A Democratic platform for change

Published: 7/27/2020 3:18:17 PM

Our presidency remains in the grip of one who, on the occasion of the highest ever one day number of new COVID-19 cases, responded by saying, “It will soon go away.” His Senate allies dared no correction. Fortunately an election is approaching, one in which a new president can restore both federal leadership and centrality of science in addressing the pandemic.

Charismatic leadership — a Lincoln, a Roosevelt, a Kennedy — is called for in this hour, but we can at least soon have a president and Congress focused on righting centuries-old national wrongs and restoring the national and international norms so recklessly abandoned these past four years.

The slogan “to make America great again” turned out the hollowest in the history of campaigning. The fact is, on one hand Trump sought the presidency to boost his ego, on the other hand, as means to acquire more personal wealth.

It has been a reign of negativity, a striking down of the achievements of Trump’s predecessor — not because President Obama represented the opposing party but because he was a person of non-white ethnicity. Trump, like other white supremacists, was rankled that a person of color might seek and achieve the presidency.

This hate began years earlier with meritless claims Obama wasn’t born in this country. The entire focus on blocking immigration and demeaning applicants, and denying citizenship to the Dreamers arose from the fact these folks weren’t “white”.

The movement, generated by the police murder of George Floyd and others, restored the question — when was America ever great? The truthful answer is that it has been an okay place for whites, but great only for those who manage, generation after generation, to corner the country’s wealth.

There will be no Democratic convention in Milwaukee, one I had hoped to again attend and report upon. Delegates will have “virtual” opportunity to approve a platform, a set of ideas to guide the thinking of those who will hold office. Here are some matters I believe that platform should address.

A day-one presidential assumption of leadership for, assessment of, and plan to control COVID-19. Neglect has left the country in a moment like 1932, with people needing hope, food, and preservation of shelter. The one-time government largesse to most families met a month of needs while the bulk of grant dollars went to corporations. Our depressed employment circumstances may require something like a new WPA, with government contracting infrastructure projects. A central focus should be safe drinking water.

Similarly, the virus has proven the need for a government health and drug insurance plan for everyone. It can cover all while costing less than systems we have.

We must seek sweeping, constitutional voting rights legislation that finally blocks any possible interference in that process. The ex-slave orator Frederick Douglas reminds us “voting is the core of liberty”.

Initiate a constitutional amendment eliminating the Electoral College. Continue diverse efforts to reform policing practices. Discontinue police use of military equipment, and outlaw civilian possession of any military style weapons.

Repeal Trump’s tax cut for corporations and the wealthy. Restore slashed banking, environmental, health, and safety regulations. There must be a national living wage, study and then action on how to end systemic poverty and homelessness. Forms of reparations are needed.

We should seek international praise for providing citizenship for the Dreamers and others in need of safety, dramatically reducing our prison population, closing Guantanamo, and drawing down our military threat abroad. The very notion of having Pacific or Africa commands is aggressive and provocative. The move toward peace with Iran, abandoned because it was Obama’s plan, should be pursued anew.

Arms production consumes 54% of our annual budget. As President Eisenhower warned in January 1961, the military-industrial complex presents a grave danger to the future of this country. To continue its profits after World War II, that industry energized the Cold War and fueled the senseless war in Vietnam.

The 9/11 attacks were carried out in retaliation for U.S. support of Israeli treatment of Palestinians. The Cheney-Bush military response — instead of leading a global effort to prosecute those responsible — was a costly invasion of two countries and destabilization of the Middle East. We need to fashion relationships with other countries that does not begin with a list of so-called “adversaries” — perhaps revive the idea of a Department of Peace.

Note: 11,827 Huey helicopters, at millions of dollars each, were produced for that war in Vietnam.

Reader, war is business!

Charlemont resident Carl Doerner is an author and historian, currently at work on a re-examination of and challenge to the “American narrative.”

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