Friday, February 18, 2005

Democrats should follow Sen. Boxer's example

This is an op-ed that I submitted to the Daily last month, but it was not published. I thought I should share it with the rest of you here.

The scene on the floor of the House earlier this month was eerily similar to the prior presidential election year of 2000. Then, as now, representatives from a contested state stood to object to the certification of their state’s electoral votes. Once again, they begged members of the United States Senate to join in their objection.

Unlike 2000, a senator stepped forward to answer their call. Out of one hundred senators, Barbara Boxer of California signed the objection, forcing Congress to debate voting irregularities in Ohio.

A few days later, Senator Boxer stepped into the breech once again. This time, it was on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, where she was unrelenting in her criticism of Condoleezza Rice, the president’s nominee for Secretary of State. When the committee voted on Rice’s nomination, Boxer stood with former presidential candidate John Kerry in opposition.

Senator Boxer is quickly becoming the Senate’s lioness of the left, a leading voice in her party advocating vehement opposition to President Bush’s second-term agenda. The Democratic Party, both in Congress and around the country, can and should learn two things from her example.

The first is to be bold. Senator Boxer’s willingness to put her reputation on the line and object to Ohio’s electoral votes was certainly audacious. This sort of daring has been rare in the modern Democratic Party—its leaders seem cautious and calculating, unwilling to take any substantial risks for fear of losing influence or power.

What Democrats lack in this regard is what Republicans possess. Whether you agree or disagree with the wisdom of his positions, President Bush’s agenda is undoubtedly bold. Reform Social Security, the crowning achievement of the New Deal, the so-called “third rail” of American politics? Attempt to install democracy in a nation on the other side of the world? The American voter may not completely support these policies, but they respect the courage it took to initiate them.

This leads into the second lesson, which is to possess conviction. The public possesses a prevailing image of Democrats as flip-floppers, a collection of focus group-obsessed opportunists who will say whatever the public wants in order to get elected.

Once again, the Democratic defect is the Republican advantage. For example, polling has shown that most Americans believe that abortion should remain legal in some form, and yet the party that advocates its abolition remains in control of the Congress and the White House. Voters seem to admire the Republicans for fighting for what they believe is right rather than what they feel is popular. Repeatedly during this past political season, voters said that while they may not have agreed with all of President Bush’s beliefs, at least they knew what those beliefs were. John Kerry, on the other hand, seemed to be the embodiment of the wishy-washiness that plagues the Democratic Party. While they may have agreed with his stance on a variety of issues, including abortion, voters didn’t feel comfortable with his personality because it seemed like he didn’t stand for anything besides wanting to be elected.

It seems that Senator Boxer has learned both of these lessons and is applying them in the Senate. The Democratic Party needs to follow her lead and reform—its members need to be both bold and passionate in their actions. The party needs to find candidates who are “true believers,” willing to fight for their convictions. The last thing Democrats need is more of the same, candidates and consultants who don’t seem to possess any principles beyond the desire to win elections. The Republicans make good use of this notion, recruiting candidates who are faithful disciples to the conservative cause. Their control of the Congress and Oval Office speaks for the potential effectiveness of this strategy.

What the Democrats really need are more liberal lions like Boxer, who will remain true to their principles and audaciously defend them. Perhaps this is naiveté, but it seems that this idealism may actually make for good politics.


At February 18, 2005 11:56 AM, Blogger Gothamimage said...

Good points - I will be blogging about Boxer later. No more suffling.

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