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Two Great Examples for Progress

Taken as a whole, there is a lot going wrong with the Democratic Party these days. What with Nancy Pelosi embracing a pro-life agenda through her favorite for the DNC chair, and Senator Hillary Clinton joining President Bush to declare that she favors more “faith-based initiatives”, members of the established Democratic leadership are selling out so quickly that they’ll probably soon be for sale on EBay.

That said, all is not lost. There are still powerful Democrats who are willing to stand up for what’s right. Two great examples of Democratic leaders who are championing traditional progressive values over cheap political victory:

1. Senator Barbara Boxer stood up to the bullying of the Bush Administration and forced Condoleeza Rice to grapple, in public, with her own shameful record of protecting American “intelligence” agents who conduct or supervise the torture of people held prisoner by the American federal government. Senator Boxer made a point of asking Condoleeza Rice probing questions about why Rice, at the request of President Bush, wrote a letter to Congress demanding that that anti-torture legislation be scrapped. Senator Boxer documented that Condoleeza Rice specifically insisted that the following language be struck from legislation that had already been approved by Congress: “In general, no prisoner shall be subject to torture or cruel, inhumane or degrading treatment or punishment that is prohibited by the Constitution, laws or treaties of the United States.”

Then, Senator Barbara Boxer was one of only two Democratic senators to vote against the approving the nomination of Condoleeza Rice to become Secretary of State. Although Condoleeza Rice certainly has the intellect and ability, two days of questioning had illustrated that Rice’s character is not suitable for high office, and exposed the fact that she had intentionally misled the American public on several occasions. Some Democratic senators, like Joseph Biden, have played the weasely game of pretending to be deeply concerned about Condoleeza Rice’s serial dishonesty and approval of torture, while at the same time pledging that they would certainly vote for her approval.

Senator John Kerry joined Barbara Boxer in voting against approving Condoleeza Rice’s nomination, but did so on extremely weak footing. During his presidential campaign, Kerry refused to call the Bush Administration to task on its policies of torture. Kerry also declared that even if he had known about the lack of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, he still would have voted for the war. Unlike Kerry, Senator Boxer showed wisdom in the first place, and voted against the resolution to give George W. Bush the power to invade Iraq.

2. Many people wonder how such a strongly blue state as New York could possibly have a Republican creep like George Pataki as a governor. The uncomfortable answer is that it’s the fault of the New York State Democrats. The most powerful members of the New York State Democratic Committee have spent the last few years squabbling among themselves about how best to protect the power of their Party’s leaders, and have as a result shown a pathetic lack of focus.

The last race for New York State’s governor’s chair illustrated the New York Democratic Committee’s self-destructive obsession with consolidating personal power for its leaders. Although the rank and file Democrats selected another candidate, the Democratic Committee’s leadership never appeared to give up on an alternative choice: Andrew Cuomo (the former Secretary of Housing and Urban Development under President Clinton). As a result, the eventual Democratic nominee for governor never really got much support from the leaders of the New York State Democrats. Even more pathetically, New York State Democrats then turned on Andrew Cuomo, catapulting him into political exile.

Here’s where it gets interesting. Instead of slinking off into some luxuriant private practice and staying out of public life, Andrew Cuomo picked himself up and responded to the leadership crisis in the New York State Democrats by making himself of service. For the last couple of years, Mr. Cuomo has supported good candidates across New York State, even in small communities Upstate, far from Manhattan.

This year, the New York courts rightfully ruled that the death penalty that Governor George Pataki imposed upon New York State is unconstitutional. So, the legislature now has the choice of reworking a death penalty statute so that it evades the court’s decision, or deciding that the death penalty just isn’t the right thing to do, and letting it sink back into history, where it belongs.

Who do you think has been at the forefront of the effort to keep the death penalty from being re-established in New York State? That’s right – Andrew Cuomo. Cuomo has founded a group called Network for Justice, a group that is dedicated to keeping the death penalty out of New York State.

Does Andrew Cuomo have plans to run again for public office? Is he trying to build up a network that might later support such a run? Sure, I bet he is. The important thing is that Cuomo has learned that what people really care about are issues. He’s not promoting himself – he is becoming a genuine leader by standing up for the something that really matters. That’s the kind of leadership that American progressives really need. We’re working for our ideals, not for the sake of self-important politiicians. I only wish that the same could be said of more of the people who have placed themselves in positions of power within the Democratic Party.

Mr. Cuomo and Senator Boxer, we’re with you – not because you are Democrats, but because you are taking courageous stands in defense of basic democratic values.

4 thoughts on “Two Great Examples for Progress”

  1. John Stracke says:

    On what basis do you say that Pataki “imposed” the death penalty upon New York State? A 1995 article I found in US News & World Report said that the legislature had been passing death penalty bills every year since 1977 (when the former law was struck down), and Pataki was the first governor who didn’t veto the bill.

    Mind you, I don’t condone the death penalty, but you make it sound as if Pataki somehow forced it upon a state that was otherwise opposed to it. That’s hard to reconcile with the idea that the legislature kept voting for it for 18 years, and people kept reelecting them.

  2. Sarah says:

    I agree we are lucky to have fighters like Boxer and Cuomo. BTW, the Network For Justice site lets bloggers create partner pages. You can create an Irregular Times page here:
    Then you can link to the custom page so your readers can support the cause.

  3. J. Clifford Cook says:

    “Imposed” was meant as an ironic use of the language of sentencing. More directly, I would say that any cruel or unusual punishment can be said to be imposed upon a state, even if it is done so through the democratic means of an elected legislature and governor. However, you certainly are correct, John, that the legislature did vote the death penalty in – without that, Pataki could not have made the move. This is yet another instance of the clumsiness and self-interest of New York State’s Democratic leadership. The rank and file of the Democratic Party in New York State is not in favor of the death penalty.

    Sarah – we have plans to move on just what you’re talking about, but need to make a couple of adjustments first.

  4. John Stracke says:

    I would say that any cruel or unusual punishment can be said to be imposed upon a state, even if it is done so through the democratic means

    OK, I’ll buy that.

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