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Why we must unite behind our Democratic nominee
Some of my fellow Lefties chide me for supporting Dean. "Why not Kucinich?"
they ask. Inded, I ask them, why not Carol Moseley Braun, whom I named as my candidate several years ago?
Because -- as they know -- we do not live in a nation that will elect a Black president, nor a woman -- much less a Black
woman. So it is, after all, about electability. They'll admit it about Braun; let's admit it about Kucinich.
With the possible exception of Carol Moseley Braun, Dennis Kucinich represents
my values more completely than any candidate I can remember. I would love to see Braun or Kucinich in the White House. But
it will never happen. As the Naderites taught us so damagingly in 2000, we have to unify behind an electable candidate,
and that is Howard Dean. In a perfect world, I would stand 100% behind Braun. In a 90% perfect world, Kucinich. In the world
we've got, I will vote for Dean. Is that a compromise? Yes, it is. But it's a compromise that might just save this country.
In 2004, this country will elect either George W. Bush or the man the Democrats
nominate for the presidency. There is no third choice. It is our responsibility to select the most electable candidate and
to unify behind him with a passion that will overcome the BushCo control of our nation.
And when Dean is elected, let's lobby for Kucinich for the Supreme Court!
more about Carol Moseley Braun
How Badly Do You Want to Win?
Do you want a different president in 2004?
Im asking this as a serious question, not a rhetorical one. Do you want it badly enough
to actually do what is necessary to win the election that will take place just 17 months from now?
Picture another four years of a Bush administration unfettered by concerns about re-election.
Everywhere I go,
everywhere every Democrat goes, we hear, Where are the Democrats? I take that challenge seriously, and many of us are working
day and night to make ourselves heard, putting together a strategy with members who are willing to use tougher language and
creative tactics in coordination with outside organizations.
Yes, we need more Democrats who believe, as Paul Wellstone
said, that the politics of conviction is a winning politics. But I challenge you to do the same by asking, Where are you?
I say that as an activist and organizer myself, and with a great deal of respect for the work that all of you are doing. I
acknowledge the magnificent visibility of the antiwar activities, and the Web-based organizing that has generated millions
of e-mails to Congress, the work of the Anti-Tax Cut Coalition and others. I say that with enormous respect for the work of
organized labor nationally and locally. I know we are all grateful to President John Sweeney of the AFL-CIO and his incredibly
Even so, there have been too few examples of viewpoints, other than those consistent with the
administrations, breaking through to the public. If we are to win, its clear we need to do more, do it louder, do it faster,
and do it better. And if we dont, in 2008 we will live in a country and a world far different from the one we have had and
the one to which we aspire.
This president is seriously undermining the rule of law, the Constitution of the United
States, and our precious civil libertiesand hes doing it all in the name of patriotism. But where are the lawyers and judges?
Why am I not hearing your protests? Where are your e-mails and phone calls, your letters to the editor, your calls to talk
radio, your high-profile lawsuits? Privacy is a major concern for average Americans, and Big Brother is mining our most private
information as we sit here. I realized how serious this was when a woman asked me how she could get another perspective on
the Iraq war and I suggested a few Web sites. She asked me if she went there if she would find herself on a list. In all honesty,
I found that I couldnt say with confidence, Absolutely no; this is still the United States of America, and you can look at
anything you want.
Lawyers, judges, where are you? Seniors, where are you? I want to see sustained, loud, angry activity.
After all, the Republicans still want to privatize Social Security and Medicare and cut Medicaid so they can give tax cuts
to their rich friends and destroy those basic programs to boot. Its a twofer for them.
Even veterans are not immune.
Many veterans have to wait 15 months just to get a doctors appointment. The drug companies are conducting a $150 million campaign
to prevent any move to lower drug prices, allocating $9.5 million to public relations, even $1 million to get rid of the national
health care system in Canada. When I was director of the Illinois State Council of Senior Citizens, our group was chasing
Dan Rostenkowski down the street. Seniors, now is the time to get on your running shoes. You should be chasing George W. Bush
and Dick Cheney and Tom DeLay all over the country.
Environmentalists: Alaska is melting. The journal Nature
reports that 90 percent of all large fish such as tuna, marlin, swordfish, cod, and halibut are gone from our oceans; fuel
efficiency of our cars is at a 22-year low. Its now considered patriotic, for crying out loud, to drive a Hummer. So where
the hell are you? I want to read about you or even join you protesting at hearings in Washington or Big Oil shareholder meetings.
We need the activists and scientists to challenge this aggressively antiscience administration. Some things we may be able
to reverse when we wrest power over the planet from their control. But extinct is extinct.
My sisters, where are the
demonstrations against the war on women that is being waged every day in every way. Today on the floor is the bill to ban
the mythical partial birth abortion, which is a thinly disguised assault on fundamental reproductive rights. On his first
day in office, President Bush attacked the poorest, most vulnerable women in the world when he cut U.S. funds to organizations
that have the gall to counsel, refer, orGod forbidperform abortions in countries where it is legal (which it happens to be
in ours, by the way).
Our women in the military cant, with their own funds, have a safe and legal abortion at a military
hospital, even if they are in Iraq or Saudi Arabia. A rabidly antichoice man who thinks that womens health concerns can be
cured with prayer now heads up the Food and Drug Administrations Advisory Committee for Reproductive Health Drugs. The Republicans
want to eliminate Title IX, equal opportunities for women in education and sports. Theyve done little to help victims of sexual
assault and domestic violence.
We all need to join in the efforts of organized labor on behalf of all working
families in this country. This week we may be considering a so-called comp time bill that shreds the basic concept of a days
pay for a days work and makes time-and-a-half pay for overtime a thing of the past. Just picture another four years of a Bush
administration unfettered by concerns of re-election. Unions are not in the 2008 picture. In 2008 there may not be any public
employees, let alone public-employee unions. Everything will be privatized and contracted out. Private-sector unions will
be under siege; a constant barrage of well-financed referenda will be launched in state after state; legal assaults and investigations
will take place at every level, and well always be the target of well-financed media campaigns.
I salute the leadership
that the religious leadersclergy and lay peoplehave shown on the war. Dont stop now. God is a Republican is a guiding principle
for this administration. As long as there are congressional resolutions and official days of prayer, the United States can
continue to preemptively attack any country it wants. As Senate Leader Bill Frist said at a large gathering I attended, All
you need to know is the difference between right and wrong, good and evil.
Their God is homophobic and anti-choice.
Education Secretary Rod Paige said: All things equal, I would prefer to have a child in a school that has a strong appreciation
for the values of the Christian community. In a religious environment the value system is set. Thats not the case in a public
school where there are so many different kids with different kinds of values. The dangerous destruction of the wall between
church and state is well underway. Religious leaders and the faith community need to address this.
activists, immigrant advocates, housing advocates, civil rights leaders, gay/lesbian/bisexual/transgender activists, all warriors
for social and economic justice, thank you for what you do. And now we need to do more, do it louder, do it faster and do
Clearly the right has a number of tools at its disposal now that we dont have.
we are serious about getting rid of George W. Bush in 17 months, then we have to make some decisions and some commitments.
During the war, a couple of nuns came to see me in my Chicago office. They were on their way to jail to serve a three-month
sentence for an aggravated misdemeanor for protesting the School of the Americas in Fort Benning, Georgia. They crossed a
line in the road and now they were going to prison. Think of it. Anyway, on their way to jail, they had been arrested on Lake
Shore Drive in Chicago in an antiwar protest. The police got a bit carried away even though the City Council had passed a
strong antiwar resolution.
- Republicans control the White House and are placing ideologues at every level of
the administration, the Senate and House, and much of the judiciary.
- The right controls much of the media, which creates a very effective echo chamber
for the Republicans initiatives and smear campaigns. The June 2 ruling of the Federal Communications Commission lifting most
restrictions on consolidation will allow the Foxification and Clear Channelization even more.
- The Republicans have most of the money, and their corporate agenda and tax cuts
for the rich ensure that they will continue to do so.
- The Republicans lie with impunity. Lets face it. Theyre liars. They lied about the
reason they took our sons and daughters to war. They spend millions of dollars in campaign ads saying they are for a prescription
drug benefit under Medicare. They call their dirty air legislation Clear Skies and their plan to give the timber companies
our trees, Healthy Forests. They call their job-killing economic program a jobs program. They say they are for peace when
they are for war. Millions of children are left behind under their miserly No Child Left Behind education bill. They tout
a child tax credit and then silently drop it in favor of more tax cuts for millionaires.
- Perhaps most important, the Republicans are unabashed and unapologetic about pushing
their right-wing agenda, no matter what. They are always playing offense. I used to think, oh, they cant be serious about
this or thatanother huge tax cut, eliminating Title IX, continuing tax breaks for companies that move their offices to Bermuda,
locking up immigrants indefinitely without due process, using federal dollars to build churchesits just a trial balloon. Forget
it. They mean what they say and they dont give up until they get it. This is where we come in.
The nuns wanted to know what could be done to change the state of affairs. I said I thought
someone needed to take voter registration forms to every meeting and demonstration and get people fired up to vote. They said
that would be hard. Why? Because people were fed up with the Democrats. I said, then they are going to have to get over
it, and you are going to have to help them. Because like it or not, either George W. Bush or the Democratic nominee, whoever
he may be, will be our next president.
All of you know who Im talking about; I may be talking about you. We should,
by all means, be working to promote a progressive agenda with each and every candidate and to make the nominee as progressive
But in the end, we are going to have to dedicate ourselves to electing the Democrat. To do otherwise
is a luxury we cannot afford. I look forward to our campaign for a universal health care plan or a real education bill or
labor law reform. We cannot even have that conversation now. We are trying to hang on by our fingernails to what we have now.
And we are losing.
The good news today is that we have them on the run on several fronts. They were hoping that the
conversation this week would be about the flag burning amendment that passed the House yesterday and partial birth abortion.
Instead its about their decision to cut 6.5 million American families with 12 million children, including families of servicemen
and -women, out of their tax relief bill because they jeopardized tax cuts for the rich. Some Senate Republicans realize this
level of greed may have been a tad too much for most Americans, but Tom DeLay, God love him, is really steaming that Democrats
are demanding action on the issue. He says, There are a lot of things that are more important than that. Like more tax cuts
for the rich. He indicated that hed think about it if it were part of a package that permanently repealed the estate tax.
The missing weapons of mass destruction are becoming a real annoyance to them now, and the media is starting to pick
it up. More and more members of Congress, even some Republicans, are asking for investigations. Editorial boards are beginning
to write about it.
We need to take advantage of these opportunities. The polls tell us that the president is in fact
vulnerable. His re-elect numbers are not that great. We have to do with fervor what we already know how to do. We have to
register base voters who have left us at least in part because they think we dont speak to them. And here you have another
choice. You can bitch that the Democrats dont speak to them, or you can speak to them, one on one, door to door, worker to
worker, meeting after meeting, neighbor to neighbor. Set a goal for yourself, perhaps to register 100 new Democratic voters
between now and Election Day.
Become part of a progressive echo chamber. When the Republicans go after Tom Daschle
or Nancy Pelosi for being unpatriotic when they criticize the president, Fox News and Rush Limbaugh begin spinning the same
line. We need to push back, writing letters to the editor, calling talk shows, e-mailing Congress, e-mailing Sean Hannity
and telling him hes out of line, calling them un-American for stifling dissent.
When Republicans launch a really
bad proposal or Democrats a good one, we need to have coordinated efforts throughout the country. We need to use our think
tanks and grassroots and Web-based organizations in increasingly creative ways and coordinate that with activities of the
Democrats that are becoming more and more vocal in the Congress.
You can tell the truth. We dont need to lie. Democrats
are better for their health and well-being, their kids education and their family budget, andRepublican propaganda
notwithstanding our national security, stopping terrorism, and peace on earth.
Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Illinois) gave this speech at the Campaign for Americas Future conference in Washington on
June 4, 2003.