By Ralph Nader
What does the Democratic Party stand for? The big question persists! Typical of the Democrats, they delegated this question to political consultants who came up with the vapid slogan, “A Better Deal.” The specifics under that moniker are too general and, as a result, too easily dismissed by the public.
The Democratic operatives need to take a page out of Newt Gingrich’s playbook when he toppled an anemic Democratic House of Representatives in the stunning 1994 elections and became Speaker of the House.
During the 1994 Congressional campaign, Gingrich’s party released a “Contract with America.” It was so anti-American that comedians called it a “Contract on America.” For example, the “Contract with America” attacked the fundamental right of having your full day in court, based on falsely asserting there was an “endless tide of litigation.” That was only one of the ways Gingrich pleased the big corporations.
House Democratic leaders Nancy Pelosi and her deputy, Steny Hoyer, just can’t put forward a compelling agenda. They seem unable to speak assuredly and concretely about how their agenda will improve peoples’ lives.
Congressman Hoyer returned from a listening tour of the U.S. where he only listened to himself. In his summation speech, Hoyer declined to put forward numbers and specifics about raising the minimum wage or expanding healthcare. Moreover, his tour seemed to ignore the multiple devastations that unaccountable global corporations are having on this country.
Fortunately there are a few dozen insurgents in the Democratic Party who are winning Congressional primaries and are addressing progressive specifics. But their numbers need to grow.
Unfortunately, the “Old Guard” still dominates the Democratic Party. Maybe this November election will change this. If the Democrats wish finally to prevail over the worst, cruelest, most corrupt, war-mongering, Wall Street toady Republican Party in history, they need to be clear in their convictions. The Democrats need a resounding declaration of what they stand for with major news conferences, political ads, get-out-the-vote materials, and speeches before large audiences.
A Democratic Party “Contract with America” should include a $15 per hour federal minimum wage—up from the present frozen $7.25 an hour. It should endorse a Medicare–for-all system that emphasizes preventive care, cost controls on drug companies, and prevention of criminal or immoral overcharging. Serious attention should be paid to saving lives and preventing injuries and diseases. Preventable problems in hospitals are taking at least 5,000 lives per week (see Johns Hopkins May 2016 report).
A Democratic “Contract with America” should commit to what over 85 percent of the American people want—tough law enforcement on corporate crime, fraud, and abuse. Consumers, workers, and small taxpayers would understand such a pledge. Many anxieties, dread, and fear in peoples’ hassled daily lives come from lawless or abusive companies. Taxpayers would relish cracking down on businesses that defraud Medicare, Medicaid, military contracts, and almost always get away with it.
The Contract should include an empowering agenda and also a commitment to democracy — shifting power from the few to the many workers, consumers, and voters. The Democrats know how to overcome Republican voter suppression and how to make it easier for Americans to band together to defend themselves, through open access to the courts, forming labor unions, consumer cooperatives, and taxpayer watchdog associations.
It is also time to launch a long overdue dedication to major public works and infrastructure projects that will produce millions of good-paying jobs—paid for by restoring corporate and super-rich taxes, along with decreasing the bloated, wasteful military budget that exceeds half of the entire federal government’s operating expenditures.
The Democratic Party should reverse course and tell taxpayers they will oppose all those massive corporate welfare (crony capitalism) subsidies, hand-outs, and bailouts that embody the hypocrisy of so-called corporate capitalists right down to those stadiums and ballparks taxpayers pay for without even getting naming rights!
Democrats, frantically dialing for corporate campaign dollars, have become anemic, fuzzing their campaigns with weak rhetoric and losing so much of the peoples’ trust. They have joined with the Republicans on waging boomeranging wars instead of waging peace and engaging in treaties protecting workers, consumers, and the environment.
The Party requires crisp clarity, repeated again and again in believable ways and means in the coming weeks. So when the words “Democratic Party” are spoken, millions of voters would know what it stands for so they can hold candidates specifically accountable should there be any post-election betrayals.
So, Democratic National Chairman, Tom Perez, where is the Party’s Contract with America? Send him a message at https://www.tomperez.org/contact-1/.