Press Release  ·  July 19, 2004

In These Times gives Kerry and Democrats strategy on “Eight Ways to Build a Better Body Politic”

As the Democratic Convention rapidly approaches, In These Times writers lay out key policy recommendations for presidential nominee Sen. John Kerry and the Democratic Party in the latest issue - Eight Ways to Build a Better Body Politic. Contributors tackle eight social and political concerns undermined by Bush administration policies and provide the solutions and tactics for Democrats and independents to take back America.

Judicial Appointments: In “Make Judicious Appointments,” Hans Johnson writes, “Democrats must make a campaign issue of Bush’s full-court attack on basic values.” Democrats must work to undo the stacking of federal courts with conservative appointees who have placed basic values such as liberty and equal protection under siege. Johnson writes. Democrats must also articulate to the public the concrete ways that judicial appointments affect people’s lives. Johnson calls on Kerry and Democrats to build an infrastructure that promotes qualified liberal judges who can challenge the current conservative judicial nomination process.

Fiscal Responsibility: In “Exercise Fiscal Responsibility,” Dean Baker and Heather Boushey write, “the United States has been through a quarter-century of economic mismanagement,” and that because of the Bush administration’s damaging fiscal policies, limiting the size of the deficit is an unavoidable priority. Baker and Boushey suggest Democrats can reign in unsustainable deficits by repealing Bush’s tax cuts to the wealthy, readjusting defense spending and investing in social needs like education and healthcare. They note that one area that should not be adjusted is Social Security, which is completely solvent for the next 50 years.

Environment: Adam Werbach advises Sen. John Kerry on how he can “Be a Good Steward” and, “create a new sustainable century.” Werbach suggests that Kerry can use executive powers to reverse the course of Bush’s anti-environmental agenda. He offers initial actions such as ordering the EPA to “treat environmental crime with the same ferocity that the Bush administration has pursued drug offenses;” firing the current Republican-appointed members of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and appointing members who support a Renewables First policy; and adding 256 species to the endangered species list. Werbach also proposes pro-environmental appointees to a Kerry cabinet.

Labor: In “Forge a Coalition with Labor,” David Moberg focuses on how Bush’s overall economic policy has negatively affected all working people. Moberg writes, “ Labor, however, has been under assault. On matters big and small, Bush and Labor Secretary Elaine Chao have time and again shown their hostility to organized labor.” Bush administration policies have denied millions of workers pay by changing overtime laws, eliminated many of President Clinton’s pro-labor initiatives, and, most significantly, attacked unions themselves by using 9/11 and national security as excuses to take away the collective bargaining rights for almost 200,000 federal workers. “…From an organized labor’s perspective, the key contrast in the presidential race is that a second Bush administration is likely to further reduce workers’ rights to organize, and Kerry has pledged to expand that right. And it’s a key contrast not only for unions, but for the future of any progressive politics,” Moberg concludes.

Women’s Issues: In “Win Over Women,” Susan Douglas writes that Kerry “is missing a sure bet if he underplays issues of importance to women.” While Kerry has talked about healthcare, reproductive rights and other issues of concern to women, he has failed to present a grander vision that women with families can connect to. Douglas notes the many issues and policies that working women and mothers are looking for, including a nationally-funded, affordable day care system, safe after-school programs among other things. “Kerry has begun to tiptoe around these issues. He should turn up the volume, and the passion, and connect with women about them. He should reiterate that under the deceptive banner of ‘family values,’ the Republicans have in fact waged a 20-year war against women, mothers and families…” Douglas writes.

Civil Rights: In “Prioritize Civil Rights,” Salim Muwakkil exposes Kerrys’ failure to connect to the most important issues to people of color. African-Americans, concerned with double-digit unemployment, increased incidents of police brutality, an unjust criminal justice system and poor schools, fail to see their needs expressed by either party. As a younger, hip-hop community, including the recent and successful Hip-Hop Summit Action Network, begins to express itself politically, the Democrats face an opportunity to lock in a whole new generation of black voters.

Education: In “Educate all Children,” Barbara Miner writes that the Bush Administration’s No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB), “punishes and sets up public schools for failure while promoting privatization schemes that funnel dollars to for-profit and religiously based programs.” In the last two years, NCLB has created an uproar throughout the country’s 15,000 school districts and 95,000 public schools by making it impossible for urban, low-income and affluent, suburban schools to succeed. Miner calls on Democrats to articulate strong progressive alternatives to Republican’s privatization attempts. She suggests policy shifts including schools receive equitable funding, ending the continued segregation of public schools and a commitment to a free public preschool system.

Healthcare: In “Cure a Sick Healthcare System,” Steffie Woolhandler and David Himmelstein focus on what Kerry must do to fix the deteriorating state of American healthcare. Kerry’s solution is to give billions of dollars to private firms to provide minimal coverage for some of the 44 million uninsured Americans. “Kerry seems intent on refilling a failed prescription of reform,” Woolhandler and Himmelstein write. They suggest that the most cost effective and simplest program would be a single payer national health insurance system. While they acknowledge it would require overcoming the political and money interest of private insurance and drug manufactures, they cite they a recent Washington Post/ABC News poll that says 62 percent of Americans favor “a universal health insurance program…”