A Final Word on Wellstone
I meant to post this on Sunday.
Paul Wellstone’s legacy is an eloquent rebuke to the Democratic Party that now more than ever, inaction is not an option. It is not enough to give lip-service to social justice. Our leaders must follow up their grand statements with actions. These days our very own Tom Daschle and Joe Leiberman seem paralyzed by the doctrine of moderation that has taken hold of the Party over last ten years. Why do they remain so blind to what Wellstone saw so clearly?
The American people do want us to govern from the center, in a sense. But it is not the center the pundits and politicians in Washington talk about. Citizens want us to deal with issues that are at the center of their lives. They yearn for a politics that speaks to and includes them--affordable childcare, a good education for their children, health and retirement security, good jobs that will support their families, respect for the environment and human rights, clean elections and clean campaigns.
Appeasement will make losers out of the Democrats time and time again, but has more dire and far-reaching consequences for the rest of us. As we face an ill-conceived battle in the Middle East, a teetering economy at home, and growing hostility amongst our allies abroad, what matters most right now are the things that have, for too long, gone unsaid. In this month’s Harper’s Magazine Dick Armstrong outlines what looks to be the greatest danger currently facing our nation; our very own government hawks. The central ideology of this administration is one of absolute power described in detail in Dick Cheney’s Defense Planning Guidance, a pet project of his carried over from his days as Secretary of Defense for the Reagan administration.
The Plan is for the United States to rule the world. The overt theme is unilateralism, but it is ultimately a story of domination. It calls for the United States to maintain it’s overwhelming military superiority and prevent new rivals from rising up to challenge it on the world stage. It calls for dominion over friends and enemies alike. It says not the United States must be more powerful, or most powerful, but that it must be absolutely powerful.
It is this point that has been missing from the national debate on preemption and unilateralism. When Paul Wellstone stood with the few in opposition of granting Bush the freedom to wage war in Iraq, he not only stood against giving away the right of Congress to declare war, he stood against a doctrine of global domination and might makes right. When the Democrats compromised they agreed to stand by and watch Nero fiddle as Rome burns.
Few in Washington seem to realize that as the leading economic and military power, in real terms, there is no greater threat to world peace and security than us. To invoke Iraq and even Al Qaeda as real threats to the United States is to mock our own arrogantly secure place in the world. And here we stand on the brink of war, a war that can bring no good to anyone least of all ourselves. Will we cease to be the shining example of freedom and comfort, and instead, become a grinning despot in a pinstripe suit? We think that, because we are a democracy, corrupt leaders cannot become entrenched and yet Cheney, Rumsfield, and Wolfowitz are holdovers from the Nixon administration. The Plan is not a new idea, but a long-held pet project that has simply been waiting to see the light of day. And in our fear and apathy we stand poised to allow it to become policy. People may shake their heads and empty their pockets, and columnists may furiously tap away the folly of such absolutism, but in the end it will be our own representatives that let this opportunity to oppose a policy of absolute power pass them by.
Throughout the last week much has been made of Paul Wellstone’s commitment to defending “the little guy.” That and his opposition to the Iraq resolution, make him out to be merely a fiery liberal in the midst of more level-headed Democrats. But to dismiss him thus is to underestimate what opposition to unilateralism signifies. It’s more than adherence to ones personal principles. It’s making the choice not to be the global dictator, to lead the free world with prudence and not menace. Democrats, Republicans, and pundits would do well to move past the issue of Iraq and terrorism and really examine how we want to enter the world of the twenty-first century.