The fundamental conflict in this country is over which competing set of values will prevail in defining and setting the public agenda. Without a 21st Century Democratic Party as their champion, the values that make this the greatest democracy on earth will be severely handicapped.

Fascinating Unasked Questions of Bush and the Media

What's Next: A 21st Century Democracy or the Revenge of the Confederates?

February 20, 2001

By Jock Gill for

What shall we 21st Century Democrats chose and stand for? Will it be:

A politics for the living people based upon the vote, ideas, and earned merit; promoting the well being of all with an economics based upon innovation and true competition?

Or will it be:

A politics built upon concentrations of inherited wealth & privilege - not ideas nor meritocracy? Stasis, not innovation? A politics of money and assets, not people and human capital?

Will it be:

A politics that seeks to minimize the number of our citizens in prison? A politics with a mission to create a judicial system that looks like all of America and which respects all Americans equally, without regard to pre-conditions?

Or will it be:

A politics that takes for granted the incarceration of 1/3 of young male African Americans? A politics which might even reap benefits from this group’s loss of the right to vote in many states? But a politics which would be up in arms if 1/3 of all young white males were incarcerated. The hypocrisy is blatant but unquestioned.

Will it be:

A politics that recognizes AIDS not only as a national disaster but as a source of international instability? A politics which seeks a balanced and just tool kit for reducing the routes of infection while seeking long term affordable solutions for all victims of this global plague?

Or will it be:

A politics that effectively ignores the AIDS plaque in the African American Community here in America? Has the Bush administration offered any compelling solutions? Would they if it were a plague in the middle class white community? The hypocrisy is stunning.

Will it be:

A politics that treats addictions of all sorts as public health challenges, not as moral failures nor fit targets for war? A politics which rejects drug abuse on the merits, but offers rehabilitation first and incarceration last?

Or will it be:

A politics that wages a blatantly selective "war" on drugs, a "war” with exceptionally racist roots in 1937 scare testimony against marijuana? Is it a coincidence that this testimony was profitably exploited by the Heart papers [see note below]? A war on drugs which co-incidentally denies voting rights to many of its victims?

Will it be:

A politics that nurtures judicial reform? A politics which supports a justice system that places the emphasis on remediation and rehabilitation first, punishment last and never without hope? A Justice system that recognizes that its mission, where ever and when ever possible, is to prepare individuals who have served their sentences for successful re-integration into their communities? A system which measures its success person by person in terms of changed lives, not broken spirits?

Or will it be:

A politics which has driven hope, remediation and rehabilitation out of our criminal justice system and turned it into a gulag? After all, who built Andersonville?

Will it be:

A politics that champions honest and complete campaign finance reform to insure that, through the votes of all the people, democracy prevails and endures? A politics committed to rooting out corruption? A politics that seeks to protect a level playing field, but which celebrates the possibilities of ever shifting and varied outcomes?

Or will it be:

A politics that opposes all meaningful plans for campaign finance reform? A politics for, of, and by money that seeks, via tax laws, to create a permanent, structural advantage for the elite while defunding and under counting its opponents? How else to explain a politics that works to deny funding to political activists in labor unions, but not corporations? How else to explain a politics which supports the corrupting power of money if not because it tilts the playing field in their direction?

Will it be:

A politics that protects and cherishes the rights of all us, women and men, to make fundamental, personal choices with respect to our bodies and private lives? A modern politics that understands the differences between religion and government and values the freedoms insured by their firm and Constitutional separation of one from the other?

Or will it be:

A politics that seeks to use the power of government to achieve what they cannot achieve via persuasion? A primitive politics that is determined to use the cudgel of government to make personal decisions for us?Politics that is risking the folly of religious tyranny? Politics that celebrates the destruction of the differences between religion and state, regardless of the loss of freedom?

The choice is ours. George W. Bush doesn't get to make these decisions, and neither does Katherine Harris and neither does William Renquist. The differences between the center defined by our vital core values and that defined by the retrograde views of the opposition are clear. Without a strong 21st Century Democratic Party the fight for a 21st century democracy will be crippled in its search for values that are worth asserting, celebrating, affirming and fighting for.

What we need now is a 21st century Harriet Beecher Stowe. How would a 21st Century Uncle Tom's Cabin expose a 21st century Confederates' Revenge?

Note: It is worth observing once again the brutish racism of the origins of the war on drugs in this country:

"In 1937, Harry J. Anslinger, six years into his 30-year-reign as director at the Federal Bureau of Narcotics, testified before the U.S. Senate on behalf of the 'Marihuana Tax Act.' This delighted the Hearst newspapers, which, lacking a real war to increase newspaper sales, launched an all-out battle against demon marijuana. Here are a few excerpts from Anslinger's worn testimony. Clearly, our drug policy traces its roots to reasoning that was as racist and alarmist as it was wildly inaccurate:

* "There are 100,000 total marijuana smokers in the U.S., and most are Negroes, Hispanics, Filipinos and entertainers. Their Satanic music, jazz and swing, result from marijuana use. This marijuana can cause white women to seek sexual relations with Negroes, entertainers and any others."

* "The primary reason to outlaw marijuana is its effect on the degenerate races."

* "Marijuana is an addictive drug which produces in its users insanity, criminality and death."

* "Marijuana is the most violence-causing drug in the history of mankind."

With Hearst's backing, Anslinger's war on marijuana escalated to an all-out war on narcotics."

Thanks to Lewis Koch of Interactive Week (2 Feb) for digging this stuff up from the vaults.

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