What a terrible week. The heartbreaking Virginia Tech shootings. Amid numerous signs of an Iraqi government meltdown and the country sliding even further into civil war, we got the news that at least 171 died yesterday in Iraq, the highest number in a day since Bush's escalation took place and one of the highest in the entire war. The beginning of the end of Roe v. Wade, which could mean in the coming years thousands of women dead from unsafe back alley abortions and tens of thousands of babies born to mothers who don't want them or can't care for them.
I am in mourning this week. But weeks like this make me determined. This week is a reminder about the personal responsibility each of us has, not only to make the world a better place, but to not let short-term political expediency keep us from doing the right thing. Here's what I mean:
Guns. Too many Democrats have a tendency, when faced with tough opposition on an issue, to give up on it, to avoid the issue at all costs. Guns are the ultimate example. When Al Gore avoided talking about the gun issue and didn't defend himself from vicious NRA attacks on him, he basically blew the election. He lost West Virginia, Arkansas, Missouri, New Hampshire and his home state of Tennessee in great part because the NRA was the only organization telling people where Al Gore was on guns, and they weren't exactly being fair in their descriptions. And once Gore lost those states, the Democratic leadership ran away from the gun issue (in spite of the fact, by the way, that pro-gun control Dems picked up several Senate seats in competitive races that year in part because they handled the issue effectively). Gun control groups bear a big part of the responsibility, too: they were ineffective in their advocacy and their organizing, and failed in reaching out to moderate hunters. These groups need to take responsibility for developing a serious new political strategy.
Iraq. I'm not going to belabor the point, but those Democrats who gave Bush a blank check on the war resolution obviously blew it. They should have taken the responsibility, even if they didn't have the votes to stop a resolution from passing, to negotiate for narrow and more precise language that would have hemmed Bush in more. Now all of us have to take responsibility for working together to get our troops out of the middle of this brutal Iraqi civil war.
Abortion. When we tried to beat Bush, and lost, we knew we would be getting bad nominees. But Democratic senators and all the groups who care about the Supreme Court should have taken the responsibility to band together then and there, in the days after that loss, and vow to filibuster bad nominees and support each other in that effort. Instead, key players on both sides- both Senators and some groups- failed in working together to filibuster Roberts and especially Alito. Now we have four votes that will vote for the most right-wing position on virtually every issue, and a fifth vote (Kennedy) who will side with them at least 70 percent of the time.
I am feeling awful this week, and that makes me mad about all of these things that happened over the past few years. But I also think we need to look forward with determination and hope. While we mourn this week's terrible news, let's vow to take responsibility to re-double our efforts, fashion new strategies, and find the courage we need to do the right things. Here's to the weeks ahead...
Mike Lux is the president of American Family Voices, an issue advocacy group sometimes described as the "free safety" of the progressive movement, and consults for progressive organizations and donors through his consulting firm, Progressive Strategies, L.L.C.