

Why has the Democratic Party not combated these obvious weaknesses in the American character? It is because they have been focused for too long on winning by whatever means necessary, by putting forth the candidate who was the least offensive to the most groups instead of the one who was the most inspirational to the most people. The time has come to stop trying to win no matter what and start trying to win what matters: a sea change in American democracy which enables our best citizens, rather than our worst, to rise to electoral office.

While President Bush was winning reelection, another, very different man was running for political office here in Maryland. Bob Auerbach, a retired librarian, was running for Congress in the Fifth District, advocating more political parties, more choice in politics, more opportunity for intelligent debate of the issues which concern us all. Auerbach differs from the rest of us here at the College in one important way: he is fighting for reforms that he will almost certainly never see. Eighty-four years old and in imperfect health, Auerbach has not ceased his clarion call for a new era in American politics. Small good it did him in the election; almost bereft of any advertising or name recognition in the District, Auerbach won less than two percent of the vote.

The defeat of this noble American was part of a host of such defeats for liberal Congressional and Senatorial candidates. But even in this sea of disappointment, there were still some heartening signs for America. Fiery populist Democrat Brian Schweitzer of Montana boldly crossed party lines to name a Republican as his gubernatorial candidate and was elected governor of the mostly Republican state; Democrat Barack Obama spoke on national television about "the audacity of hope" and will be a United States Sentor from Illinois. But these glimmers of hope only serve to reinforce, not to contradict, the major trend: only where Democrats have broken from the attempt to win at all costs, only where they have made people more important than politics, have they captured the imagination of a people starved for leadership and vision.

Why does it always seem that we are choosing between two awful candidates who would both make horrible Presidents? Because the American two-party system forces us into such a choice. If America had real, inspirational government instead of petty, corrupt politics, we would choose among the best men and women instead of the worst to lead our country. We would elect not weak compromises, but strong and decisive leaders who could solve the problems of today and lead our country out of the stagnancy in which it now rests.

In a political debate held at [location withheld] the Wednesday before the election, I was repeatedly heckled by several voters who wanted to know where Nonpartisans stood on issues instead of reforms. I answer them that they should not ask me where I stand on issues, but inquire who it is that decides where America stands. Right now it is the most narrow of Americans, rather than the most Americans, the most ideologically wishy-washy rather than the most thoughtful, who make that choice. The Democrats cannot change that; only Nonpartisanship can.

The challenge of our time is to realize that our choice is no longer between the Democratic and Republican Parties, but between true, meaningful electoral reform and a society dominated by the most dogmatic of ideological positions. The day of Nonpartisanship has arrived; Americans must now decide between the victory of intelligent democracy and the defeat of all that we hold dear.

Sounds like a prescription for the Bull Moose Party, does it not?


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