The following is an open letter to Kentucky State Sen. Dr. Daniel Mongiardo, Democratic nominee for the U.S. Senate seat held by Republican Jim Bunning.
Dear Dr. Mongiardo:
The second of November could prove one of the most important days in this country's recent history. For years, even before the current administration took office, this country has been on a path that has lead to disgrace in the international community, erosion of civil rights and expanded economic inequality in this country, environmental destruction and conflict around the world.
It's time for us to change course before it's too late, and you are uniquely positioned to do something about it. Your platform focuses on the issues that matter most to the people of Kentucky: labor rights, access to quality health care and public education.
Unfortunately, your party's presumptive presidential nominee, U.S. Sen. John Kerry, has a platform that is much less progressive than yours -- and not much better than the Republicans' views on a host of international policies. If those who voted for now-independent candidate Ralph Nader in 2000 -- or who now support your fellow Democrat, U.S. Rep. Dennis J. Kucinich -- can be brought into the Kerry camp by November, it might just make the difference between victory and defeat in what promises to be a close race.
Those same voters would almost certainly back you over Sen. Jim Bunning, whose record shows that he lacks the proper agenda to improve the lives of the majority of people in Kentucky and around the world.
The only way to win them over is on the issues. As things stand, the Democratic platform doesn't seem up to the task. But there is still plenty of time to change that before it is voted on at the convention. I urge you to do all you can to energize the vast disenfranchised class in this country who sit on their hands each Election Day because neither major party inspires them and no one else "can" win.
Yours certainly wouldn't be a lone voice. Kucinich is still running a national campaign. His goal is to provide Kerry, the only viable alternative to Pres. George W. Bush, a more progressive platform on which candidates can walk to victory come November.
As the primary season came to a close, Kucinich's campaign gained strength and delegates with each passing week, and it now looks poised to roll into Boston with dozens of delegates, thousands of supporters and tens or hundreds of thousands of signatures on petitions urging the Democratic leadership to change course on a number of issues, including two close to your heart: universal health care and fair trade.
To understand the seriousness with which Kucinich approaches the task at hand, consider his pick to sit on the Platform Drafting Committee of the Democratic National Committee. Jerry Wilson of Oregon has proven his political and business acumen for years as founder and president of Soloflex (a manufacturer of home gym equipment) and a Democratic activist.
If there were one complaint about Kucinich's political philosophy, it might be that it is pro-people to the detriment of business. But his selection of a factory owner to represent him shows that he wants American business to work. He simply wants it to work in a way that is beneficial to workers and consumers -- not just owners. If Wilson's recent comments are any indication, he isn't just any business owner, he is one who sees that a progressive vision is good for America and therefore good for the bottom line.
"As a factory owner and capitalist," Wilson says, "I completely understand the necessity for the major public works programs that Dennis Kucinich proposes. Whoever capitalizes first, most and best wins. We must recapitalize America now. We must build and deploy the systems and machinery that will provide and utilize renewable power, make better use of our water resources, reduce transportation costs and give us jobs we can be proud of. It's time to get to work."
Statements like that show that Wilson is a different type of capitalist, and his track record shows he has the clout to make his voice heard in the platform committee meetings.
Of course, commitment to progressive ideals cannot stop in the Fleet Center or even down the campaign's homestretch. The same values that can bring the Democratic Party back to its core constituency and back to victory must be carried into policies and law thereafter.
The American people believed Bill Clinton's populist rhetoric and elected him. We ended up without universal health care, with more people in our prisons and jails, trade agreements that have cost millions of jobs here and tens of thousands of lives in the Third World, an ever widening gap between rich and poor, nearly unmitigated genocide in Europe and Africa and decreased union rolls, automobile efficiency and social welfare programs. One of the few good things he allegedly brought us was an economic "boom" based on a bubble only slightly less absurd than the Amsterdam tulip mania of the 1630s, when prices for bulbs reached staggering heights.
Without becoming more progressive, the Democrats will have a hard time regaining the trust of the poor and working class whose votes they need to win. If they promise, win and fail to come through again, the task might be impossible next time around.
The people will speak this summer and fall, not on CNN, but in the diners, on the Internet and in the streets. I know you listen, Dr. Mongiardo. I urge you to help your party do the same.
Joshua C. Robinson writes monthly about the presidential campaign for CityBeat.