Obama's politics of new ideas
By Michael M. Bates
Barack Obama maintains he's the candidate of new ideas. When clinching his party's nomination, he boasted that it's "our time to bring new energy and new ideas to the challenges we face." The senator's acceptance speech at the convention noted, "Change happens because the American people demand it - because they rise up and insist on new ideas and new leadership, a new politics for a new time."
A good place to find some of these new ideas is the Democratic platform, which documents the party's official position on issues.
● On the war: We believe that war is a waste of human life. We are determined to end forthwith a war . . . that has divided us from each other, drained our national will and inflicted incalculable damage to countless people. We will end that war by a simple plan that need not be kept secret: The immediate total withdrawal of all Americans . . .
● On jobs: Full employment - a guaranteed job for all - is the primary economic objective of the Democratic Party. The Democratic Party is committed to a job for every American who seeks work. Only through full employment can we reduce the burden on working people. We are determined to make economic security a matter of right.
● On taxes: (Recent) years have seen a massive shift in the tax burden from the rich to the working people of America. This is due to cuts in federal income taxes simultaneous with big increases in taxes which bear heavily on lower incomes - state and local sales and property taxes and the payroll tax. The federal tax system is still grossly unfair and over-complicated. The wealthy and corporations get special tax favors; major reform of the nation's tax structure is required to achieve a more equitable distribution of income. . .
● On national security: Strength in defense and wisdom in foreign affairs are essential to prosperity and tranquility. In the modern world, there can be no isolationism in reality or policy. But the measure of our nation's rank in the world must be our success in achieving a just and peaceful society at home.
● On energy: To begin with, we should: Promote greater research and development, both by government and by private industry, of unconventional energy sources, such as solar power, geothermal power, energy from water and a variety of nuclear power possibilities to design clean breeder fission and fusion techniques. Public funding in this area needs to be expanded . . .
● On Social Security: The Democratic Party commits itself to make the Social Security tax progressive by raising substantially the ceiling on earned income.
● On welfare: The next Democratic Administration must end the present welfare system and replace it with an income security program which places cash assistance in an appropriate context with all of the measures outlined above, adding up to an earned income approach to ensure each family an income substantially more than the poverty level ensuring standards of decency and health. . .
● On guns: There must be laws to control the improper use of hand guns. . . Effective legislation must include a ban on sale of hand guns known as Saturday night specials which are unsuitable for sporting purposes.
● On immigration: Re-establish a U.S.-Mexico border commission, with Mexican-American representatives, to . . . conduct substantial programs to raise the economic level on both sides of the border. This should remove the economic reasons which contribute to illegal immigration and discourage run-away industries; in addition, language requirements for citizenship should be removed.
● On health care: "We must devise a system which will assure that . . . every American receives comprehensive health services from the day he is born to the day he dies, with an emphasis on preventive care to keep him healthy."
● On children: To that end, we call for: The federal government to fund comprehensive development child care programs. . . Health, social service and early childhood education should be part of these programs, as well as a variety of options most appropriate to their needs.
● On foreign policy: A new foreign policy must be adequate for a rapidly changing world. . . Throughout the world, the focus of our policy should be a commitment to peace, self-determination, development, liberty and international cooperation, without distortion in favor of military points of view.
● On diversity: The new Democratic Administration can help lead America to celebrate the magnificence of the diversity within its population, the racial, national, linguistic and religious groups which have contributed so much to the vitality and richness of our national life. As things are, official policy too often forces people into a mold of artificial homogeneity.
Wow. Those are really fresh, innovative ideas alright. Or are they?
The bright new ideas excerpted here are indeed from the Democratic platform. But not from this year's platform. Rather, they're from the one approved at the party's 1972 convention.
That was the year Democratic candidate George McGovern lost 49 states in the general election. 1972 was also the year Joe Biden, Mr. New Ideas Jr., was first elected to the Senate. As he had been since 1967, John McCain was still imprisoned in the Hanoi Hilton.
Maybe it's just as well that Obamatons have no sense of history. It might dilute their enthusiasm. Let's hear it again, gang. Hope and change, new ideas, change and hope, new ideas, hope and change, new ideas. . . . .
This Mike Bates column appeared in the September 11, 2008 Reporter Newspapers.