Come Join Us in the Jones Zone
John L. McCreery
John L. McCreery, Chairman of Democrats Abroad Japan, writes: "There is a phrase from American history that I want every Democrat in the world to hear. The Bonhomme Richard was sinking. The captain of the British frigate Serapis demanded its surrender. John Paul Jones replied, "I have not yet begun to fight."
We will be fighting among ourselves. Already newspapers carry reports of Democrats looking for scapegoats for the Republican's winning both houses of Congress in the mid-term elections of 2002. Soon we will see who among our leaders will take responsibility and who will duck-and-bob. As we look ahead, we are looking for courage.
We will be fighting a Republican juggernaut. We know that our opponents have a legislative agenda and a string of right-wing judges to appoint to the Federal judiciary. Those who stand up and oppose their program may find themselves like that famous Chinese student who stood up alone in front the tanks entering Tienanmen Square. But if we pull together, there won't be one standing alone. We will be there, in our hundreds, our thousands, our millions. We are looking for leaders who are willing to fight hard, to delay, to filibuster, to choose the hard battle instead of the easy compromise.
We need to think about how we fight. You probably noticed as I did that the campaign literature that reached us from the party demonized our opponents. There were scattered mentions of plausible Democratic proposals for prescription drugs, for example. But this was the year that we Democrats were lacking "the vision thing." We heard lots of reasons to vote against Republicans. We heard too little about the kind of nation that America should be and how we Democrats planned to achieve that nation.
We need to think about why we are fighting. To me the answer is simple. Our opponents have wrapped themselves in the flag and called themselves the party of freedom. We are the party of freedom AND COMMUNITY.
We embrace the freedom to choose, to aspire, to learn, to work. But we notice those among us for whom the promise of equal opportunity is the biggest of big lies, who grow up malnourished in body, mind, and spirit, through no fault of their own. We notice those work hard at their jobs, only to be discarded like worn-out machines when the books the bosses fiddled don't balance. We don't like to pay taxes, and we do want to see the taxes we pay used wisely. But we do believe in doing our part to provide the infrastructure and social safety nets that create opportunities and enable people to look ahead with confidence.
We do think it's a wonderfully good idea to take care of our natural environment and a terribly bad idea to accept the notion that the scars left behind by the market's invisible hand are acts of God for which no mortal can be held responsible. We detest a world in which too many of us must constantly look backwards and sideway, wary and filled with anxiety, afraid for our children and our planet. We reject a blind faith in greed-driven markets.
We embrace the market for what it is, a wonderful engine for economic growth. But we recognize that what we need to carry us into the future is more than an engine alone. We need brakes, a steering wheel, active and passive safety features - all those little extras that make the ultimate driving machine safe as well as fun, for the grandparents and kids in the back seat as well as those of us who sit up front.
When we look around us we treasure what Tocqueville discovered in America, not only the individualism that cherishes individual freedom, but the passion for association that made America a place where pioneers raised roofs and square-danced together, a nation willed with clubs, and churches, and schools, and parties, and unions, and companies, too - a place where freedom and community, independence and a helping hand, defined what it means to be an American.
That is the vision I fight for and the vision that I look for in leaders I will willingly follow. I look for others who share this vision and will join me in saying,
"We have just begun to fight."