Eyeing the right path for the U.S.
A lot can happen between now and November, but chances appear good the Democrats will see their fortunes rise as a party in the wake of general unhappiness with the GOP. As such, the party masterminds are casting about for some kind of a general theme, something more appealing and positive than “Republicans suck.”Like many Americans – including, apparently, a lot of Republicans – I’ve grown to feel that our country is heading down a great many wrong paths. Leaving aside the alarmingly long list of what those are, what are some of the ways Democrats can distinguish themselves both as a party and as individual candidates in the future?Well, for starters they can work on getting their image straight. The GOP has been so effective at making words like “Democrat” and “liberal” poisonous to their base that many of those to the right of the middle have a hard time even conceiving of voting Democrat – even though it would be largely in their best interest.What, for example, is so wrong with the notion of liberalism at its core? As I understand it, liberal means more accepting, broader-minded and socially conscious. Liberals support American ideals such as life, liberty and the pursuit of whatever floats your boat. Conservatives like to espouse these ideas as well, of course, but their need to impose morality often gets in the way. (Gay marriage amendments, anyone?)But high-powered image consultants aren’t going to convince anyone of much. What the party really needs is a grand platform to move America forward. The answer is staring us right in the face, and the GOP has dropped, bobbled or ignored the ball so completely that it’s wide open for someone to pick it up and run with it.I’m speaking, of course, about shaping a new energy policy for the country that doesn’t rely on oil. There’s been a lot written about this lately, with a new film – “An Inconvenient Truth” – by Al Gore set to be released. To distill it into its most salient points, though, here are the stakes and issues:-2005 was the hottest year on record, following a string of record-breakers over the past two decades.-Oil is a finite resource, with estimates that production will peak in the next few decades – if it hasn’t already.-Burning oil and other hydrocarbons creates greenhouse gases that contribute to global warming. This is a point the global scientific community has agreed upon, not a conspiracy theory open any longer to debate.-Canada may be our biggest source of foreign oil, but we also get a lot of it from unstable or unsavory countries like Venezuela, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Iraq and Russia. Consequently, as some like to point out, we are funding both sides of the so-called war on terror.-A great variety of alternative energy sources and the technology to tap them already exist – only a wider market is lacking. By throwing the weight of the federal government behind a massive, nationwide effort to wean ourselves from oil, we could kick that nasty habit in a couple of decades.But we need the political will and courage to start. Back to the bullet points, here’s a look at what the world might look like if we took what is so obviously the correct but less-traveled path:-Cleaner skies and oceans;-Virtual elimination of the need to thrust our military into the Middle East for oil;-Enormous job-creation potential for American workers as we turn to wind, solar, biomass and other technologies for creating energy;-Surge in American leadership and technology that fuels economic expansion as well as national pride;-And finally, a true sense that we’re doing the right thing, showing leadership and ingenuity to a global community that’s got a seriously diminished view of the U.S. Red-meat conservatives may scoff at what other nations think, but think about that phrase again – global community. We’re not existing in splendid isolation over here. All we need do is look at the tags on our shirts, the nameplate on our cars and the events of 9/11 to recognize that the big ol’ world is very much a part of our daily here-and-now.I think the above arguments are so very clear and understandable that it boggles my mind that our country’s leaders haven’t taken this more seriously. This has got to be the issue that not only lifts the Democrats up but the whole country as well. Please, let’s quit arguing about things like Terry Schiavo or gay marriage or $100 gas rebates and focus on things that matter to the whole nation, the whole world.And Al Gore, it’s time to come out of exile and reclaim the presidency in 2008.Assistant Managing Editor Alex Miller can be reached at 748-2931, or email@example.com. Vail, Colorado