Jewish World Review Nov. 12, 2002 / 7 Kislev 5763

Clarence Page

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How Oz can help the Dems | Memo to the Wizard of Oz: Please send the Democrat Party what they need most these days: A heart, courage and a brain.

Democratic leaders are wringing their hands and gnashing their teeth over the party's loss of both houses of Congress plus the White House.

I think they should dry their eyes. The Democrats still have a strong base. They only need to reacquaint themselves with it.

First, this debacle was a setback, not a collapse. If there had been a switch of roughly 29,000 votes in Minnesota, 11,500 in Missouri and 9,500 in New Hampshire, as The Washington Post noted, the Dems would have held the Senate and the pundits would be blowing taps for Bush's coattails.

That's the beauty of American democracy. You screw up and the people will let you know it. They'll walk away from you like a bad date. No party is immune. No party can afford to display a sense of entitlement to anyone's hearts or minds.

So before, Democrats start forming circular firing squads and arguing over whether they should turn farther to the left or closer to the middle, I think they need to turn to what's right. Instead of debating which old agenda to pull out of the closet, they should go shopping. That's where you can help, Wiz.


First, as the old song goes, They've "got to have heart."

Democratic Chairman Terry McAuliffe, a master fundraiser but weak on beliefs, complained after Election Day that it was "hard to get our message out" in the midst of wall-to-wall sniper coverage and other big news. Maybe so. But, what was the message they were trying to get out?

As the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., used to say, if you don't stand for something, you'll fall for anything. The Democrats stand for something, but lately it has been hard for voters to tell what it is.

Democrats had different messages, depending on the state in which they were running. Some were in direct conflict with Dems in other states on such sensitive, but crucial areas as Iraq, gun control, tax cuts and the economy.

Democrats mostly ducked an all-out debate with the president on Iraq, then ducked a debate on Bush's tax cuts for fear of undermining the dozen senators who voted for them. Some of them lost anyway.

As a minority party in Congress, Democrats don't have to be obstructionists. They merely have to offer credible leaders, an alternative vision and some visible conviction about using government to help people.


Will it be more difficult to criticize Bush now? Silly question. When was it ever easy? Some right-wingers even helped hound Sen. Max Cleland (D-Ga.) out of office by questioning his "patriotism." Never mind that he lost both legs and an arm in Vietnam. If the zealots can trash Cleland on patriotism, they'll trash anybody on anything.

But, hey, as another old saying goes, politics ain't beanbag. If your beliefs aren't worth fighting for, they're not worth much.


In the interest of comity and "getting things done," as Bush likes to say, congressional Democrats have failed to press the questions that many Americans, including some Republicans, are asking about what exactly it is that Bush wants to get done.

Some of his ideas are downright reckless. The White House appears to have discarded the Powell Doctrine in regard to assessing what the end game of an Iraq war might be. Bush's economic plans call for tax cuts for the upper income brackets at a time of skyrocketing government expenses, including Social Security and a war or two.

It is not enough for Democrats to criticize the "things" that Bush wants to "get done." They have to figure out what they want to get done, too.

Of course, Democrats should oppose Bush's tax cut, but with a better tax cut, one whose benefits help working people make ends meet, help the working poor stay off welfare and help stimulate the growth that creates jobs, not hollow Wall Street bubbles.

The Democrats should be lending a hand to people who are still punching time-clocks and keyboards and working their butts off in the hope that someday they, too, might be rich enough to vote Republican.

Instead, a lot of people are voting for policies that they really cannot afford, because the party that should be providing them with a better alternative isn't.

Compromise can be healthy, but a me-too party will collapse into mush. Democrats don't need to be obstructionists. They need to be effective thinkers, dreamers and fighters.

First, they've got to have heart.

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10/08/02: Time to start 'fingerprinting' bullets
10/08/02: Poet laureate hater fell for Internet hoax
10/04/02: Keeping it real, despite howls from black 'leaders'
10/01/02: Revisiting the 'Jogger' horror
09/27/02: Sometimes freedom is a necessary nuisance
09/13/02: Foil Fidel with free trade
09/10/02: Measuring the myth of 'super weed'
09/06/02: A year later: A reality-check
09/03/02: Make better choices before some jury somewhere does
08/20/02: Bid farewell to the Cigarette Century
08/16/02: Rights matter, even in circus trials
08/09/02: Jousting with Rumsfeld's fog of wit
08/06/02: Covert action is cool again
08/01/02: Powell's premature obituaries
07/30/02: A common sense tip on internal snooping
07/18/02: Jacko plays race card badly
07/12/02: Last flight for a pioneer airman
07/08/02: Dems will miss Watts, too
06/28/02: 'Supreme Court reads polls, too
06/25/02: 'The Body' bites, then bows out
06/21/02: Punishment first, then the crime?
06/18/02: Reporting still risky for Haiti's press
06/14/02: Bush's security plan leaves large gaps
06/04/02: Fix FBI's culture gap first
05/28/02: Fidel's new apartheid for tourists
05/21/02: Now McKinney's lunacy sounds like the Democratic Party line
05/19/02: A paradox of historical proportions
05/14/02: 'Murphy Brown' revisited in age of Ozzy
05/10/02: America looks like a model of tolerance and inclusion
05/07/02: Forget it, Bill, you're no Oprah
04/26/02: Mapping out ethnic and racial change
04/23/02: A game of another color
04/19/02: It's high time to open up pot-law debate
04/11/02: 'Osbourne' family values rock, aging Ozzy quakes
03/22/02: Zimbabwe election leaves world sleepless
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03/12/02: Army race and gender policies on trial
03/08/02: A short list of losers to be left behind
03/05/02: Revenge of the 'mediasaurus'
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02/26/02: It's hard to be 'objective' during wartime
02/19/02: Hollywood's new villain: Your HMO
02/12/02: Father of 'Manchild' leaves lasting message
02/08/02: $nookering the reparations crowd
01/31/02: Prisoners of a War of Words
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01/25/02: Searching for slaves in bin Laden's attic
01/22/02: Andrew Young's newest 'friend'
01/08/02: Hard-earned lessons from 9-11
12/18/01: Whatever happened to questions about the birds and the bees?
12/14/01: The "White Negro" Taliban?
12/07/01: Jackson's turn to gloat
11/27/01: Friendly warning from a lover of liberty
11/21/01: The face of hunger is changing
11/15/01: Our troubled sense of trust
11/08/01: Lessons about terror from the 'hood
11/06/01: Getting used to the 'new normal'
11/02/01: Wicked ways to make them talk
10/30/01: It's not just about bin Laden
10/26/01: More than mail fell between the cracks
10/23/01: Terrorists threaten urban recovery, too
10/18/01: Sometimes, assassination warranted
10/15/01: Self-censorship rises again
10/12/01: Contradictions illustrate the complicated nature of the new terrorism
10/05/01: Look who's 'profiling' now
10/01/01: Don't trash liberty to save it
09/28/01: Life, love and cell phones during wartime
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09/21/01: The war I was waiting for
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09/13/01: Terror attack tests US, let's give right response
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09/04/01: Columbine killer's parents get upclose and personal
08/31/01: Virtual kids? Log me out
08/28/01: Two Africans, one black, one white, same fight
08/23/01: Sharpton for president
08/20/01: Shaking up the rules on keeping secrets
08/16/01: Bush's u-turn on racial goals
08/09/01: Outsider Bubba comes 'in' again
08/06/01: Not ready for 'color-blindness' yet
08/02/01: Immigration timing couldn't be better
07/26/01: Summer of Chandra: An international traveler's perspective
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07/05/01: Can blacks be patriotic? Should they be?
06/19/01: Get 'real' about marriage
06/12/01: Amos, Andy and Tony Soprano
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06/05/01: Bringing marriage back into fashion
05/31/01: "Ken" and "Johnnie": The odd-couple legal team
05/24/01: Sharpton's challenge to Jackson
05/22/01: Test scores equal (a) MERIT? (b) MENACE? (c) ALL OF ABOVE?
05/17/01: Anti-pot politics squeeze the ill
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05/10/01: U.N.'s torture caucus slaps Uncle Sam
05/08/01: 'The Sopranos' a reflection of our times
05/03/01: 'Free-fire' zones, then and now
05/01/01: War on drugs misfires against students
04/26/01: Another athlete gets foot-in-mouth disease
04/23/01: 'Slave' boat mystery reveals real tragedy
04/19/01: McVeigh's execution show
04/12/01: Not this time, Jesse
04/05/01: Dubya is DEFINITELY his own man, you fools!
04/02/01: Milking MLK
03/29/01: The candidate who censored himself?
03/22/01: "Will Hispanics elbow blacks out of the way as the nation's most prominent minority group?"
03/19/01: Blacks and the SATs
03/15/01: The census: How much race still matters in the everyday life of America
03/12/01: Jesse is a victim!
03/08/01: Saving kids from becoming killers
03/01/01: Parents owe "Puffy" and Eminem our thanks

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