Earlier this week, Russian President Vladimir Putin suggested that America look at its own democracy before lecturing others -- and several of my fellow bloggers wondered how Democrats can fight back. Okay, here's how to combine these two opening week themes: in the run-up to the '06 elections, Democrats should a) challenge W to practice what he preaches and b) propose a "Contract with Democracy" to show how it can be done.
The religious far (f)right, big business, and Bush & Co. have become profoundly authoritarian -- waving the flag even as they betray its principles. From voter suppression in Ohio and Florida to shutting off access to courts to legislative tyranny in D.C. to religious tyranny in the public square to the system of money-shouts in D.C. (and state capitals), our democracy is under a slow siege.
Time to connect these and other dots and establish a new definition of radical -- it's no longer long-haired anti-war protestors in the 60s but short-haired guys in suits in the 00's who, from James Dobson to John Bolton to Tom DeLay to Antonin Scalia, are extremists who practice the politics of intolerance. So when they don't like the rules, they want to change the rules -- whether it involves torture, House ethics, living wills, the filibuster, or Bush v. Gore.
These guys are worse than McCarthy. Tailgunner Joe may have been a more ugly drunk, BUT he couldn't invade the wrong country or appoint legal cranks to lifetime appointments or deny women the right to choose.
Senators Clinton and Kerry, among others, are making a good start to fight back on the democracy front with their "Count Every Vote" Act. National and local progressive groups should build on that to make sure that average Americans understand that Democrats are in the mainstream and Bush-DeLay Republicans are in the extreme when it comes to those democratic values that distinguish our American experiment.
In the next election, a dividing line should not be simply stale left-right distinctions but who's pro-democracy and who's anti-democracy. Time to get back on offense.