As the year of 2007 comes to an end I find myself reflecting back on what was supposed to be a year of change. After all, we did have all the necessary ingredients. Democrats won a majority in both houses of Congress on a platform of changing the course of President Bush's disastrous Iraq war policy. Donald Rumsfeld, Alberto Gonzales, and Karl Rove all stepped down from their high-level positions in the Bush administration. Promises were continuously made to restore our civil liberties and to implement the needed "checks and balances" that were missing for so long between the executive and legislative branches of government. It appeared as if we finally begun to head down the right path.
That was all just a charade of a very short lifespan.
Congress, who we the people voted into office to bring about positive changes in Washington, have failed us again.
It is not like they were asked to cut off funding for the war. All that was asked of them was not to succumb to veto threats by Bush or filibusters in the Senate. They could have easily obstructed the wishes of George W. Bush just as he obstructs the wishes of the American people. If Bush vetoes legislation Congress has the power to send it right back to him. If the Republicans can filibuster every war funding proposal they disagree with the Democrats surely can too.
Instead, they (the Dems) just back down even with a majority of Congress and over 70% of the American people behind them. And to add insult to injury they think that we are unaware of their legislative activity. Or they feel that they have secured our votes just because they are in a different political party than George W. Bush. They actually return home for recess and brag to their constituents about their successes.
The American people know that there has been no change of course in Iraq. Blank check funding has been appropriated despite bold ultimatums of the contrary by the Democratic leadership.
Congress backed down again to Bush on the illegal domestic wiretapping of our citizens.
And as if we learned nothing from the war in Iraq, the Senate passed the Kyle-Lieberman amendment declaring Iran's Revolutionary Guard a terrorist organization. I would not put it past George W. Bush and Dick Cheney to substitute this amendment for Congressional authorization if they do decide to attack Iran.
Entirely too often the Democrats talk tough about holding this administration accountable, but there is never, ever, any follow through. There has been no accountability and Bush still prevails on all the major issues that hurt our country the most here at home and our image abroad. Especially the deplorable and un-American practice of torture by our government.
(And please don't even get me started on the Children's Health Insurance Program.)
The most frustrating part of 2007 for me was knowing that we had the power to achieve change, but instead we elected leaders who lacked the courage and the will to fulfill the mandate we gave them in November of 2006. A mandate they agreed upon and promised to deliver only to renege on us at the moment of truth.
The most common excuse that satisfies the status quo is "we just don't have the votes."
The Republicans are the minority party -- why do they seem to have the votes? Because out of political fear Democrats are voting in lockstep -- bottom line.
The Democrats are the majority party of Congress, and in 2008 they better start acting like it or they will only ensure their own demise.
If there is any contribution that I can make it is to help create a perception that this way of thinking is no longer considered radical. It is the way most Americans feel -- frustrated, powerless, angry, and hungry for moral leadership. (If you lead by example, good people will follow.)
It is patriotic and American to oppose torture, illegal war, and abuses of our civil liberties.
As an Iraq veteran I feel that I have earned the right to have that opinion without being called a traitor or a radical by the pro-war element in our society who for the most part commit no sacrifice of their own. (Chickenhawk is a nice word for a coward, but if the shoe fits wear it.)
There is only a certain number of times that I can be called these names before my heart turns to stone in regard to those people who advocate for the war in Iraq, but lack the courage to go anywhere near it.
Furthermore, I have pure and utter disdain for those who call the war in Iraq "America's war" only to fight it from their office, cubical, classroom, or couch.
What is even worse is a majority of Congress that fully acknowledges that the war in Iraq is not only wrong, but the biggest foreign policy blunder in American history -- and at the same time enable it to continue while whining about it.
Before November of 2008 Congress needs to show the American people that they have the courage to stand up to President Bush and his allies in Congress -- provided there are any chances left. Because the base of the Democratic party has pretty much lost faith in their party's ability to bring about the necessary, positive, and optimistic changes that our country so desperately desires.
If Democrats in Congress continue to refuse to adapt to modern time, I'm afraid that their base will surely fade away only reemerge as an independent third party perpetuating Republican victory. If that happens most of them can kiss their political futures goodbye.