The media and political pundits constantly remind us that the United States is a divided country. I agree, but when did this division begin? Who or what is most directly responsible for the division? I firmly believe the Democratic Party’s loss of power following the 2002 midterm elections, the consequences of the McCain-Feingold Campaign Finance Reform Act of 2001 and the congressional redistricting after the 2000 Census started the division.

Remember how united our country was in the days and months following Sept. 11? President Bush rose to the occasion with bipartisan support and promised the American people worldwide terror would begin to end under his command. Bush enjoyed incredibly high approval ratings, and the Democratic Party recognized its impending doom. So long as national security and foreign policy remained the highest priority of Americans at the ballot box, Bush and the Republicans would profit.

The Democrats’ 2002 battleground electoral strategy focused on domestic issues – tax policy, Medicare, Social Security, etc. – rather than Bush’s push for the Iraq war. Abstaining from establishing national security or foreign policy credentials of their own was a mistake by the Democrats, and ignoring the most important issue for Americans in 2002 cost the Democrats their Senate majority.

A politician without power in Washington is as useful as a screen door on a submarine. Republican control of the executive and legislative branches minimized the influence of Democrats in federal policy making. White House Deputy Chief of Staff Karl Rove and U.S. Rep. Tom DeLay’s (R-Texas) congressional redistricting following the 2000 Census assured more partisan candidates would win congressional offices. Democrats in states affected by the seat-allocation changes had a choice: Win fewer seats by larger margins or run contested races in Republican-leaning districts. They chose the former for security. Consequently, partisan candidates from districts with little opposition can radicalize their rhetoric and avoid moderate policies.

With the passage of the McCain-Feingold bill, both political parties ran to their fringe bases to collect money because individual contributors could no longer donate more than $2,000 to political parties. Short of an idea whose time has come, money is everything in politics, and the new way of indirectly raising that money is through 527 groups. Most of the 527 groups represent the polar extremes of conservative and liberal thought, but they have many wealthy donors with no donation restrictions and radical rhetoric.

America must unite again, and I have a plan to bring us together. First, state legislatures should follow Iowa’s example and allow independent commissions to redistrict congressional seats. Closely contested districts force candidates to adopt moderate policies and moderate rhetoric. Second, Americans should demand Congress repeal the McCain-Feingold bill. Congress should adopt Gingrich’s campaign finance reform plan. Gingrich’s plan allows officials running for public office to receive unlimited donations provided the campaign update a public webpage every night with the name and amount contributed by each donor. Finally, the Democratic Party must drop its Vietnam-era tone. Develop comprehensive plans to cure America’s ills, not reactionary policies and a laundry list of complaints. Inspire optimism in the hearts of Americans, not doom-and-gloom pessimism. Americans want choices in the arena of ideas, and the Democratic Party’s been sitting on the sideline for far too long.

 

Stiglich is a LSA junior and a member of the Daily’s editorial board.

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