What strategy should the Democrats pursue?

Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr.

After the 2004 elections, Republicans are in charge of the White House, the Congress and the Supreme Court. Democrats are left running the Democratic National Committee. What happened?

Democrats and their 527 organizations were very proud of the large numbers of new voters they registered and the get-out-the-vote operation they put in place for Election Day — and they did do a good job. But it wasn’t as good as the quiet operation Republicans had. On a state-by-state basis, Bush increased his percentage of the vote over Kerry (versus Gore in 2000) by 2 percent or more in 31 states. By contrast, Kerry decreased (versus Gore in 2000) his percentage of the vote in 24 states. 

Bush and the Republicans took their basic message of lower taxes, less government and a strong defense and attacked Kerry with it. Then they called his healthcare proposal a government-run plan,” attacked him on the issue Democrats projected would be his greatest strength — being a decorated soldier who served in Vietnam — and finally, and most devastatingly, pushed the line that Kerry would do or say anything to be elected president.”

Bush, meanwhile, presented himself as a strong and consistent leader, regularly saying even if you disagree with me you know where I stand.” He made the election about fear, terrorism and moral values.”

How did Democrats end up as the party against God, guns, America and life itself?

Between elections Republicans made Democrats vote — that is, put them on record — for or against a series of constitutional amendments: to keep the words under God” in the Pledge of Allegiance; to display the Ten Commandments on public buildings; and to put prayer in public schools.

What rights and amendments did Democrats fight for, or try to get Republicans on the record for or against? Unfortunately, the answer is none.

I think Democrats should pursue a long-term human rights and constitutional amendments strategy. I’ve proposed that Democrats fight to put an individual right to vote in the Constitution (H.J. Res. 28). (That’s right, you don’t have a citizenship right to vote.) Americans believe education is important and that every student should have a public education of equally high quality. We should put that belief in the Constitution as a new American right (H.J. Res. 29). Kerry said every American had a right to health care. Let’s make his belief concrete by putting it in the Constitution (H.J. Res. 30).

The American people are looking for Republicans and Democrats to work together. Human rights and constitutional amendments allow that. They are nonpartisan, non-ideological, non-programmatic and non-special interest. They’re for all Americans. And a Democratic agenda promoting new rights for all Americans is the best way to jump-start our party.

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Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. represents Illinois’ 2nd District.
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