I want to be proud of America again
Bangor Daily News Op-Ed
November 22, 2005
Over the last five years of the Bush administration and the Republican control of both houses of Congress, we have been witnessing the disappearance of the America we grew up in. Remember that America? That was an America where we had shared American values, taught to us in our public schools:
  • That our Constitution and Bill of Rights are the gold standard for the world.
  • That the writ of habeas corpus, the right of people to challenge their arrest or detention, is a fundamental right going back beyond our Constitution to the Magna Carta.
  • That we are the good guys and only the bad guys torture their prisoners of war;
  • That no U.S. president would ever send our military into a war preemptively, unprovoked, against a nation that had not attacked us, had not threatened to attack us, did not have the means to attack us.
  • That government has a whole set of responsibilities to its citizens, which our elected representatives are expected to fulfill.
  • That Social Security was one of the great successes of American democracy - a safety net protecting our elderly, disabled, and orphans.
Of course, I've learned as an adult that the America I thought I grew up in was not always that noble. Our government more than occasionally did nasty things that violated those American ideals and values. But when those events have been uncovered, there has always been an overlay of shame, disbelief that our government would do such things.

Now, however, the Bush Administration and the Republicans in Congress are contending that unprovoked wars, torture, secret prisons, denying detainees access to our courts, are not only not shameful, but perfectly acceptable, done deliberately, and cannot be challenged by mere American citizens.

President Bush claims his administration doesn't condone torture, yet he is ready to veto a major Pentagon spending bill if it contains an anti-torture provision. And Vice-President Cheney wants a torture exemption for the CIA. What kind of America are we living in?

Speaking of the CIA, the Washington Post had a story recently about CIA secret prisons in several foreign countries. The Republicans in Congress were outraged at that report and immediately launched an investigation. Into the prisons? No, into the leak of information to the Washington Post.

That same week, the Senate Republicans, including Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins, voted to deny Guantanamo Bay prisoners their habeas corpus rights, thereby standing on the wrong side of a basic premise of Western Civilization.

Add to that:
  • The Republican "war on the poor" that cuts food stamps, home heating assistance, Pell grants, and school lunch programs;
  • A Republican agenda that refuses to raise the federal minimum wage above its paltry $5.15 per hour level;
  • And a Republican priority that repeatedly votes in more tax breaks for the rich, increasing the national debt to the point of bankruptcy, while fighting an expensive and unnecessary war.
What you end up with is a country severely at risk of collapsing from within.

I want to get back to the America I thought I grew up in. I want those values I learned in public school to again be at the top of the national agenda. I want to be proud of America again.

But I also want to go beyond the values we had back then. It's time we had national health care; a minimum wage that is a living wage; enforcement of environmental laws that protect our air, water, land, and native species; a fair and progressive tax code; as well as new laws and trade agreements that encourage the rebuilding of the American middle class and that discourage the outsourcing of jobs.

That's why I'm running for U.S. Senate, for the seat now held by Olympia Snowe. The contrast of our respective world views is stark. Olympia Snowe voted for the Iraq War, for the Patriot Act, for the Bankruptcy Bill. She voted to continue the Nuclear Bunker Buster weapons program, voted against raising the minimum wage. She voted to confirm John Roberts as Chief Justice, a move that surprised many of the women's groups which had supported her for years.

A face-off between Olympia Snowe and me next November will give Maine voters a real choice. It will be a choice between nothing less than accepting the bankrupt Republican agenda or changing the dynamic in Washington to an America we can be proud of again.

Earlier this month, we Mainers voted for the Maine we want to live in, and I applaud the result of that vote. Next November, when voting for the U.S. Senator we want to represent us in Washington, Mainers will be voting not just for a candidate, but for the Maine, the America and the world we want to live in.

My belief is that most Maine voters do in fact share my views and my values. My hope is that they will vote to send me to Washington so I can help bring those values and views to fruition.