Bush's second term may bring progress
"We must make health care more affordable and give families greater access to good coverage…My budget provides strong funding for leading-edge technology, from hydrogen-fueled cars to clean coal….We should not be content with laws that punish hardworking people who want only to provide for their families…We need to focus on giving young people, especially young men in our cities, better options than apathy, or gangs, or jail”
These visionary words bring to mind the one politician from the past 20 years that Democrats can be proud of, President Bill Clinton. They are grandiose and confident, and hopeful in every sense. However Clintonesque they may sound though, they came from the mouth of one man liberals in America despise most, President George W. Bush.
The 93 percent of Blazers who voted for John Kerry in Silver Chips Online's mock election must come to terms with the fact that Bush is going to be our president for the next four years. Some people choose to express their anger by protesting, a perfectly legitimate and constitutionally guaranteed way to show opinion.
However, upon closer examination of Bush's policies, there is not all that much for progressives to be afraid about. Indeed, Bush and the left tentatively agree on more than just a few issues. If Bush follows through on some of the issues he highlighted during the Feb. 2 State of the Union address, we may see the strengthening of many liberal causes. In the end, it's what gets done that counts, not who does it.
Bush the progressive?
In his Feb. 2 State of the Union address, Bush proposed an extension of the national healthcare system, an issue that every liberal from Ted Kennedy to Barack Obama has dedicated time on the podium to. "I ask Congress to move forward on a comprehensive health care agenda,” Bush declared. While he is still reluctant to provide government-sponsored health insurance to America's 50 million poor and uninsured, Bush's proposed tax credits to help them afford insurance is a small first step. He even pushed for the building of "a community health center in every poor country,” a big leap for a so-called fiscal conservative.
With healthcare, Bush started a return to the compassionate conservatism of 2000 that gave him a slight victory (or non-victory, depending on the where you sit). He went on to signal his willingness to promote alternative fuel sources to reduce the United States's dependency on unstable oil-producing nations such as Saudi Arabia. This is the type of practical environmentalism that most liberals have promoted for years. If Bush can make alternative fuel sources a reality, more power to him.
In a break from his previous policy of budget cuts, Bush announced a doubling of budget for the National Institutes of Health, America's premier health science agency. His commitment to cutting edge scientific technology seems genuine for the time being, but whether or not he will come through and allows life-saving research to take place without religiously-motivated hindrances is a question left unanswered.
After abandoning the issue for almost the entire election trail, Bush again went back to illegal immigration. He elaborated on a temporary guest worker program that would allow illegal immigrants to work in jobs other Americans will not do, and acknowledged that illegal immigrants aren't the boogeymen that some in his own party claim them to be.
But perhaps most impressive of all, Bush was the first Republican President in years to extensively discuss the threat posed by inner-city violence and HIV/AIDS to the minority community in a State of the Union address. While predecessors such as Ronald Reagan chose to stay above the pressing issues wearing effervescent smiles and allowing problems to fester, Bush dove right in, proposing a three-year program to teach inner city youth "an ideal of manhood that respects women and rejects violence.”
A strong Democratic front
While in principle, Bush may agree with some of the more traditionally liberal goals for American society, his push to privatize social security and his calls for the removal of checks on the judicial nominations process irked some, and rightfully so.
Bush's plan to privatize social security and allow workers to invest some of their savings in the stock market puts guaranteed benefits in jeopardy and would cost trillions of dollars in an already overloaded budget. His calls for up-down votes on judges is simply a sly method to subvert the check that allows opposition parties to filibuster in protest of partisan judicial nominees.
These disagreeable Bush policies will not go unopposed in this first session of the 109th Congress, a fact that was foreshadowed by the events of the State of the Union. When Bush began speaking of the privatization of social security, a chorus of boos erupted from the Democratic side of the aisle, a display of rebelliousness that the previous set of Democrats probably would not have shown.
This defiance gives liberals some hope. Under Former Sen. Tom Daschle, the Democrats were wary of attacking the Republican administration, either afraid of being viewed as unpatriotic or just downright intimidated.
But the boos signaled a new era for the Democrats, one led by a quiet force, new Senate Minority Leader, Sen. Harry Reid of Nevada. Reid employs a more "red-state” approach to politics and is a straight-talker who wears his faith on his sleeve and seems ready to fight the president's privatization plan for social security while still cooperating on some of the more mainstream issues such as tax-code reform.
The Democrats must choose their battles in Congress. Reid, a former boxer, seems to know the right fights to pick. If Reid is able to cooperate with the president on healthcare, alternative fuel sources and inner city outreach, while contesting the president on issues like social security privatization, he will have a successful few years as Senate minority leader.
Unfortunately, one hindrance remains: Bush's plans are entirely unpredictable. The president made similar promises on the campaign trail four years ago, and there is no guarantee that he will follow through on any of the promises that he has made in his State of the Union address. The good news is that if Bush follows through on many parts of his proposed agenda, the next four years will be a real victory for policy progressives. If he doesn't though, expect four more years of the same.
Kiran Bhat. Kiran Bhat is a senior who loves the Washington Redskins, 24, Coldplay, Kanye West, Damien Rice, Outkast and Common (Sense). He aspires to be the next Sanjay Gupta. He will miraculously grow a Guptaesque telegenic face and sculpted body by the age of 30. In … More »