Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Party of "No" is Not The Democrats

With the ongoing Republican strategy of throwing any smear or spin against the wall and seeing if it sticks, it's difficult at times to know which lie to refute next. Today, I'm going to take on the language control the GOP has been trying all year, in which they label Democrats "the party of 'no'" and attempt to depict us as nothing more than negative obstructionists.

In fact, the Republican National Committee (RNC) released a commercial earlier this year titled "The Party of No" complete with generous helpings of Democrat-bashing Fox News clips and sound bites of Democrats sounding quite contrary.

“President Bush’s State of the Union presented a positive agenda for keeping America safe and preserving Social Security, but the Democrats have defined themselves as the party of ‘no’ in responding with obstruction and pessimism," said RNC Communications Director Brian Jones in February.

Conservative talk-show host Melanie Morgan, who has spent the better part of 2005 hounding the mother of a fallen Iraq-war soldier in Cindy Sheehan, spouts the RNC's talking point every chance she gets.

"The Democrats have become the anti-party – being against anything proposed or advanced by President Bush or any other Republican politicians," wrote the Ann Coulter clone earlier this month. "It doesn't matter whether the dateline is Washington, D.C., or rural America – the party of Roosevelt and Kennedy has devolved into the anti-everything antics of the radical Left."

Of course, Morgan is the same person who recently said that America's Village Idiot, Rush Limbaugh, "...has a penchant for putting his finger on the driving forces and central themes in contemporary American politics."

While that statement alone disqualifies Morgan from having an intellect worthy of debate, I'm here to provide you with some concrete ammunition for the whole "party of no" nonsense -- some facts of your own to combat GOP spin in which, as they did earlier this Fall, they call Democrats "The party of no plan, the party of no agenda."

Democrats have the same agenda we've had for some time: Taking care of the weakest among us, protecting our people through strength and diplomacy, fighting for working families, keeping the environment healthy, promoting economic fairness and setting a global example of how a civilized nation conducts its affairs.

Most Americans would agree that these are central tenets to what our country is supposed to be about. But it's not what the Republicans stand for and, as the minority party in both houses of Congress, it's much harder for Democrats to get heard and far easier to get beat back on initiatives – which makes Democrats more vulnerable to the "no ideas" charge because nothing they propose or champion makes it into public policy.

So let's look at some key Senate votes in just the last 45 days to get a clue as to what the real – and often overlooked -- Democratic agenda is. While it may be a fair criticism to say that we need to kick our PR mechanism into a much higher gear, it's instructive and encouraging to take a look at some of the things that Democrats proposed and fought for very recently. Conversely, if you want to talk about a downright un-American agenda, here's what the Republican party has said "no" to since the middle of October:
  • Money to provide for the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program. (Twice)
  • Increasing the maximum Federal Pell Grant award by $200
  • Providing additional funding for title I of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965.
  • Increasing appropriations for Head Start programs
  • Additional funding for part B of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.
  • Funding for the AIDS Drug Assistance Program within the Health Resources and Services Administration.
  • Increasing appropriations for after-school programs through 21st century community learning centers.
  • Providing a 6-month transition period for coverage of prescription drugs under Medicaid for the elderly whose drug coverage is to be moved to the Medicare prescription drug program.
  • Amending title XVIII of the Social Security Act to provide the authority for negotiating fair prices for Medicare prescription drugs.
  • Establishing a national commission on policies and practices on the treatment of detainees since September 11, 2001.
  • Providing enhanced eligibility for retirement pay for non-regular service members in Iraq
  • Amending the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to provide tax benefits for areas affected by Hurricanes Katrina, Rita, and Wilma.
  • Repealing certain tax benefits relating to oil and gas wells intangible drilling and development costs.
  • Reinstating for millionaires a top individual income tax rate of 39.6 percent, the pre-May 2003 rates of tax on capital gains and dividends, and to repeal the reduction and termination of the phase out of personal exemptions and overall limitation on itemized deductions, until the Federal budget deficit is eliminated.
  • Sense of the Senate amendment concerning the provision of health care for children before providing tax cuts for the wealthy.
  • Tax increase on incomes in excess of $1 million to eliminate child poverty.
  • Providing an additional $500,000,000 for each of fiscal years 2006 through 2010, to be used for readjustment counseling, related mental health services, and treatment and rehabilitative services for veterans with mental illness, post-traumatic stress disorder, or substance use disorder.
And that's just the damage they've done in the last 45 days.

Want a handy reference showing that Democratic ideas are alive and well? Keep that list handy. And, because Republicans tend to scatter like cockroaches when you shine a light on them, you can prove each of these points further by looking at the actual roll call votes here.

Now, in the interest of full disclosure, Democrats did indeed say "no" earlier this month to allowing drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. We've also been the guys saying "no" to privatizing Social Security and continuing to mortgage our childrens' future by adding to the massive federal deficit.

We've been pretty consistent naysayers on the whole thing of giving rich people more tax cuts, while screwing the poor, elderly and needy. And we've also given a big "no" to being the party whose leadership is under chronic investigation and whose members should be forming an indictment-of-the-month club. More needless death and expense for an Iraq war predicated on lies? We give that a big thumbs-down too.

But isn't it also fair to look at a laundry list of all the things the GOP has fought and been so negative about and ask if they're as willing to stand by what they say "no" to as readily as we are? Midterm elections are coming up and it seems like the perfect time to have this debate.

I'm a Democrat and I'll match the things I'm against with the things they're against any day.