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It's Time for the Democrats to Draw a Line in the Sand
Cheryl Seal

In a strange twist of fate, after 230 years America is once more being ruled by a privileged despot named George. By 1770, George III despised his rebellious American colonists just about as much as Bush hates liberals. At this point (to quote one of the best U.S. history books ever written, "The American Pageant" by Thomas A. Bailey and David M. Kennedy) old George "was strenuously attempting to restore the declining power of the British monarchy. He was a good man in his private morals but...a bad ruler. Earnest, industrious, stubborn, lustful for power...he surrounded himself with cooperative 'yes men.'" Sound familiar? (Just substitute Conservative White Male Ruling Class for British Monarchy.)

One big problem the Americans had with George III was his tax system. It wasn't so much that colonists resented paying taxes - what enraged them was that the bulk of their tax money was going directly to the British aristocracy, who used the cash to play a game of world monopoly. Worst of all, the colonists had no say in how their taxes were levied and channeled - no real legal rights at all. It was taxation without representation. Or, put more simply, it was George's way or the highway - sound familiar?

The Americans, at the dawn of the Revolutionary War, were becoming much cockier and independent and despised living as "tenant farmers" to a tiny and inaccessible group of elite Anglo-Saxon protestant males. They tired of seeing their forests destroyed to provide masts for British Navy ships and logs for British fireplaces, just as most 21st century Americans have tired of seeing their landscapes scarred by unscrupulous logging, coal, and oil corporations. They were sick of the burden imposed by British corporate monopolies like the East India Tea Company that engaged in rampant price fixing, which inevitably hurt the poorest colonists most. (Is there a time echo in here?)

In 1773, tempers reached a boiling point when the Brits tried to force Americans to buy 17 million pounds of really bad tea that the East India Company couldn't unload elsewhere - and at a highly inflated price (imagine doing that today with coffee drinkers!). Contrary to common knowledge, I am proud to say that Marylanders, not Bostonians, were the first to act, burning both the tea and the British ships that held them to the waterline in Annapolis harbor, with cries of "Liberty and Independence or death in pursuit of it." (The Boston gang jumped on the bandwagon shortly afterward.)

Within two years, the colonists had declared their official rebellion against the British Empire. It was the mouse that roared: 2.5 million poorly armed farmers and tradesmen versus 7.5 million Brits with the best army and navy to cruise the planet since the Roman Empire. But back then, principles could actually fire a man or woman up enough to inspire them to push material concerns aside and take enormous risks. After all, everyone knew back then what happened to British traitors (ever seen "Braveheart?").

So what has happened to the descendants of these patriots? Where are Americans willing to risk all in pursuit of liberty and independence?

Today, we are faced with a new despot, but unlike the colonial rebels, we Democrats DO have a voice in the decision-making process - we DO have the right to wield the same weapons as the "ruling party": laws, determination, and words. The current battle to push through the campaign reform bill is a lantern-bright example of what can be done. It was not that complicated a victory, after all! It was a combination of John McCain's courage and the dogged persistence and bravery of Granny D., the little old lady who picketed Congress for weeks, in all weather (and who had been waging her own unflagging campaign for campaign reform for over a year now). But it was also the show of solidarity - even if it was achieved in fits and starts! - of the Democrats, whose solidarity allowed them to enlist the cooperation of enough Republicans to win.

The Democrats must take a stance parallel to that made by the colonists. A line must be drawn in the sand, and any attempt by the Bush regime to force their way across it must be met with all-out resistance - no matter what the risks. Right now, instead of being the common man's voice and protector - the original ideal of the party, wasn't it? - the party is jumping into the lifeboats faster than the women and children. It is behaving like one of those clown dolls with the weighted base that you can punch and it just springs back for more. We are better than this!

Alas, Bush's modus operandi of keeping the sh-t flying from the fan has been working all too well - sort of like the alcoholic parent in a dysfunctional home who keeps everyone from leaving or standing up to him by initiating one crisis after another. (In twelve-step circles they call this "playing uproar."). But the Dems, who have so far played the codependent family members, must regain their balance - immediately.

We must start firing back with our own challenging initiatives. Why can't we fight fire with fire and present one new bill right after the other, one new initiative after the other? We may not succeed, but at least a dialogue will be forced, and we won't just be in a constant state of ineffectual reaction.