It seems the winds of change may sweep through the stuffy halls of the Capitol this fall.
After almost half a dozen years of Republicans in the White House and a dozen years of Republican control of the House of Representatives, GOP’s political supremacy is in question.
Consider a rising number of ethics scandals, lack of fiscal discipline and deepening fractures within the party. Add to this an unpopular war in Iraq and rising energy prices.
In the two-party system, there seems to be a seesawing of power that is triggered when one party screws up one too many times. With the Democrats as the only viable alternative, the party seems likely to gain from the missteps of the Republicans over the past year.
As an active member of the Democratic Party, I am excited for our potential to retake control of Congress, but I also realize that we must articulate a clear vision of positive leadership to be trusted with the reins of power.
Recently, I attended the New Jersey College Democrats state convention, where several New Jersey congressmen spoke on the direction of the party.
Most poignant of the congressmen was Bill Pascrell, a moderate who served as mayor of Paterson before his election to Congress in 1996.
Pascrell said he believes that the Democratic Party must reject the very shrill rhetoric of the party’s hardest left wing while modifying some policies of the Clinton years. “If you go too far left, you’re going to get left off the boat,” Pascrell said. The congressman made a jab at the Bush administration by saying “the wheels are off the bus” when discussing the president’s performance.
Pascrell, who voted for the Iraq War but disagrees with the administration’s handling of the conflict, said that Democrats must talk about modernizing the armed forces, not cutting military spending.
On domestic issues, Pascrell issued a strong censure of the free-trade policies which were favored by President Clinton and GOP. “The trade policies favored by both Bushes and Clinton stink!” he exclaimed. Pascrell said he supports fair trade and has rebuilt the opposition to free trade on the premises that the loss in manufacturing infrastructure has hurt our homeland security and job market.
Pascrell reasserted the party’s commitment to the middle class by opposing cuts in student loans. He effectively made the case for a hand-up, not a hand-out, system when it came to universal health care. Mentioning that people would pay deductibles under such a system, he said, “You don’t get free lunch in this country.”
Pascrell also said that Congress must revive its power as a check on the president if the Democrats retake control in 2007. In contrast to Republican strategies of appealing to the religious right, he warned against the pervasive fundamentalism in all religions.
Pascrell and other moderate Democrats, who fight for the traditional working and middle-class backbone of America, are the answer to the nation’s problems. The priorities that will take America forward are not polemical exchanges over divisive social issues. Rather, we need a government that is fiscally responsible, maintains a strong and modern national defense and reasserts America’s industries to be the world’s leaders.
In a time when seven in 10 Americans believe the country is on the wrong track, it is the Democrats’ responsibility to reveal not only what Republicans have done wrong, but also what Democrats can do right. A party of whiners can never be a party of winners. My party must resolve not to slip into a doom-and-gloom mentality for the future of our country. We must lead toward a new era of hope.