During the 2000 presidential election, Ralph Nader argued that Republicans and Democrats were exactly the same. On more than one occasion he said, “The only difference between Al Gore and George W. Bush is the speed with which they drop to their knees when the special interests coming calling.” This rhetoric won over much of America’s youth (most of whom were too young to remember what life was like under a Republican President) and elated the Bush campaign who’s strategy it was to blur the vast differences that did, in fact, exist between the two candidates. Democrats, however, were outraged. Now we’re seeing why.
Since coming to office, Bush has advertised himself as moderate and governed as an extremist, shocking independent voters who expected a “compassionate conservative.” As for Nader, he now denies he ever meant to say Bush and Gore were the same. The fact of the matter is, Bush’s record to date has rendered the notion that there are no substantive differences between Republicans and Democrats utterly ridiculous. For starters, President Clinton’s administration was filled with public servants, policy experts and average citizens. The Bush administration, on the other hand, is essentially a corporate entity. Andrew Card, his Chief of Staff, was a lobbyist for General Motors. Vice President Cheney was CEO of Halliburton Oil. Don Evans, Bush’s Commerce Secretary, headed an oil and gas exploration company. Linda Fisher, Bush’s choice for the number two job at the EPA, was a Monsanto executive. Whereas Clinton was applauded for forming a cabinet that “looked like America,” twelve of Bush’s thirteen-member cabinet are multi-millionaires.
As President, Bush has received criticism from Democrats for favoring business interests over the environment. When polling data showed the public agreed, Bush began speaking from national parks. Recently, he defended his commitment to fight global warming by displaying fuel-efficient cars on the White House lawn. Bush’s actual record, however, contradicts the message these images are designed send. After ten days in office, Bush pulled out of the 1997 Clinton/Gore negotiated Kyoto Treaty on global warming. Bush’s 2001 budget cut the research funding for fuel-efficient cars and renewable energy by 80%. Bush also slashed EPA’s budget by $500 million. Bush’s Undersecretary of the Interior doesn’t believe in recycling. His Deputy of the Interior was a lobbyist for the oil and coal industry.
The Bush tactic of feigning support for popular policies and then deceptively undermining them is evident throughout his administration. For example, Democrats accused Bush of not supporting the Clinton administrations lawsuit against tobacco companies that marketed cigarettes to children. Despite the fact that Attorney General Ashcroft had opposed the suit while in Congress, Bush publicly maintained he supported it. But then, when the Justice Department determined it needed $44 million to continue the litigation, Bush allocated only $1.1 million. This move enraged groups like Tobacco Free Kids, but gratified administration officials such as Ted Olson, Bush’s Solicitor General to the Supreme Court who, prior to joining Bush, had made millions representing tobacco companies in court.
Bush also closed the Clinton-created White House office for Women’s Health Initiatives, gutted the White House AIDS office, blocked funding for federal stem cell research and refused to allow companies to manufacture cheaper, generic versions of prescription drugs (incidentally, Mitch Daniels, Bush’s Budget Director, used to be a lobbyist at Eli Lilly, a giant pharmaceutical company). Bush also says he supports “working families.” One has to wonder, then, why he terminated a program that provided childcare to low-income families moving from welfare to work, opposes raising the minimum wage, and has slashed $700 million in funds to repair public housing.
Why is Bush cutting these popular social programs? The answer is simple: to pay for the $2 trillion tax cut (43% of which goes to the wealthiest one percent of Americans) he rammed through Congress before the Democrats took control of the Senate. He also needs cash for his proposed $375 billion (that’s $375,000 million) defense budget. If Bush gets his way, the United States will have a larger military budget than every other country in the world combined (while in office, Clinton cut defense spending dramatically). Incredibly, Bush has sought an additional, massive tax cut-this time $50 billion for corporations (which he says is needed to fight the war on terrorism)-and the only thing stopping him is Senate Democrats.
The Democratic Party may not be anti-establishment enough for some, but it’s the only political entity strong enough to do battle with the ever-growing, Bush-led conservative juggernaut. Republicans began last year controlling the Presidency, the Senate, the House of Representatives, the Supreme Court and a majority of state Governorships. They achieved this power by convincing the 220 million Americans who are not registered Republicans they don’t favor the rich and powerful, at least anymore than Democrats do. That is an egregious lie and those committed to liberal causes-fairer distribution of wealth, universal health care, a cleaner environment, and higher quality education-must stop making the people fighting for those things the enemy. To all the Independents, Greens, and Socialists I say, work with the Democrats, not against them. Republicans have become too powerful and at this point, nothing short of a united coalition of progressive interests can stop them. So let’s stop fighting with one another and concentrate on the real enemy. Liberals: let’s roll.
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