We need to be able to tell people what is right and what is wrong. By this, I do not mean that we should go back to the 1950's and impose a rigid, dogmatic set of rules as to what is right or wrong. Instead, what I propose is that each of us should be able to state for ourselves the principles by we define right and wrong. The principles I give below are by no means the infallable answers - these are simply my answers. My goal is to give people ideas, inspire others to write diaries about their own philisophical basis for why they are a liberal, and learn from others.
1. The sanctity of human life.
All human lives are sacred, and all our policies should promote human life, not destroy it. Not only that, our focus should be on the quality of life, not just the mere absence of killing people. We should be a party which celebrates human life in all of its diverse forms.
On the other hand, we can safely label Bush's policies as evil when they result in the destruction of human life. The Iraq War, for instance, resulted in the destruction of hundreds of thousands of human lifes. Bush's policies created conflict which resulted in, for instance, the killing of around 1300 people in the recent Askariya riots.
We can label Bush's recent budget cuts as evil because they will directly affect the quality of life of many people. People who were experiencing financial hardships, for example, will not be able to get as much student aid - they might not be able to start a family, have children, do some good in the world. When a policy results in broken lives, then we can safely label it as wrong.
We can label sins of omission as evil as well - such as Bush's handling of the Katrina disaster. I will be discussing Bush's interview with Elizabeth Vargas extensively, because we need to be able to issue coherent rebuttals. Bush, by his own admission in the Vargas interview, admitted that there was no situational awareness during the Katrina disaster. But that was his own fault. It is the job of the President to cut through the red tape and make sure that there is situational awareness on the ground so that state and federal agencies can respond appropriately. But instead, Bush was strumming his guitar, yucking it up with John McCain, and advocating the banging of his head against the wall in Iraq. By his actions, he showed that he knew about the massive dying in New Orleans, but did nothing. Of course we can make Michael Brown into a scapegoat or point out that Chertoff turned DHS into a personal fiefdom and set Brown up for failure by making him the designated response man - something he was clueless about and which stripped him of all real power. But as the leader, the ultimate responsibility lies with Bush.
2. The defense of the US Constitution and the importance of the 9th and 10th Amendments.
The Republicans are all about controlling people's lives and eroding the Constitution. In response, I cannot emphasize enough how important the 9th is countering this.The 9th Amendment says that the rights granted by the Constitution are not the only ones around. It is a very open-ended amendment that states that you can find common principles contained in the rest of the Constitution and grant people additional rights.
How far this goes is a matter for debate - as the Founding Fathers would have wanted. But at the very least, the 9th Amendment allows one to conclude from the 1st, 2nd, 4th, 5th, 10th, and 14th that there is a common theme of privacy running throughout the Constitution. If you say that the 9th Amendment is a worthless piece of paper, then you are guilty of selective interpretaion of the Constitution - and you can throw out any law you want as long as it is not convenient for your legal theories.
The same goes for the 10th - It states that rights not granted to the Federal Government are reserved for the states or for the people. The Constitution makes a very clear distinction between state governments and the people here - meaning that if there is nothing in the Constitution that prohibits it, then it is our right to do it.
So, does this mean that I think it is OK to break the law and steal stuff, because the Constitution said it was OK? No, absolutely not. If I steal something, then I am infringing on someone else's right to have their own private property. That is not freedom; that is tyranny. If I beat someone up because they are gay, I am infringing on their right to live their own lives without fear of interference or harassment. That is no different than if the government were to arrest someone for being gay - both activities are prohibited under this theory.
So, do I have an absolute right to free speech? No. For example, during a legal proceeding, the court has the right to know exactly what the truth is about the cases before it. Therefore, I do not have the right to use my free speech rights to lie about what happened. This is what Scooter Libby is being charged with - lying to the courts under oath about what happened in the leaking of classified information.
This is why there is a compelling governmental interest to make laws against perjury. The courts have upheld this interest time and time again. The government has a compelling interest in determining what the truth of th case is; therefore, they have a right to pass laws against perjury.
So, laws are just when they prohibit an individual from infringement on someone's right to live their own lives. Laws are also just when there is a compelling governmental interest in overriding the Constitution - such as perjury, protecting classified information such as the info leaked in Plamegate, or protecting women who have abortions against harassment, for instance.
So, when you look at the Constitution, you see the basis for unlimited freedom to live one's own life without governmental interference, the basis for the government to survive (such as by collecting taxes, for instance), a system of checks and balances to prevent one branch of government from taking absolute power, and the basis for the government to protect those rights from infringement by individuals (a.k.a. crime).
3. The Equality of all people.
The whole basis of our Constitution is the truth that all people are created equal. This does not just involve a knee-jerk reaction against discrimination. It involves equal participation, equal opportunity to succeed, and equal pay for equal work. This applies to our foreign policy as well - if we are in a tough negotiation with Andorra, one of the tiniest countries in the world, it means that we should treat them as an equal partner rather than a country we can dictate to.
On the other hand, Bush believes that women should have no say in decisions that directly affect their bodies. His only exceptions are for rape, incest, or the life of the mother. Instead, he thinks that these decisions should be made by an elitist group of theologians rather than by a woman talking to people she trusts as well as her doctor. This is not equal participation when you decide that someone should have no say over personal, private decisions.
People may answer me that the fetus is a life too, so this equal participation rule does not apply. But first of all, that is begging the question - that is the thing we are debating as a country, not a question that has been settled. Secondly of all, by the same logic, they should advocate life or the death penalty for the woman who decides to end their pregnancy. But we do not have very many anti-abortion advocates advocating such a barbaric penalty. This means that deep down inside, they know very well what we have been saying all along - the woman is much more important than the fetus and there is a clear difference between a fetus and a newborn baby.
So, those who would overturn Roe must do one of two things:
1. Advocate the same penalty for a woman ending her pregnancy that you would for murder;
2. Accept the simple fact of life - the woman is more important than a fetus and there are much better ways of reducing the number of abortions than overthrowing Roe.
The advocacy of anything else is selective logic - and when you resort to selective logic or the use of selective interpretation of the Constitution, then you have already lost the argument.
4. Lincoln 1860:
We need to make clear and convincing cases for how our policies are going to be different than the Bush administration's. In 2005, the best strategy was to oppose the Bush administration - after all, they were in power. However, now that the elections are coming up, people do not just want to hear that Bush is bad - a typical retort would be that the Democrats are just as bad. Now that Bush is in a state of collapse and we are coming close to an election, we have to tell people how we are different than the Bush administration. This is what Lincoln did, and this is what we need to do now.
If we don't, we will be like John Kerry in the last election. He advanced a plan for Iraq that was not much different than Bush's. Bush turned around, smirked, and said, "Well, I recognize that plan! That's because it's the Bush plan!" We have to be able to explain to people how we are different. If we don't, we will be like Tom Daschle and Martin Frost, who ran ads of themselves and Bush in the same picture and lost the election.
It will not do us any good for Bush to talk about the need to stop terrorism by going to war with Iraq in 2002 or Iran in 2006 - and then have Democrats say, "Me, too!" That is what Jean Carnahan and Max Clelland said in 2002. Their attempts to position themselves as tough on national security did not help them - Rove has no compunction about swift-boating people who supported the Iraq War as well as people who opposed it. On the other hand, Russ Feingold won in a landslide after barely winning his first two times. This is because he was able to draw clear distinctions between himself and his opponent, make it clear where he stood on the issues, and let the voters decide. Dick Durbin, who also opposed the war, got over 60% of the vote in 2002 after getting 54% in 1996. That is the lesson we should learn from Lincoln - the ability to draw clear distinctions between yourself and your opponent.
This is all about supporting policies that contribute to the wholeness and psychological well-being of the individual. Policies that contribute to brokenness in some way, such as encourage crime, violate the right to privacy, or pull the rug out from under their safety nets should be avoided.
Besides the loss of lives that resulted during the Iraq War, we must consider the ghastly brokenness that happens when soldiers are sentenced to live when wounded and treated. Last month, the New York Times did a series of articles that looks at soldiers who become quadriplegic from their war wounds. This is a living hell, with people being totally conscious of what is going on around them yet unable to move, talk, or even breathe for themselves. Friends and relatives consider it a big accomplishment when they are barely able to move a muscle.
And think about the psychological brokenness that happens in people who experience these things:
Bush went to war based on a lie. And in so doing, he never considered the devastating psychological consequences that happen to soldiers who become expendable. All of these soldiers have had their lived ruined because of the decisions of one man and one man only: George Bush. So, as long as the Republican Party continues to march in lockstep behind him, they can never be considered credible on family values, because their policies contribute to broken families and broken lives.
6. Openness and Participation:
The way our political system is set up, it is the job of the voters to evaluate their Congressmen, Senators, and President every so often. Therefore, our voters must have as much information as possible as well as a free flow of information so that they can come to an informed decision over who to vote for. Furthermore, we must continue to work to reduce the influence of corporate dollars so that whenever someone sends money to a candidate, it will mean something.
On this side of the aisle, Brian Baird is one of the leaders in his ability to maximize voter participation. He has held over 200 town hall meetings, at least one in every town in his district, since he got elected. In the wake of the disastrous bill that would have allowed finance committee chairs the power to read your tax returns, Baird has fought for requirements that Congressmen have the full text of bills made available to them for at least three days before being voted on. This also increases voter participation by allowing people to review and comment on bills that are important to them. We need to elect more Congressmen like Baird who will do things like this. Furthermore, at his town hall meetings, everybody is open to comment and discuss issues even when they do not agree with him.
This is sadly different from the behavior of Bush. Even as he continues to plummet in the polls, he continues to be as secretive as possible about his activities. In the ABC news interview with Elizabeth Vargas, Bush refuses to provide any details, for instance, about the UAE port deal. All he will say is that the Coast Guard "dropped their objections" to the deal. He will not say what prompted them to do so. He refuses to talk about any meaningful peace plan for Iraq even though our soldiers want to leave as soon as possible. And he regularly refuses to allow Democrats or independent voters into his so-called town hall meetings to answer the tough questions every President needs to answer. Given that the Bush administration is so obsessed with secrecy, what do they have to hide?
7. Respect for science and reason.
The reason we were able to climb out of the Dark Ages was because our forefathers developed a healthy respect for science and reason. They were able to use observations that others were able to replicate in order to overturn long-held truths and make life better for all. Science is designed to work through observation. When you see something that does not add up, a scientist can formulate a hypothesis that either challenges or adds to existing truth. Then, the scientist can design an experiment to either back or destroy their hypothesis. Then, they will suggest ideas for further research and submit their findings for peer review by independent outside sources.
Science should be accompanied by reason and a healthy skepticism. David Hume was one of the foremost proponents of a healthy skepticism. He taught that extraordinary claims must be backed up by extraordinary evidence. This means that if a claim is logistically or scientifically improbable or impossible, you need to present extraordinary evidence to back it up.
This sort of skepticism should have applied during the leadup to the Iraq war. When the Bush administration presented arguments that Saddam had chemical weapons, nukes, and biological agents, that flew in the face of reason, because Iraq was subject to crippling sanctions and did not have the capacity to do so. Not only that, the Bush administration was claiming that Iraq could strike anywhere around the world in 45 minutes. Therefore, we should have insisted that Bush present extraordinary evidence - beyond tiny pictures, which could be any number of things. Colin Powell's aluminum tube pictures were little more credible than the pod theorists, who claimed that the Bush administration attached these pods to airplanes and guided them into the WTC via remote control.
Of course, the pod people presented photos - but those pictures didn't mean a thing because they could just as easily have been landing gear or plane wheels. And Bush, of course, presented photos of aluminum tubes - but these tubes could have been anything, given that they were taken from outer space. They could have been rocks in the sand, oil pipelines, cars, or any other natural occurrence.
And we should have used this kind of skepticism when Bush claimed that Iraq was purchasing Uranium from Niger. All that was needed was a little knowledge of the situation - that the IAEA actively monitors the world's uranium mines, that the company was owned by the French government, and that they would have raised a stink to high heaven if Iraq had even tried to purchase such Uranium. What we as a party need to return to is a healthy respect for science and the scientific process as well as a healthy skepticism for any truth claims that fly in the face of what is known.