Get Well, America! II 

More paving stones in the road back from hell

I started this continuing "Get Well, America!" series sometime last fall, though I feel a tad uncomfortable calling it a "continuing series." Who knows? I might step outside to feed the squirrels and one of those Schwann's refrigerated delivery trucks could jump the curb and run me down like a rural mailbox. Then how "continuing" would it be?

Or more likely, I'll just forget about it, and so will you. Only, come six months or a year, some obsessive nagger will write in, "Whatever happened to that continuing series Cope was working on, huh?" And then everyone else will say, "Yeah, that's right. Cope did promise us a continuing series. Where'd it go, Cope? What'sa matter, Cope? Cat got y'r tongue, Cope?"

So to be on the safe side, let us call this a totally stand-alone column ... which happens to have the same name, thematic material and purpose as one I did earlier. And if, at some point in the future, I do it again ... well, we'll just call that "lucky."

As you recall, the purpose of "Get Well, America!" is to compile suggestions on what we can do to mend our nation once the Bush administration is through kicking the crap out of it. To that end, there is a dual function involved in every item on the list: 1) to make things better, and 2) to assist in the election of Democrats who--even if they ignore every suggestion on the list--couldn't possibly make things worse.

Not that Democrats should ignore these suggestions. I believe each and every proposal to be a common-sense, populist remedy to an issue facing Middle America, and if adopted as a platform, I believe Middle America will respond favorably. And for those who ask, "Heck, couldn't Republicans enact these improvements just as well as Democrats?" ... the answer is, "No." While some parents have had limited success in getting children to clean up their own messes, there is no evidence that indicates you can do the same with Republicans.

Besides, Democrats are being accused of not offering a unified, coherent alternative to the Bush agenda other than their overwhelming opposition to him and everything he stands for. Personally, I believe this to be an unfair criticism. I mean, if a rat is gnawing off your leg, you shouldn't have to worry about what to replace the rat with before you stop it from chewing your flesh. Right?

But if it's an alternative they want, it's an alternative they'll get. Here are a few more antidotes to the poison that goes by the initials G-O-P.

• Reinstate the Fairness Doctrine in broadcasting. You might not realize this, neighbor, but you and I and everyone else are the owners of the great invisible bulletin board on which Rush Limbaugh, G. Gordon Liddy and Sean Hannity smear their own fecal matter like disturbed inmates in a state-run facility. Up until 1987, our leaders understood the public's airwaves should not be dominated by any one side. But along comes the Ronald Reagan mob, who understood virtually nothing and who were interested in free speech only when it applied to right-wing rat pits like Sinclair Broadcasting or Rupert Murdoch and his Fox abomination. The Fairness Doctrine was discarded, and with it the requirement of having to present opposing views, thereby clearing the way for a flush of ultra-conservative crud. It is an issue the Democrats should take up with a vengeance, and let the Republicans go on record as objecting to "fairness"--if they dare.

• Look to other countries for guidance. Oooh, can't you just hear the "God Bless America" windbags gasping for breath? "What! Cope, are you suggesting that anyone anywhere can do anything better than the United States?"

Yes, windbags, I am. Many other countries--each of them allotted a fair share of nice, intelligent and innovative people--are doing a much better job at certain things than America is. For instance, we have turned ourselves into a prison state largely over illegal drugs, yet no one seems to notice there are much saner drug policies in places elsewhere, and the sky hasn't fallen.

Or health care ... several nations have socialized medicine now, and not one of them has gone to hell. And why is India turning out so many qualified engineers and technicians, and do you suppose we could learn anything from how they do it? And how is it that France allows workers three and four times as much vacation as the United States, yet hasn't fallen into the sea? Things like that.

Yet increasingly, we treat other countries like dim-witted cousins who have nothing to contribute to the pool of knowledge. Our pride has become spite, and on several levels, we are paying the price.

• Trade with the Republicans: one Senator Joe Lieberman for one Senator Chuck Hagel. Trust me, Democrats, we'll get the better end of the deal. Hagel is honest, moderate, one of the very few Republican leaders who actually served in the military, and he knows an idiot in the White House when he sees one. One the other hand, Lieberman increasingly belongs in the same outhouse with that loony Georgia squawker, Zell Miller. Believe me, Democrats will never have a unified strategy on Iraq to offer America as long as Wolf Blitzer can twist it sideways with, "But Senator Lieberman says ..."

• Make it so that no enterprise which chooses to outsource, offshore, or up-shaft its labor force ever gets another government dollar, ever. That includes government at all levels--local, state and federal--and that dollar includes contracts, subsidies, tax breaks, loop-holes or any taxpayer-supported assistance in whatever form it comes. True, Democrats may lose the Board of Directors bloc, but as luck would have it, the voting booth is the only place left where a working stiff swings as big a hammer as the CEO.

And besides, if these money-grubbers believe India or Korea are such attractive business environments, let them pack up and move there.

• And speaking of the voting booth, there's remodeling to be done, citizens. Democrats must do whatever it takes to make the vote inviolate. If that includes having an impartial country come in and run Election Day for us, so be it. At the very least, we must have paper records and the very harshest penalties for anyone who screws with the system in any manner--you listening, Diebold? Republicans won't like it, but if they fight it, they will have to explain to America why they believe the ballot isn't important enough to make un-rig-able.

More to come later ... with any luck.

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