Note: The Preface and Chapters One through Twenty can be found here: The 15% Solution
This is the twenty-fifth installment of the serialization of a book entitled The 15% Solution: A Political History of American Fascism, 2001-2022. Herein you will find “Part 5” of Chapter 20. (This chapter is very long, and so it will be presented in five parts.) From the perspective of the 25th Anniversary of the Restoration of U.S. Constitutional Democracy in 2048, this chapter discusses “what might have been done” to prevent the fall of the old United States into fascism. If present readers find that the warnings from that far-off time have relevance for today’s, that is precisely the intent. In 1990s, the Republicans told us precisely what they would do if they ever got full power (e.g., see “Gingrich” and “Armey” in Chap. 20, Part 1, p. 3). With the complicity/acquiescence/meek “opposition” of the “center-right” Democratic Party of the time, the nation has come precisely to where it is now. This Part 5 presents a speech that a truly progressive Democratic President Clinton might have made following the Congressional takeover by the Gingrich/Armey-led Republicans in 1994. What he did deliver was nothing like it. Just an editorial note, the full set of references for this chapter of the book appears with each of the Parts of this chapter as published.
For readers coming into this serialization at this time, you should know that under the pseudonym Jonathan Westminster, the book is purportedly published in the year 2048 on the 25th Anniversary of the Restoration of Constitutional Democracy in the Re-United States. It was actually written in 1994-5, and published in 1996 by the Thomas Jefferson Press, located in Port Jefferson, NY. The copyright is held by the Press.
A commentator had this to say about the book: “I am in the middle of reading ‘The 15% Solution.’ For some reason I assumed it was a recent publication. About 100 pages in I looked to see when it was published. It was published in 1996. That absolutely shocked me. What it was saying then is exactly what is happening now. The race-baiting, anti-homosexual crap that takes one’s attention away from what is actually happening, and it was written about 15 years ago. Even the 14th amendment controversy is discussed in this book, as well as so much more – ownership of the media, talk radio, etc. This is truly frightening, and if the Dems do not wake up and fight, I fear there is much worse to come.” Indeed!
And so, Chapter 20, “What Might Have Been Done,” Part 5
A Truly Democratic Presidential Speech
Let us close this chapter and the main body of the text of this book with a proposed speech that a Democratic President of the United States determined to stop fascism and renew Constitutional democracy in America, while renewing the American economy and re- establishing the basis of the “American Dream” about to be turned into a nightmare by Right-Wing Reaction, might have given, late in the Transition Era.
President Bill Clinton gave his major “reply to Newton Gingrich and the Contract on America” speech on December 15, 1994. This speech was in response to a Republican takeover of the Congress, something characterized by the Republican Party, the media, and the President and many Democrats, as something reflecting the voice of the people as a whole, when it fact it reflected the wishes of a bare majority of 38% of the eligible voters. It was not the speech that should have been given. Although the actual percentage of eligible voters supporting Republican reaction was under 20%, Clinton and his people apparently decided to focus on winning the next election by appealing to those voters, and trying to “win them back” from the Republicans. The oft-quoted “real Republican” line from President Harry Truman is well worth repeating. But Clinton and the DLC ignored it, even though most Democratic candidates who had followed the DLC line in the 1994 national elections were defeated.
A speech in which Clinton for all intents and purposes defined himself and his party for the last two years of his tenure in the White House was all of 10 minutes long. Actually to say what he said didn’t require more than ten minutes. The most quoted line from that speech was: “My rule for the next two years will be country first, and politics as usual dead last.” However, in the rest of the speech he announced that he would be doing precisely the opposite of that. For, following the line of the DLC, he said essentially that he would be playing the tax-cut, cut welfare, “get tough on crime” game along with the Republicans. As pointed out earlier, none of these proposals addressed the real problems the country faced. In a contemporary article in the Long Island (NY) newspaper Newsday (Dec. 18, 1994) entitled “Middle Class Angst,” the problems of that large group, presented numerous times previously in this book were summarized: falling family incomes, job insecurity, declining hope for the future, declining number of high-paying jobs, declining number of permanent jobs related to manufacturing. The relevance of the DLC/Republican program to these problems? Zero.
From the perspective of 50 years or so later, President Clinton, and the country, might have been considerably better off if he had delivered an address along the following lines and then followed through on the policies set forth:
“My fellow Americans, when I originally declared for the Presidency in 1991, I said that I would run on four themes: reversing 12 years of depredations on our economy and society resulting from the Reagan-Bush Administration, which featured an ever-rising gap between rich and poor; fighting racism, the most serious domestic social problem our country faces, one which tore our country apart in the mid-19th century and threatens to do so again as the 20th comes to a close [how unfortunately prescient he would have been there!]; the disintegrating sense of community we experience in our country; and a change in the way the government does business.
“We have made progress in all of those areas, although much less, especially on race and community, than I would have liked. I must take a share of the blame for the failures, as well as credit for the successes. One of my biggest failures has been to articulate a clear, consistent message for you. That message should clearly distinguish we Democrats from the Republicans, and then clearly look not back, but forward. Another major failure has been my inability to communicate to you our successes in such areas as reform of the executive branch of government and the fundamental soundness and indeed simplicity of the Clinton Health Plan.
“There has now been a major shift in control of the Congress, well-known to everyone. But contrary to the news reports, this shift has not come as a result of an overwhelming `vote of the people,’ but rather less than 20% of them. I respect the voice of those who voted, but I also have to respect the needs of all Americans, even those who don’t vote, and the over-riding needs of the country.
“And we Democrats must recognize our own responsibility for the declining voter participation we experience in our country. We must once again give the voters a clearly defined progressive alternative to Republican policies that benefit only the rich and the selfish, so that those who from disaffection do not vote now, will have something to vote for. Thus I am addressing all of the people of the country.
“Unlike so many of my fellow politicians, I am not going to artificially separate those two inter-connected words, ‘politics’ and ‘policy.’ I am not going to try to claim that ‘politics’ is bad while policy-making is good. They both can be both good and bad. If ‘playing politics’ is so bad, as so many politicians like to claim when they want to avoid taking a position on a given issue or distract the public from truly considering it, why are so many politicians in politics? And remember, the only alternative to politics in resolving disputes between groups of people is to resort to the use of force.
“I am going to try to make good policy for the country as a whole, and hope that that will be good politics for me and my party. I am not going to falsely claim to ‘put politics as usual last’ and ‘the needs of the country first.’ I am going to put them both first, together. For I feel that what is best in terms of policy for the country is also what is best politically for me and my party.
“Yes, I would like to win re-election in 1996, of course. But further, in a variant of the famous quote, ‘I’d like to be right and be President.’ And since I am already President, I am going to use the next two years to attempt to prove to the American people that I am right for a majority of them and that they should make me President again.
“I am not going to do this by trying to imitate the Republicans, like my good friends and colleagues in the Democratic Leadership Council would have me do. I am not going to do it by trying to win back that minority of former Democratic voters who while previously voting Democratic are now voting Republican, by offering those voters warmed-over Republican policies. I am going to try to win them back, of course. But much more importantly, I am going to reach out to those disaffected millions of eligible voters who don’t vote, by giving them something to vote for and giving them a reason to believe in me and a rejuvenated, re-energized Democratic Party.
“Turning to a consideration of our Party, you may be surprised to know that in recent years it has received a majority of the business contributions to Congressional elections. That may well account for some of the seemingly anti-Democratic activity of some Democrats in Congress. Well, in the last election, the majority of campaign contributions suddenly switched to the Republican Party, perhaps in response to the Gingrich-Gramm threats to freeze out non-supporters.
“From now on I am going to be taking consistently Democratic positions. With the decline in corporate contributions to our party and our candidates, and the obligations that accompany those contributions, I hope that I can count on our Congressional Party to do so as well. Now, to the details of those ‘consistently Democratic positions.’
“First in terms of ‘working with Congress,’ I would like to say that those people voting and many of those not voting are right. The American people should be fed up with the way Congress is working. More and more it is becoming hooked to the suppliers of political campaign contributions. I am therefore going to propose strong legislation to reform lobbying and campaign financing, and I will be turning to some Democrats in Congress who did not support these moves to support them now.
“Second, let’s address what’s really wrong with the economy of our beloved country. The underlying economic problems we face are: export of capital with its resultant deindustrialization, permanent loss of high-paying jobs and consequent permanent lowering of overall wages, and unplanned, uncontrolled automation, robotization, and computerization, with no provision for sharing the productivity gains in a way that benefits the majority of the people. It is these two processes working together that create `middle-class angst.’ These are the problems we’re going to address.
“In an effort to slow down and eventually halt the process of capital exodus, that if left unchecked will eventually destroy the opportunity for achieving the American Dream for all but a relative few, we are going to first employ exhortation and the provision of information. We are also going to explore the potential second steps of an export-of-jobs tax, a tax on excess foreign-profits made by US firms, and a “social tariff” on goods made abroad by U.S. firms for importation to the United States [Lind (b), p. 322].
“Third, we are going to re-evaluate the whole Federal tax structure. It is a major contributor to the rising gaps in wealth and income between the rich and everyone else that must be reversed if our country as we know it is not to be destroyed. We will certainly maintain and strengthen our system of progressive taxation, so that those who can afford to pay the most, and who benefit the most from the blessings that America has to offer, will bear their fair share.
“To address both the export-of-capital and the technological revolution problems, we are going to re-evaluate the corporate tax structure that has led to declining corporate tax receipts since 1977. Profit-sharing and job-protection are going to be encouraged through changes in tax and fiscal policy. We are going to establish a national infrastructure construction and employment program, using corporate tax money to do it. That will provide jobs and hopefully also persuade American capital to stay within our borders. The bottom line will be: ‘Tax the rich and the large corporations; spend for the nation.’
“Fourth, health care reform: the Clinton Health Plan was basically simple, but was complicated to explain. Establishing a comprehensive national health program is still absolutely vital for the physical, mental, social, and economic health of the country. Among other things, we cannot control health care costs and even more broadly, by so doing bring overall government spending under control, without it. After trying to find a compromise solution that would be acceptable to the major insurance companies and the vested interests in the health care industry and failing to do so, we are now going to develop and promote a simplified version of the CHP that has much in common with the single-payer approach.
“Fifth, we are going to continue our review of welfare reform, but we are going to do it in the larger context of dealing with the disgraceful matter of poverty in our country. We are going to finish the job begun by President Lyndon Baines Johnson of Texas back in 1965. Reduce poverty and we will quite necessarily reduce welfare, while helping our less-fortunate fellow-citizens.
“Sixth, we are consistently going to defend individual liberty on religious matters, such as freedom of choice in the outcome of pregnancy and school prayer. We will not support any attempts to use the law, criminal or civil, to implement the program of a particular religion in the public square. We will encourage all religious points of view on matters ranging from freedom of choice from the outcome of pregnancy to the power of prayer itself to make themselves heard, effectively using the vast network of religious institutions already at their disposal, in the churches and in the media, of which this country can be justly proud. But we will also hold strongly to the position that the strength of any moral or religious message should come from the strength of the message itself, not from the imposition of the force of law to stand behind it.
“Seventh, we shall attack racism specifically as a force in national politics and as a destructive force economically, and the decline of civility generally. We will propose to deal with hate radio not by interfering with the right of any personality on radio to speak their own mind, but by pressing the FCC to restore the Fairness Doctrine so as to once again open our airwaves which belong to all of the people to all points of view.
“Politically, I would hope to be able to work with the Republican majority in Congress in a constructive way. And on a few issues, like the line-item veto, in advance I already know that we are in agreement. But frankly, based on Republican behavior in the last Congress, I do not hold out too much hope for the institution of broad-based bipartisanship. Thus, I want you my fellow Americans and the members of Congress in both parties to know that I intend to use my veto power. Unlike my predecessor, I will not using 3/4s of my vetoes to deal with one issue: the freedom of choice in the outcome of pregnancy. I will use it to defend what I believe is the best for the country on all issues.
“And that my friends is what I hope to be able to go the country with in 1996: that I developed a consistent message, that I followed it consistently, and that I was consistently on the side of what I saw as best for the American people, in both politics and policy. God bless, and good night.”
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The original edition of “The 15% Solution” is available on Amazon.com and on BarnesandNoble.com. The 2004 print-on-demand re-issue from Xlibris is also available on Amazon.com and on BarnesandNoble.com. You will find a “Sub-Home Page” for the serialization at the lower right-hand corner of the Home Page for www.TPJmagazine.us. It contains such items as the Disclaimer, cast of characters, author’s bio., cover copy, and several (favorable) reviews, and will have a full archive of all the chapters as they are published over time. The serialization is also appearing on www.BuzzFlash.com, Dandelion Salad; The Greanville POST; and TheHarderStuff newsletter.
Jonathan Westminster and biography are based on a pseudonym.
Steven Jonas, MD, MPH is a Professor of Preventive Medicine at Stony Brook University (NY) and author/co-author/editor of 30 books. In addition to being a columnist for Truthout/BuzzFlash (http://www.truth-out.org/, http://www.buzzflash.com), Dr. Jonas is also Managing Editor and a Contributing Author for TPJmagazine; a Featured Writer for Dandelion Salad; a Senior Columnist for The Greanville POST; a Contributor to Op-Ed News.com; a Contributor to TheHarderStuff newsletter; and a Contributor to The Planetary Movement.