Since Barak Obama is looking for new ways to invigorate him presidential campaign, I have some advice. The new take on Iran is a good start. But something bigger is what you need, and the country needs it too.
If I were a candidate (and I'm ready to form an exploratory committee if anyone out there asks me to, and gives me hundreds of millions of dollars), I would pledge to undo the Bush presidency. Virtually anything he's done, I would overturn. My presidency would take America back, policy-wise, to at least 1998, and in many areas we'd go back much further.
I know this is not the kind of rhetoric you politicians favor these days, with all the talk about the 'new economy,' and how we need a 'new politics' for the 21st century. But many of the things progressives want to do in the next decade or two are things the United States used to do pretty well. We used to have a more progressive tax structure. We used to have an economy that provided more secure livings to a broad middle class. We used to actually regulate industry and business to help ensure safe practices and products. We used to have fairly strong unions. In foreign policy, we used to work with large coalitions of other nations to promote mutual interests, and took a leading role in organizations like the United Nations.
I could go on with this list, but the point is: Why can't we go back to doing these things again? At the top of my list of things to undo would be Bush's disastrous war in Iraq and his steady erosion of civil liberties and rule of law. After we begin to restore our international reputation in these areas, I think we need a 'truth and reconciliation' commission to look into all the areas of government that the Bush administration has worked so assiduously to cover with secrecy. It's important for political and policy reasons that the public know as soon as possible just what these people have been up to in their eight years in power. We have to show that we've restored accountability to our political system, and we have to find out what hidden policies remain for us to undo.
Certainly, there are some areas of policy where the solution can't be found in our own history. The health care problem is the biggest one I can think of. But other countries have dealt rather effectively with their citizens' health care needs, and we could definitely learn from what they've been doing successfully for decades.
Together, these restorations of former policies will, I believe, restore something much larger that we have lost in the last eight years: a sense of national purpose and progress. As part of the community of nations, the United States can look forward to working with willing partners to address international problems like global warming, and local humanitarian crises like Iraq and Darfur. As US citizens, we can look forward to increasing economic security and the continued enjoyment of robust civil liberties.
The final goal of going back to a pre-Bush era is to restore our vision of the future as a better place to live in than the present. Rather than freaking out over terrorist threats and starting petty scraps to protect a decaying American empire, we can move more confidently, more calmly, into the 21st century, and look forward to a country and a world becoming more healthy, more prosperous, and more peaceful with each passing year.